Sunday, December 25, 2022

Happy Christmas 2022

 Here’s something really meaningful and fun if you’d like some poetry and music and art in your day:

The Universe In Verse

Friday, December 23, 2022

Longing Is Not Regret is up on The Citron Review

 You can read it HERE.

This is one of my favorite pieces and I am SO happy it found a home with The Citron Review. Please take some time and explore the other pieces in this winter issue. I’m in amazing company. 

Wednesday, December 21, 2022

Winter Solstice 2022

 Happy winter solstice! This is my most favorite holiday because of the symbolism and the time of year when for me, the solstice is a quiet and personal celebration as opposed to the hustle of Christmas. Today I’ve seen a few clients, visited the apiary to check on the bees and give them a little food in case they need it, and I’ll be doing some kind of candle-lit walk later in the evening. There are a few things I’ll be leaving behind in this longest night, and many things I’ll be expressing gratitude for. 

The honey bees were all in clusters, which is how they keep warm and stay alive through the winter cold. We have glass inner covers with small circular feeding screens that allow us to check and feed the bees without disturbing them. All seem to be doing well except for the hive that blew over several months ago on a cold, rainy, windy night. We can’t tell for sure if the bees are in the deep hive box or not, and it’s just too cold to take the hive apart to see what’s happening. It’s possible they absconded after the blow-over but we fed in case there is a small cluster still inside. 

The horses have come out of their blankets for the day, and the ground continues to dry out. In a bit I’ll be in the barn setting up new shavings for them ahead of this longest, chilly night. 

The dogs and cats are piled up sleeping inside the house and I’m making a pot of soup when I get in from the barn. I can’t really think of a better way to spend this day. 

Somehow, this visitor on our Red Oak Wander two nights ago makes me think of me on the winter solstice. A time for personal reflection on the darkest night. 

Friday, December 16, 2022

November Hill farm journal, 172

 Winter is here, at least this week, with cold rain and horse blankets coming out in full force to keep this little herd dry. The donkeys haven’t yet needed blankets in their lives, as they are sensible and do not venture out when it’s raining. It’s weeks like this that I daydream about covered arenas where the horses could stay dry and still march about, but they don’t seem to mind hanging out in the barn too much during these cold, wet days.

This morning as I type I’m seeing chipping sparrows in the hollies that are just outside the front porch. The chipping sparrows are the ones responsible for the treasured tiny horse tail hair nests we find in early spring, usually lying on the ground after windy March days. So today, our third very gray day in a row, with heavy fog blurring the winter landscape, it’s nice to see something that makes me think of spring. 

It’s a good day for what’s on my schedule, though: morning latte, then a few clients, gingerbread house decorating and some ongoing Christmas decorating with our grandson, then the first evening meeting of writing weekend with two dear friends and fellow writers via Zoom. 

On Tuesday in the midst of a stressful day, I got a photo from what the call the grassy bald “far side.” I feel like this is one of my spirit animals - elk - joining with the black bear. Seeing them on the mountain land makes me very happy, and seeing them in moments of stress feels like synchronicity in its purest form.

This uncollared elk bull walked up to the bald in the early morning and then left just before sunset. 

Ted Andrews says this in his book about animal symbolism: 

The appearance of an Elk signifies that you are entering a time of plenty. Everything you need – you will get. Alternatively don’t try for quick and easy; long and steady is the key to reaching your goals. Elk also brings you courage in achieving your goals. Sometimes all it takes is the next step.

What a nice message to get that day, or any day. 

Animal Speak is a wonderful book if you haven’t come across it, and I watched a documentary on Netflix this week that is also stunning. Stutz is a filmmaker’s interview with his therapist, who shares brilliant thoughts on therapy and on life. I highly recommend this book and this film, perfect for the winding down of a year and moving into winter solstice week.

Tuesday, December 06, 2022

A reprise on the “omen days” post from 2016

 Years back I learned about the omen days from reading Caitlin Matthews’ books, and was enchanted by the opportunity to look at the 12 days of Christmas, which she identifies as December 26 - January 6, as days in which to watch for signs that might portend the 12 months of the new year. 

I thought I’d share this now, in case anyone wants to try it out. This is something I have to be prepared to do in advance, so I remember to start on the 26th. Once you get rolling with it, it is a wonderful way to look for signs and omens, and really, just for beauty and moments of joy, and let those inform the months ahead. See the full explanation quoted at the end of this post.

This year we’re having some gray and rainy days in early December. Some are cooler than others, but it’s a perfect backdrop to the Christmas tree. We had a lovely time selecting our tree from a local farm, along with my son, daughter-in-law, and grandson, who is now 21 months old and a total delight. He exudes curiosity and finds so much joy in the world he’s exploring. I love the years when humans are young and learning constantly about the world. My therapist self of course has to add that we must honor and nurture this in our children. It’s their natural inclination but most fully manifested when children are loved and cared for and also protected. And importantly, allowed to do the kind of free-form exploration that requires the adult humans to be nearby and paying attention - ideally joining the exploration and celebrating it. 

This is our tree for this solstice season:

A few years ago I read the following excerpt from Caitlin Matthews (who has wonderful books if you're interested in mythology and symbols and all things Celtic). 

She writes:

In the medieval liturgical calendar, the festival of Christmas Day stood alone by itself as a supreme holy day, and so the counting of the twelve days began from 26 December which is the 1st day of Christmas until the 6th January which is Twelfth Night, or the 12th day of Christmas.  What has this got to do with anything?

Well, in Brittany and in Wales, the Twelve Days of Christmas, which mark the intercalary days of the year, are called ‘the Omen Days,’ and they have a special purpose. ‘Intercalary days’ are really the days left over from reckoning up the solar year and, in calendars throughout the world and at different times, they are special because they are considered to be ‘the days out of time.’  It is in this interval between the ordinary count of days that gods are born or conceived in many different mythologies, including the Irish one, where Oengus Og, Young Angus, is conceived, grown and born at BrĂºg na Boinne within this time, all in one day, by the magical workings of the Dagda.

Within these twelve days lies a wonderful secret that those dismissive of the Christian tradition might well miss, for each of the twelve days is assigned to a month of the coming year, with the first day of Christmas the 26th December as symbolic of January, the second day or 27th December representing February and so on, right through to 6th January which represents the December yet to come.  It was the custom of many to go out on each day of the Christmas festival to observe the signs in nature and divine from them the state of the year to come. The omens experienced on each of the Omen Days indicate the nature of each month in the coming year.

The divining of oracles from nature has a long tradition in Celtic lore.  The Scots Gaelic tradition of the frith or the augury from the signs of nature is well established. The listening to bird’s calling was a critical part of druidic lore, as was the movement and behaviour of other animals.  Some of these auguries have come down to us, like the little white book of meanings in a tarot pack: some people used them, but others did not.  The real skill is to read the signs in accordance with your understanding at the time, and as it relates to the question that provoked the augury in the first place.  I’ve been teaching this skill for over 25 years and not yet found anyone who couldn’t do it, as long as they first asked a well-framed question.

In this case, you treat each day of Christmas as the opportunity for an augury for the month it represents in coming year.  This might be experienced during a daily walk, or perceived in the nature of the day itself and how it falls out. Personally, I like to make a frame for each Omen Day, by asking to be shown an augury from nature and allowing the next thing I experience, see or hear to be the sign I am expecting.  It helps to find the right place to do this on a walk, to close your eyes, to spin around on the spot and then be attentive.