This series began with childhood memories of chilly winter nights. As a kid, I remember how the cold seemed to contract around you, drawing you closer to loved ones, making your world seem small enough to hold in the palm of your hand... There was a comfort in having nowhere to go and nothing to do, but also a restlessness and excitement to know that outside, a winter storm was raging.
Birches have long been a symbol of new beginnings -- they're a pioneer species, one of the first to regrow in an area after a natural disaster, and their bark contains oils that make it especially good for kindling life-giving fires in the hearth (and heart) during the coldest, darkest months of the year.
Usually Starbucks incorporates a wide variety of anti-Christian imagery onto their winter holiday-themed cups, but this year the Seattle coffee company has completely capitulated to the growing pressure from right-wing fundamentalist Christian groups to "put the Christ back in Yule" by creating a holiday cup design that not only rejects all the Pagan symbolism of this blessed time of year, but actively promotes a Christian worldview. Don't believe me? Check out this breakdown of Christian symbolism...
They say that what doesn't kill you makes you stronger, but that's only half the truth.
In the face of our assembly-line obsession with efficiency and expendability, keystone species like mistletoe serve as powerful reminders of why individuality is so essential to abundance. True prosperity lies in the diversity of our communities and the ways that we support that diversity with our own unique gifts. It can be lonely, even a little frightening, to be different. But nature is messy. Nature is wild...
As Christmas approaches once again, I find myself wondering, wandering in a liminal space. Asking myself how to teach children that realizing their own inner Santa Claus is infinitely more challenging than believing in some unlikely literal jolly-old-elf, and infinitely more rewarding. Asking myself where I belong, where we all belong, and how we belong to each other. Asking myself how I can tell the stories of my ancestors, pagan and Christian alike, to the children of my partner. What can I say that will be meaningful and relevant for them, that will share with them the "spirit of the season" that I have come to know and love and value? What will I say when they come singing, a penny for my thoughts?
Christmas eve night, about nine o'clock. Basket slung over one arm and bumping into my hip with every step, I trudge through the snow. The ribbon wound around the basket's slim handle glistens in a hint of milky moonlight, gold thread woven in elaborate patterns through the deep red cloth. In the basket, a red pillar candle and two tapers — scented "seasonal berry" — jostle in a nest of intertwined greens, bits of douglas fir and blue spruce smelling sweetly of bent needles and dried sap; wedged among them, the frankincense sticks, the crystal bowl full of dark sunflower seeds and dried cranberries, the small jar of spring water decorated with silvery snowflake designs and curled bits of blue string. The snow crunches as I feel my way along the un-shoveled path through the park, some of it falling onto the tops of my moccasin-like shoes and slipping down inside to melt against bare skin.