It approaches from the North, hiding behind the retreating shadow of the dog days of summer and the beginnings of the lovely cloak of red, gold and bronze being weaved by Persephone herself. As she dresses the trees in their magical garb and prepares them to walk down the spiral staircase to rest, the wind prickles ever so slightly. Is that a chill in the air? The breath of the Dark Moon as it makes its way toward us?
I come from hearty stock. I was raised on the belief that winter is a formidable enemy and that we must prepare for battle and never stop fighting. March on and shovel and blow and plow and take your ass under the house with a hairdryer to thaw frozen pipes and repeat. Over and over until the spring comes…
This is why I am more than a little bit concerned about my first winter “back home”. I have no truck with a plow. I’m contemplating getting a walk-behind snow blower and I’ve already ordered a portable generator. In terms of surviving I can probably cope. In terms of thriving and being able to get to and from work, well….a great deal of that is beyond my control. I have a portion of road before I even reach the highway that often blows shut so I’m told. There is a hay field on one side and a corn field on the other. Recipe for winter disaster. When I was a kid, we’d go to the grocery store on Saturdays. A similar situation would occur on a stretch of highway between the town where the store was and home. I always wondered why the heck we went to the store if it was supposed to snow that much? But, that was in the days before 24 hour Super Walmart and both my parents worked so there really wasn’t much choice…
I have another portion of road called Evan’s Curve. It is a dreaded stretch of highway that everyone speaks of in whispers lol… The same situation with fields on both sides causes drifts 12 ft. and higher. So I’m told…
Winter simply exists to make life more difficult in my opinion. Folks know I’m not a fan so this isn’t news to anyone. Take any given problem and experience it in the winter and it is 10 times worse. Winter is the stone that grinds you down. It is meant to test you and hurt you. It is meant to scar you. I have absolutely no use for it really. I’ve tried to embrace it in terms of magic and spirit and the Wheel but I.JUST.CANNOT. And so now I try to come to terms with the fact that I have to fight to live through it, both figuratively and literally, crawl toward the light like everything else and bask in the sun when it returns.
It would probably (no it would definitely) be different if I worked from home full time. It is really quite simply the day in day out travel to and from the drives me insane. It drove me crazy when I had a 15 minute commute. 50 minutes will be highly unbearable. But, I knew this. It was actually the ONLY thing in my “negatives” column when I got down to the business of “will you move out of the city or not” decision. So, I rolled the dice.
Winter, you cold fucker. I’m not naïve enough to believe I can win against you. I will simply have to do my best to outlast you.
It seems to me that in the worst of the moments that make up our struggles, there is an overwhelming answer that sometimes gets lost and that is to focus on the light. To seek it, despite being surrounded by murky uncertainty or continually challenged with struggle.
Imbolc. My little holiday that could. Hidden in the calendar like green grass under snow. Unassuming and quiet. Barely a whisper in the dark. I think of Imbolc both as a sleeping child gathering her strength and as someone more wise than any child would be. Perhaps she has the wisdom of the ages within her, given the wheel and its constant turning. Through some cosmic memory the child knows that she has been here before. She knows what to do and that it must be done.
She moves slowly, deliberately, taking much rest as she still needs it, hovering below the surface of the shadows, watching, feeling, silently drifting in and out of sleep and dreaming of the warmth and the light of her soul. And in her dreams she prepares that soul for life, because it is active dreaming as well, not just rest.
She is gathering what she will need because the light, while warm, brings her out of the safety of the shadows. For this she must be ready. She must be ready to free herself, feed herself, to grow and move and live. She must prepare to survive and most hopefully to thrive.
