Spring Branch

We have a branch on the window sill of our dining table that we seasonally adorn throughout the year, and until recently it still carried the paper snowflakes that we made in the winter.  Last week, the emerging sun of spring engaged us in a morning of fluffy wool and felt, for a branch transformation into spring.  Of course, other ideas sprouted, and soon Cedar had sewn himself a bluebird head band.  Cedar and Taeven also made drawstring pouches from a book he has been thoroughly enjoying, The Boy’s Book of Adventure- The Little Guidebook for Smart and Resourceful Boys.  Over 40 ideas for outdoor activities and fun crafts.  (There is a girls’ book, too, but they are quite interchangeable.  Published by Barron’s.)

The following is an excerpt from Earth Wisdom, by Glennie Kindred.  This book has been on my shelf for many years, and I often refer to it at the times of the yearly changes for inspiration and insights.  It explores some of the Celtic traditions, knowledge and beliefs from Britain and Northern Europe and brings them forward to the present day.

Spring Equinox, Festival of Balance and Potential, March 20-23 (Northern Hemisphere)

“The power of the sun is increasing, the days are lengthening and the nights are shortening. We begin to feel empowered to reach out for what we want and to take risks, strike out on our own, go for walks and connect to the Earth again.

We can use the potential and fertility of this time to create opportunities for positive change in our lives and in the world.  At his point we are poised between opposite forces, light and dark, receptive and active, unconscious and conscious, inner and outer.  These can be united within us so that we are whole and balanced individuals.  This gives birth to actions that come from the heart.

At this time of year we can inspire each other with prophecies of hope, the power of “we” and our willingness and power to bring change into the world as we create opportunities for a bright new future.”  Glennie also offers an awareness of tree energies, and the role of the spirit of trees through Celtic folklore and mythology.

tree offeringsAnother way that we enjoy bringing intentional blessing and joy to the awakening earth is making decorations for branches outside with colourful pieces of wool, yarn, string, beads, bells, shells and whatever else we find that can be crafted into a joyful offering to the efforts of the blossoming plants.  Creations can be hung in the branches of budding fruit trees to bless the fertility of the harvest.  Alder trees, being the 3rd tree in the Celtic Tree Ogham*, represent balance and inspired action, and begin their rebirth in spring by bearing bright red catkins.  Hazelnut trees, bearing clumps of yellow catkins, are associated with creative change and inspiration, and willows are trees of intuition, inspired action, fertility, visions, dreams, and expressed emotions.  These trees all have an energetic commonality in the quick movement of water as a refreshing, spring clean quality, and so adorning these trees with bright celebrations of joy to be caught by the breeze also blesses the water that flows with new nourishment into the life that reaches out all around… including to and from ourselves.

*The Oghams were used by the Druids to classify, memorize, and store information.  The Tree Ogham is a means of communication through each of the 20 Ogham symbols carved into Ogham sticks or staves.  Each symbol, called a fedha or few, represents a tree or shrub and its underlying energy or wisdom.

 

Solstice Advent Spiral Dance

spiral centerAn invitation from Joanne to the beautiful solstice celebration that was offered as a part of Spirit Moves dance night~

Dancers,

This Thursday’s Spirit Moves is a special one. It is not only our last dance of 2013 but it is also a Winter Solstice celebration. The evening is a sacred co-creation (including songs suggestions by many of you), a crystal bowl meditation offered by Yvonne, and with the help of Wendi and others, we will be creating an Advent Spiral, with evergreen branches.crystal bowls

Each of us will have an opportunity to walk through the spiral and light a candle at the central flame. As we travel into the spiral, we may also travel into ourselves~ a symbolic journey to our own central flame. Because at the heart of us all is a beautiful divine light. During this walk, it is up to you to find your own meaning, to set your own intentions or dreams.

