The Season: Preparation…

Today’s guest post is by Aurora J Stone who blogs beautiful poetry at ‘Gray Bear in the Middle

I find the most challenging aspect of these Winter Feasts and Festivals is finding an appropriate way to prepare.

I grew up a Christian. I grew up in an Evangelical Anglican home. My father would not allow our Christmas tree in the house until Christmas Eve. We kept Advent. I admit it was easier when I was growing up in the fifties and sixties, because the rampant monster of commercialism did not seem so obvious. Though we had the tree and the presents, but first we had church.

However, the fullness of time I left the faith of my father for the Faith of my Fathers (and Mothers), when I began to answer the call and quested after a modern way to live more in tune with the old ways of believing. Ways connected more closely with the natural world, where the teachings and lessons were found in Nature, the dancing leaves of the trees, the mysterious languages of the animals, the silent presence of the rocks, the ephemeral drifting of the clouds, and the waxings and wanings of the moon, not between in the covers of a book or the walls of a building. This led me in time to Druidry whose song I heard most clearly and whose path I knew I was bound to follow out into the landscape and from there my soulscape.

This radical change in perception, of religious and spiritual orientation, of course meant I lost the spiritual calendar I grew up with and held to for nearly a half a century. I lived as much by the liturgical calendar as the societal/cultural one. It was disorienting not to have set rites and rituals that were familiar from long use, not to have time organised and plotted so all I had to do was plug in and go with the spiritual flow, almost without thinking.
At the same time it was liberating and exciting. I began to understand in my blood and bone the meaning of the seasons and the days that the Druid/Pagan calendar sets aside to honour the cyclical steps on my spiritual and religious path. I admit I struggled. I admit days suddenly happened. In part over the past decade this has taught me that I am responsible to the gods and ancestors and spirits of the land that has welcomed, claimed and taught me the ways of belief to which I now hold body and soul, heart and mind as being the true expression of how I perceive and life the spiritual life.

One year I found a way to prepare for Yule, the Winter Solstice and the Season of Greatest Darkness. I borrowed from my Advent understanding and devised a ritual to make the deepening darkness and the slow return of light, extinguishing candles instead of lighting them and after the Deepest Night relighting the same candles in turn to mark the change in the balance of light and dark. The past few years, for personal reasons, I have let this ritual slip. Yet this year I have been more aware of its absence than in others of recent time. I think this is a good thing. It does not make me feel guilty I have not yet begun to prepare, only aware that I have missed an opportunity I will not have as much time for another year to think about particular things in a discrete context. So, I am called to greater mindfulness as I go forward. I am bid pay attention and pull back from what is madly swirling around me to heed what is gently pulsing within me.

This year I begin my preparations later than I would like, but I am preparing. I am setting aside time for reflection and sitting with the darkness and perceiving its power. One thing I know: Until I allowed myself experience the rich cold darkness of Winter in all its wonder and depth and mystery, I did not experience the joy and breadth and glory of the vibrant hot light of Summer.

* * *

Do you have some thoughts you’d like to share about this time of year? Send them to me at verdant at paradise dot net dot nz and I’ll publish them – there’s still time :)

Sorry, I blinked…

… and half the week had gone!

I rather suspect my posting will get even more erratic over the coming days, especially now my kids have finished school (gotta love this time of year?!)

I will do my best to keep posting – and I do still care!

* * *

BTW the invitation is still open – I have another guest post on ‘The Season’ coming tomorrow. When will yours be published?!

Re-blog: Misery is a choice


Wise words from Nimue Brown on the danger of overdoing positive thinking. It is okay (if not necessarily pleasant!)to experience the full range of emotions…

Originally posted on Druid Life:

‘Misery is a choice’ is one of those splendid positive thinking memes doing the rounds at the moment, and while it’s mostly true, it’s offered in a way that suggests all the wrong things. Misery is a choice so you should choose not to be miserable, and anyone who is miserable has no one to blame but themselves, is the impression it creates. So, let’s be very clear. If your brain chemistry is awry you may have no choice over being miserable. Further, there are a lot of times in life when misery is the best, healthiest and most honourable choice you can make.

You can only be hurt in so far as you care. The easiest way to avoid misery, is therefore to go through this life not caring about anything. The things you love, value, and invest in have the power to hurt you and let you down…

View original 675 more words

The Season: Things I Don’t Like About Christmas

A guest post by my friend, Karen

I don’t particularly enjoy this time of year. As soon as I hear the advertising blaring, and see the merchandise appearing, usually at least six weeks in advance of the actual day, I groan inwardly. I started to say this to someone I work with, someone who normally tolerates my extra-dry sense of humour. Without waiting for me to elaborate, she informed me that the reason I don’t adore this time of year, is that I don’t have a husband and children.

That’s still a very common notion, that a woman will automatically live blissfully ever after, all her emotional needs fulfilled, as soon as she gets a husband and has children. Which means, of course, that a single, childless woman cannot be anything other than miserable, lonely and unfulfilled. This idea persists after decades of social change inspired by feminism, and despite the statistical realities – half of all marriages end in divorce, and quite a few people who have children still end their lives alone in old people’s homes.

