I Weep, I Will…

I do not weep for myself…

I weep for those whose very lives depend on subsidized health care

I weep for couples in same sex marriages

I weep for people of color

I weep for those who are transgender

I weep for young girls being treated as objects to be judged, groped and abused

I weep for young boys being raised in a culture of toxic masculinity

I weep for young women who rely on community clinics for birth control and reproductive health care

I weep for refugees

I weep for those of non-Christian faiths

I weep for those sent to war for profit

I weep for the environment

Do not mistake my tears for weakness.

They are part of a process

With every tear, my heart fills with new resolve.

I WILL make a difference

I will feed people who are hungry

I will defend people who are persecuted and bullied

I will empower those who feel powerless

I will counter your hate with love

For every hateful act you commit or condone, I will act in kindness

For every person you abuse or marginalize, I will lift someone up

For every curse you utter, I will sing a praise

Love will win

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L. Lisa Lawrence November 9th, 2016

 


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The Story of My Sexual Assault

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The Story Of My Sexual Assault

*in case the title isn’t clear enough, here’s your trigger warning. This story is about sexual assault, abuse and harassment.

I was reading comments online spurred by the current GOP presidential candidate bragging about sexually assaulting women. They ranged from intelligent commentary about why sexual assault is such an under reported crime to complete and total denial that we live in a rape culture in which men are entitled to control, comment on and use womens’ bodies.

One commenter mentioned that the “one out of five” women being a victim of sexual assault number seems low” and wonder if it’s because they “weren’t comfortable reporting it.” Not to quibble, but I’ve read “one out of four” and my personal experience being and talking to women indicates it’s much higher than that.

In concurrent threads there are people who deny these numbers, deny rape culture and say that the women now stepping forward about said candidate are liars who are just looking for attention. It is vital that women step up and speak out. We can no longer be silent and we can not let this stand.

So here’s my story.

1965 – I don’t remember the first time I was sexually assaulted, but it was by my step “father” who conned his way into my mother’s life when I was three years old. I became aware that he “make me feel icky” when he touched me when I was about nine or ten years old (and I felt guilty for not loving a “step” like a “real” “parent” like the Brady Bunch told us we were supposed to. I figured it out when the memories made sense at the age of 16 (when I, for the most part left the home) My mother’s reactions to this ranged from “we don’t talk about things like that” to violently abusing me herself while under the influence of alcohol. I grew up being told never to talk back to or upset him as he had high blood pressure, or he would have a heart attack and die and that it would be my fault. How sad I was to find out that was a lie. As a teenager, after witnessing him hitting my mother so hard in the face that her bridgework flew out of her mouth I pulled my 22 rifle out of the closet and told him all of the horrible things I’d always wanted to say to him as a child and told him that I’d kill him if he ever touched me or my mother again. He didn’t have a heart attack and didn’t die. I was disappointed.

1967 – I was five years old, in first grade. It was after school and I was walking past the bike racks to the car where I was being picked up from school. A 6th grade boy grabbed me, threw me on the ground next to the bike racks while another boy on a bicycle told him, “spread her legs” as he grabbed my ankles, adorned with those little lace trimmed bobbie socks, the boy on the bike tried to run over my genital area with the front tire of his bicycle. No one helped me. I kicked, screamed, raged and got away. Later when I was questioned by the principal about it, they had a suspect that I was to name. This means there were witnesses that did not try to help me, and/or that he had assaulted other little girls and was still allowed to be at school.

1973 – at eleven years old while playing football with the neighborhood kids, one of the boys pinned me down and violently groped my crotch. The response when I told an adult, “Boys will be boys”

1975 – at thirteen years old while walking home from school, a boy commented on how “small” my barely developing breast were and grabbed them. Again, “Boys will be boys”

That same year, another older boy tried to rape me in the projection booth at a local movie theater. I fought him off and never went back to that theater. Big surprise here. It was my fault for going into the projection booth (I was interested in the projector).

