Distraction


Tis the season for jing a ling and tra la la. Lots of shopping and running around. Too much Christmas music, tinsel and glitter or gathering for Hanukkah gelt and food of all kinds. Or whatever your holiday is, this is the time of year for…well, distraction.

Many of us may find much of this holiday season annoying: too much traffic, too many crowds, too much stuff and just plain too much consumerism. The holidays seem to have gotten away (in most cases) from what they were really supposed to mean and what all the symbols are meant to represent. I bet in many cases folks don’t know anymore. It’s just become: buy, buy, buy and rush, rush, rush and what’s on sale. They may know the basics, but unless you are deeply entrenched within your religious community, it’s all just Hallmark nonsense.

It’s exhausting and sad and often stressful.

But this was the first year I had an insight to it all.  Because the world has become such a harsh place and each year it only seems to get worse, maybe we all need this nonsense. Between the natural disasters and man-made horrors of the world, I truly believe we all suffer, on some deep level, from a global/connected/deep-seeded depression. Most of the time when we tune into what ever we tune into (our preferred media source), it’s some new calamity bombarding us. All year-long we must endure hearing about our fellow humans suffer, or our planet dying or animals being exterminated. It’s a wonder any of us get out of bed at all.

And then, along comes the holidays. Time for our own little fantasy world of tinsel and glitter, pretty lights and toys. And even magic and a crazy man, elves and reindeer bringing happiness to the whole world. And even if you don’t celebrate Christmas, you may still have your own holiday celebration within your own religious belief; one that brings your family together, one where you can remember better times and get time off from work.

All these holidays have one thing in common: they help us remember our past, not only our personal one when we were young and things were simpler and maybe happier; but our human past. That’s why they were celebrated in the first place; to acknowledge an important event in history.

And the days when many of us are celebrating our respective holidays on those special days specifically set aside for these historic days from our past, we are not thinking about all the terrible things going on presently that usually occupy our minds. This may be the most important gift of all.

For those precious moments at least, we can let our hearts and souls fill instead with the sounds of our families, children and homes (after the rush and stress have died down). The smells of cooking, the visits from those we haven’t seen, the familiar decorations all give a sense of well-being and safety. These feelings may be rare for us these days. So we lap it up in the swell of the holiday tide. This is the part we take for granted, the feelings, but this is the part of life we are missing every day in this painful world. This is what the holiday season gives us.  Positive feelings.

So, for the first time in many years, I say: go ahead and enjoy. Play the incessant Christmas music. I get all the lights and sparkly stuff.  Sure, I would still rather people not buy so much ‘stuff’ because it’s not good for the world, but I do understand better why they do…it’s for the feelings they produce. But mostly, I just understand the whole ‘thing’ of the holidays more this year: instead of global depression, it’s global jublilation.

Maybe that’s why they call it a magical time of year.

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Winter Solstice 2015


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And now the days grow as the Winter Solstice visited with the longest night.

The turning of the wheel continues its infinite progression towards the Equinox. It leaves tracks of glittering dust left on Mother’s skin.

Days will gather light while seedlings rest under dark and quiet earth. We pull the cloak of contemplation around weary winter waiting.

The candles are lit. Bring the sun to the longest night. In caves, in huts, in circles, in forests –draw down the light and return again. The light, the warmth, the green!

This we’ve asked, sung, chanted, drummed and danced in hopes that we continue to be a part of the never-ending cycle.

Blessed Be!

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Is Santa Real?


santaSitting here on Christmas morning, on this bleak 50 degree day in New England, knowing full well many kids have by now ripped into their many brightly colored boxes, I wondered about the reality of Santa. How many of those kids believe, or what do they believe he is and how do the parents keep him real.

As a parent myself, with a myriad of religious/spiritual backgrounds, our household was filled with Christmas, Hanukkah and Solstice celebrations. I’m not quite sure when my childhood belief in Santa, or my own kids, disappeared. In neither case was in some tragic fall to the ground state of despair. It just seemed to be a quiet realization that maybe this guy in the red suit you see everywhere in the malls doesn’t really bring the presents to put under the tree.

I personally wasn’t angry or upset at my parents about this new theory. If not Santa, then who? I’m not sure I pestered my parents to explain it (we didn’t even have a chimney as we lived in an apartment building in NYC) as much of the myth didn’t really work for me anyway. There are so many Santas everywhere you walk in the city: every street corner ringing bells, in every department store and sometimes just walking down the street. So how could any kid possibly believe?

As my kids started to become skeptical and since we lived in a more mystical home, it was very easy to explain that Santa really isn’t a person. Santa is more the representation of the joy of the Christmas spirit and season. I tried to explain that as this symbol he brings gifts because the season is supposed to about giving and he’s jolly because we are supposed to be joyful (because of the birth of Christ I assume). So really he is like a spirit and in that sense real.

And all the Santas we see as kids (and adults) everywhere, they are simply the images of the true feeling and sense of what the day and season is supposed to be. Like any icon should remind us. Whether we are Christian or not, the message is a good one: joy, giving, kindness, love–these are never bad things to celebrate.

