Monday, December 23, 2013

Happy Solstice

December has been zipping past in high gear this year.  I feel like I’ve been running behind the Holiday Train, trying my damnedest to catch up and grab a ride.  Wasn’t Thanksgiving three days ago?

Before yesterday, I had not crossed one item off my Christmas shopping list, even though it was drastically abbreviated by our opting not to exchange gifts this year.  About that:  I expected to be at least a little sad and disappointed that husband and I wouldn’t be ripping into gaily wrapped packages (of things we didn’t want and wouldn’t use), but in fact it has proven to be the saving grace of the holiday.  I know I, at least, have felt much less burdened and able to enjoy the season without that one very heavy thing hanging over my head.

And yesterday was Winter Solstice.  It was inconvenient that it coincided with the last shopping Saturday before Christmas, and that we still had all our shopping to do.  We spent the daylight hours skipping around electronics stores, book shops and home centers ticking things off our gift list.  At Lowe’s, we managed to remember to pick up a bundle of wood for my Solstice Fire.

As compact as the season has been, I haven’t done the meditation and soul-searching I managed prior to my first two Solstice Fires.  I’ve been reflecting a bit on whether I have fulfilled the Universe’s mandate that I pursue Joy in 2013.  I think I’ve done it, to the extent that I’m able.  Certainly our trip to Klamath last January started the year off on a most joyful note.  I’m still struggling with relationship issues and lingering after-effects of the café experience.  I see myself making progress in my ability to think before acting out in frustration or anger.  And I’ve tried to find at least a little joy in every day.  But I still have a long way to go.

Anyway, the busyness of the day yesterday had me lighting my Solstice Fire well after the sun had gone down, so the opportunity to obtain a message from a bird spirit was severely compromised.  Not too likely that I’d get a flyover from Kingfisher or be accompanied by the song of Hummingbird at my fire this year.  I contemplated, as I gathered my bells and my pen (to write down the things that “no longer serve” which I would burn in my fire) and my cedar branches, if there would be a message from an animal spirit at this year’s fire.  I knew it was unlikely that there would be a bird in attendance; but when I thought about the day, I realized that my daylight hours on Saturday had been All About Geese.  At first light, I was out in the yard filling the bird feeders and heard the sound of the cacklers milling over the wetlands by the channel.  As we drove around doing our holiday shopping, it seemed like every time I looked up, there was a group of geese overhead.  On the way home at dusk, we were surrounded by literally hundreds of geese dropping out of the sky to their evening resting places on the ponds and the rolling hills surrounding them. 

Geese are an important spirit guide for me.  They were, in fact, the first bird spirits to bring me a message, way back when I didn’t even know bird spirits had messages for me.  In my personal liturgy, geese represent family and ancestors.  Geese symbolize my beloved departed—my sister, my dad, my mom.  They remind me to honor those spirits, to call upon them for guidance; and they remind me to treasure, nurture, and draw strength from the family I have left.

Satisfied that I had indeed received a visitation from a bird spirit to set the tone for the coming year, I settled down to my fire.  Without regret and with no anticipation of an additional spirit bringing a message for me.  I chose six chunks of milled kindling upon which I would scribe the things that would no longer serve, set them aside and proceeded to build my fire.  It sprang to life quickly and surely.  All week long, predictions of rain on Solstice evening had had me feverishly devising ways to have my fire without being TOO cold, wet and miserable.  But the promised rain had held off all day, and stalled yet a few hours longer after dark, long enough to allow me to kindle my fire in relative comfort. 

I played my bells, and sang, and hummed.  I meditated on the past year, considered the coming year.  Thought about Goose, and my family, and what meaning they would have for me.  And gradually, I became aware of an animal presence that I could not ignore.


No…he didn’t waddle up and share my fire.  In fact, I never saw him.  He probably wasn’t even very close by.  But his presence was obvious and persistent.  It was impossible not to understand that my fire had been delayed until the hours after dark so that Skunk could be present to impart his message to me. 

Also remarkable was that I was joined at my fire by yet another spirit whose presence was entirely unexpected:  my husband. 

My first two Solstice Fires had been conducted in solitude.  I’m pretty sure the husband has been at least partially convinced that a lightning bolt would issue forth from his Polish Catholic God as I sat rattling and singing and meditating, celebrating my connection to the Divine in the “heathen” way to which I felt called.  I never even considered inviting him to my fires.  It just didn’t seem to be in any way something that we could share.

But to my surprise, somewhere around the middle of my ritual, a be-parka-ed figure stepped out of the house and made his way to my side.  “Where am I supposed to sit?” he asked.  To which I answered, when I found my voice, that he should just grab a chair.

The attendance of the husband was at once a blessing and a distraction.  It did burst my meditative bubble; but it was also a welcome bit of companionship.  I had just been considering burning “solitude” in my fire, which didn’t feel right, because solitude DOES serve.  It’s only too much of it that doesn’t serve.  So I chose to burn “loneliness” instead…because that is indeed what too much solitude becomes.  And as if on cue, out to my side ambled my “better half.” 

So we sat and gazed into the coals, both remarking upon the obvious presence of skunk, until the promised rain would hold off no longer and sent us snuffing the fire, stowing our seats and retiring to the house.

I don’t even feel the least bit embarrassed or silly that skunk attended my fire and had a message for me.  As soon as we were safely inside out of the rain, I looked up “skunk” in my reference book.  And this is what I found:

Be assertive and stand your ground as necessary, and don’t let yourself be manipulated or pushed around.
Make your self-respect and dignity a top priority, offering the same respect to others.  
You’re taking yourself far too seriously and need to relax, play, and trust that everything is all right.   

Now I have to do a bit of contemplating about how these admonitions and the strong influence of family will interact to create the story of the coming year.


1 comment:

  1. A fantastic evening even if it was slightly "perfumed."

    I love hearing the geese going over in the early morning or evening. And they always sound like they're catching up on the latest gossip as they come in for landings at the river.