1976 – I was 14, a boy followed me home from school and assaulted me. I punched him. He did not get in trouble, but I was pulled aside by one of the fathers in the neighborhood, grabbed by the shoulders and told to “calm down” and that I “was not a normal girl” and was “too aggressive” (because obviously, normal girls just take abuse and don’t fight back)

1977 – I was 15 and thought all of the horse play and wresting stuff with our church youth group leader was just innocent fun, because I was a tomboy, super naive and somehow, still believed the best of people. I discovered after the fact that it was apparently well known (to everyone but me) that this adult male in a position of trust, in a church was hot for me and behaving inappropriately; he quietly disappeared.

1980 – I was barely 18 years old. The “neighborhood rapist” who I found out after the fact had already raped seven women at knife point attacked me while I was out running in the early morning daylight. I was the “lucky one” who fought him off (and broke a few of his fingers, I was so filled with rage, I’d have killed him if he hadn’t run away with his sweat pants hanging down around his knees). I was only the “lucky one” until the questions started, “What were you wearing?” “Why were you wearing shorts instead of baggy sweats?” “Why didn’t you get a better ID on him?” “why didn’t you incapacitate him?” “Why were you out running at all?”

1987 – I was repeatedly harassed and groped by a supervisor when I worked for the US Forest Service. He was not disciplined and I was not believed and was vilified by The Fire Management Officer who had on a separate occasion told me, “A pretty girl does not belong on the fire line, she is a distraction to the men.”

1988 – I had men (who I was physically stronger than and was a better medic than) who refused to have me as a paramedic partner because women didn’t have any business doing that job. They were allowed to do this.

1989 – I had a helicopter pilot refuse to fly with me as flight crew/medic because I was a woman. He was allowed to do this so my work schedule had to be manipulated to placate his misogyny.

1996 – The National Historic Site I worked at on a temporary detail, told me (the only law enforcement officer on site) that I was never to handle a confrontation, that I was supposed to let the maintenance guys handle it. When I balked at that, as well as being told to leave the site during an emergency (flood) while the men stayed, when I was the person charged with public safety, I was brought up on insubordination charges and was forced to undergo a psychiatric evaluation. I couldn’t get out of St Louis and back to Colorado and a real park fast enough after that.

1997 – The National Monument I worked for used a convict labor crew to do work in a very busy monument with small cities at each entrance (this was not a remote area) They were very poorly supervised and were allowed to wander freely around the maintenance area which was adjacent to the house area. When I wasn’t wearing my uniform and duty weapon they would yell and catcall me when I was in my back yard or at the mailbox. One of these criminals, got away from the crew and got inside a maintenance garage alone with me. After I complained and they were forced to stay in the van while fueling and the Park Service was forced to supervise them properly, I was literally “set up” by one of them and was brought up on charges. When I filed a formal complaint for this, the first investigation was “lost” and I had to go through the entire process again; this time with an interviewer from OPM who was very much into victim blaming. Everything that was said about me in that report was terrible and degrading. My “running shorts were too short”, I was “too aggressive for a woman”, even the french braid I wore my hair in was “too tight and made me look like a bitch.” I felt terrible for my Chief Ranger who was a stand up guy. This all came down from the Superintendent who was a sexist, misogynist bastard who constantly degraded women and a system in which sexual harassment and disrespect of women was deeply ingrained.

2002 – I was running in the park at lunch time, training for the Seattle Marathon. I was attacked by a guy in the park who jumped out of the bushes and tried to tackle me, once again, I fought him off (and threatened to kick his ass) and of course the questions were, “What were you wearing” Because apparently running shorts and a sports bra in 90 degree weather is an open invitation to be assaulted

2016 – At nearly 54 years old, I can’t walk two blocks to the grocery store without being catcalled and harassed. My recent “favorite” was the guy (young enough to be my son) who drove by me twice, turned around, pulled over at a stop light and yelled, “HEY! Little Girl, Come Here!” Let’s just say that encounter didn’t end well for him as he ran the red light to get away from the crazy lady.

