Light Wins by Shining

 

 

dscf3123We’ve been healing from the daily news explosions by taking long walks in the snow and listening for what is needed that we can offer our family, community, and world.

The Lord of Misrule used to be a peasant appointed to “rule” over the manor’s Christmas revelries, a kind of topsy-turvy silliness enjoyed for a few hours every year.dscf3218For us, the Lord of Misrule and his minions will begin their reign on January 20th, and the Feast of Fools will last four years. Maybe. The world is in a dangerous mood and silliness is not the proper response, so the feeling that anything could happen is more pronounced than when educated and sensible minds are at the helm.dscf3220So we lie awake and worry, or enjoy a few hours of denial here and there, or divert our attention to complete the tasks before us, or…well, you get the idea.dscf3162Walking in the snow, especially if it’s falling while we walk, calms the heart like nothing else. The world, so far as we experience it, is stilled, hushed, and peaceful. The expansive white engenders a quiet hopefulness, and if a full moon is rising, our spirits can’t help but rise as well.dscf3114dscf3018Last weekend, we went out to gather a few gifts. On the way home, Phillip dropped me off at the state park near our home. The snow was falling and I was alone, walking around acres that supported a thriving community 1,000 years ago. I walked through the spirits of babies, mothers, fathers, athletes, leaders, gossips, and artists. Most, I expect, were what we’d call “good” people; I imagine there were also a few who upset others routinely, and perversely pursued ego gratification, just like people in our culture do.dscf3066dscf3060dscf3047The only signs they were here at all are several mounds and reconstructed “forts” marking where theirs existed, because scholars and scientists cared to do this and, at the time, our state supported them. The ancient community seemed to end rather abruptly, after thriving for 300 years, and archaeologists are still trying to figure out what happened. I wonder if they elected a Lord of Misrule.dscf3086dscf3076dscf3032I walked home musing about all those who walked this land for centuries, over a thousand years ago, and what it all meant. We have no records of them as individual personalities, just tools, jewelry, artifacts, and suppositions, but they were real; they lived and breathed and laughed, and worked, and played, and maybe walked in the snow when worry overtook them.dscf3077dscf3058dscf3095dscf3112Phillip and the pups met me, and we walked along the trail and over the river where the Aztalan people hunted and fished. We enjoyed Micky’s navigation of his first snowfall, and then the sweet grace of just being here and now and present to small joys lifted my heart.dscf2930dscf2993dscf2979Life is a flicker of light and then we’re a long time dead, and possibly, in a thousand years, forgotten altogether. The miracle of being here at all is far too precious to waste on worry, I know, especially when the possible nightmares that are keeping me awake are utterly out of my control to prevent.dscf2951What I can do is find my peace, speak my peace, and be my peace. What I can do is be present to all the beauty, and the joy, and the great love that lights my life, and not avert my eyes or attention from it to fret about bogus and hollow men in power. When their madness affects me, I’d rather meet it as one practiced in love, peace, joy, and presence, then as the Mistress of Worry and Fear.dscf3217Dying and being forgotten isn’t a problem; not having infused every day I lived with as much love, peace, and joy, as I believe we all should—now that’s sad. Light doesn’t win by cowering and hiding; light wins by shining.dscf3168

Bless your gatherings and partings during this season of hope.

Bless your giving and receiving, your traveling and nesting.

Bless your heart and its tender yearning,

Bless your mind: May it be free of worry,

And deeply nourished by cheerful thoughts and merry company.

Bless your actions and their congruence to your words;

Bless your words and their congruence to your heart.

May you be the Light you’re here to be, and shine in the darkness

So others may see.

Joy to you,

And to the world.

Love to you,

And to the world.

Peace to you,

And to the world.

Advertisements

Bon Hiver, We Greet the First Snow

dscf2860One of my favorite episodes of one of my favorite TV programs, Northern Exposure, unites all the episode’s sub-plots beautifully when the townsfolk of Cicely, Alaska, step outside on the night of the season’s first snow and greet it, and one another, with the cry, “Bon Hiver!” (“Good Winter!”)dscf2863The episode, like the others, deals with longing, loss, guilt, memory, wisdom, peace, and a deep appreciation for life and its co-creator, death…and always, with gentle humor and love for humans and our charming follies. Never preaching, the scripts always honor the characters’—and our—desire for sacred meaning to attach itself to our brief moments and so guide us toward making sense of our lives, and living peacefully with unresolved mystery. I’ve always found the program profound in its simplicity and deeply endearing.dscf2673dscf2747dscf2765dscf2755
Here at Full Moon, the past few weeks have been filled with long days featuring the meteorology beloved by the Brontë Girls. The pups and I expected to encounter Heathcliff on our daily walks, but only discovered a variety of interesting fungi, and an elusive blue jay (who would be offered in better focus had I not been entangled by the leashes of two leaping, pulling puppies).