Winter solstice marks the shortest day of the year. We acknowledge this darkness while we joyously celebrate the sun’s slow and steady return. It is an opportunity for spiritual renewal, and an embracing of hope through the darkness as the days once again begin to grow longer and warmer.

spiral starsDeep Mid-Winter drawing near,
Darkness in our Garden here – –

One small flame yet bravely burns
To show a path which ever turns.
Earth, please bear us as we go,
Seeking Light to send a-glow:

Branches green and moss and fern,
Mark our path to trace each turn.
Brother animals, teach us too
To serve with patience as you do.
We walk with candle toward the Light
While Earth awaits with hope so bright:
In the Light which finds new birth
Love may spread o’er all the Earth.
Deep Mid-Winter drawing near – –

May Light arise in our Garden here.~ N. Foster

dance spiralI invite you all to come and light a candle. Let’s move our bodies in celebration our own divine light and for the light we see in each other. When we shine brightly, we illuminate the path for others to shine too.  

I’m sure happy to spin around and around in this spirally galaxy (and on the dance floor) with you all.  

Messier 83 - Central regionIt was a beautiful night, with the reverberating sounds of six crystal bowls being played rotationally as people walked through the spiral.  Thank you Joanne, for these inspirational words and super swirling and joyful music to dance to.  Thanks to everyone who made the evening shine.

Celebrating A New Christmas

As we journey through the year, Christmas comes as another little blessing.  -Taeven

Colin's hand painted Christmas card

Colin’s hand painted Christmas card

Indeed, the arrival of this time of year provides opportunities for us to step out of the routine of daily life and reflect on the greater values that we hold for ourselves and for the world.  It has taken me many years of feeling caught in a dualistic drama surrounding Christmas to be finally moving into the direction of creating the kinds of traditions that support the values and emotions that I long for at this time of year. While I trudge through the rituals that our North American society, media, and religion have handed to us, and attempt to surround myself and family with ways that feel true for me, there is a motivation to find beauty and deep connection to the light of the spirits of the people around me.  This year I feel particularly strong about creating Christmas with a certain emotional field for myself and for my family.  It seems like a great window to let in beauty, connection, laughter, joy, love, gratitude,the timelessness of days, simplicity, and prayers of peace for the world.  I find myself yearning to create this certain atmosphere, and filling myself up with warmth and the importance of being together.  I struggle with fitting these energies into the physical manifestation of the traditional ways that are expected, and sometimes feel that my hesitations to replicate what everyone else is doing may cause disappointment or misunderstandings.  How do I translate this to those around me in an honest way through such acts as giving a physical gift… a gift of the thoughts of my heart?  For in my heart I wish to give so much to everyone, but without incurring financial strain, encouraging the clutter of stuff, and widening the divide that lies between those who have and those who have not.  So much mental debris is created when we feel obligated or expected- divides between rich and poor, imbalances of wasteful and scarce proportions.  I want to give beyond these limitations,  I want my gifts to reflect my genuine motivation to give honourably and without insult or suggestion, without waste or  support of the factorization of cheap, environmentally harmful stuff.  I hope that handmade tokens, second hand presents, and gifts of food is simply enough.

our tree made with branches

our tree made with branches

I would stuff the stockings with brain teasers and jokes, art activities and clues to scavenger hunts, or with games that involve piecing together something from each persons stocking.  Personal challenges can be created and tucked in for each person, and perhaps can lead to finding a hidden gift.  Things that would keep us all giggling and silly, that keep the laughter and festivities alive throughout the day instead of the short-term, rip-it-open-and-move-on-to-the-next-thing method.  I loved the stocking moment when I was young, but I can’t seem to bring myself now to buying tons of little plastic things to quite over stuff everyone’s stockings.  Activities and collaborative team efforts to create fun and beautiful moments are the best thing I can think of to replace a huge pile of presents that get torn through before breakfast.  I struggle with the waste of cut trees of Christmas, and have created an annual tradition of building a tree by gathering large branches that have blown down on our property and standing them upright in a bucket of water, supported within a bamboo frame.  We collect different kinds of fir and cedar, and I give a blessing of thanks and respect to the diversity and importance of the life-giving forests of our island and around the world.

