Ice-Storm The year has turned. This evening, weather permitting, we will gather with others to celebrate the changing seasons and honor Grandfather Fire without whom we could not live. We will mark the Sun’s return, remembering the change of seasons is also within us. Here in the Northern Hemisphere the days will now lengthen as the sun begins His slow drift northward. That is the future; this morning the dark lingers. Jennie has moved through the house; lit candles mark her passage.
After a night of sleet, we have freezing rain. The snow plow just came through, potentially a mixed blessing as the coating of sleet protected the road’s surface from icing. A neighbor, out early, calls over through the darkness to ask whether she might bring us anything from the grocery.
Yesterday we braved the storm and the crowds and went shopping. One of our purchases was a second bird feeder. We have squirrels and have wagged a long competition with them regarding the feeders. This time of year flocks of birds come to our back yard feeding station a couple of times a day. Often they also find their way to our front porch where they watch our comings and goings at close range, often greeting us. Perhaps we will place one of the feeders near there.
As Saint Francis knew, the animals and birds are within us. This is ancient knowledge that awakens and reawakens in persons and cultures across the generations. We know their longings and hungers intimately.
Last night as the sleet and freezing rain fell I drummed and journeyed. I wanted to meet the storm directly, to feel the push and pull of warmth and cold and the tricky point of balance between them. As I journeyed I felt the deep antipathy we humans know in relationship to harsh cold and deep darkness. I wondered whether our failure to address climate change reflects that ageless fear of winter.
We warm bloodeds seem drawn to the South and to Grandfather Fire. Father Sun burns brightly within our mitochondria. There is a mysterious power attached to the hearth; there we meet Grandfather, hopefully safely contained. We press in, close to the radiating heart of the flames. Once upon a time we cooked our meals there, witnessing the wondrous transformation of raw into cooked. Grandfather brought us the gift of readily absorbed nutrients and energy, setting us free to explore the world. Mother Earth, Grandmother Moon, and Grandfather Fire also live within us, creating the seasons of the soul and body. Grandmother water shapes our very being.
In a few days those of us who celebrate Christmas will leave cookies and milk, or something stronger, by the warm hearth, gifts of memory and affection for the spirits and the Ancestors, the Ancient Ones. They live with and within us, and willingly or not, we follow the trajectory of their desires and needs. Even from the spirit realms they follow our lives. Some seek the high emotion of drama and suffering, others wish us well, hoping we can find our way to joy, happiness, and connection with one another, all creation, and the Creator.
Yet, Christmas is in the future. Tonight we will remember and express gratitude to the host of beings with whom we share our lives, and to the Creator who gives us awareness and the immeasurable gift of Life. As the year turns, we will remember that we are also changing, that each life holds many lives, and that we are continually reborn. We are the great turning that is the year.
– Michael Watson, M.A., Ph.D., LCMHC
© 2014, essay and photograph Michael Watson, All rights reserved