Imbolc is us as we change and are reborn. We’ve retreated into the darkness over and over, seeking refuge from the world. Seeking protection from the cold and shelter from the storms that rage above us. We lick our wounds and warm ourselves by the fire deep in the earth. We bury our dead and sometimes, sadly, we bury the dreams and hopes that were not to be. We weep and we even have moments where we feel as if we cannot go on and that it would make more sense to remain in the underworld of our own souls, safe, hidden…
And then, the light beckons and we look up. We can’t help it really and neither can Imbolc. It is within us to seek that light. To reach for it, claw through whatever it is that haunts us and make our way to the mouth of the cave, preparing to step into the world again.
May your body and your soul be rested from the Dark Season. May whatever scars you are tending begin to fade and may you hear your heart clearly on this sacred day. The light is there, faint but growing. Let it chase away the shadows of your soul and dry your tears. Lift your eyes to hope and be ready. Imbolc will carry you home.
Do you like the Clash? I love the Clash. Ahhhh...that sound of classic punk. The music of good old fashioned 70s and 80s social anarchy and change. Punk music was liberating for me as a young person.
This week has been filled with the Universe flipping me the bird over and over. It reminds me of THIS CLASH CLASSIC and strangely enough (or not) I always hum it during these life times and make up funny (sad or angry), appropriate words of my own.
Stuff like - you have the right to earn a moderate living that will sustain you....provided you don't mistakenly think you could actually succeed at it. you have the right to have dreams....provided they aren't any different than the herd's around you and we'll tell you what those are. you have the right....oh get off the streets get back in your double wide and eat your ramen noodles little girl yer getting too big for yer britches.
Thing is, I fucking like Ramen and you Universe, have not seen the extent that I can adapt to your never-ending tub full of bullshit. You are just a week in the life, a day in the year, any number of people in the multitudes of the very hoards I will someday be completely away from. So SUCK IT and SCREW YOU TOO.
Gosh, that was better than yoga even.
So.....over last weekend we experience the most snow we have had at one time in about 23 years. Big dogs thought it was amazingly fun (so my friends who have them have told me). The rest of us, not so much. I measured just below 30 inches at my place. My hometown got over 40, which wasn't out of the ordinary from my childhood memories but still, what a PITA.
I will count myself lucky this go-round though. The electric stayed on. I was warm and safe. I dug my very long driveway out by hand and therefore provided myself with a two day awesome workout plan. The stuff is slowly melting, now brown and gross. Go away.
So, the interesting thing about big storms is how different they can be from each other. For instance, last year's Thor had much less snow - probably 10 to 12 inches maybe? But, it was heavy and wet, starting out from an overly warm day on which it seemed like it shouldn't be snowing. It came down in big clumps and stuck to everything and then the temps fell, things got heavy and started breaking. Hence, power outages, downed trees, etc. In the aftermath it was gone in a matter of a day and a half though. Jonas, blanketing us with over two feet of snow in the span of 36 hours, was light as a feather. Ski snow - super fine powder and the air was cold so no chance to stick on trees and electric lines. Despite being twice as much snow we had no power outages in my area. But, due to the sheer amount and the fact that two days later it DID get super cold, it is packed down now, hard and long to melt.
The other thing I always notice with winter storms is that it takes society at least as long as it takes the snow to melt to return to "normal". We still have businesses not open and certain secondary roads, etc. not open and it is almost a full week later. People are super effing cranky too. As long as the remnants remain on the ground, people will filter their moods through the now dirty, melting, globs.
Is it like the leftover snow becomes a reminder of how insignificant we really are? Maybe that is too deep. Maybe people are just cranky because it is dirty and ugly.
My mind slips during phases like these though. Days sort of flow together and get mixed up. I'm thinking it has something to do with being snowbound for three full days but I just looked at the calendar and realized that Imbolc, AKA my favorite little Holiday that could, is next week. NEXT WEEK!!!!! Where the heck did that come from????
So, now I have a glimmer of hope. The time between the Solstice and Imbolc is always quite difficult for me in terms of mental stability and depression. I need to start planning ritual and concentrating on this last push that I always have to muster when we get to this bleakest point of the wheel's turning.