These are just a few “highlights” of my life experience with a culture that allows men to see women as objects and vilifies women for their own assault and harassment. If I tried to recall even 10%, I’d be here for weeks writing a book about it.

Sexual assault, sexual harassment and discrimination happen every single day.

These acts happen to a hell of a lot more women than “1 in 5”, “1 in 4” or whatever ridiculously under reported number gets thrown out there.

So when someone says, “Rape culture doesn’t exist” or “They’re just words; get over it” you’re discounting the very real experiences of 50% of the population because while not every woman will report being sexually assaulted (even if she has) we have all been harassed or discriminated against.

Do you know why women come out en masse after being raped or assaulted by a famous and/or powerful man decades after the fact? It is because it’s taken that long for them to feel that they “might” actually be believed.

Rape culture is real and the current GOP candidate is turning back the clock and giving his misguided followers implicit permission and encouragement to be misogynist, racist, homophobic, bigoted and violent towards anyone who challenges their narrow, ignorant and selfish world view.

Not only do women need to tell their stories, but men, good men (the vast majority of men are good men) need to stand with us, to stand up and say that this behavior does not represent their gender.


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August Postcard Poetry Fest

As September arrives with cooler temperatures and gentle rain, the memories of August slowly begin to fade.

This signals the end of the August Postcard Poetry Fest and the time we can share our poems on our own blogs and submit to the 56 Days of August Anthology.

This year, I did something a bit different and created a watercolor pencil painting which I took down to Minuteman Press to have made into postcards which included the year of the fest, my return address and the name of the painting, “My Beautiful Backyard”. This allowed me to share a bit of visual art as well as written word despite my not having time to do individual art collages like some other participants do.

This postcard was inspired by a backpacking trip to 3rd Beach, where after living here for 18 years, I finally saw my first orcas in the wild. It was an amazing and magical experience. I did three beach backpacking trips this summer, so many of my poems were inspired by my time on the coast, (in previous years, they were inspired by the mountains) hence, my first poem of the month…

25590352 My Beautiful Back Yard

The Gift

Windswept Northwest Coast…
The crashing of waves/crying of gulls…
A dorsal fin breaks the water…
The hunt is on…
Excitement on the beach…
As the pod appears…
Orcas in the wild, a very special gift…

Tahoma

Anticipation…
The destination draws nearer…
Muscles Ache and breath is hard…
Change in the wind…
Good, or bad?
One more bend, one more knoll…
Finally, the moment…
The clouds part, she is revealed.
It is a glorious day!
The mountain is out

Thunder

Change is coming…
Winds whip through the trees…
That unmistakeable scent in the air…
Skin tingles and the mind excites…
CRACK! BOOM!
The sky opens and roars…
Ice and rain pour down in fury…
In an instant, it is gone…
Quiet…
We stand in the coolness…
Refreshed and invigorated…

Poly Ticks

Hatred… Bigotry… Ignorance…
Saddened and disgusted by news…
I unplug and go outside…
I weep for others, I fear the future…
Looking to the grassy meadows…
I wonder…
Is there a nice Irish farmer…
looking for…
an aging mail order bride…
Build me a pottery studio and
I’ll milk your cows…

I am

I was told to make myself small…
Don’t be too loud, or opinionated…
Don’t draw attention to yourself…
Be sweet and demure…
Alas…
I am too tall, too wild…
too bold and far too full of fire…
I am not what I was raised to be
I am fire and thunder…
Love me or hate me…
I am what I was meant to be…

Pokemon

Yes, that was me in the park…
Playing a child’s game…
A pleasant diversion from life…
from politics, work and stress…
Laughing with others…
Gotta collect them all…
Take that you youngin’s….
Your gym just got taken…
by a woman old enough
to be your grandmother…

Heatwave

The heat of summer…
humid, oppressive…
unlike our area…
Swollen feet and ankles…
Tiredness…
Yet, an opportunity…
run through the sprinklers…
and around the house…
Starkers.

