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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New Year Reflections, slide show and holiday card/letter

Happy New Year friends, family and chosen family.

While I don’t normally do “resolutions” (and if I do, I usually do them at the begging of the “Celtic” New year at Samhain in early November), I am ready to kick 2014 to the curb and look forward to 2015 being a new and awesome year.

2014 seems to have been a year filled with more challenge, tragedy, illness, death and trauma for just about everyone I know than any years in recent memory.  (as I write this, one of you is in surgery having a large, rare and malignant tumor removed from around your iliac vein and artery and another also with cancer is planning your own memorial)

Without offering up platitudes which those who are still struggling/grieving may not appreciate, I will just say that for me, that pesky phoenix metaphor holds true.  While just about every area of my life went up in flames (all at once) last year and it seemed overwhelming for a time, it is allowing me a fresh start on a lot of levels.

I enter 2015 in a much better place career wise-I love my job and have benefits again.  Small business, which contributes to society in a meaningful way seems to be my sweet spot between working for a soulless corporation for benefits and working for a non-profit with no competent leadership and no benefits.

While I’m pretty sure the debacle with the scummy mortgage servicer took a year or so off of my life, I ended up in a better position in a modified mortgage which has left me with a 1.25% decrease in interest rate and a 25% decrease in monthly payment.

While I very much appreciate (you’ll never how much that meant to me) those of you who offered to help, it was something I needed to do on my own and the end result was much better than if I had accepted help and tried to deal with the status quo.  It also helped me learn to navigate a corrupt system that is designed to victimize hard working people and reward the worst of the worst 1%.  I am using that knowledge to write a guide to help others who are in the same situation.  I have already been able to use my experience to advise others.

I extricated myself from a “relationship” which made me feel bad about myself every single day (and Yikes! Did I ever wait far too long).  While I still have work to do on myself and my habit of putting my own wants/needs/self-esteem aside in favor of others’ I feel that I am stronger for it and can only hope that moving forward, I am able to make healthier choices for myself.

So yeah, I’m still decompressing from it all, but looking forward, things look pretty darn good.  I managed to “rise from the ashes” once again and sooner or later the scent of singed tail feathers will dissipate.

I plan on filling my life with more friendship, love, hiking, cycling, running, backpacking, music, art and dance.

I wish all of you a happy, healthy, 2015!

I put together my annual year end slide show, which those of you not on Facebook haven’t seen yet.

It just goes to show you that 2014 had a lot of high points despite the challenges, and most of them involved you, my friends and chosen family (a lot of you are in it)

Book update 
I’m still waiting on proofs from the book; I ordered a bit too close to the holiday rush.  I will let you know as soon as they are ready.

New Years Eve – First Night!

Don’t forget First Night on New Year’s eve.  The forecast is for clear and  no snow so once the indoor venues close at 11:30 and everyone moves to the square for our fiery countdown to midnight, it will be comfortable (if you’re dressed warmly, unlike we performers)

My fire siren friends and I will be in the parade with our LED toys as well as in the fire spectacle at midnight.  It’s going to be awesome this year!

An article on first night was just posted in last Friday’s Trib

http://www.thenewstribune.com/2014/12/26/3554861_fire-food-spectacle-and-music.htm

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For those who didn’t see it on Facebook or receive it by email or snail mail, here is the holiday card and BadKitty’s sarcastic letter.

holiday card 2014

holiday letter 2014

Family, Love, Loss and Magic at Christmas

Tis the season.

The season of love, joy and family.

It is the season of shared traditions.

For many, it is the season of melancholy.

Many (far too many this year) are spending their first holiday without a parent, loved one, beloved pet or child who has passed from this earth (losing a child to an early, unfair death or suicide… I can’t even imagine)

I was reading a Facebook post of a friend of mine today who asked if she was the only one who felt melancholy at this time of year.

She mentioned that she wished she had known as a child how precious those holidays with family were despite the fact that even though they were Jewish, they gathered at Christmas when they were free from work and school obligations and spent quality time together.

