We’ll take down our cheery decorations with the coming of the cultural New Year. I’ve laid in a supply of collard greens and black-eyed peas, have procured a Boston butt roast and some streaky chicken for the crackling corn bread.
But tonight, we made tamales for the first time. I have loved them since I was a kid and my mother would buy them in the store, in a can with some dubious red sauce. I get them at restaurants sometimes and I like those–plus they didn’t seem like they’d be very hard. We got masa and corn husks at the grocery store and looked up a way to make them in the oven, instead of steaming them on top of the stove.
They were pretty tasty.
It has been a good season–one in which I’ve actually gotten a bit of rest. There are several writing projects (as well as these two blogs) that need to be attended to and I am certain the Muse will return to live in the plant beside my desk. But for now, I’m cooking, cleaning, resting and spending time in simple pursuits.
I do have a wonderful batch of on-line students who are learning the ways and wiles of Appalachian folk magic. They write beautiful prose about the places where they live and about their lives, and I am certainly enjoying our interactions.
I’m organizing several events in the next few months and need to get on the planning for this Britain trip in July. See, I’m already making those all-important lists but am still waiting for the necessary energy to leap into action. Soon, I think. I can feel it bubbling along the edges of my waking mind and lurking in the recesses of my sleeping head.
What will you do to commemorate the changing of the cultural year? Drink champagne? Go to a costume party? Stay home and watch old movies?
Since the year changed for me at the beginning of November and again at the Winter Solstice, I believe I’ll let this one pass with the usual Appalachian accouterments.
And I’ll focus my vision on the coming of Brigid in February.
In the bleak midwinter,
frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron,
water like a stone;
snow had fallen,
snow on snow,
snow on snow,
in the bleak midwinter, long ago.
Happy Solstice, dear readers. Thank you for making the move to this new site with me this year, for your wonderful comments and for your presence in this good old World.
May your New Year be filled with wonder and good things to eat!
In case you have been puzzled by my whereabouts these last many days, let it suffice that I have been to the aforementioned four funerals. Yes, in the space of ten days, I was at four funerals. This season of the Long Dying was made brilliantly manifest when the husbands of two friends both lost their battle with damned cancer, an elderly and much-loved neighbor died somewhat before we expected and a young and brilliant man could no longer face life as it had unfolded for him.
In between, I did not finish a rough draft of my book on ceremonies and may have set that aside for the foreseeable future. I have written hardly at all–except for a sermon for the dear UU congregation that serves as my home away from home and some assorted bits here and there.
The shooting in Connecticut has left me almost wordless but angry on so many levels.
It is the longest night and I should be an inspiration but I am tired and have a ceremony at midnight, one at dawn and another at noon. So I will leave you with the benediction I spoke tonight at our interfaith commemoration for the victims of last week’s shooting.
Here it is:
The Sun has set and we sit at the threshold of the longest night of the year.
I think fear may be the most contagious disease of all. More contagious than grace or courage, it seems so easy for us to fall prey to a fear that isn’t even our own. When we are faced with events like the inexplicable tragedy in Connecticut last Friday, we are invited– through the bad news and disruptions, through the mourning and the anger—to engage not only life, but our own lives and those beings whose lives touch ours.
As we leave this soft and solemn place, let us reconnect with the power that both is and runs the Universe. Let us learn from the ancient knowing of the landscape, and continue this journey to the deepest parts of our collective heritage and our own being. Let us set aside fear and sit together by the symbolic fire of our shared experience, our shared humanity, our shared life force.
May we all blessed be.
The Mountain Area Interfaith Forum met last Sunday afternoon and one of our topics of discussion was the holy days that brighten this time of year. One person spoke briefly about Hanukkah but the main part was given to Advent, presented by a dear Episcopal friend. She brought a pretty Advent wreath and explained the season of waiting and expectation to us.
It was really lovely.
When it was my turn to talk about the Winter Solstice, I spoke of the agricultural year and the trappings that came into the cultural Christmas celebration through older European custom.
Her Advent wreath was the jumping-off point to talking about the Wheel of the Year and where “jul” comes in. And somehow it inspired me to work with my own wreaths and…I went a bit mad. I fluffed up the door wreath and added ribbon and golden balls. Then I put a wreath on the screen door that is simple in the extreme, with a few flowers and a bow. I took the standing wreath hanger out into the wooden planter-box (the one with feverfew run amok) and I made another small wreath for that. Then I found a grapevine circle crafted from long-ago prunings of our dear old Concords. It became an Element wreath, with clutches of small roses at each quarter–yellow for East, red for South, pale blue for West and white in the cold North.
I’m out of doors now and it is hanging on the wall beside the door, below the “Welcome” sign.
So many wreaths!
I had an interesting dream last weekend and, in the way of some dreams, it stayed with me. When I closed my eyes during the day, I’d see an image behind my eyelids of small shiny golden globes, hanging from the branches of a tree. Not an ever-green pine sort of tree, as one might expect. The branches were skinny, knotted fingers clutching bunches of dried brown leaves.
Oaks do that, of course. They hold onto their dried leaves until the spring brings the fat new buds. And outside my front window there is a compact plant that does the same thing–and it protects its winter blooms with its long brown leaves. It’s blooming now, in December, this witch hazel tree–bright sketchy-looking flowers will continue blooming for several more weeks and on warm days the scent will be sweet and light.
I got some small “shatterproof” balls, golden and many with glitter. Ugh, glitter. I’m not a fan.
Today was a warm and sunny day here and I spent part of the afternoon pruning the roses and putting the tiny suns on the witch hazel. I got a gold bow for our concrete lion and he’s sporting that now, too.
I was so happy after the tree that I re-did the door wreath with gold pearls, red and gold apples and golden bows.
Little darling…here comes the Sun.
If you have been following my blog this year, you know about my long-term relationship with the Buncombe County Board of Education. Yep, I’ve been to almost every meeting since the one in January of this year, have attended private meetings with the interfaith group, the superintendent and communications director and have served on the Faith-Based Leaders Advisory Council. I have viewed a cool video on the Three Rs–Respect, Responsibility and Rights.
Tonight was the December meeting–a few days earlier than the usual first-Thursday-of-the-month. One of the things on the agenda was a direct result of the months of meetings and discussion and tears and compromise. On January 16th, the schools’ faculties will find ways to incorporate the commemoration of Religious Freedom Day into the Standard Course of Study for NC public schools.
The bigger and more controversial issue is the plan–at this point–to do an open house at each of the system’s high schools in which non-profit and other neighborhood orgs can present information about their child- and family-related programming.
A mess waiting to happen perhaps but certainly a compromise by all parties. The US Congress should be so good at coming to an uneasy agreement as these groups have been. No one likes the idea but no one is willing to back down.
So we’ll try to set some parameters and rules and whatever and we’ll table at some cold weather, after-school event. Mother Grove will unveil its gorgeous nature-based curriculum for Goddess worship.
Yeah, I used my three minutes of public speaking time tonight to honor my alma mater (Enka High School Class of ’74–Go, Jets!) and to trot out my personal credentials, lovingly articulating the triggering words “Pagan”, “Wiccan”, “high priestess” “clergy at Mother Grove Goddess Temple” and then to carefully articulate how thrilled I am to present our Goddess curriculum to the children in the Buncombe county schools.
I thought some folks’ heads might explode. I giggled.