I've very recently become super out of touch with my immediate world. That is to say, I left Facebook.
I have forever maintained two FB accounts. One for my mundane existence and another that is my (mostly) happy FB. I've went through periodic purges of my mundane FB, as well as mostly hiding everyone and everything that makes me feel awful inside, makes me want to kill people and serves as a general reminder that Darwin no longer rules.
At various points it occurred to me that it was really more trouble than it was worth to maintain mundane FB and I should just deactivate it. But, always, my brain would bargain. What about your college roommate that you only get to see on FB? What about your friend now several states away and that is the only way you communicate? What about....
In reality, should I want to communicate with any of the people I want to communicate with, I can. Via text or phone call. Via email or letter (you know, the old fashioned ways). And the truth is, FB makes me feel wasteful and unproductive. I'm speaking specifically of my mundane FB here - my "other" FB sparks lovely conversations, I use it as a communication tool for this site and at some point it will be one of the marketing functions of my farm sanctuary. LOL I guess that life with social media hasn't changed much from the days of old, where you hung out with people at an actual, physical location. That is to say, your daily experience all depends on the people you surround yourself with?
But, I will say, not being on mundane FB is extremely freeing. You just don't know how awesome it is to say - no I didn't see that, I'm not on Facebook anymore with regard to some piece of gossip, ridiculous behavior or post. I thought I might feel out of touch but I actually feel better. Less a part of the daily nastiness that social media seems to bring out in people. I have often felt that instead of junior high and high school cafeterias we now have Facebook. And WHY are 45 year old women still eating lunch and gossiping in high school cafeterias anyway? Don't we have better things to do? I mean, gosh, I had better things to do at 16 actually (hence sneaking away from lunch almost daily).
Social media has given us the ability to stay connected, to share and to communicate more readily. Those things can be really, really good. It has also given us the ability to be mean as hell, be gossip mongers, render our opinions on everything whether we actually know anything or not, and all this can be done from the safety of our computer screen or mobile device. Therefore, we are more powerful in our human shortcomings, more brazen in our hatred and more easily led down the road of mob behavior by whatever the spewing of the day happens to be.
And for those of us who feel deeply, who live by some beliefs and hopes and dreams that are outside the "normal" realm of sheepdom, Facebook becomes a bit of a field full of landmines ready to explode beneath us at every click of the key. I got no time for that. Life is difficult enough without inviting drama and that is mainly why I am mundane FB free at this point :)
One of my favorite Solstice ritual readings comes from the album Beautiful Darkness with Jessica Radcliffe, Lisa Ekstrom and Martin Simpson. The song, Kolyada/Old One, sums up perfectly the Winter Solstice and the longest night for me. I recite it yearly during my ritual.
Since I'm obviously derived from some pale and mostly angry lineage, I am drawn to music and myth of this sort. My mind's renderings of gods and goddesses are mostly untamed and alive amongst the woods and mountains of the world. They are the bringers of storms and the harbingers of hearth and fire itself.
I find it more difficult to locate history and myth for what I'm drawn to. While there is endless information on Greek mythology, Roman gods and goddesses, Nordic myth is only slightly more common than its Slavic cousin's story weaving ~ simply two different classifications of Europeans, yes, but given that geographical magic varies from South Carolina as opposed to Arizona, I feel like it matters. Anyway, because I was curious about my favorite Solstice music, I went searching. I found an interesting article containing Kolyada from The Songs of the Russian People by William Ralston and Shedden Ralston. Good reading if you are interested in Slavic history and myth.
I long for many things as the morning after Solstice rises. I played music well into the night, went to sleep to it actually, and will continue to be hypnotized by those sounds until Imbolc. For me, although the Longest Night has passed, I'm still deep in the earth right now, still down at the bottom of my soul, searching, wandering through the hallways of myself, not yet reaching for the world above.
My prayer is for understanding. For knowledge. For growth.