As many of us are wont to say, “Hug your loved ones; tell them that you love them, for you never know when it will be the very last time.”

Truer words were never spoken.

I do my best to distract myself from the fact that I have no immediate family (I do have some cousins in other states) and that due to my own abusive, dysfunctional, upbringing in an alcoholic household, I have been unable, as an adult to form a lasting functional romantic relationship/partnership (Wow, do I ever “pick wrong”)

I host holiday gatherings with chosen family (which in cases of severe dysfunction, neglect or abuse can be preferable to and healthier/safer than blood family)

I try to make sure that anyone who finds themselves alone at this often emotionally challenging time of year for whatever reason, knows that they have somewhere to go.

I cook, bake, decorate, send out cards and letters and try to give back to my community.

But in the end, there is still, always, that sense of aloneness, of being different-not in that cool, quirky, creative way, but in that “there is something wrong with me kind of way”.

Tonight, I will be cooking a holiday feast for friends/chosen from all walks of life, relationship statuses and faiths (or lack thereof)

I am going to hug them and let them know that I love and appreciate them, because we never know what someone else may be going through inside and because we never know when it will be the last time we have the chance.

I encourage everyone to do the same.

Family eating Christmas dinner

And just to end this rather serious reflection on a positive note, I offer up one of my favorite, past Christmas experiences.

“One Perfect Christmas Moment in Tacoma”

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Sometimes when we least expect it, something amazing and profound hits us out of the blue, more often than not, it comes from a source that we least expect.

I am one of “those people” who prefers to use the words “Happy Holidays” to greet people during the winter holiday season in order to respect and acknowledge the fact that the season is shared by many faiths and traditions. It’s not a “war on Christmas”, it’s merely being inclusive and respectful.
I am not a Christian, but I do celebrate Christmas as a holiday of shared seasonal traditions. I celebrate it as a season of light, hope and ideally, peace on earth. To me, rebirth and renewal is a universal concept.

One Christmas morning, many years ago whilst living in Tacoma’s Stadium District, I walked to my neighborhood corner market to pick up something for a celebration that I was going to attend later in the day.  The weather was beautiful, the air was crisp and clean, and I was still enjoying fond memories of a celebration with good friends the night before.

As I looked out on to the deep blue waters of Commencement Bay, I also contemplated all the stress and depression that many people feel at this time of year, and how truly sad that is. I thought of all the pressure that our society puts on people to be happy and have the “perfect” holiday, and how many end up disappointed and frustrated. I thought of those who have lost loved ones, and for whom this time of year brings only painful memories of loss.; and as I watched a homeless man digging in the trash, I thought sadly of those who don’t even have a home and a hot meal. It seemed so wrong to me that a season that is supposed to be about happiness and joy brings stress, depression and sadness to so many. I was feeling pretty darn jaded.

I was distracted from my train of thought when I stopped to chat with a friend from work at the little coffee shop on the corner, and was then greeted by familiar faces and smiles at our little neighborhood market. I made my purchases and began my walk back home, my mind drifting back to the sadness I was thinking about earlier..

And then, I heard it on the air.

At first it was faint and distant; then it began go gain strength and seemed to be coming from all around me.
Music, bells, magic.

Stadium is an historic neighborhood where most of the buildings are at least 100 years old. It contains several beautiful old churches.

Resounding across the waters of Commencement Bay, the castle that is now Stadium High School and the old brick buildings filled with history, was “Gloria, In Excelious Deo…” coming from real bells in an old church (I don’t know which one) that has an organ controlling the bells. Next I heard, “Joy to the World” and was reminded that this indeed is a season of hope for many traditions.

I stopped walking and just stood there to listen, appreciate the world around me and experience something that was very powerful. It was then that I noticed other people stopped on the streets, also mesmerized by the magical sounds. They came out of their businesses and homes to sit on the stoops and listen, some even pulled their cars to the side of the road and turned off their engines.  Everyone, regardless of their religious upbringing, traditions or even current life circumstances was smiling in shared joy for the beauty in the air surrounding us. Most of us did not know nor had even seen each other before that moment; yet we felt an undeniable connection of the spirit.