homemade gingerbread made with Nana

homemade gingerbread made with Nana

And what of the foods of Christmas?  How do I shed a blanket of love over the cooking of Christmas dinner?  Slow food all day, long meals made with many hands, vegetables infused with the luscious flavors of patience and love.  Conversations shared over chopping boards and simmering sauces, laughter spilling like warm drinks and fresh fruit.  A variety of children’s head levels skirting and giggling in wild joy.  Hands passing glasses and plates as if these everyday objects are in themselves, gifts to be given and received.  Eating only what is needed, and savoring each bite with gratitude, sending prayers of abundance to each corner of the world.

a winter walk

a winter walk

It is important for me to venture out into the winter world no matter what the weather is.  To walk together in the fresh crisp air and remember that the hearth of my home is also the hearth of the earth and of the global interconnectedness of the living world.  Humanity, since our slow beginning, has shared the same air molecules as every animal, plant, tree, insect, bird and fish that has ever lived on the earth, renewing and recycling the very particles that bring life into our lungs and blood, just as it brings life to the leaf cells and sap of the towering, ancient trees and young shoots.  Warm hands in mine, I want to walk through gusts, rain, sun, snow, cloud and mist, breathing in the beauty of the air, the abundance of moisture, a giving and receiving in every breath.  Sharing the crisp and glistening air and feeling the world together, the sense of home expanding into the heavens and into the soil waiting quietly for spring.  The birds snapping up the clusters of seeds heads and worms that wiggle and sway- I want to hear their joyful songs and know that their melodious calls are gifts enough.

But what if I cannot do all these physical things?  What if I had no time to hand make gifts, no money to buy games and food, no home even to wake up on Christmas day?  What if my family was gone, or I had none, or those that I had did not feel the way I do or share the same motivations and values?  What if I was limited in any way from practicing these physical rituals that reflect my emotional values…could I still hold these energies of Christmas and feel fulfilled?  Could I still be warmth and love, connection and beauty, joy and gratitude and giving?  How would I show it, share it, offer it?  How do I create physically that which I feel energetically if my physical world is not such as it is- perfectly privileged?  We are spiritual beings first, having a physical experience, but it is through our worldly ways that we express our spiritual energies and needs.  I suppose this is the constant challenge- to meditate deeply in the midst of chaos, in noise and pollution and different opinions, judgement and poverty.  To emanate my center of peace and love, and offer it to any who may wish to take it.

It is a luxury that I can consider it an easy possibility to create my ideal vision of how I want to surround myself during the Christmas season, that I can freely try on and rearrange the comforts of life that fit exactly into my spiritual center.  I understand, though, the danger of being dependent on the perfect setting to achieve such peace. I am swimming, floating even, in gratitude that all I write about is completely possible for myself and my family.  It is my wish that I can be surrounded by friends and family who share in this longing for connecting with each other, to bring with them a desire to share love and generosity, to be willing to be openhearted and tender, and to rejoice in festivities.  I want to be bursting with life, and laughing with tears, and saying thank you, thank you, thank you, for being who you are, and to have eyes to look into who say thank you, thank you, thank you, back.  I send out prayers that there will be this same luxury and privilege for everyone- to create for themselves a season of celebration that is an authentic reflection of the beauty of our hearts and spirits, filled with love for one another, and feeling the true peace of the world.

I celebrate the spirit of giving with my hands and with my heart.  I celebrate the spirit of beauty in nature.  I celebrate the spirit of joy with laughter.  I celebrate the spirit of light with candles and with my own internal source of divinity.  I celebrate the spirit of abundance with gratitude.  I celebrate the spirit of love with eyes and hands and prayer.  This is my offering in any place I may be, with whomever I may be with.

