Warmth and Wellness in Dark Times: Autumn Equinox Edition
Updated: Jan 26, 2022
Ah, finally - the miracle of all miracles for this Southerner: the sun has decided to join us here in Vilnius, after five days of cold and blustery rain. I'd be lying if I said the weather didn't affect me, but since I was already feeling insular and womb-like this past week, it was easy to match the mood. So now, with some Vitamin D coursing through my sun-drunk veins, I wanted to reflect on some small miracles that warmed me this past week:
I found community in the strangest of places for a quirky artist - a sports arena. Along with some fast friends, I attended my first futsal game (Spain vs. Czech Republic), as a smorgasbord of international players have descended on tiny Lithuania for the Futsal World Cup. The rowdy and passionate Spanish fans behind me gave me insight into how important sports is here (especially basketball!), while American football is a world away. And most surprisingly, I really enjoyed the game! My company was great, but I wasn't expecting to be so captivated by the likes of what Americans might call indoor soccer. This event strangely fed my soul in such a way that I was able to brace the cold weather once I returned to the outdoors.
I cozied up with The Scientist and some hot chocolate, educating myself on the background between the 1992 Lithuanian Olympic basketball team and the Grateful Dead. A month or two before I moved to Lithuania, a meme rotating around social media stated that the Grateful Dead sponsored this basketball team with the most incredible T-shirts, and inspired a talented underdog team into greatness. I searched the internet for more information this week, and came across a documentary on the topic called 'The Other Dream Team,' which moved me more than I can articulate. Lithuanians have truly been through so much turmoil and trauma, but basketball, of all things, has become such a source of pride for them - and now I understand why. (Hit me up if you find a 1992 Grateful Dead/Lithuania T-shirt for less than $150, because I would wear it proudly!) The context warmed and renewed me, making me feel proud to live in such a beautiful country.
It will surprise none of you, dear readers, that I attended an Autumn Equinox festival, as I have a huge fascination with the enigmatic pagan Baltic culture and the ways Lithuania honors it to this day. To quote a text I read today outside of Town Hall, "this is because our ancestors saw their lives as very closely tied to the natural surroundings of their native land." They are one and the same, and even surrounded by churches, my Lithuanian friends have no shame around it. Wednesday night's Rudens Lygiadienis (Autumn Equinox) celebration featured symbolic sculptures of Bird (prosperity, life nourishing), Snake (rebirth, awakening), and Frog (birth through darkness) goddesses burned in recognition of the new season. It was truly one of the most awe-inspiring and spirited celebrations of the cycles of life I've ever seen, and I was even more awed that modern Vilnius contextualized this ancient event for its citizens. Was I cold? Sure! (I am from Georgia, after all.) But, this event warmed my insides and outsides, and more importantly, it gave me the strength to fortify my own inner fire through the coming fall and winter months.
Agnia (Ritual Fire) at the Neris River, Rudens Lygiadienis 2021:
So, why am I sharing this with all of you?
As the days get increasingly colder, shorter, and quieter towards Winter Solstice, these are the kinds of touch-points we will all need at hand to fortify us through the winter. I write them as a reminder to myself that light is everywhere through the cold and darkness, but also for you. In what ways are you finding light in the darkness? What tools are in your belt to help you through these next few months, especially if you are an expat?
I'm here if you need any suggestions! 'Til next time, viso gero!