Luna

Can’t sleep…
So much on my mind…
Tossing and turning…
Then, I notice…
She is in sky, full and bright…
Mother moon…
Sleep is for another night…
For now is the time to bask
in the silvery light
and learn her secrets…

Street Art

Chalk!
Every Friday at noon…
Artists gather to reclaim space…
to build community…
To bring joy to others…
Hey you! Wanna draw?
Kids from a local club…
Business people off the street…
Homeless from the bus…
All drawing, sharing…
An hour of happiness…

PoPo

Days visibly getting shorter…
Back to school sales…
Trips not taken…
Projects not completed…
How did this happen?
Where did summer go?
Mourning…
Until the mail arrives…
Filled with poetry
and post cards…

What If

I admired you from afar….
Certain that you were…
Taken, Too handsome…
Too creative…
Too smart…
Too sought after for me…
Then, you moved away…
Single and Lonely..
Leaving me to wonder…
What if?

Vocation

Work…
A trying vocation…
Mentally exhausting…
Confronting the pain
and anguish of others…
Listening, Calming…
Returning anger
with compassion…
exhausted, sad,
ready to give up..
Until someone says…
You made it better…

The Coast

Mystery surrounds us…
A distant fog horn sounds warning…
Trekking down the rocky coast
all but what is in reach is veiled…
We drop our packs, wet with
sweat and heavy fog, we wait…
First, a treetop on a bluff, then
a seastack…
layers being peeled away…
Finally!
The Northwest coast revealed
and illuminated, in all her glory.

Wildfire!

Puff of smoke on a distant ridge…
Explodes into a massive plume…
Wind spreads the devastation…
We watch from below,
mesmerized by the power…
Later, fire engines race
down the winding roads…
My heart beat quickens…
Memories of my own days
on the fire line…
The passion is still inside.

Loss

Twenty five years…
And now you’re gone…
I never appreciated you…
We don’t know what we
have until it’s gone…
This morning I had to
take a cold shower…
Because…
I can’t afford a new
hot water heater
until pay day

Thieves

Amazon prime box…
left out for pickup…
In a short period of time,
it was gone…
Stolen, by someone with
no respect or care for others…
I hope they appreciate
the dead, rotting raccoon
that was left out
for animal control.…

Big Cedar

A legend has fallen…
One of the greatest…
People came from all over
to marvel at your majesty….
For a thousand years,
you reigned…
In a storm, you fell…
Split in two, crashing to earth…
Your death will provide life
for many more cedar trees…
As you you become
the soil from which new
life will spring at Kalaloch…

Misogyny

Oh newbie…
You are so predictable…
Uncertain, insecure…
You ask for help, then argue…
You attempt to mansplain
as you eavesdrop…
Make no mistake,
You are not my equal…
I will watch you fail…
Silently, with a sweet smile…

Skirt

Walking through the park…
A woman compliments
my skirt as it flows…
Greens, blues and golds….
Blowing gracefully in the wind…
Swaying as my hips move…
Accentuating my form…
Its story, even more
beautiful than it is…
Seen in a second hand
store by a friend…
Who thought it was for me…

This Old House

Old house…
You need a garden wall…
and paint, and back steps…
and drywall, and a new roof…
At every turn, you need more…
This summer, I was going to
get the hottub fixed…
And then… the water heater
finally died… foiled again!
I knew what you were when
I fell in love with you.

On The Street

I am not your sweetie, nor babe….
I do not have to turn around…
I do not have to approach your car…
I do not have to talk to you…
I do not have to pay you attention…
Since you persisted, you learned
about fiery redheaded wrath….
You were schooled in how not
to speak to a woman….
You were made an example
for the crowed who laughed
at you fleeing the angry woman…
Did you pee yourself a little bit?