It doesn’t matter if Santa is tangible or not. I’m not sure if I had it to do over if I would tell my children he was ‘real’, but I certainly would continue to perpetuate his myth, mystery and magic of this sweet and lovely holiday.

Merry Christmas!

Transitioning


It’s been a particularly brutal winter here in New England–long, sub-zero temperatures and ridiculously huge amounts of snow. I’m not fond of winter anyway, but I came into this one with a positive attitude and a new pellet stove. It pushed me to my limits and my pocketbook to the seams.

But now maybe, just maybe I’m seeing some signs of it breaking. It’s starting to transition and the signs of spring are finally, albeit extremely late, are starting to appear.

The red-winged black birds are finally back, accompanied by other familiar song birds who have followed the lengthening light. I’m finally starting to see the sap buckets starting to hang, although I’ve heard the lament of the maple syrup farmers say that it’s way past its usual time. Woodpeckers were out this morning banging deep for the worms and bugs which must finally must be squirming around in the bark of trees. And the local cock was crowing early today as I walked my pups on their daily walk–I haven’t him crowing for months! My raised beds are finally uncovered from the mounds of snow and some of my back yard is starting to show ground. All the bob houses are off the lake now and people are starting to fall through the ice and needing to be rescued! That’s always a sure sign (not a good one!) And there’s that wonderful earthy, snow-melting, fresh smell to the air.

I’m fairly convinced now spring will most definitely will arrive, even if we do get some rogue snow storm in April. Soon I will even see snow drops, crocuses and daffodils! And I can’t wait. It’s been a long winter.

But through this long, dark winter and this transitioning seasonal time, I’ve had time to transition too. I’ve spent a lot of time being within my dark place. This is what the winter is all about: digging in, being quiet and being contemplative. I’ve been trying hard to take the cold, harsh months to take a good look at my life and myself. During these times there has been much I’ve seen that needed changing, growing, harvesting, fertilizing, pruning, seeding and blossoming into bigger things.

Spring is my season…and summer. I love warmth and see it as my time. It is my best time and I hope the seeds that I’ve been nurturing during the winter months can burst forth during the warmer months.

We all have the opportunity for transition in our lives. Many of us are conscious of these times in our lives if we are going through some obvious pivotal point in our life such as a divorce, marriage, graduation or having a baby. These moments change us. But some moments are not as obvious. And some transitional times we can create ourselves.

Ancient humans seemed that these time were more innate and they were often timed by the changing of the season, or the passing of the sun and moon. The celestial time clocks moved their transitions as they had no formal clocks. They too had ceremonies based on major life changes that moved them from one stage of life to another. They were often elaborate maybe lasting more than a day. They understood the importance of transitions, and their spiritual beliefs mingled with their daily lives. Many of our ancestors felt it was vital to their existence to appease entities to have good harvests, good marriages, smooth births and therefore had ceremonies during these transitional times.

Today, maybe because of how busy we feel we all are, we tend to down play most of these types of transitions in life. Some are still important to us, like marriages. But the seasonal ones, are insignificant to most. We don’t celebrate winter leaving and the coming of spring, even though most of us are so joyous about it!  Or when our harvests come in, because none of us even notice anymore. We just go to the grocery store now.

For me, these kinds of transitions are still vitally important. I feel them in my bones and soul. They are important from an ancestral point of view! They connect us to our past, they connect me to my past. When the red-wings come back and I hear them again, when I smell that familiar spring like smell in the air and see that particular day light—all the things I’ve seen so many, many years before, something stirs within me. It connects me to the pattern, the web of life of which I am part, that circle of life on our spinning blue ball.  And it assures me that some things in life are predictable, and in this crazy world, this is a good thing.

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The Start


 

While I spent Thanksgiving solo, the start of the rest of the holiday weekend was spent with extended family. Family does not always have to be ‘blood’. Friday true family arrived. My ‘ex’ sister in law and her daughter arrived to spend the rest of the weekend with me. I’ve known her for about 32 years since she was about 11. Her daughter is now 12, just about the age she was when I first met her. So this person is many things to me: daughter, sister and most of all cherished friend and family. And her wonderfully sweet daughter is the niece I never had. We had a spectacular time that included laughter, tears, a tiny bit of mother/daughter fight (which Auntie helped fix), shopping, eating, dancing, singing, visiting, shopping (!) and important ritual. I am not Christian, but this family needed an important cleansing and renewal, so I helped them with a special ceremony created within the realms of what I believe. It felt empowering and amazing to be practicing again and I was charged the rest of the day. And both of them seemed to feel a change within themselves–and hopefully this change will continue to grow and blossom and bring them peace and happiness. And my niece helped me to decorate my little tree afterwards: it’s my acknowledgment of all that’s good with the Christmas holiday: giving, peace, joy, family and hope. And we light the tree before the winter solstice and the dark days of winter and the cold tuck us into ourselves. But we take peace knowing that as the seeds lay dormant in the frozen ground ready to burst forth in spring, so do the tiny greens of new ideas sit ready to pop as soon as you open your heart. Blessed be.