For one brief moment, the world stood still, filled with peace, love and joy.

It doesn’t matter which church, religion, tradition or building that joyful sound came from. There are certain messages in this world that are universal.

If only we could all share more moments like the one I experienced Christmas morning in a tiny Tacoma neighborhood.

The world would be a better place.

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The Day Before Solstice

The day before solstice
Dark… gray…
oppressive

Reflections on a cycle of pain for many
Death… suicide…
suffering

Concerns swirling through their minds
Out of work… cancer…
overwhelming

Bearing witness to it all
Sadness… pain…
helplessness

Obligations to fulfill
Parties…. cards…
ritual

Doing what needs to be done
art to create… words to write…
busyness

Tomorrow
home full of loved ones… the light returns…
Hope

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Light, Love and Hope

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Last night, a group of friends came over to celebrate Solstice.

These friends were from a wide variety of backgrounds: Unitarian, First Nations, Eclectic, Christian, Jewish, Buddhist, Atheist, Agnostic, Wiccan, and those just seeking; all of us drawn together by the season.

We gathered around the bonfire in my back yard to celebrate the shared theme of the season: Light, Love and Hope.

We burned what we wanted to leave behind in the dark, and offered up what we wanted to bring with us into the light.

We passed the light, sang a rousing rendition of “Here come’s the Sun” and set our hopes and dreams afloat on a Wish Lantern.

After that, we went back into the house where I cooked up my infamous once a year, Solstice only treats, Crab Rangoons and stuffed mushrooms. (which were devoured in short order)

We had music (guitar and song), food, drink, friendship and a wonderful start to the season of light.

I posted video of the observance (even edited down, it’s long, so you might want to get a snack or beverage)

Tonight after doggie class, I need to get my fire stuff together and head over to another solstice observance and spin some fire! (in sub freezing temps, so much fun!)

How wonderful is it, that so many traditions gather at this sacred time of year to celebrate Life, Love and Hope?

~L



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Here Comes the Sun! Winter Solstice 2011

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Happy Winter Solstice (to those in the Northern Hemisphere; happy Summer Solstice to our friends South of the equator)

It’s only Solstice today for those of us in the US Central Time Zone and West. It will be at 9:30 PM tonight West Coast Time and it is 5:30 AM GMT/UTC).

Winter Solstice 039

The days will slowly get longer again. For those of us in the far dark, frozen North, this is a big BIG deal!

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 I will gather with a group of friends to celebrate the solstice. There will be food, drink and friendship as part of our annual observance. (the cool thing is, the event will occur while we are gathered 🙂

We will burn the Yule log (log from my friend Patricia’s yard, a bit of last year’s tree, boughs from this year’s tree and herbs from my garden) in the fire pit outside and pass the light from that fire to a circle of friends, we will put our wishes for the new season into a wish lantern and then we’ll return inside for more food, fun and drink.

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 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…

In a little under thirteen hours, the world is reborn again and will be filled with exciting possibilities!

~L

Mood: Here Comes the Sun!!!



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Mabon Blessings

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On Friday, September 23rd at 2:05 AM (Pacific Time) the wheel turned, as it does each year to the dark season.

(this illustration was linked to this article which gives a great explanation of equinoxes for those who are interested)

The Autumnal Equinox also known as Alban Elfed and Mabon by those who celebrate holidays/sacred time by “the wheel of the year” rather than a modern calendar is considered by many to be the 2nd of three harvest festivals; the first being Lammas/Lughnasadh usually in early august and the third and final being Samhain (Halloween time to early November).

I was scheduled to attend a formal observance with friends on Saturday night, but that was not to be.

Like any good seasonal celebration, this one took several days.