Wicked Wind

Nineteen years ago…
You changed my life…
A photo of one just like you
crossed my feed today…
The memories came back…
pummeling me like your winds…
The blowing sand, the pain…
The cracking of my spine and pelvis…
What is a microburst? Some ask…
It is something that can end,
or change your life…
Today, I am much stronger for it.

Sojourn

Falling asleep to the sound of
Crashing surf….
Awakening to the silly giggle of
Bald Eagles in the trees above…
Exploring tidal pools and discovering
life hidden beneath the waves…
Running down the shoreline
free as a child, or one of the
gulls who fly out of my path…
This is my soul, this is healing.

Appreciation

Sensual, Glorious! I want to bask
in your warmth forever…
I took you for granted, never gave
you a second thought…
Because you were always there…
To do my bidding at any time…
And then you weren’t.
I won’t make that mistake again…
Oh hot water heater, I shall
appreciate you every day!

What You Are

Just kidding…
Again and again…
The “jokes” cut to the quick…
Nothing personal…
It’s just the way you are, you say.
Anything that causes another pain
most certainly is personal…
When asked to find others more
suited to “how you are” you said,
I knew better than to hang out
with you in the first place…
“How you are” is mean.

Around the Campfire

Old USFS firefighting manual…
Menstruating women are not
allowed on the fire line in
Grizzly Bear country…
Laughed at decades later around
the campfire…
The joke of the night…
Grizzly Bears will walk through
fire for a menstruating woman.

Geoduck

College mascot…
Tenacious digger…
Official state clam…
Booster of the local economy…
Sounds like Gooey…
Expensive, sought after
gourmet delicacy…
Looks like foreskin…
I just can’t…

Rialto

An icon for centuries…
Standing tall on the rugged coast…
Once part of an imposing cliff on
the mainland…
Later, a mighty sentential overseeing
all that washed away around it…
Water, freezing and thawing
continues to create and destroy…
Now, a pile of rubble on the beach…
Forever changing the landscape…
Captured in photos, hearts
and memories

Mother

Explaining coastal tides to one
who did not grow up by the sea…
Twice daily cycles, created by
by gravitational pull…
Influenced by the sun and moon…
Predictions are only that, one
must pay attention to be safe…
All the science…
What can not be conveyed
is the mystery and magic of
the heartbeat of
mother earth…

Respite

Living by the sun, moon
and tides….
Exploring pools created by
receding ocean…
Marveling at the creatures
who live below, briefly in view…
Hiking across rocky headlands
Napping, reading and
writing when the tide is in
Marveling at mother moon
and gazing at the stars…
Life is perfect here….

I ordered and sent five extra cards to friends who were not in my group. These poems were based on recent conversations, Facebook posts or projects they are working on.

Facts of Life

Money…
The root of all evil…
Sadly, a necessity…
Capitalism, Commercialism,
all taint our way of life…
We survive by escaping…
to the ocean, the mountains
the desert, and into our art…
We shall thrive!
As we know how
to feed our souls…

Life

Water…
It is everything and everywhere…
It gives us life…
We cry salty tears when sad…
sweat it out through our pores
when exerting ourselves…
Oceans, lakes and rivers
provide escape…
It falls from the sky and seeps
deep into the earth…
Our sacred duty is to protect.

Joy

Love…
A stolen smile…
a touch of the hand…
The flutter of one’s heart
when the other is near…
A feeling of loss when
separation is too long…
A joyful glow when together…
an inspiration to others.
Hope…

PoPo

A walk to the mailbox…
junk, bills, the odd jury summons…
One more thing to take
to the recycle bin or
that elicits stress…
Except in August!
Mailboxes are filled
with hand made art,
lovely photos and poems.
Mail is fun again

Change

A new home…
So much different than the old…
A drier climate, a different
kind of people…
So much adjustment and
new ways of life to learn…
New adventures…
Missing friends and loved
ones…
Building new relationships

The End

Summer’s oppressive heat
fades, bowing to morning
chill in the air…
Leaves begin to turn…
Children prepare to go
back to school as news
of pumpkin spice fill
social media…
The last post card is
dropped in the mail…

And then my final post to the Facebook group…

An early start….
Because August is often filled with chaos….
I did not want to disappoint
those waiting anxiously for the mail…
Hoping for a bit of art, a lovely photo
and some poetry…
Written in batches when inspired
by the power and beauty of nature
whilst on backpacking trips.
Five final cards are sent to
their destinations….
And it is done.