Christmas Gifts of Connection

a green star of Christmas

a green star of Christmas

Just as the winter season of Christmas begins to draw nearer and nearer and my conflicted heart starts to get all knotted up about the dualities of this holiday and what it has become in our world today, our homeschool facilitator sent out her ideas about education and the role we can take in bringing our next generation into a different understanding of the impacts of the mass consumeristic element that threatens to dismantle the magic that Christmas ultimately desires to stand for.  Instead of bringing peace,  light and joy to everyone, the time of Christmas triggers so much sadness, anxiety, stress, loneliness, and anger in too many people… a trend that I seek to change for myself and for my family in the hopes that establishing new ways of celebrating the season of love and birth will help alter the emphasis of what this holiday means.

being clear with ourselves and respectful with our earth

being clear with ourselves and respectful with our earth

I do not intend to point fingers to the one issue sorrounding consumerism and the dualities of rich and poor, as I understand that there are so many other factors in the social soup of discord that becomes many peoples’ main flavour around this time of year. Also I do not intend to say that all gifts bought from a store and given at this time are contributing to the negative cycle, as long as those who are buying things do so with love in their hearts and without feelings of obligations that work against what is personally affordable, and consideration is given to the integrity of the gift chosen.  I think it is important that we pay attention to what we are doing, and make it clear for ourselves and for our children, (to whom Christmas media is hugely targeting), that we can create new choices for the ways in which we celebrate and give to each other that do not come with economic, environmental, and emotional stresses.  I would like to reprint Julie’s article about some ideas for education around the issue of consumerism, as inspiration for untangling the heart strings.

Greenheart Education- Julie Johnston

http://www.greenhearted.org/greening-the-holidays-at-school.html

Below are some ideas for teaching sustainability in transformative ways by “greening” the holidays along with your students (or children at home). And I’m not just talking about colouring the holidays green — I’m talking about dipping the holidays into a vat of natural dye until they are drenched in green!

Life Cycle Analysis of Christmas (and Other) Presents

Take time to discuss or reinforce the concept of needs versus wants. Many people forget the difference at “giving” times of the year. Help children see the connections between what they receive (and quickly discard) and the living conditions of their brothers and sisters — of all species — around the world.


How can we get our children to be satisfied with fewer and less expensive gifts when their friends are getting lots of (sometimes expensive) gifts?

You can’t expect kids to go cold turkey. I have found that kids are somewhat open to the understanding that this is somebody else’s birthday that we’re celebrating. If you can make the holiday joyful enough with enough points of real pleasure, parties, hikes, special activities, spending time together… if you can do enough of those things, then the focus won’t be so single-mindedly on how big the pile under the tree is.
— Bill McKibben, Hundred Dollar Holidays

This is also a great time of year to teach about life cycle analysis! As many children in different parts of the world ask for and receive lots of new “stuff” for Christmas (or other holidays), help them become aware of the environmental, social and economic impacts of their gifts.

Talk to children about where their gifts (those they give as well as those they receive) come from and go to. Extraction, production, distribution, consumption, and disposal (the “materials economy”) all have their costs and benefits. But this is a linear system in a finite world (“cradle to grave”), and hence unsustainable.

Introduce the cradle-to-cradle life cycle, where waste = food for the next product, and Nature is regenerated by our “industrial” processes. (Visit this short primer to learn more about the cradle-to-cradle concept.)

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has a series of three posters (click the link to download), showing the life cycle of

CellphoneWaste

Several other life cycle analysis resources are listed at Greening Schools.

Annie Leonard’s The Story of Stuff is a 20-minute movie that teaches where things come from — and end up. Leonard is an American sustainability scholar, and the film was created from an American perspective (translations into several languages are in the works). If you haven’t yet seen this film, be prepared to have your view of the world rattled somewhat. (Suitable for secondary school students, and perhaps those a bit younger.)

StoryofStuffBanner

For older students, check out Consume This! Buying That Matters.

A learningful way to teach the concept of sustainable development during this time is to have each student bring a gift from home, perhaps the favourite one they received last Christmas or sometime during the previous year for a birthday or another holiday. (Let’s ignore, for now, Annie Leonard’s statistic about how many new purchases are thrown out within a few months!) If the gift is too big to bring to school or was a service gift, they can bring a photograph or illustration of it, or simply tell a story about it.

BestVennSmall

Have each child draw a triple Venn diagram with three large overlapping circles, on their own piece of paper or on the board. Label one circle Environment, one Social Equity, and one Economy.