I’m used to people, even literate people, being shocked by, and judgemental of, my persistent single, childless state. I’m used to the helpful suggestions. I’m too choosy; one ought not to be choosy, at my age. I should keep my opinions to myself; men don’t like opinionated women. I’ve dated men who appreciated my intelligence, strong work ethic and good financial sense – as their own personal ticket to freedom from the nine-to-five. Men who assumed that any single, childless woman over thirty, never mind forty, has been well and truly rendered a doormat, by the shame of her condition. Spinsterhood is bliss, in comparison to such treatment. Nowadays, friends, hobbies, sports and volunteer work give me at least as much social life and community involvement as any coupled person I know. If a man did show an interest now, I’m not sure I’d be able to fit him into my schedule. (Applications are considered; selection criteria implied above.)

Another simplistic notion, is that the Family Christmas is all joy and harmony. All over the Western world, police services and women’s shelters prepare themselves every year, knowing that domestic violence rates routinely go up at this time. For me, going “home” at Christmas meant listening to my father bellowing at his step-grandchildren for making noise, and being relieved to see them shrug off his verbal abuse, in a way that I as a dependant child had not been able to do. Most people have stories of the disharmony that brews in the crucible of the Family Christmas, all those people pressed together and forced to “get along”. Such stories are whispered sheepishly, because it is assumed these things don’t happen in other, “normal” families.

Christmas is also a time when the gap between the haves and the have-nots is accentuated; a time of financial stress for many families, spiralling into unmanageable debt for some. Christmas is, apparently, something that must be bought, so if you don’t have money, you don’t have Christmas. And you can’t re-use last season’s Christmas: what would the neighbours say? Thousands of dollars are spent on symbols whose original meanings are forgotten: the fir tree, a pre-Christian symbol of hope, the only tree that keeps its leaves through the cold and dark of the European winter; puddings made of dried fruit, a pre-Christian celebration of the stored bounty of the previous summer; the star that heralded the birth of Jesus Christ, a great thinker and social reformer, whatever else he might have been; Saint Nicholas, aka Santa Claus, an overweight, bearded man in a brightly coloured suit, age-old symbol of generosity, good cheer, and world peace. Much of the food ends up in the bin, and only some of the plastic is recyclable.

But Christmas is really for the children, isn’t it? It’s so exciting for them. They talk at length, about what they might be getting for Christmas, what they got for Christmas, some other child getting something more, bigger, pricier. If I had children, that would be another troublesome aspect for me. In the face of all the advertising and peer pressure, how do you teach a child that Christmas is not just about getting stuff? Coming together with whanau and friends, marking the passing of the seasons, giving thanks for what we have, the joy of giving, charity, goodwill, peace on Earth. Somewhere beyond the stereotypes, the marketing hype and the keeping-up-with-the-joneses, these blessings are available to everyone, rich or poor. And maybe even to a (gasp) forty-something, single, childless woman.

* * *

Do you have some thoughts you’d like to share about this time of year? Send them to me at verdant at paradise dot net dot nz and I’ll publish them – there’s still time :)


Discovering MY dance

Nov 2011 Solo Beauty Beats

All my life I have danced:

I have early memories of hitting the dress up box and getting my mum to put music on the record player so I could spin round and round…

Later I put the records on myself, and spent my afternoons dancing through ‘Cats’ and other favourites.

Then came the dance classes – scraping my way through to Grade 4 in jazz ballet, before I could go no further due to lack of bendiness and ballet training…

I never entirely stopped dancing – there were still the afternoons and evenings with the records, then CDs…

Then in my late twenties, I finally went to the belly dance classes I’d craved for some years.

It was in many ways like coming home – women of all shapes, sizes and ages enjoying themselves. My height and my non-bendiness weren’t barriers to dancing :)


… this was the nineties and belly dance in New Zealand meant cabaret – sequins and chiffon and wide smiles. Not my style. And my student budget couldn’t stretch to more classes.

I wasn’t home yet.

So, I kept dancing in my lounge on and off, then off more than on. Kids came along (and complicated my budget and schedule!)

… and then I discovered the internet!

While I was away, belly dance had exploded into tribal and fusion forms (gods bless America!)

There were people like me out there!

Since then, I have become ‘somewhat’ obsessed with belly dance – workshops, books, DVDs, classes, costumes, performing, teaching, learning…

I have made friends and drilled techniques and danced and learnt and learnt and learnt (there’s still plenty more to learn).

I have, at last, come home :)

Recently, I set out on a new stage in my journey:

I want to start dancing myself – my voice.

Not someone else’s vision or collection of techniques.

My inner critic pricks holes in me while I practise: “you can’t call it belly dance, if you’re only doing snake arms. Throw in more technique…” and other such helpful comments… I ignore it and dance on.

I throw caution to the wind and pick random CDs – some Middle Eastern, many not – and try to let go and let the music carry my body to that place beyond technique… to expression.

This is very much a work in progress, but I am amazed at how much my ‘ten minutes’ have freed me already.

I am excited to see what comes next…

… watch this space ;)

From my sketchbook: Hello clouds! Hello hedgehogs!

A random day’s sketching: it started with Bowtie Businessman Bird (who I’ve since realised is probably related to the Bower Bird, but with better office supplies). Convincing clouds are surprisingly hard to sketch on a moving train – though I do like the storm cloud. Oh, and you can expect to see more of extreme minimalist hedgehog…

2014.12.3 Sketchbook(BTW you get bonus points if you recognise the reference in the title…)