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

As a friend pointed out, the season’s absence of leaves very cleanly reveals the glacial land formations: eskers, kames, kettles, and drumlins abound in our neck of the woods. But the unrelenting dreariness of sunless days began to wear on my spirit.

The only way to counter it has been to get rather over-sparkly indoors.
Micky, after his initial surprise, seemed to enjoy the holiday music, decorations, and merriment; Malarky affected a subdued air, as if to show-off his worldliness. After all, it’s his second Christmas season. Sigh.

The cats, as always, have just enjoyed having their annual bit of fun with shiny globes and sartorial correctness. dscf2889dscf3216
Today, though, we received our first snow, and the magic inside now plays second fiddle to the glory of snow-gowned trees and grasses. The world looks so enchanting…a perfect setting to wander in wonder and bid others a most tender, “Bon Hiver!”
We admired the snowfall from inside, beside the fire, and then outside, walking, running, looking, and being amazed, an altogether perfect day.dscf2883dscf2870dscf2830dscf2874dscf2827Here is a blessing, perfectly pure and floating down softly, right into your hand: Let us decorate our hearts with gratitude and forgiveness, with sweet acceptance of the meanings we’ve made and been given, and those we’re reaching for, and those we’ll never have, for the stunning miracle of a snow-frosted world reminds us that mystery, too, is a treasured facet of all that shines in our most beautiful lives, in this most beautiful world.
Bon Hiver, my friends! May all the gifts of the season be yours, those lovely surprises that are both simple and profound, given and received in love, from heart to heart, in reverence for who we are and who we are becoming.dscf2886dscf2835

February Celebrations

DSCF3572A typical February day, both in my memories and today’s experience, is gray, muddy, and moist. Puddles and the sound of melting snow dripping on the deck are a constant, as are the imprint of paw prints across the wooden floor, requiring several quick swipes with the mop each day.

DSCF3423 For variety, such days alternate with sudden freezes, like the one forecast for later this week, that turn every walkable outdoor surface to ice, and every necessary navigation to a dance with death, or at least a possible broken limb or two. In November, I look forward to snow and ice for all the magic they bring; by February, the melting of all that snow and ice, and then the freezing of all those puddles, become less and less enjoyable. The garden catalogues have become so pawed through the ink has blurred and “gardener’s impatience” begins to mount: Let me out! I want to plant seeds, and weed weeds, and caress the earth.

Garden End of May Early June 2010 036Of course, imagining spring and summer, I project only future bliss. In my fantasy of the coming months, there is no humidity; no chiggers or Asian beetles terrorize me or my gardens; no drought threatens to choke green lushness, nor will constant rains drown it. It is the promise of perfection that contrasts so sharply with the utter dreariness of February, a month whose name means “purification,” not a great selling point. It’s also been called “mud month” and “cabbage month,” also not terrific slogans were we advertising its virtues.

DSCF3547We northern natives survive this challenging month, knowing it leads to the perfectly-placed season of Lent (Yay! Six weeks of spiritual purgation!), by having winter celebrations, heralding the longer days, making fun and sport where clearly Mother Nature and the Catholic Church intended none to exist.

DSCF3562This week, we’ll celebrate Valentine’s Day; the following week, Mardi Gras, and, locally, the Knickerbocker Festival exists solely to celebrate celebrating, I think, although it’s ostensibly dedicated to winter’s unique offerings, of which I am a devoted fan. I love snow and ice, snow-shoeing and hiking, skating, and the way the winter atmosphere and the many crystals it creates refract light like no other season.

DSCF3455

DSCF3489

DSCF3521

DSCF3542For the local festival this year, some men built a small scale version of Stonehenge, using ice from the lake. Icehenge generated some media attention, and the day I walked down to take a look and some photos, I met people from the Madison and Milwaukee area, who came for the adventure…as I said, it’s a tough month, and any excuse to get out and do something different is welcome.

