Hello, Darkness

Samain                                   Moon of the Winter Solstice

The holidays.  We’ve got no decorations up.  No Christmas or other holiday music plays here.  We did all of our shopping online.

When I was at Best Buy a week or so ago while hunting for a device to download pictures to Kate’s i-pad (no joy on that front even now), Christmas music played and, as I said here after that, I responded, singing along, even getting the little uptick in the heart that comes with the commercial or family holiday all Americans celebrate at this time of year.

I do miss some of the over doing, present wrapping–ok, I don’t miss present wrapping, decorating the tree–well, I don’t miss getting the tree, putting up the tree or the occasional nasty surprise like the one my friend Mark discovered when he watered and watered this year’s tree only to discover the pan had cracked and water had leaked out under the tree skirt, nor do I miss taking down the tree, cleaning up the fallen needles, Christmas music–responding in the store meant something to me, but only because I’d spent 40 days away from the US and this is one strong cultural tradition, over saturation spoils the effect, church services–well, I bailed on those a long, long time ago.

So, maybe I’m not too sad about our ascetic approach to the holidays.  Besides, the holiday that now means the most to me, the Winter Solstice, comes along now, too, and I do celebrate that one with candles, meditation and writing.

There is, though, a powerful need for reflection, for love, for warmth in all its manifestations.  Sergio, our guide on a tour in Ushuaia, the southernmost city in the Americas, explained that winters there, where the nights are long long long, often results in depression.

Another argument for a Ge-centric faith, one that acknowledges the darkness, relishes its nurturing power, rejoices at the return of the light and doesn’t have to get overly metaphysical about it.

These brave festivals of the light like Deepavli, Christmas, Hanukkah, Yule and even New Years all respond to the same fundamental astronomical fact, the lengthening of night and the ancient fear that the sun may not return.  In that sense they’re all good, but why not acknowledge, first, the fundamental reason for the season, axial tilt?

In and Down

Fall                                          Waxing Harvest Moon

60 pink daffodils have a new home in the soil surrounding two cherry trees and a pear tree.  These trees are the first ones visible out our kitchen window, so the blooms will cheer us up as spring begins to break winter’s hold next year.  Bulb planting relies on, requires darkness.  Beauty, like Snow White, goes to sleep beneath the autumn sun and lies as dead all winter long.  With the kiss of the sun prince flowers emerge.  Perhaps the years I’ve spent planting bulbs in great numbers, as many as 800 in some years,  triggered my affection for darkness.  In the first few years of daffodils, hyacinth, tulips, snowdrops and croci I often thought of those bulbs, covered in snow and cold, waiting out the winter in their castle of food and nascent stalks, leaves and flowers, a feeling similar to the one I get now when I’m at work in the garden and a bee, a bee from Artemis Hives, alights on a flower near me.  Both of us, insect and human, have valuable work to perform in the garden and we labor there as colleagues in every sense.  The patience and persistence of the bulbs beneath the snows and cold of December and January has always touched me, a sweet feeling, a well-wishing for them in their lonely underground redoubts.

That’s part of the darkness focus.  Another, earlier part, came when I began to feel uneasy with spiritual metaphors that took me up and out of my body.  Heaven.  Prayers that go up.  God being out there.  The minister lifted up above the congregation.  A sense that the better part of existence lies beyond the body and this moment, somewhere high and far away.   I began a search for spiritual metaphors that took me down and in.  Jungian psychology helped me in this search, but the clincher came after I had decided to study Celtic history in preparation for writing my first novels.  A trip to north Wales and two weeks in a residential library there tipped me to the existence of holy wells, springs that had sacred meaning to early Celtic religious life, long before the arrival of Christianity.  Here was a metaphor that went down and if used in meditation, could stimulate a spiritual journey in the same direction, no longer trying to get out of  the body or up and far away.

The spiritual pilgrimage that began from that point has led me on an inner journey, into the deep caverns and cathedrals of my own Self, traveling them and finding the links between my Self and the larger spiritual universe, the connection not coming on an upward path, but on the ancientrail of Self-exploration.  I do not seek to go into the light, but into the caves.