The Wind, The Wind.

The wind is blowing. I’m home alone, drinking a nice glass of wine from the winery I work at. The TV is off. The husband is gone. The babe is asleep. I think if we had our Yule tree up the twinkle lights and resinous aroma would make me feel cozy. But being alone, in the quiet, with the restless wind and the fat red waning gibbous (the fourth night in a row the moon has hung low, fat, and red) makes me feel…un-quiet.

When I listen these days I feel that there is a sense of unease in the land. I’m always hesitant to do anything about it, because what do I know of the bigger picture? I’m a peon, at best. But still, we had a mild, wet summer and now we’re having a hot, dry winter. The winds blow at night. There is dense fog and mist in the morning. The afternoon sun is bright and intense, even as we wane into Winter Solstice. This is unusual, even in a land of variable weather. It’s not winter here. We’ve been in a liminal state since July.

The restlessness of the land, of the spirits, dawned on me a few nights ago. Maybe it was the fool moon, or the high clouds racing across the sky, but as I looked up into the night I had the distinct thought that…the ancestors would be easy to hear tonight. The veil is still very thin.

And maybe that is one blessing of such a topsy-turvy year, is that through this whole season, even when I haven’t been seeking them out, everything—the very atmosphere—has felt thin, permeable, evanescent. Like the seasons are having a hard time transitioning, something is having a hard time letting go, giving up, surrendering.

Advertisements

Yuletide Crafts

So, I’ve been feeling crafty lately. I sometimes paint and frequently write, but I’m not much of a craft person, per se, until the holidays. It seems that I get all of my crafting energies out during a six-week period.

Orange Ornaments

Our tree was looking kind of sparse when my husband requested that I “do those fruit ornaments again.”  He could have meant the cranberry and popcorn garland that I sometimes do (required: needle, strong thread, cranberries and popcorn…and string ’em up!) but I knew that he meant the orange rounds. They’re easy and look very elegant and Victorian.

First, slice a couple of oranges into thin rounds. This is easier sad than done, and it helps to use a serrated knife. Place rounds on a baking sheet and pop into the oven, preheated to 250. Check every thirty minutes. Turn the slices at the first sight of any browning. After the first hour, reduce the heat to 200 and let them dehydrate until you’re satisfied.

Orange slices, 250 for the first hour then lower to 200 til you're satisfied.

Remove and let cool. Poke holes into one of the segments and loop some pretty ribbon through. Hand on your tree. Voilà!

Glittering Hurricane Lamps

I used good ol’ Martha’s template for the scenery. I bought craft glue with a brush instead of with a tip. As I was impatient to start the project, I made do instead of going back to the store. Big mistake! I used the brush it came with and another thin one I had, but painting the glue on was a pain.

What you need:

Glass candle holders

Craft glue bottle (like Tacky Glue), applicator tip

Fine glass glitter

Template, if you choose

Soft paintbrush

Directions:

1. If you want to use a template, click on the link above. Size and print out the templates. Tape them to the interior of candle holder.

2. Lay down newspaper/covering on your crafting area. Glitter is like sand—it gets everywhere.

3. Begin to apply the glue on the outside of the holder. Sprinkle with glitter and let dry.

4. After the glue has dried, use a soft paint brush to knock of the excess glitter. Move to the next section. Keep going until completed.

Notes:

*  In addition to using the glue with the tip, if I did this again I’d use a straight-sided candle holder. The curvy ones were all I could find and made painting more difficult.

*  This is a project that you could be really creative with. Any Sabbat or holiday, any colors of glitter, any shapes. I might do some freehand for Imbolc as they glitter very nicely in the candlelight.

Light, Darkness, Rest and the Solstice

The weather has been lovely and gloomy around here for the past 48 hours, with no end in sight until Tuesday. Low slung clouds spit rain that went from fat, warm drops to chilly mist and now cold little pellets that seem to find every crack in your clothing. Our windows are foggy. My feet are cold.

For the past three days I’ve been going to bed earlier and earlier: 10:30, then 10 and last night 9:30. For most of my adult life I’ve tried to fight the instinct to go to bed whenever night descended. In high school, I had AOL Chat to keep me awake. College, parties and papers. As an adult I just…stay up. Reading. Watching T.V. Clicking through many inane websites.

Friday, as I drove around doing some errands, I noted how dark it was. Fog, something rare in Central Texas, had rolled in during the afternoon.  A thin wool shrouded the roads and trees. As I drove I could only see to the next stoplight.

My first instinct when C and I got home from picking J up was to flip on the holiday lights and lamps. Suddenly the dark rooms emitted a soft, yellow glow. Even though I love the gloom, the glow is still comforting in the encroaching darkness.

