What a week this has been. Solstices are times of transition, but this one has brought more changes than the annual turning of the year.
Most significantly, the 97-year-old aunt of my late first husband, whom many of us had long joked was likely to outlive us all, didn't. After a short, sharp decline of only a few days, she passed shortly after midnight on December 20, a few hours shy of the actual moment of the year's turning. This accomplished and determined woman, who had made many friends in her long and well-lived life, was visited by more than a dozen of them in her last two days, including the (fortunately small) brass band that played Christmas carols in her apartment the evening before she died. Quite a sendoff. (When the fire alarm went off a few hours later, the other friend watching with her and I suspected that the next world was being duly warned that Aunt Pat was on her way.)
In a totally different mood, I received quite a sendoff from my place of employment. In addition to the official retirement reception hosted by wonderful coworkers for the three of us departing the college at the same time, the student organizations with which I have worked most closely over the years threw a surprise party on the last night of the semester. "Gobsmacked" is the most accurate description of my reaction to that event, especially upon learning that the students have petitioned the college's governing board to name the pollinator habitat in my honor. This is a generous and hardworking group of young people (with a sprinkling of the not-quite-so-young in the mix).
So, for the first time in nearly forty years, life holds no regular work schedule and no caregiving responsibilities for any humans. Definitely a turning toward a new phase, one that is still a mystery.
One thing, however, is definite: early on the morning of January 1, the spouse and I depart for six weeks on the Yucatan Peninsula, where we hope to see unfamiliar plants and animals, wander around a 500-year-old city, climb at least one Mayan ruin, and (perhaps) learn to snorkel. After that, who knows what changes there will be?