Next, as students start trying to picture where their gift came from, and where it will end up, have them write the answers to questions that arise in the appropriate circles or intersections. For example,

  • What natural resources were used to produce this gift?
  • Are they renewable or recyclable?
  • How far did this gift travel? Was it locally made?
  • What is its “carbon footprint”?
  • Who made this gift? Who transported it? Who sold it?
  • Were they paid a fair living wage?
  • How much did this gift cost?
  • Was that a fair price for the buyer (or Santa)? What is its cost-per-use?
  • What will happen to this gift when it’s no longer needed/wanted?
  • Is there a price to pay for getting rid of it? If so, who will pay that price?
  • How much did this gift truly cost?

(Encourage students to watch Ed Burtynsky’s Manufactured Landscapes if they don’t know the answers to these last questions.)

Answers that require research could turn this into a longer-term project.

A similar activity is written up in the Grade 5-8 Education for Sustainability Concepts section of National Sustainability Education Standards – Version 2, from the US Partnership for Education for Sustainable Development, under 3.2 Collective Action: “Designing a Sustainable System – Using a Venn diagram, students log environmental, social, and economic impacts of a service or system that they use (e.g., transportation of food product). Then students brainstorm a more effective “cradle to cradle” life cycle for the system or product that is effective in terms of reusing or recycling technical nutrients and returning biological nutrients to nature.”

Discuss Gifting Alternatives

Take the time to discuss questions, feelings, needs and concerns that arise. For example, this might be the first time some students have discovered their “social conscience” — and it can be disconcerting, especially if these glimmers of the Golden Rule at the global level contrast with their families’ values and holiday traditions.

Discuss ideas the children have for making their celebrations and gift-giving kinder to the planet, and to others around the world and in the future.

  • Service coupons
  • Charitable donations in the recipient’s name
  • Homemade gifts
  • Fair trade gifts
  • Handmade reuseable wrapping “paper” or gift bags
  • Plants or homecooked foods

Share your students’ ideas in a school e-newsletter.

I wish you, your students and your family a simple holiday season filled with love, peace, fun and kindness — for all.

 

 

Summer Solstice Celebration

“The Sun, each second, transforms four million tons of itself into light, giving itself over to become energy that we, with every meal, partake of. For four million years, humans have been feasting on the Sun’s energy stored in the form of wheat or reindeer, as each day the Sun dies as Sun and is reborn as the vitality of Earth. Every child of ours needs to learn the simple truth: She is the energy of the Sun. And we adults should organize things so her face shines with the same radiant joy. Human generosity is possible only because at the center of the solar system a magnificent stellar generosity pours forth free energy day and night without stop and without complaint and without the slightest hesitation. This is the way of the universe. This is the way of life. And this is the way in which each of us joins this cosmological lineage when we accept the Sun’s gift of energy and transform it into creative action that will enable the community to flourish.” – Brian Swimme, The Hidden Heart of the Cosmos video

The creation of our first summer solstice celebration came about so easily and quickly, moving from the seeds of suggestion to a beautifully co-created ritual, potluck, and campfire within a week.  It was like a mini process of the time between the winter solstice of idea dreaming and the final flourish of the height of the sun’s expansive energy of manifestation – a theme which also became the foundation on which we reflected during our ritual activities.  I began pondering the idea after a conversation with our friends’ Anna and Tim about what we do for solstice, if anything.  My response was that I had always wanted to do something…. but had never really acted on creating my own ritual for this time of year.  We consulted some books and discussed past experiences that elicited thoughts about what opportunities arise for us during solstice, when the sun’s light is at the most expansive, but also tipping towards the decrease.  I reflected on my past intentions to make these seasonal cycles more a part of my families and my communities awareness in celebration and ceremony, bringing to light our spiritual connection to the earth.  It seems to me that the fractions of religion have left many of us spiritually isolated in beliefs that do not centralize around a church- and although many in my community do share the same central church of the earth, community festivals and rituals that acknowledge these spiritual journeys are either missing, or take place in small, private settings.  I was very encouraged with the response to hosting a solstice celebration – everyone I invited was excited to participate and those who couldn’t come were hopeful that they could make it next year.  (There already was a next year.)  It seemed to fill a void for many I talked to, who said they usually spent the night with a few candles and a drum dancing around by themselves, or, like myself, had just never taken the time to create a celebration.  For our homeschooling group, it was a natural continuation of the Waldorf Advent Spiral that we have been celebrating together for three years on the winter solstice.  (See my older post on the Waldorf Advent Spiral.)