As beautiful as I find the lights, I wonder if they serve to separate me (us?) from some of the lessons (? best word I could come up with) of the season. I notice that I haven’t spent a lot of time (any) in the early twilight, the blue-black winter midnight or the late-coming dawn.

In the last post I said that I felt like this is a season of ‘advent’ for me. I don’t mean that in the Christian context of Advent, but rather a time where the spirit of waiting is present. And it is–waiting for the winter solstice, for the sun to push through into gradually lengthening days. Waiting for winter’s full grip to be felt in January and February, where even down here we get days of ice and snow. Waiting, waiting, waiting.

There’s an essential womb-i-ness to this time of year. It’s dark. Our natural instinct is to rest, to sleep, to eat stews and soups and cover ourselves with blankets. I feel, in a way, that the lights of the season–not only the lights on the trees, but also the glare of the constant advertising, sound, bustle–serve to separate us from what should be a time of rest.

There is a need to light the candles during the winter darkness. It reminds us that the sun and warmth are coming again; flame is a symbol of growth, inspiration and hope. Lighting the candles and lights reminds me of Brighid and Hestia, of my ancestors, and yes, of Jesus. It links us in a spirit of waiting and watching for the coming sun.

This is no new or profound thought, but one that has stuck with me for the past few days: to appreciate the coming son (myth)/sun (star), I need to spend some of the interim advent time in darkness. In rest, sleep, getting to know my shadow, perhaps even being so literal as to sit in a dark room. A quiet time to say more than just a brief ‘hello’ to the gods, goddesses and spirits. To grow aware of what the bustle of life obfuscates. And to fully appreciate the simple strike of a match.

The Darkening Time of Year

I love, love, love this time of year. I love the early setting sun. The persistent shadows that stretch across my backyard and throughout the house. The sun is bright and white; everything but the deepest shade is overexposed.

J, C and I just got back on Sunday night from six days at the in-laws for Thanksgiving (…) and I couldn’t be happier to be home. November was packed to the brim: NaNoWriMo (finished!), Jamie Eason’s Live Fit Trainer (quit!*), Thanksgiving visits and at the very beginning of the month, Samhain. Whew. Add in the usual household chores and a burgeoning garden (yay!!) and we had a busy, albeit fulfilling, month. But, like I said, I’m happy to be home, and I’m happy to be blogging again.

Sunday night I pulled out the garland and started decorating for the upcoming Solstice season:

Last year because of being the sleepless mother of a four-month old, we didn’t do much besides hang a swag of lighted garland. This year, I have grand plans that include making these hurricane candle holders and sewing up PJs for some friends’ kids and the fam.

I’ll admit it: I love the Christmas/Solstice season. I celebrate both. Culturally and traditionally, I celebrate Christmas. Personally, I celebrate the Winter Solstice. Last year my parents, Claire and I went to the beach. The cold wind buffeted our faces, waves crashed against packed sand and when I went home I watched online as the solstice passed along the globe.

This time of year always seems to bring about discussions of whether or not P/pagans should celebrate Christmas. In an interesting turn of events in our family, one of my über-fundamentalist Christian relatives has decided to not celebrate Christmas (or Easter) since the Torah apparently (I don’t know and I’m not invested enough in the argument to find out) says to not have anything to do with pagan practices, ever. Apparently this means trees, garland, mistletoe (did you know, this person told me, very bug-eyed, that pagans had sex in front of everyone under the mistletoe?!–it sounded like information from a bad 101 book…and about Beltane, not the Solstice), Christmas music and gift giving.

I tried a little to explain and give them historical context, etc. but it didn’t really take.

On the spiritual side of things I’m about to start working through a book called Tarot Shadow Work. A lot of thinking about regeneration and survival. I feel like, even though I’m not a Christian, that this is a time of advent for me.

So, that’s enough of catching-up. Anyone reading this, how was your T-day? What are your plans for the holidays? What are your thoughts on the whole Solstice or Christmas discussion?

*I started Jamie Eason’s Live Fit Trainer, which you can find at bodybuilding.com, about 10 weeks ago. I progressed through the first six weeks easily, but on top of 6 days of weights they add 4 days of 30 minute cardio. Then, in the third phase, plyometrics. It is way, way too much. Even scaling down the frequency of workouts and cardio, I ended up hurting my back. I’ve never had a hurt back in my life. I know how to lift weights: I took a course in college, and I’m a trained yoga teacher which provides me with some knowledge of anatomy and form. In my opinion, informed by additional research and my experience, this is not a well-designed or safe workout program.