Friday morning started out with me gutting and filleting a 25 pound Chinook Salmon harvested from a local river. I did it with a dull knife (note to self, get a good fillet knife and sharpener)

This thing was huge and slippery and quite unwieldy when compared to the rainbow and golden trout I was used to. When I was done, the kitchen looked like a crime scene, I was covered in scales and slime, but I had two decent fillets and felt a sense of accomplishment.

Shortly after that, a feral cat tried to harvest one of my baby chicks from the cage on my back porch. I had left the screen door open because the sun was up and raccoons and other predators weren’t a threat. I heard a ruckus and ran to the back door where I discovered Sylvester (no longer welcome due to his stalking of the pullets out in the yard and even less welcome now) on top of the cage.

I also discovered little Shirley (she and her sister Laverne are six weeks old today) fluffed up, huddled in the corner and bleeding.

I was heart broken; I had been negligent due to being pissed off at the broken screen and had not properly secured the porch (hey, it was only for a few minutes while I got the big coop ready right?) These chicks are not afraid of cats, because they lived with a cat at Gardensphere for three days before I brought them home where BadKitty did not bother them. When the feral cat jumped on the cage, Shirley was not quick enough to move away and he got her through the bars tearing out some feathers and leaving some scratches.

I tended to her without stressing her out and making the shock worse, waited and hoped for the best. I knew that she was in shock and at risk for infection; I estimated her chances for survival at about 50/50. Better if she was still with us in the morning.

She was with us in the (Saturday) morning and was eating like a pig and drinking like a fish (as well as pecking, scratching and preening… all good signs).

By yesterday afternoon, she was jumping all over the place and her sister went from hovering over her in protective stance to giving her a good peck on the head.

Yes, infection could still set in and I’m watching for that, but it looks like she’s going to make it.

poultry 021

Between the after effects of the antibiotics I was on, the being worried (and making myself) sick over what happened to Shirley and having bad sinus issues due to the rapid change in weather, I opted to stay home from both a bike ride and the Mabon observance on Saturday.

I did something I virtually never do; instead of working in the yard, doing laundry, cleaning the kitchen or any other number of things I should have been doing, I sat in my yard (soaking up the last bit of autumn sunshine) with a glass of my friend Don’s home made berry wine, some snacks, my laptop (to start this blog) and my camera to catch the antics of my funny new friends the Western Scrub Jays… (I’m used to only seeing the Stellars here)

From Drop Box

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Western Scrub Jay 012

It was another moment of satisfaction, no… gratitude for all the things I’ve harvested over the year, physically such as in the garden, emotionally and spiritually.

It was a lovely time of just being content and grateful and if that’s not honoring the harvest, I don’t know what is.

I also spent time just sitting with the chickens on the ground outside the small coop that is now Laverne and Shirley’s home (because it was really going to help Shirley recover if I stared at her every waking moment right?). Chickens are a lot of fun to just sit and watch. (Ethel seems to be thinking, “What are YOU looking at?”)

poultry 011

On Sunday morning I was starting to feel human again and went out to harvest the last of my blueberries for scone baking. A friend and new local “chicken baron” came by for coffee, scones and to check out my setup and ask chicken questions. He also brought some home made jam which was wonderful!

I hadn’t realized I was almost completely out of unbleached flour so they ended up being whole wheat scones.

From Drop Box

After that, Francine, Elizabeth, Gayle, Renee and Lia showed up for “stitch and bitch” to finish off the coffee and scones while knitting, crocheting and gabbing.

It was running late so I left the ladies to giggle in the living room and harvested my wonderful, red ripe, meaty heirloom paste tomatoes (San Marzano)

Who says you can’t grow lovely tomatoes in the cold dark PNW during a crappy summer?

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I used these to create an awesome sauce with garlic, onions and herbs out of my garden as well as some sausage and meat I found in my freezer.

I documented the process here (it’s actually as easy as opening a bunch of cans of tomatoes, sauce, paste, etc… and so much healthier and tastier)

If you click through to the individual pictures the process is described.

Gayle and Francine came back over later with pasta, meatballs, a fabulous cucumber salad from Gayle’s garden, wine and garlic bread and we watched Mists of Avalon and had a harvest feast during “intermission”.