Once I began sprouting my ideas, I was committed –  my vague thoughts found roots in Anna and Tim’s soils of visualization.  We brought the theme of magical wood folk for everyone to dress in, and extended invitations to those we thought would like to take on a role during the evening.  We spent a day clearing a walking trail through the forest of our property, and raked up the piles of grass that our neighbor Lester had very timely scythed for us.  We set up a place on a flat rock beside the pond where Joanne created a solstice altar, and we invited everyone to bring something to add to it during the evening.  Then, after we all gathered in our magical wood folk attire in a circle of almost 50, we began with a simple meditation of grounding and listening.  As the sounds of the evening birds filled the still sunlit air, it occurred to me that I had suddenly come into a role that I had never imagined in my intentions, but that felt natural and easy despite my total lack of experience in leading a meditation to a large group and speaking about the energies of summer solstice and how we can reflect on our inner journeys at this time.  I had tried to do some writing as to what I thought I might say, and just couldn’t get it right.  But for three days I had been listening – to my inner dialogue, thoughts, revelations, and insights to help prepare myself for the time of this ritual, although it had been for my own reasons of understanding, not because I saw myself in the role of the “grand ma’am” speaking to everyone else.  There were things I forgot to say, and I tried to keep things short and simple so as to include all the children while engaging the contemplations of the adults.

We started with the time of the winter solstice when our ideas were the seeds of our dreams, and everyone received a piece of cloth and a stone.  We began our journey around the pond, contemplating the energies of germination.  At some point, we tossed our stones into the universe of the pond, and watched the expanding rings of our ideas begin the chain of action.  Then we followed the trail into the forest – empty, and ready to receive.  Along the trail, we met with a variety of beings, each offering a gift with a message.  There was a young man of the moss with a message of grounding, and a grandmother with rosemary and the words of remembrance and love.  A father and son gave cedar, for strong roots and a soaring spirit, and two sweet girls gave fennel for joy.  In a clearing there was a woman that danced and soared with the abundance of summer grain, and finally, a beautiful mother with the gift of wild rose in beauty and heart.  We explored the trail and the little treasures along the way with giggles, in contemplation, with friends hands’ near by, and with eagerness to explore.  As everyone emerged back where we started, a simple song greeted and invited new voices until all of us had returned with our gifts.  Lastly, we sent around a long white ribbon which everyone held onto – amazingly this spool of ribbon ended exactly with the circumference of our circle.  I invited everyone to take part in offering a word into the circle that described a world they deemed as sacred – so that collectively we would create a vision of a healthy, life sustaining community in which to live.  It could have been endless, I am sure – ideas cascaded into each other as we all threw inspiration into the vision – flowers, trees, birds, hugs, tears, bears, watermelon, ice cream, lego, leaves, star wars, space, the milky way, ice cream (again), friends, mothers, fathers, babies, beetles, clay, sand… all imbued into the white ribbon we all held.  Finally we went around and cut the ribbon so that each person had a little piece, which became a perfect tie for keeping together our gifts in the piece of cloth.  In this way, we sent out our individual dreams, collected skills and gifts, then came together in a group to share and build a world that supports each of us and our goals.  Then we feasted!

After dinner we spent some time folding origami boats and boxes with the help of the Kikuchi family.  We placed them on small squares of cedar wood, put a tea light candle inside, and sent them off on the pond with wishes and prayers.  We lit the altar candles, started up a fire, and got out some instruments.  Everyone made a fine effort to stay up to see the Milky Way, but eventually families and neighbors drifted back to their beds.  Except for us and two other families – we pulled out our sleeping bags and spent the night gazing at the crescent moon as it made its way across the late night sky.  It was indeed a beautiful beautiful night.