On the Longest Night, as time stands still, so close to the edge of never and forever...let us breath softly and speak to the fire in our souls. Nurture it and hold it close as the night wraps us in silence and walks us down that spiral staircase to the basement of our being, belonging, our roots. We will not race for the Sun in the morning. Instead, we will linger with Darkness a bit longer, slowly ascending toward the light while speaking in whispers about what lies beneath. Keep us whole in our journey into ourselves and let us emerge evolved yet familiar in spirit and strength.
Darkness approaches silently, on the heels of fog and the cold breath of the moon. It moves through the trees and touches their bare limbs lovingly. It leaves tears behind it, its own heart aching and lonely. The world is difficult to hold, to comfort, but it wraps her in its cloak and whispers...rest.
Breath and rest. Be loved and be silent. Heal yourself and let me cleanse the hurt with cold winds and snow. Sleep and wait for me. I will come.
The Dark Season is unfolding before us now, with all the wisdom of the earth available to sample and make our own. After I finish this post I am taking to the trail to run in the rain. I want to feel the soggy leaves under my feet and breathe in the scent of their decay. I want to make my way through the fog of morning and imagine what might be around the next bend, sleeping under limestone outcroppings, watching me from the woods above.
I want to know Darkness intimately and let it in, let it be inside me feeling my heart and soul. Death of all that was before and rest for all that is ever after. Over and over we circle together, Darkness and I, down the spiral staircase to the basement of myself. And there we will rest until Imbolc brings the certainty of the Light.
In my best dreams I have a Coven or a Grove or some other earthy, magical group that I spend these days with. We celebrate, we eat, we drink, we share and care. But, alas, I remain a solitary solider in a world that doesn't understand why certain days, times of the year, ideas, feelings, or places mean so much to me. Or have a much different meaning than they do to them.
Life as a solitary child of the Universe requires a certain amount of self motivation. It is kind of like going to the gym. Most people need a buddy. Spiritual buddies are harder to find than gym buddies.
But, still, here we are at the beginning of the Dark Season and I am humbled by Nature. I am awed by it and the process of the turning of this wheel we watch, touch, feel moving through our lives. It is always surprising to me that despite my loathing of winter and even while dreading its icy grip, the time between Samhain and Winter Solstice is absolutely magical for me.
I feel so in tune with myself and close to the earth. I want to lie in the leaves and feel frost on my face, breath in that smell of decay from the season before and know that the Hush is coming. I want to prepare like the squirrels and be ready for the darkness.
Nothing that mattered before matters during this magical time. Things slide away and move to the basement of myself where they should be. So connected, so in tune with my own heartbeat, so clear is the drum that I dance to all by myself. The road to darkness is almost like a trip away from everyday for me. I feel like I can reflect. I feel as if I understand. Yes, Universe, I "get" it ~ even as the whispers from my soul are quietly speaking, I hear her loud and clear.
I am a creature on fire. There is a dragon by my side and he fuels my spirit. Nothing matters. Nothing but the stairway to the longest night. Walk it well, drink in the ritual that we have lost and make it whole again. On padded feet and through the hooves of deer I feel the earth beneath me and I know...I know that I am a part of it all. I'm connected to this journey and can touch magic, even if only for these brief moments as we descend.
I covet a life in which I can open my heart and listen. Listen without worries of inconvenience and fear of what could happen in the bleak winter to come. I want to touch the seasons and be loved by them and love in return. I want to explore the colorful woods, listen to the chatter of busy squirrels, long to touch the velvet horns of deer, feel the crisp spark of the first frost and be mesmerized by falling snow. I want these things for my peace of mind and for my weary soul.
Right now there is a Chickadee on my windowsill. Looking at me with expectant eyes. He will be here for the seasons to come, without fail, visiting the feeder for breakfast and greeting the day, however short and cold, with the chatter of a happy little bird. I want to capture his tiny spirit and borrow his mirth.