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To learn more about the August Postcard Poetry Fest, you can click here: http://paulenelson.com/august-poetry-postcard-fest/

To learn more about the 56 Days of August Anthology, you can click here: http://www.56daysofaugust.com/

 

~L


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Frost Park Chalk Off

Every Friday at Noon, through the month of October, a group of artists, downtown workers on their lunch breaks, kids from the Urban Explorers (and anyone we can pull off the street and hand a piece of chalk to) gather at Frost Park at 9th and Pacific to create public art, build community and socialize.

You don’t need any experience. Heck, you don’t even need chalk, we always have chalk to share!

All levels welcome and encouraged to attend.

The sidewalks are clean after this morning’s rain, and are a blank canvass just waiting for you!

What is the Frost Park Chalk Off?

You can view a video here.

https://www.facebook.com/FrostPark/videos/73042602723/

You can also see a photo album with a few photos from recent weeks here

https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10154256894149394.1073741920.690349393&type=1&l=4451389af1

Come get your chalk on!

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Allegedly “neutral” Mayor Strickland Supporting Methanol Refinery in Greenwashing Video

If there were any people left in town who actually believed that our city council members were being silent because they had to remain “neutral” in regards to the proposed methanol refinery, their hopes for honesty from our elected officials have been dashed.

Just today a video surfaced on YouTube in which our allegedly “neutral” mayor Marilyn Strickland sings the praises of the proposed methanol refinery.

The video created by the shell company working for the Chinese conglomerate was posted under an account belonging to “Citizens for a Green Economy” which is not a grassroots citizens coalition as they would like you to believe, but is in fact run by the company who is attempting to greenwash this ridiculous and dangerous proposal.

For more detailed information, visit RedLineTacoma.org

One thing is very clear…

We have been lied to and are still being lied to.

Our mayor is a liar.

Our city council members are liars.

Something stinks in Tacoma and it’s not the aroma.

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Please Stop Perpetuating a non-existent Tacoma Inferiority Complex – An open letter to the Tacoma Wheelmen Bicycle Club

I woke up this morning to messages from cyclist friends of mine asking what in the hell is wrong with the Tacoma Wheelmen Bicycle Club (TWBC) and what their beef with the Cascade bicycle club is.

It didn’t take long to find a news article about the president of the TWBC, Darrell Eslinger, with all the civility and grace of a GOP presidential candidate on the debate platform throwing a tantrum because Cascade Bicycle Club is holding a ride on the new 520 bridge and he feels that he and everyone else should be able to ride it for free (which they can at any other time once the bridge is opened to the public for cycling)

As the alleged leader of an organization that hosts paid rides such as the Daffodil Classic which are also held on public roads, he of all people should understand the cost of liability insurance, port a potties, security and staffing for such an event. I don’t think he, or the Daffodil committee would appreciate someone from another bicycle club in another town demanding to be able to ride it for free.

Seriously? Are we in middle school?

This pathological need for the TWBC to perpetuate an inferiority complex in the name of Tacoma is embarrassing and insulting.

I’ve looked the other way for years as TWBC has hosted “anti Chilly Hilly” and “anti STP” events. Offering less expensive alternatives closer to home is a great idea, but does it have to come with such immature snark and intentionally creating animosity?

My membership is up for renewal, but I am not renewing it this year because I do not want to be associated with a group who promotes this sort of antagonistic agenda.

It’s time for the TWBC to grow up and focus on making positive contributions here in Tacoma, instead of worrying about what someone else is doing in another city and creating adolescent drama for no good reason.

