Sunday, December 21, 2008
The winter holidays are here. It is the time of year when we experience the darkest night of the year, the Winter Solstice. It is this time of year that brings darkness, and that also brings hope. It is the hope that is signified by the evergreen and the holly. Life is happening deep within the earth, gestating in the womb, to be (re)born when Spring returns. It is a time of drawing within to take comfort in the dark nights. It is a time of yuletide fires that remind us of the light to come. It is a time to gather with loved ones, to share one's presence (and presents). It is a time to give birth to hopes, dreams, and plans, to allow them to grow during the dark days. It is a time to renew one's spirit, to reflect, to love, to bring peace into this world, which knows too much unrest. It is a time for the rejuvenation and renewal of the earth, the renewal of our selves.
The winter holiday season can also be a difficult time. If you listened to the Joni Mitchell song, "River," you know that it is not a happy tune. It is beautiful, haunting, and moving, but not full of holiday cheer. Rather than focusing on the warmth of the season, it focuses on the chill when a relationship ends. While this time of year often signals weeks of festive engagements, with friends and family coming together from all over the map, it can also be a very painful time for many folks among us. There are a number of people who do not have family or friends with whom to share the holidays. They are lonely, and alone. They are not spending their time at parties, or at rituals celebrating the return of the light, or the manger birth of their messiah, or the eight nights of light, or any other winter celebration (or none at all). They do not embrace the dark, but rather fear it for the painful time it signals for them. This time of year, a time when so many are joyously celebrating birth in its myriad forms, can be a time so lonely for others, that it is lonely unto death. Theirs is not a time of celebration, but the remembrance of death, be it of relationships, family estrangement, shortage of friends. It can be a hard, sad, time.
And this year has definitely been one of loss for many of us. We have lost friends, we have lost family members, and some of us have lost our Party. We grieve the loss of those who turned a blind eye and deaf ear to the theft of a nomination, of voter fraud, of lies, of misogyny in the light of day. We mourn that our presidency can be bought so easily, with money, and callous disregard for morality and ethics. We are deeply saddened by what has happened in our personal lives, and our political lives. It has been a hard year for many of us, and we grieve.
To grieve is an important process, for those loved and lost, whether it be beloved four legged members of our families, or two legged loved ones; whether it be the end of relationships of great meaning, or loss of respect for those who embraced winning at all and any cost. Yes, it has been a hard year.
And yet, and yet, as the darkest night approaches, these sadnesses, these losses, can take us to another place. This season can be reclaimed as a time of spiritual renewal. It can be a time of deep introspection. It can be a time of going deeper within oneself to find the love one thought was lost. This is not an easy task, though. The spiritual journey is not a simple or painless one. But, it is a wholly worthwhile undertaking, if done with honesty, and compassion for oneself and others. There is mystery in this planet, in the universe, in the soul. This time of year, with the prevailing darkness, with the burning of candles, with the smells of evergreens seems to be the perfect time to engage in just such spiritual introspection, into the parts of who we are, that we may not venture to during the light. It is a time for reclaiming, rebirthing who we are, and our rightful place on this planet.
The following piece is by Clannad*. I think this piece is incredibly powerful - I don't understand the lyrics at all, but that doesn't matter to me. It's the music, all about the music. This one soothes my soul. I hope it does yours as well:
This wondrous time of year is a perfect time for spiritual reflection. Amidst the hustle and bustle in which many of us engage during this time, remember to take time for yourself. Go in. Go deep. Sow the seeds of love and peace. Be mindful of the spirit, of dreams waiting to be born, or the lonely among us. Extend the warmth of the hearth and heart to them.
Merry meet. Merry part. Merry meet again!
* In case you are not familiar with Clannad, they are Enya's family, and have been performing for years. Enya did sing with them for a couple of years, but then went out on her own.