Octavia bless me with willingness as I stand in the threshold of your doorway. Wrap me in the colors of your love and the cool, crisp breath of your soul. Teach me to let go of the rope that binds me to the shore, take my foot from the shallow water of the season and instead, jump. Jump into the swirling red and gold shimmering around me, breath in your promise of darkness, secrets and renewal. And rest. Always rest, of which there never seems to be enough.
Make me unafraid of the winter that approaches, warm me by the fire of the Solstice bright and take me through the bleakness on the road to Imbolc. Keep me in spirit and pull me up when I fall, as I will surely fail as many times as I succeed. Give me hope and remind me that the wheel turns, always.
It isn’t really a “grass is greener” philosophy but more of a gypsy worldview. And it is a fairly accurate description. I spend so much time “up in my head” and not always in a philosophical way. For me, my head IS where my heart is. My feelings are so quickly formulated into thoughts, contemplation, evaluation, processing, then conclusion. I don’t need to travel the world. I do need to travel where my soul takes me and that includes a good deal of meandering, exploring both the inside of me and the immediate outside world. I was reading an article yesterday, sort of a rambling diary about a woman and moving forward toward a life (or away from something in life) and I commented that I found a lot of it to be accurate in terms of feelings, struggle, life itself, making excuses, fear and moving on (in whatever capacity one is settling in life).
But, the problem was you got ¾ of the way through it and like most other articles I have seen I think it started to promise some kind of sudden awakening and "boom everything is better now" ending. I have issues with this. It is like (my BF and I were discussing this the other day) those articles on “embracing being single” that end up telling you how to meet the “true love of your life”. And then another article a bunch of us were discussing on FB yesterday regarding the approach of doing the mechanics of the Craft, sort of in “crash course” style, without getting to the heart of the matter of being a witch. And I am digressing I guess with examples but the point is that everything seems to be based around not only the quickest route to something, anything, whether it be magical practice, finding a mate or happiness.
And let’s discuss “happiness” for a moment. The truth is, in life, there are no fairytale endings. No matter who you are, where you are, who or what you leave, there is still, and always, struggle. No one decision is rarely a complete, life changing, all is better now scenario. There are often cons to the pro of any decision and deeming "happiness" the ultimate destination is really, really Disney inspired. Unless we have the capability of stopping time in a moment of bliss, complications will find us. That is the world we live in. I’m not so sure it ever wasn’t the world we live in, it is just that people settled more often than not. Life is a series of experiences. Hurt doesn’t go away because you leave one situation and enter another. Love is often found and more often than not, lost somewhere in the process of getting through each day, month, year. People rarely change in the same way or at the same rate but we do change, constantly IF we are growing and feeling and exploring our true selves. Fear, conformity, responsibility are all factors to varying degrees. Oceans are vast and sometimes, unfortunately, so are our feelings, emotions and ramifications of our choices throughout life.
As someone who has lived with atypical depression since childhood, (BTW can you believe there are so many types of depression? I mean what does that say about our world?), I am very used to my “feelings” sort of free-flowing on the daily. Is this why I find the rhetoric in some of these articles and the approach of “quick-fix” life these days so incredibly short-sighted? I mean, just this morning I have already experienced three distinct “moods” that could easily set the tone for my day and I’ve only been awake for two hours! My goal each morning is to grab the best mood I can and nurture it. It is exhausting, frankly, but again, life doesn’t freeze-frame for anyone. If it did we’d all stay at our favorite vacation spot indefinately!
There is this country song. I know, I know but bear with me because it just sums up why I think these sorts of articles are just way off base…
A guy walks into a bar, orders a drink
Sees a girl that catches his eye
Asks her if she wants another
They fall for each other and end up lovers
They laugh, cry, hold on tight, make it work for a little while
Then one night her taillights fade out into the dark
And a guy walks into a bar...
See? Life. That’s how it goes folks.
TWANG TWANG TWANG