Gratitude (kind of) for the darkness

Friends, solstice is upon us. Tomorrow. That is right, the days of winter darkness shift toward the light. I don’t want to speak for y’all but damn, it is time for the dark days of 2016 to exit the building. 

The church I attend had a lovely solstice celebration this past Sunday. We toasted “wasail” (apple juice) to the new year coming and the the turn to light. And there was an urging to think about darkness not as something “bad” or “evil” as it is often considered in our culture, but instead as a gift. What if we met it with gratitude? We couldn’t have 24 hours of sun – everything requires a period of rest and darkness. What if we look at the darkness as a womb capable of creating and birthing life anew?

Never before have the themes of winter solstice resonated with me so much.

This year brought lot’s of darkness for me. Not in the form of “bad” or “evil” but in the form of letting go, release, and being left with emptiness and not-knowing. The not-knowing is SO HARD for me. I am not a patient person when it comes to just sitting. (I get this from my mother. The woman moved ALL DAY LONG! She would be sitting folding clothes at midnight while watching tv.) So yes, sitting, waiting in the stillness, not knowing, and knowing that it isn’t time for me to know just yet? SO FREAKING HARD. I wrote about this in September and it still resonates with me — how it feels like frog swimming and let’s just say that is not a pace I like.

Yes, if I am grateful, this year brought many gifts that did not feel like them at the time: the release of pain and loss, more pain and loss, and shedding of that which no longer served me. The dissolving of identities and patterns and masks that are no longer needed. I feel as empty as the northern wood, stripped of leaves, all life burrowed away and hiding in hole.

It was a year of pausing. It was a year of rest.

But if I am honest with myself, it was also a year that showed me hints of what can come out of the darkness and chaos. Creativity in the form of Art! Writing! Music! Wow, amiright?

It was a year of embracing the unknown and unexpected, of holding on to faith and hope that eventually the wheel will turn, the axis of the earth would slowly and eventually move its position in relation to the sun and the days will grow longer. They will — at last — tomorrow!

On Solstice Eve, value the dark. On this longest night of the year, before the light overcomes the dark, sit in the dark (alone or with others) and think about the importance of darkness. Bless mushrooms that grow in the dark and honeysuckle that sends its luscious scents into the night. Be grateful for the darkness that soothes us to sleep, the darkness that animals require for hibernation. Give thanks for sheltering dark places: the rich earth where seeds germinate, the caves that harbored our ancient ancestors (and where some of our sun gods were born), the cellars that keep us safe from tornadoes, the wombs that provide our first nourishment. Acknowledge the darkness of suffering, which can deepen our appreciation of life and strengthen our connection to one another.


From a post at http://www.uuworld.org/articles/celebrate-winter-solstice and Excerpted with permission from In Nature’s Honor: Myths and Rituals Celebrating the Earth (Skinner House), copyright 2005 by Patricia Montley. Available from the UUA Bookstore (see link below).


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I don’t like onions! I make them cry!

That was the three-year-old in response to stuffing being placed on her thanksgiving plate. The nerve! You don’t even want to hear what she said about the celery.

(She did however find Redi-whip to be quite to her liking. She ran around the house with it clutched in her hands and squealing. It took three of us to corner her and grab the can before total-and-utter-whipped-cream-chaos ensued.)

Never a dull moment with this kid.

A year later: broken open but not broken

I started this blog a little more than a year ago and so much has changed in that time.

I thought about this earlier this week as I rolled a pie crust, dancing to Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett, belting out old standards that my mom loved. I felt so much joy. This was possibly the first holiday that wasn’t overshadowed by grief. Yes, my mom popped in my head often but it was met more often with smiles than tears. I know she would love my crooning to Lush Life, the same song she belted out when playing the Linda Ronstadt record. And certainly, there were moments of sadness and longing this holiday (this is inevitable, you can’t ignore the empty chair at the table) but overall I felt more peace this year.

And it’s fair to say I feel more rooted than in November 2015. A few days ago I walked the dogs in nearby pine brush woods, collecting tropical flowers, palm fronds and scarlet berries to make a homemade flower bouquet. This act now feels normal. Routine. Familiar even. This landscape of my life–both literal and figurative–that shifted so dramatically beneath my feet three years ago now feels like home. 

I recently heard a moving interview with the poet/philosopher/spiritual writer Mark Nepo and he talked about how humans are unique animals because we can experience multiple metamorphoses. Periods of darkness that take us into a cocoon, often several times in the span of a liftime, and if we choose to we can emerge from these periods anew–with new wings, new eyes, new colors and stripes. 

Twice I have entered this cocoon. The first in my early twenties. My second unfolding occurred with your help, dear readers.

I started this blog steeped in grief, and along the way suffered an additional loss–a miscarriage–that came close to breaking me. Instead, it broke me open. What a gift. I am grateful for it all, the darkness of the cocoon and the light that shines on newly spread wings. Many blessings to you and your family this holiday. I’m certain the best is yet to come.

 

 

Redwood Ecosystems and Life After Death

Remembering my beautiful mom
today. I continue to draw sustenance from her love.

In the redwood ecosystem, buds for future trees are contained in pods called burls, tough brown knobs that cling to the bark of the mother tree. When the mother tree is logged, blown over, or destroyed by fire –when, in other words, she dies – the trauma stimulates the burls growth hormones. The seeds release and trees sprout around her, creating the circle of daughters. The daughter trees grow by absorbing the sunlight their mother cedes to them when she dies. And they get the moisture and nutrients their need from their mother’s root system, which remains intact underground even after her leaves die. Although the daughters exist independently of their mother above ground, they continue to draw sustenance from her underneath.

-Hope Edelman, Motherless Daughters

Take time to remember

End of the Beginning by James Northrup

Someone said we begin to die
the minute we’re born.
Death is a part of life.
Who knows why the Creator
thins the herd.
Another old saying says
we must all be prepared
to give up those we love
or die first.
Take time to mourn.
Take time to remember.
Everything happens in cycles.
The pain you feel was once
balanced by someone’s joy
when that baby was born.
The loss you feel today
will be replaced by good
long-lasting memories.
Is there a message here? Yea,
treat others like this
is your last day above ground.

James Northrup 1943-2016

(artwork my own- full image can be viewed here and was inspired by this post.)