From Drop Box

The movie dealing with the blending of Paganism and Christianity during the time of King Arthur was a good reminder that for me, honoring the cycles of life and seasons is more fulfilling and meaningful that the holidays plopped on a modern calendar.

All in all, I’d say it was a satisfying Mabon and that I am truly blessed.

and yowza, is my house and kitchen a mess…

~L

Mood: Tired



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In Honor of Brigid

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She is stirring…

The promise of Winter Solstice…

The earth slowly awakens from winter slumber…

The songs of birds fill the sky…

A chorus of bullfrogs serenade those who stop to listen…

Tender green shoots burst forth from the frost covered ground…

Buds on trees swell, ready to burst forth…

The moist rich earth waits to be tilled and impregnated with plump seeds…

The promise of new life, and life renewed…

Passions awaken…

She is stirring…

~L

Mood: Grateful



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Solstice!!!

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Happy Winter Solstice (to those in the Northern Hemisphere; happy Summer Solstice to our friends South of the equator)

I typed this up last night, but wanted to post it today, the day of the actual event which is 3:38 PM Pacific Standard Time. (11:38 PM GMT).

This is the darkest dark of winter. This is IT! The days will slowly get longer again.

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 I will gather with a group of friends (in my new home… YAY!!!) to celebrate the solstice. There will be food, drink and friendship. We will do our annual observance. I will have to burn the Yule log in the firepit outside, but that’s OK. (note to self, drag fire pit out of the basement before company arrives).

I will carry the light inside so that it can be passed to everyone in the circle. And then there will be more fun, food and drink.

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 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…

In a little over eight hours, the world is reborn again and will be filled with exciting possibilities!

~L

Mood: Here Comes the Sun!!!



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Happy (Celtic) New Year

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There are two holidays observed at this time of year, the most common is Halloween.

The lesser known and much older observance is “Samhain” (roughly translates to “Summers End”) which is the third, and last harvest festival in the “wheel of the year” for those of us who honor the old, earth based traditions.

Halloween (for me) is about costumes, parties, “haunting the house” and handing out candy to cute kiddies (and giving the older teenagers a good scare just for fun)

Samhain is a more somber observance for me.

I don’t care to mix the two (as a matter of fact, doing so is a huge pet peeve of mine and I adamantly refuse to do so), although most people who celebrate both do because it’s easier.

Because I don’t like to mix these particular holidays, one secular and one sacred, I tend to observe Samhain on the astronomical date, not on October 31st (My Celtic ancestors didn’t have our modern calendar, they used the sun, moon, and constellations, there was no “October 31st)

My observance is when the sun is 15 degrees in Scorpio; this year, that was last night, November 6th, which is well separated from “mundane” Halloween.

I baked “soul cakes” click here for an NPR bit on soul cakes and the recipe I used and left one, along with a small cup of whiskey on my dining room table for my ancestors and house spirits

(today, I’m pouring the whiskey and the cake under my Hawthorne tree in the back yard; the garden spirits like to be honored as well) and took the rest, along with a bottle of mead over to Molly’s for our observance.

We kept it informal with just our favorite elements of ritual.

First is the ancestor alter; people bring photos and mementos to place on the alter that represent/remind them of their ancestors and departed loved ones.

The candles representing the elements/deities are lit by those who are so inclined (these observances are mixed faith so we keep it comfortable for everyone)

Each person walks up to the alter and lights a candle in honor of their loved one(s) We tend to focus the most strongly on those who passed in the past year, but also honor all of our ancestors as we are moved. That person has the option of speaking about their ancestor/loved one or not.

We then have the “cakes” and “ale” (the ale generally being mead) which is passed from one person to the next with the words,”may you never thirst” and “may you never hunger”. This helps to “bring us down” (aka ground) us after what proves to be a very emotional experience. This year, the emotions were particularly strong. The chalice (OK, we used a martini glass last night) of mead and one of the soul cakes is then placed on the alter.

