I began the day with a meeting in the morning and am ending it at the altar, praying for mercy, for justice, for patience. It was a long day and there was much listening in it. Listening and hearing, which are not the same thing as it turns out. Listening you do with your ears but I think hearing really happens in your mind and in your gut and in your heart.
The Samhain season is all about listening to the Ancestors and those other voices that wiggle into our ears from the soft winds of change that enfold us. But how much do any of us hear what those voices are there to teach us? How often do we have to hear the stories of our great-grandmas before we take in what the meaning is? They are telling us about the lives they led and the troubles they encountered and were broken by and then rose above. I take food from my fridge and I don’t give a thought to the woman who lived in the house where I grew up–before we were there, of course–and how she went into a man-made cave behind the house, into a cool root cellar where she took out the food she had grown and canned and would now cook.
Do I remember that when I’m complaining about yet another meeting? No. Do I remember how hard their lives were? Not always. But I always remember how hard my early life was–I wear it like silver bangles on my wrist. But it couldn’t compare to the Ancestor who left South Carolina during the Civil War and made her way into Haywood county–a widow in wartime, heading home to her family.
We are living through changes in our state and our country and sometimes the world seems like a drear and violent place in which we have little or no agency. Our Ancestors? Yeah, they didn’t know about that box of abused puppies in California or ebola. They knew how to be neighbors to the people near them. They knew how to live fully in a hard and short life.
And they are right there, at your shoulder, trying to let you know what they know. That life is hard and beautiful and survivable and glorious.
As we dip deeply into our Samhain shadows, let’s wrap all this information into the folds of our complicated lives. And let’s take time to really hear what they are saying. And while we’re at it, maybe we could actually hear what our living families and co-workers and neighbors are going through, too.