DSCF3425February celebrations save our sanity just long enough to last till the first mosquito bite.

DSCF3565

Sing, Anyway

DSCF3146Here at Full Moon Cottage, we have been singing up some glorious sunrises this week.

DSCF2894

DSCF2909I should correct that. Riley and Phillip have been singing, gloriously. Clancy and I bark, enthusiastically.

DSCF3089As for the cats, Murphy only sings like Johnny-One-Note when he’s locked himself in another room; Mulligan and Fergus have lovely voices; Finny has an eerie pre-furball ejection song, and Fiona apparently believes life is a silent movie.

But Clancy and I sing, anyway. We enjoy it. We bark at the sunrise and at the dogs’ nemesis, Bertie the Squirrel, and his Gang.

DSCF2675

I was thinking about this during today’s howling blizzard. We felt sorry for Bertie, so we didn’t bark at him today. In fact, we tossed a few extra sunflower seeds out there, in an effort to keep our nemesis going strong.

DSCF3277So, no visible sunrise this morning, but we’ve been cozy, hanging out and making art. I was asked to teach art class to our after school group this year, grades 2 – 5. I love it, although I’m not, by any stretch of the imagination, a visual artist. (Which is why I love photography; I can [try to] capture scenes that take my breath away, but that I can’t reproduce with paint or any other media.)

DSCF2041

DSCF2174

DSCF1553I can design; I can teach about talented artists; I can come up with fun lessons; and the fact that my examples are less than stellar removes any intimidation factor: the kids have responded most enthusiastically and with amazing gifts. They can tell how much I enjoy fiddling with color and pattern, and how little I care that I’m not the “best” among our group. We just have fun.

DSCF1527

DSCF1528

DSCF1530

DSCF1534For many years, I denied myself the joy of playing with art materials because I knew the end result would fall so very short of what I imagined. I had a great, but rigorous elementary education, and it remained rigorous when we had “art class,” once every week. By the end of September during my first grade year, I had learned I wasn’t an “artist.”

But time kind of strips away such self-judgment  and doubts, doesn’t it? And life is so much more fun, as a result. We’re all as capable of making art as we are of making love, and the results needn’t be measured or judged in either undertaking, so much as deeply enjoyed. The pleasure derived from creativity, or making something unique (and therefore, holy) from nothing but love, is a gift no one should be denied.

Today I made some Kandinsky-inspired circle trees, a chalk cityscape, and a paint-blob creature.

DSCF3205

DSCF3222

DSCF3215Oh, and—inspired by the storm–I painted these tiny owls in a tree “printed” with bits of cardboard. I can’t wait to see what my students create from these ideas!

DSCF3206And I designed a barn wood caddy to hold these twelve cream jars I bought at an antique store last summer. I wanted it for my dining table, so I can put garden flowers in the jars as a centerpiece. In-between shoveling and snow-blowing, Phillip used our blizzard-day to finish some carpentry for clients, but he also took time to create this for us:

DSCF3234

DSCF3235

DSCF3237

 Perfect! Hooray for the artist!

DSCF3280I’m grateful for the snowy day and the time it afforded us to make art. Actually, Clancy and I prefer to think we barked down the storm. Who says we can’t sing? We love it, and we’ll sing, anyway.

DSCF2823

DSCF3273 

 

Spring’s Winning

Lilac Buds

March

A blue day
a blue jay
and a good beginning.

One crow,
melting snow —
spring’s winning!

~ Elizabeth Coatsworth

April Snow and High River 021When I worked as a teacher, I looked forward to spring and the enjoyment offered by the poetry units I shared with my middle school students. This poem, by Elizabeth Coatsworth, was always a favorite of my sixth graders, and the spring poems they created and illustrated in response to the many we studied were equally lovely.

Last Sunday Morning

Last Sunday Morning

April Snow and High River 018Yearning for blue skies, birdsong, and sweet green earth is nothing new after a long Wisconsin winter, but this year our winter-weary hearts have been sorely tried, indeed. We received snow last Sunday and are told “a dusting” will return again Friday, accompanied by another week of rain.

