The returning of the Light

Early this morning from our living room window, over the rooftops, I spied mist covered fields beneath a clear blue sky.

I pulled boots and a warm gilet over my pj’s and went out for a walk beyond my village and out into the countryside.

The only people out and about were the posties, some shop keepers, a few dog walkers and their charges.   I said to the greengrocer ‘Isn’t it quiet  .  .  .  .   but busy day today?’  He shook his head and said ‘Calm before the storm.’

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Steve and I are all set for the holidays.  We have a pretty relaxed and mellow time over Christmas.  We exchange heartfelt gifts and enjoy cooking and eating even more fabulous food than usual.  We did some final food and gift shopping yesterday in Exeter.  It was somewhat manic and I was glad to return home after a couple of hours in town.
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While I was walking down the lane I thought about Christmas. The seasonal films we’ve been watching – A Christmas Carol, A Charlie Brown Christmas, It’s a Wonderful Life –  are about finding the ‘true meaning’ of the Yuletide, usually the importance of friends, family and love for our fellows.  I also observe how so many people are focused on the materialism of the Christmas holiday and stressed out about needing to create the ‘perfect’ day.
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I wondered about what it would be like to completely strip back the gifts, cards and feasting. What would remain? Would there even be a holiday?

My thoughts went back to the time long before the legend about Jesus being the son of God was peddled and before the Bible was written.  What there always has been is the return of the light, the days drawing out and the turning of the year to fruition. We have always and still do depend upon this for our survival. Not just humans, but all life.
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This holiday, this Holy Day, celebrates the life force which animates every living thing. We gather together with our loved ones to remember that we are not alone. We feast on rich foods to nourish and sustain us through the darkest and leanest time of the year. And we light a candle to mark the returning of the light.
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Solstice Dawn

From the dark came forth a star.

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The circle is turning . . . . .
I love the poignancy of the Winter Solstice;  we’ve reached the depths of wintertime and it is time to turn once again towards the light.   I love this dark time of the year and will miss the long, deep, silent nights.  I am sitting in the sweet stillness today.

Solstice Tree

I am so very pleased with this year’s holiday tree.  My husband Steve and I celebrate a mufti-faceted holiday season with elements drawn from Pantheism, Paganism and the Judeo-Christian tradition, plus good old-fashioned mid-winter feasting and thoughtful gift giving.  For the first few years we were together for the winter holiday, we’ve had a succession of live spruce trees, with varying degrees of post-Christmas longevity.

This year, I’ve really been connecting with the deep essence of winter time.  Connecting with the energy of the earth that has gone back inwards to the roots and to the dark, deep places.  On the 21st December, we will be reaching up to the spark of light that is ready to be re-born on the longest night of the year.

I love the bare winter branches and berries which grace the English winter landscape.

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Hawthorn tree

A couple of weeks ago, I gathered some branches from one of my favourite hawthorn trees, just outside my village, which I visit at least once a week throughout the year.  I arranged the branches in a vase in our salon.  Some of the branches had deep red berries, but they wizened as time passed.

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I loved the shape of the branches and considered how I could make some alternative, more permanent ‘berries’ to decorate them.  I have a very long necklace which I rarely wear and decided to use the garnet-coloured glass beads on the bare branches.

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Next I thought about how to give some light to our tree.  Stringing fairy lights on the branches would have been too heavy.  Since this is the time of year when the life force has moved within, to the roots of things, I decided to place some fairy lights inside the jar holding the hawthorn branches.  These also helped to stabilise them.

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When they’re switched on, they cast the more fantastic shadows through the branches  .  .  .  .  .  .

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It is so lovely and calming to sit in our warm, quiet living room and contemplate the warmly lit, jeweled branches and the deep, down to the roots life force.

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In this dark time, in the depths of winter, may you find the space and quietude to consider what is waiting to be born in your life as the wheel of the year turns slowly back towards the light.

Advent

We are well into the season of Advent;  advent (n.) “important arrival”,  from L. “adventus “.

It's dark out now, but the light is coming

“It’s dark out now, but the light is coming”

This is the message that the Pagan celebration of Winter Solstice (Dec 21st) and the Christian celebration of Christmas (Dec 25th) have in common. As the days grow short, we long for light — both physical and metaphysical, to carry us through the dark season.  Advent, which means simply “to come,” is the season that leads up to both the Pagan tradition of celebrating the return of the Life-Giver, the Sun; and the Christian tradition of celebrating the birth of the Son, Jesus, who in religious parlance is often referred to as “the light of the world.”

One dawn, the waning moon and the morning star were held in a tracery of clouds.

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Advent is a time of expectant waiting and preparation for the celebration of the return of the Light.  I have really been enjoying the short, dark days and long nights.  The English countryside is so beautiful with bare branches and fallow fields.

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The sun hangs low in the sky, near to the horizon even towards midday.

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I finished work for nearly three weeks just over a week ago.  Steve and I have been pretty busy.  We went to London for a long weekend in early December.

"I see no ships"Nelson's Column, Trafalgar Square

“I see no ships”
Nelson’s Column, Trafalgar Square

Last Friday night, I had an appointment at my home studio with an artistic mentor, followed by two parties on Saturday, one of which was our annual Rumtopf party.

Dream for 2013 PartySteve Coxon Oscar-winning Screenwriter & Melinda Schwakhofer Renown Fibre Artist

Dream for 2013 Party
Steve Coxon, Oscar-winning Screenwriter & Melinda Schwakhofer, Renown Artist

We went up to the Midlands for a pre-Christmas visit with Steve’s family on Sunday.  Earlier this week, I finished lining and flooring the storage spaces off of our bedroom and my studio.  Oh yeah, we also put ‘Enter the Forest of Dreams’ into storage.  As much as I’ve enjoyed working on it and showing it this year, it’s great to have our living room back!  Here it is with our little Charlie Brown Christmas Tree in the corner and a snowfall of fairly lights at the window.

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Now, it’s just Steve and I to celebrate the Winter Solstice, Christmas and New Year together.  We counted up on our fingers and realised that this is our fifth Christmas together which is quite special.

Vintage 1950's ornaments from Steve's childhood tree

Vintage 1950’s ornaments from Steve’s childhood tree

At first, I really had to make an effort to wind down and relax this week.   The spirituality of waiting is the active doing of nothing.  I’ve been sprawling out on the sofa with warm socks and a cuddly throw to read and look out of the window and doze.

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Our jackdaw neighbours silhouetted against the noon sky.

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A couple of weeks ago it was cold and frosty.  .  .  .

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Frost flower

Frost flower

It has turned mild(ish) and rainy again.  We’ve been going to bed fairly early to read and listen to the radio and to the rain pattering on the rooftop.

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And tomorrow is the Winter Solstice, the time to celebrate the longest night and the return of the Light.

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May you find space in this season for quiet waiting, solace in the dark days and long nights of winter and for something unknown to be born.