What is the first thing people are saying on greeting you at this time of the year? – “Done your Christmas shopping yet?”
We rush around like mad things trying to get “it” all done, spending money we don’t have on presents others don’t need, just for the sake of keeping up with the mass conditioning.
Yet, at this time, the seven weeks or so from Samhainn until Yule was a time when our ancestors, closer to the Earth than we are today, took note of her quiet time, and drew inwards. The Earth is resting. The trees shed their leaves; sap slows, bulbs lie dormant under the cold soil. Days are at their shortest, and nights longer. It is a time of peace. In the struggle for survival on a daily basis, our ancestors welcomed this fallow period, when the animals were brought close, some were slaughtered for meat to see the tribe through the Winter, when people took the opportunity to connect with each other, and to remember those in whose footsteps they trod. It was a time to gather around the fire, tell stories and pass on experiences; a time to value those connections, and to learn from each other.
When I wake in the dark of the morning I have a song-thush singing his heart out in the tree outside my window. This glorious, poignant sound has always thrilled my soul, and I feel so blessed to be able to sit in the dark, with one candle lit while I have my morning cup of tea and just connect with this fragile, wind-blown beauty. It reminds me of Thomas Hardy’s poem – The Darkling Thrush.
He begins in his usual vividly descriptive style telling us of a frosty winter’s day at dusk, when he leant against a coppice gate. The countryside is bleak, and all men have sought their cottage fires:
“And every spirit upon Earth seemed fervourless as I.
At once a voice arose among
the bleak twigs overhead,
in a full-hearted evensong
of joy unlimited;
an aged thrush, frail, gaunt and small
in blast-beruffled plume
had chosen thus to fling his soul
upon the growing gloom.
So little cause for carolings
of such ecstatic sound
was written on terrestial things
afar or nigh around,
that I could think there trembled through
his happy, goodnight air
some blessed Hope, whereof he knew,
and I was unaware.”
Thomas Hardy loved Nature, and his poem written in old age – “Afterwards” is one I can’t get through without a lump in my throat.
I have been making spicy apple chutney to give as gifts to my children and friends. Such a simple thing, and yet something created with love and care. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if these simple, inexpensive gifts were given as the main present, instead of an extra accompaniment to the “big one”?
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we took our ancestors’ guidance, and spent Winter days going within, connecting with friends and family, and stopped forcing the day to be longer so we could get all our Christmas shopping “done”?
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we all took a few minutes a day sitting in the dark with a candle, listening to the Magic of Nature?
Love and Blessings