April Snow and High River 010After last year’s long thirst, I’m only happy for the moisture in whatever forms it arrives, but today’s sunshine and the chance to inspect the gardens and see (hooray!) that last year’s tulips and daffodils survived the drought, has been pure gift. The river is high, the birds are singing, and—even though we’re sliding towards the end of April—spring, I can tell, is finally winning.

April Snow and High River 036

April Snow and High River 034

April Snow and High River 074

April Snow and High River 065Gentle peace to your week…

A Room With A View

hawk, birds, snow 010This morning, I heard the weather forecaster mention that we’ve met or exceeded another meteorological record, having received snow each of the past nine days. While not as immediately dramatic as the storm hitting the east coast today, still, it has added up in increments and made scooting around in my little VW Bug tricky enough to be avoided, if possible. Yesterday it wasn’t, and I paid the price of getting stuck and having to shovel the car free.

So, I’ve stayed inside to write, read, cook, work with photographs, and write some more, taking breaks to gaze out the window at the birds and squirrels, and darting out to refill their feeders when they need replenishing.

Snow, Murphy, House, Birds 054

The cats and I enjoy the view and each other’s quiet company.

Fiona 004

Mully and Fergus in the window 008These slow winter days take me deep within, and my gifts, meager though they may be, seem urged by the solitude to express themselves. I’ve been struggling with a story that has perplexed me regarding its evolution. The plot has jiggled like liquid mercury, shape-shifting and eluding me. When my writing immobilizes, I use the great picture window in front of my desk to escape the confines of words.

The mystery of where this impulse to create comes from and to what end, irritates me at times. Why be gifted with the impulse and not gifted as well with the path it’s meant to lead me down, towards some perceived outcome? When the way is clear, of course, engaging in creation is utter joy, but when I’m lost in a hall of mirrors I willingly chose to enter, believing inspiration and talent would lead me out, I wish I were instead someone content to watch soap operas, ponder nothing, and remain a stranger to creativity.

The other morning I sat at my desk diligently editing, staring, and wondering why, when a great and sudden onrush of darkness sent all the birds scattering with a single and furious beating of wings. Something immense tore down past the window, blocking the light, and just as quickly rose up to the birch tree beyond the feeders.

It had all happened so quickly. The Cooper’s Hawk faced out towards the river and from the back, its feathered cape emanated malevolence. Or such was the ancient archetype it conjured in my mind, as it huddled and seemed to curse the mourning dove that got away.

hawk, birds, snow 018And then the hawk turned and faced me, almost daring me to judge it for trying to harm one of my guests. “Don’t I also need nourishment?” it seemed to ask.

hawk, birds, snow 029And after a few days of brooding over this experience, because I knew it had come to teach me, the path of my story–or at least the next chapter–came into focus.

So, while others may lament long days of snowbound tedium, I’m grateful for the chance to watch the drama right outside my window, and to be led by its inspiration.

In the end, it’s better than a soap opera.

hawk, birds, snow 030

Solstice: Peace After the Storm

Snowstorm 254A glorious blizzard has kept us home for the past two days. I walked out early yesterday to enjoy the snowfall. The air was warmer than I expected and the snow was heavy and wet. The woods were magical and the trail deserted.

Snowstorm 059The sky told of the blizzard to come.

Snowstorm 070

Snowstorm 077By the time I’d turned back, high winds were causing very low visibility and the snow stung my face and hands.

Snowstorm 105

Snowstorm 263Phillip started plowing early, but eventually stopped to let the winds have their way.

Snowstorm 158We decided to watch movies, eat Christmas cookies, and enjoy our snowday. The winds howled furiously throughout the night. We were both awake until after one o’clock and then dropped off, despite the wind’s wailing. We woke to find a lovely old ash tree had fallen across the drive.

Blizzard, aftermath, birds 096While Phillip removed the tree, I watched feathered visitors bob up and down in the birch tree, risk flights to the feeders, and then fly quickly back their perches.

Blizzard, aftermath, birds 126

Blizzard, aftermath, birds 129

Blizzard, aftermath, birds 136

Blizzard, aftermath, birds 162

Blizzard, aftermath, birds 180

Blizzard, aftermath, birds 189Tonight, the winds have quieted and we’re all hoping for a peaceful Solstice sleep…after more Christmas movies, a toasty fire, and popcorn to celebrate.

057Wishing you all a season of light and eruptions of joy…

081