Tacoma deserves better.

Tacoma is better than this.

 

Tantrum

 


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Happy Solstice – The Return of the Light

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Up here in the North, the skies are dark even at mid day.  Clouds and rain add to the gloom. [update]  How dark is it?  My dusk to dawn lights came on before noon.

But that is all about to change (albeit slowly) for tonight is the longest darkest night, and the light will begin to return.

Happy Winter Solstice! (Of course, it is only Winter Solstice for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere; happy Summer Solstice to our friends South of the equator)

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Winter Solstice is the promise of new life; we really won’t notice the days getting longer until closer to Candlemas/Brigid/Ground Hog’s Day.

Tonight, a group of friends and loved ones will gather in my back yard for a bonfire (we may need rain gear this year). We will write down what we want to leave in the darkness as well as what we want to bring with us into the light and put those into the fire (which was of course, the yule log) The smoke from that fire will send our wishes to the heavens. (in a wish lantern, weather permitting)  We will then, “pass the light”, candle to candle whilst listening to (and in many cases, signing) Dar Williams, “The Christians and the Pagans”. We then all sang along to “Here Comes The Sun” a Solstice classic. We will then share food, drink and merriment through the darkest night.

It doesn’t matter what religion you are or aren’t. It doesn’t matter what you believe. The Solstice is an astronomical event that draws everyone together at this time of year to celebrate light, love and hope.

Each year, I love to post the Northern Exposure video to the story Raven Steals the Light being told (I’ve used it for the children’s story at Solstice rituals in years past)

It is a traditional story from the Northwest Coast and Alaska.

I like this Northern Exposure version.

Not everyone knows this, but the town of ‘Cicily Alaska” is about an hour and a half from where I live, and is in fact Roslyn Washington (yes, I’ve been to The Brick)

and here’s another wonderful story of light in a magical part of the world (the Great Pacific Northwest)…

And of course, my traditional Solstice post/greeting…

On this night, around 3,000 years BC, a very special event unfolds at a place we now call Newgrange. A group gathers around a large circular stone structure. A drumbeat resounds across the mist-shrouded hills of ancient Ireland, bump bump… bump bump… bump bump…; The heartbeat of mother earth. The scent of incense mingles with moss, moist earth and the burning torches. All gaze hopefully towards the eastern horizon. After what seems like an eternity, it happens, the rising sun begins its ascent. Once again all attention is turned to the structure with great anticipation. Suddenly an intense shaft of light pierces the innermost chamber of the structure, illuminating a stone basin adorned with carvings of spirals, eyes, solar disks, and other sacred symbols. A joyful sound rises from the crowd, who then begin to dance ecstatically. For the darkest darkness of winter has passed, and the light has returned. Soon: the hills will be covered in fresh green grasses and wildflowers, trees will bloom and set fruit, animals will give birth, the songs of birds will fill the skies. The cycle of life will continue. The world, once again, has been reborn.

Tonight we celebrate an event, which predates our modern religious celebrations, an event as old as time its self. Just as events like this were observed at Newgrange Ireland, we find similar ancient architectural wonders based on solstices and equinoxes all across Europe, Asia, The Americas, Indonesia and the Middle East. Thousands of years ago, these monolithic structures were built and elaborate ceremonies held, out of reverence for the cycle of life, and perhaps the fear that without human intervention, the sun would not return.

At the winter solstice, the tilt of the earth on its axis, is such that our hemisphere is leaning farthest away from the sun, our days are shortest and the sun is at the lowest arc in the sky. For thousands of years, our ancestors honored the cycles of life: solstices, equinoxes, harvests and plantings. The winter solstice is perhaps the most sacred of these celebrations. So sacred in fact, that modern religious observations all over the world take place on or near the time of the solstice. Solstice observance is not a celebration that excludes or dismisses any other religious celebration; rather it is the common bond of many modern and not so modern religions.

