Wednesday, January 2, 2013


On a cold, clear evening in December a year ago, I conducted my first Solstice Celebration.  I lit my fire, meditated on the things that no longer served in my life, skewered them on a plum branch and torched them.  I sang to the spirits of my parents and scanned the sky for a messenger from the Almighty to give me some direction for the coming year.  It was a right satisfactory ceremony, in the manner of my newly divined spiritual direction.  So much so that I naturally decided to do it again for Solstice 2012. 
Circumstances were a little different this time around.  The day was not clear and crisp; it was soggy and misty, if not actively raining.  And instead of scribbling my “no longer serves” on paper and then igniting them, I wrote each thing on a scrap of cedar plank (left over from a “Cedar-plank salmon” special at the restaurant for a long-forgotten Valentine’s Day…), tossed it on the coals and watched it disappear—a slower and much more measured incineration than was provided by last year’s paper scraps.  Perhaps more symbolic, too, as the cedar planks could also represent the last remnants of café-angst meeting extinction in the flames. 
The paper-to-wood conversion slowed down the process enough to allow me more consideration and rumination about the individual baggage as it burned.  Some burst into quick, cleansing flames.  Others lingered, and smoked, and eroded inch by inch.  It was impossible not to read too much into the manner or speed with which an individual plank was consumed.  Things like “fear” and “resentment” dutifully flared and blackened almost immediately.  “Idleness,” however, took a particularly long time to disappear; I couldn’t help but think that perhaps the Universe was not in complete agreement with me that “idleness” was a thing that no longer served.
Last year. I was confounded by the total absence of avian life present at my fire, even as I hoped that the almighty would send a special bird spirit to share some wisdom.  Eventually, Kingfisher executed a quick but meaningful fly-by, promising me success (in a project I never did determine); and exhorting me to indulge in daily physical exercise (for which I did develop some mojo along about September.) 
This time around, all my garden birds returned, one by one, to keep me company as soon as they determined that my fire was no threat to them.  I had juncos and starlings, sparrows, chickadees and little siskins.  But one particular bird had never shied away from my preparations.  He sat in the tree above my head and serenaded me with his squeaky-wheel aria for nearly every minute of my two-hour ceremony.  Just as I was beginning to sigh, “Well, I guess I’m not going to get a special visit from a bird-spirit this time around,” I got a “Pay Attention!!!” message from…somewhere.  “Listen!  What do you hear?  What have you been hearing for the past two hours?” 
Hummingbird.  In the tree.  Right above my head.  Tiny and ubiquitous, he had to sing his little heart out before I finally got The Message.
So…what is the message?  What does Hummingbird want me to know?  In what direction is he pointing me for the future?
This year, among my friends, it’s fashionable to choose a concept, or maybe just one word, to focus upon during the coming year, rather than make a list of New Year’s resolutions.  I think this idea has merit; aided by Hummingbird and the one word that appears to be associated with that spirit in every piece of reference material I have managed to unearth on the subject. 
The Almighty wants me to cultivate joy in my life.   
I am well into my second half-century on the planet.  As such, I think I have a pretty good idea of what makes me tick; where my buttons are and who or what I can count on to push them; who I am and who I probably will never be.  And I can attest to a remarkable lack of JOY in my life.
Not that I’ve been unhappy or feel that life has been unusually cruel to me.  But with my personality that leans toward the depressive and the negative, while I’ve had plenty of opportunity to plumb the depths of despair, I’ve rarely been able to put enough distance between myself and those depths to reach a height that could be described accurately as “joy.”  I’ve been happy; I’ve been content.  I’ve felt accomplished, and satisfied, and even playful.  But joy?  “Feelings of great happiness or pleasure, especially of an elevated or spiritual kind” (Encarta Dictionary)?  Not so much.
So the message, while on the surface seems all kinds of encouraging and positive, is as much a challenge to me as losing forty pounds or training for a marathon.  For starters, I have to really think about what gives me joy—not so easy for someone who has spent fifty-plus years believing that “not unhappy” might be as good as it gets. 
Where do I find joy in my life?  Music gives me joy.  Beauty gives me joy.  Creating something beautiful gives me joy.  Animals—my own animal family and whatever creatures I encounter out in the world—give me joy.  And of course, birds.  Birds give me joy. 
And somehow, I need to begin arranging my life to encompass way more of those things that bring me joy every day, every hour…rather than saving joy only as some kind of reward to be meted out after hard journeys through bleak circumstances.  Joy needs to become less the dessert and more the main course of my daily feast.  I confess—I have absolutely no idea how to go about this.    
This should be an interesting year.      


  1. It will be an interesting year andwhile you're about garnering more JOY! in your life, I'll be like Hummingbird and, maybe needle you just a little bit.

    I think you know me as well as you can know anyone on-line and you know that I have downs ... but they are about circumstances. My life is mostly about JOY! because, wow, JOY! just really makes life oh-so-much better. And it is attainable.

    I like that you feel it's a bit of a challenge, because, JOY! wouldn't be as good if it wasn't a challenge to get there.

    Good Luck! And Happy New Year! Find JOY! everyday. You'll be glad you did.


  2. I can just see that little hummer. "I'm singing as loud as I can. Wonder if I can hoist that pebble down there. That will get her attention...heh, heh, heh," I have a rather twisted sense of humor.