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The hours of folly are measured by the clock;
but of wisdom, no clock can measure.
– William Blake
I first published this story in 2017, after surfing the internet looking for inspiration for a holiday subject, and came across videos of an event in the English seaside town of Brighton & Hove, which has been held annually since 1995: Burning the Clocks. This Winter Solstice celebration is the brainchild of Same Sky, a charitable arts organization, financed by crowdfunding and the support of local businesses.
To participate, first you have to create your “clock,” using paper and willow to make a lantern – there are free lantern-making workshops for the disadvantaged, and advice for the craft-challenged. The clocks come in lots of sizes and shapes, limited only by the imagination and skill of the maker.
Then all the clock-makers join in a parade of lit lanterns through the town to the bonfire on Brighton beach, and their clocks go to the flames, a symbol of the year that is ending, and a new beginning.
A fresh take on the ancient tradition of defying the longest night of the year with bonfires and torchlight processions.
I was also reminded of Naomi Shihab Nye’s poem, “Burning the Old Year”
Burning the Old Year
Letters swallow themselves in seconds.
Notes friends tied to the doorknob,
transparent scarlet paper,
sizzle like moth wings,
marry the air.
So much of any year is flammable,
lists of vegetables, partial poems.
Orange swirling flame of days,
so little is a stone.
Where there was something and suddenly isn’t,
an absence shouts, celebrates, leaves a space.
I begin again with the smallest numbers.
Quick dance, shuffle of losses and leaves,
only the things I didn’t do
crackle after the blazing dies.
“Burning the Old Year” from Words Under the Words: Selected Poems – © 1995 by Naomi Shihab Nye.