I am so happy to be finally opening up our land in this way.  This was the first gathering of any kind we have had since all the excavation took place three years ago.  The pond is alive with plants and bugs, the marshy field is dried out and level and ready for orchard plantings, the piles of construction scraps have been cleared away.  We have laid the groundwork for our sanctuary, and I am sure it will continue to change, grow and flourish with the cycles of the land and seasons as will I and the community of family and friends around us, in support and in celebration.

Thanks to Joanne and Kenta for some of these photos.  Ideas for this ceremony were learned from Earth Wisdom – A Heartwarming Mixture of the Spiritual, the Practical, and the Proactive, by Glennie Kindred, as well from our own imaginations and experiences.

Winter Solstice Advent Spiral

For three years now, our Spring Leaves homeschool group has gathered together to celebrate the winter solstice with a traditional Waldorf Advent Spiral.  Well, traditional in the structure, but as always with our group, the additions of our own expressions of creativity make the celebration unique to us and our expanding, multi-age group.  

A few of us begin creating the spiral on the ground, by gathering clipped branches of cedar, fir, and other nearby evergreens.  The boughs are laid so that they form the edges of a pathway which winds inwards, then curls slightly back on itself and winds outwards, so that the path in and the path out is continuous and can be walked through in one direction.  In the center we place a large candle set up on a rock so that it creates a strong central focal point.  This year, our group collectively bought supplies for making candles, and so the central candle was a beautiful, homemade beeswax pillar candle.  Everyone was invited to bring an object representing a blessing, gratitude, a wish, an honouring, or just something close to their hearts.  We had photos of family members, crystals, feathers, lego men, a jar of water, a sculpted tree, and little animals amoung the treasures.  These were placed somewhere along the evergreen pathway, along with many golden stars cut out from thick poster paper.  Taeven, Cedar and I had cut the stars earlier on in the day, and we wrote and drew words and designs of inspiration, such as light, peace, joy, earth, friends, life, animals, etc.  We decided to place these messages facing down so that as everyone walked through the spiral with their candles, the stars are all simple and anonymous.

The whole group gathered around the circle at dark, as the first stars began shining in the clear and still december air.  We started by welcoming, and setting our intention of honouring the returning of the nourishing sunlight in our  journey through the cycles of the year.  We brought awareness to the four directions from which the cycles flow, and to the paths of our ancesters from around the globe whose travels have brought each of us to this place in time.  We thanked the energies of the four elements, each of which brings energy that shapes our world and ourselves, and finally, we honoured the center of the circle, the constant light of unity and wholeness in which we and the living entities of earth and the universe are all interconnected.  Then we had a visit from the Lady of Winter, dressed all in white and flowing down to dance among us while we shared the reciting of a solstice prayer.

Then we invited the youngest of our group to enter into the spiral with their unlit candle and walk towards the center candle, from which they light their own.  As they continue along the path, they find a star and place their candle on the ground on the star, and then follow the path back out.  As each child and adult does this, the spiral path is slowly filled with little flaming candles, a reflection of the collective light that is created by all our own individual lights flickering together.  The treasures begin to glow softly in the light.  It is such a peaceful joy to witness our children making their way through the dimly lit path, finding the source of the light to make their own, and then creating a space for their light in the collective.  It is also a wonderful thing to do for ourselves, as adults and parents, taking time for this simple action of honoring and holding the space for recognizing our place here in the turning of the wheel of the year.

And then of course, we feast!  A potluck dinner and warm drinks are prepared inside the home of one of our families, who gratefully offered to host us all.  It is a wonderful way to connect with the other families who are on this similar path of lifestyle, and with whom ideas and inspiration exchange.  We can have the tendency to be isolated, and so it is with gratitude that I take these opportunities to get to know the larger group as individuals, and the gifts and talents that everybody holds in their uniqueness.  It is also fun to have the diversity of the kids all coming together in a free and neutral space, where friendships develop between those who are simply drawn to each other, without boundaries of age or gender.  As everyone gathered up their candles and treasures, we invited them to take home the star from under their candle, and we hope that the message they found on the star brightened up the night even further!  Thanks to Kenta Kikuchi for these lovely photos!  I look forwards to experiencing what we create again next year.

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