The final portion of our observance is the “ancestor scroll”; it is a long sheet of brown mailing paper on which we write messages to our ancestors and departed loved ones; we may also lay notes or any safely burnable/non toxic item including flowers and herbs on it as well. The scroll is then fed to the fire and we visualize the smoke sending our messages of love and gratitude.

This was our ancestor alter this year:

I also use this time of year to write down the changes I want to make in my life, one of the negative habits/elements/thought patterns I want to get rid of, and the other of the things I want to bring into my life. This being the time of year that is also my birthday, I set up my “birthday challenge” which is when I challenge myself to learn/do/try something new. Past challenges have included getting over the fear of singing in public, writing poetry, running a marathon, competing in a triathlon and learning to play the violin/fiddle. This year will most likely be a reboot of past challenges that fell by the wayside due to life circumstances including my violin/fiddle, running, and learning how to knit.

For those who are still confused, or think it’s “dark” or “weird” (seriously, look objectively at any religion’s rituals and they all have an element that would be considered “weird” by outsiders), I’m offering up part of a homily I presented at our Unitarian church ten years ago to show how similar this practice is to those observed by other world religions (the whole thing is too long to post here, this is just the snippet on Samhain for those who were/are unfamiliar)

If anyone would like the homily in it’s entirety, please let me know and I’ll send it to you.

*note that I don’t go into calendar versus astronomical dates; I wanted to teach the congregation what the holiday means, not pick nits… and the dates listed here are for 2000. 2010 dates may be different.

“Happy Celtic New Year”

by L. Lisa Lawrence

This Sunday night, giggling, eager children dressed up as: witches, pirates, and Harry Potter will; carve jack o’ lanterns, bob for apples and beg candy from neighbors. Adults and teenagers will decorate houses and attend Halloween parties. Some less evolved members of our society will engage in acts of vandalism such as the infamous Chicago “Devil’s Night” practice of setting abandoned houses on fire.

Others, who’s spiritual paths involve earth centered spirituality, will gather in sacred circles around bonfires or in private homes to; commune with the memories of departed loved ones, meditate, or ritually honor their ancestors. Some will set extra places at their tables. Tuesday, October 31st is not only Halloween, but also Samhain, Gaelic for “Summer’s End”. It is the celebration of the final harvest, and marks the Celtic New Year. Also known as Hallowmas, or All Hallows Eve, and All Saints Day in the Christian church. Samhain is also found to have been celebrated in ancient Egypt and pre Spanish Mexico as the Festival of the Dead, a day to honor and commune with the memories, of departed loved ones and ancestors. It is still celebrated in many parts of the world today. A day to honor the dead, to talk to ancestors? The concept is alien to our society outside of funerals and memorial services.

Samhain is about celebrating our friends, family, ancestors, and significant members of our society and the way they’ve shaped our lives and communities. It is not about feeling sorry for ourselves, and what we perceive that we are missing. It’s about appreciating what we have been given, that still lives in our hearts and history. This New Year is the time to honor and celebrate our ancestors.

Even though Samhain is New Year’s Eve, it is not the beginning. The beginning comes on December 21st at the time of the Winter Solstice, when we celebrate Yule. The “gap in time” between Samhain and Yule parallels the time between the Jewish observance of Rosh Hashanah, celebrated this year on September 29th, and Yom Kippur, celebrated this year on October 8th. Rosh Hashanah is the Jewish New Year, but the Day of Atonement, the actual new beginning is not until Yom Kippur. The time in between these two observances is the time to review the past year, and plan on the changes we will make in the new one.

As we approach this time of year, whether we call it Halloween, Samhain, or All Hallows eve, let us use this “gap in time” to search deep into our hearts and spirits, for that which is sacred. Let us learn from our past mistakes, and make plans for a brighter better future. Let us use this time, which is said to be when the veil between this world and the other world is thinnest, to allow the wisdom and love of our ancestors to enter our hearts and minds. Happy New Year!”

~L

Mood: Contemplative



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