The time of the winter solstice represents death and rebirth, just as corn stalks wither and die in the fields in the fall, so does the symbolic god give his body to nourish the earth, only to be reborn of the goddess again on this darkest night. The original divine birth. Is it any wonder then: that the Christian church chose this sacred time of the year to celebrate the birth of Jesus, the Hebrew people to celebrate the Festival of Lights, or Native Americans and other aboriginal peoples to celebrate their sacred events?

Solstice is not only a time to celebrate the retreat of darkness and the return of the light, but it is a time to look inward, at the darkness within ourselves and to embrace it. For without darkness, there would be no light. Without challenge, there would be no triumph. It is a time to celebrate the death of old habits, thought patterns, and difficulties, a time to celebrate a spiritual renewal. The darkness gives us all a chance to embrace and work through our own darkness, so that like the earth, we may also be renewed.

L. Lisa Lawrence
Copyright 1998

Here’s our observance from 2007 (the video is just too much fun!)

Here’s one from two years ago, in my back yard. For the last several years, the weather has cooperated for a bonfire even when the forecast is for a 100% chance of rain. Last night, the howling winds stopped just before we were ready to move outside.

Here are the songs from the video, my favorite Winter Solstice songs…

“The Christians and the Pagans” by Dar Williams

Amber called her uncle, said, “We’re up here for the holiday,
Jane and I were having Solstice, now we need a place to stay.”
And her Christ-loving uncle watched his wife hang Mary on a tree,
He watched his son hang candy canes all made with red dye number three.
He told his niece, “It’s Christmas eve, I know our life is not your style,”
She said, “Christmas is like Solstice, and we miss you and it’s been a while.”

So the Christians and the Pagans sat together at the table,
Finding faith and common ground the best that they were able,
And just before the meal was served, hands were held and prayers were said,
Sending hope for peace on earth to all their gods and goddesses.

The food was great, the tree plugged in, the meal had gone without a hitch,
Till Timmy turned to Amber and said, “Is it true that you’re a witch?”
His mom jumped up and said, “The pies are burning,” and she hit the kitchen,
And it was Jane who spoke, she said, “It’s true, you’re cousin’s not a Christian,
But we love trees, we love the snow, the friends we have, the world we share,
And you find magic from your God, and we find magic everywhere.”

So the Christians and the Pagans sat together at the table,
Finding faith and common ground the best that they were able,
And where does magic come from , I think magic’s in the learning,
‘Cause now when Christians sit with Pagans only pumpkin pies are burning.

When Amber tried to do the dishes, her aunt said, “Really, no, don’t bother.”
Amber’s uncle saw how Amber looked like Tim and like her father.
He thought about his brother, how they hadn’t spoken in a year,
He thought he’d call him up and say, “It’s Christmas and your daughter’s here.”
He thought of fathers, sons and brothers, saw his own son tug his sleeve,
Saying, “Can I be a Pagan?” Dad said, “We’ll discuss it when they leave.”

So the Christians and the Pagans sat together at the table,
Finding faith and common ground the best that they were able,
Lighting trees in darkness, learning new ways from the old,
And making sense of history and drawing warmth out of the cold…

And of course, the required Solstice tune…

“Here comes the sun” by the Beatles

Here comes the sun, here comes the sun,
and I say it’s all right

Little darling, it’s been a long cold lonely winter
Little darling, it feels like years since it’s been here
Here comes the sun, here comes the sun
and I say it’s all right

Little darling, the smiles returning to the faces
Little darling, it seems like years since it’s been here
Here comes the sun, here comes the sun
and I say it’s all right

Sun, sun, sun, here it comes…
Sun, sun, sun, here it comes…
Sun, sun, sun, here it comes…
Sun, sun, sun, here it comes…
Sun, sun, sun, here it comes…

Little darling, I feel that ice is slowly melting
Little darling, it seems like years since it’s been clear
Here comes the sun, here comes the sun,
and I say it’s all right
It’s all right…

Just now, it just now… happened…

Blessed Solstice all, let’s look to the light.

~L



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