Tag Archive: Winter Traditions


 

My daughter and grandsons on our Christmas woodswalk..a tradition

Follow the Leader:    My daughter and grandsons on our Christmas woods walk..a  family tradition!

Isn’t it wonderful that many libraries have a shelf in the entrance hall with books for free or a small donation (.50 to $1.00) for the library fund? Treasures are often found there, a brilliant way to recycle books and wisdom.

Recently, dropping “overdues” at the library, I found in the hallway a gem of a book entitled “Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder” by Richard Louv…an absolutely wonderful inspirational guide to unplugging  from technology and taking our children (and ourselves) outside to reconnect with nature, especially “the woods”. Although it is not a new book, it was the recipient of the 2008 Audobon medal and is probably even more relevant and urgent today than when it was published.

Last child (2)

This book did not suddenly “wake me up” to a new idea for a thing to do with children and specifically, MY grandchildren. I had just returned from a Christmas Day visit to my daughter and her family in a nearby state. Following our family tradition to take a nature walk during the day of a visit, we  had driven to Sedgewick Gardens/Longhill  in Beverly Massachusetts and hiked through the winter woods blanketed with dried crackly leaves, fallen twigs and branches and climbing over old logs lying prone on the ground. We have always taken these walks in nature whenever my daughters and their children come for visits or I go to visit them…sometimes to the woods, sometimes to the ocean, and often to hang out at farms, parks or garden centers. And we always had taken these walks as a family when my daughters were growing up.

On this particular chilly afternoon, the boys were full of little boy energy…jumping, running, losing a sneaker in the leaves… and even accidentally stepping in some hidden doggie poo, a true and pungent experience of nature! I had given the boys a clear quart-sized baggie and some tweezers so we could collect nature treasures to bring home. (The magnifying lens I had ordered for close-up inspections unfortunately had not arrived in time.) But we did collect special odd stones, dried leaves with but a hint of orange, strange twigs, pieces of dried tree moss…and even a bug. The woods were filled with strangely shaped trees “with no clothes on” during the cold season and the colors around us were mostly brown, black and gray. Going out on that Christmas day with no snow was a very different experience than when we walk on Easter or in May. A walk full of crackling, snapping dried sounds, and pungent scents of decay and earthiness.

I recall now a quote from the  book The Last Child in the Woods:

“I like to play indoors better ’cause that’s where all the electrical outlets are”  ~ a fourth grader in San Diego

I admit that my own grandsons living in this culture know where all the electrical outlets in their house are as well and there is a constant challenge to balance monitored technology time and offline projects time. One cannot escape it and it is a challenge in just about ALL households these days.

But I am so happy and proud of my daughters and the attention they give to nature time …. in our family picture albums are so many photos of a  Mommy in the lead…follow the leader!…as we tramp through woods and paths and along the beaches and tidepools and corn mazes in the various seasons of the year.

This Christmas, my gift to all my grandchildren was the game Wildcraft Craft! An Herbal Adventure Game. They know that Noni and their Mumma’s have magical and healing herbs in the garden and cupboard… what a lovely idea to play a game to recognize these helpful plants on their own!

Wildcraft (2).jpg COPY

From walks in nature, to educating the young ones in the healing power of both wild and garden HERBS, this Noni and my daughters hope to keep ourselves and the children close to Nature…. physically, mentally and spiritually.

With love from Christine, The Greening Spirit

 

Christmas 2015 and a walk in the woods

Christmas 2015 and a walk in the woods with the boys!

 

 

Advertisements

IMG_0798 (2).jpg Sage in Snow

photo credits ~ Christine Phoenix Green

(Repost from 2010)

Here in the Northeast USA, it is during the months following the Solstice that we experience Winter’s force and power although each day we gain a few minutes of light, moving towards Spring.

It was the depth of darkness and cold that first drew us into stark awareness of the season of stillness in late Autumn, but we had the holidays to look forward to as diversion as well as celebration, giving us respite from the primal posture of Nature’s cold season and its relentless demands upon us.

Now it is REALLY time to be still and to lie fallow…at least if you are a seed in the earth, asleep,  but in deep dreaming about the life that will emerge and blossom into magnificent manifestation in a few months time.

We (and perhaps the seed also tho I doubt it) no longer of agrarian bent culturally, have such a hard time being still and fully entering the slower time of waiting, dreaming and deep listening that is offered to us this season…so used to busy-ness,  activity and artificial light that tricks us out of the reality of our Creature-hood!

So perhaps Mother Nature speaks to us, as well as the Earth, when she sends a  fierce blanketing of whirling snow over all movement and noise, save the commanding Voice of a howling wind to send us deep into our caves by candlelight. To be warm. To be safe. To germinate into our newness at the right moment, which is not exactly now, yet.

M and M upstairs windowWe are humbled by such fierce, stark and powerful weather when there are no colors but grey, brown,  black and white. About a day or two or three are all we can take without losing hope, and feeling drained, and in captivity to the cold, especially if we cannot shovel out and start the car!

But, after the fury-the calm, the light, the blue colour of sky  returns upon the accomplished blanketing and we finally surrender into winter because of it. We crunch, booted, upon ice and snow dotted with twigs and broken tree branches as we move more carefully going about our busy lives, accepting this new season and perhaps even blessing its stark beauty. For the moment, we forget that there is something new coming in soon…

Piano students come and go during the week in my little cottage and the fierce storm of this past week interrupted that rhythm. When the storm passed and a semi-safe path was shoveled to allow entry,  I still accompanied my students, many who are adventurous Elders, out to their cars to insure their safety,  and then dashing in quickly out of the bitter cold, to the warmth of my studio.

And as I dashed up the snowy path , lost in thought over the next appointment, a small flash of greening caught my eye, low underfoot almost once past it. What was that? Retracing my steps, there it was flat in the snow…one clear, spring green Sage leaf lying peacefully where it had landed, probably snatched from the mother plant during the fierce blizzard winds, whirled about and then coming to rest, undamaged in this patch of white.

There it was , fuzzy and fat-veined in a pattern repeated in nature like the upwards branches of a tree or the downwards roots of the same, or the branches within the human lung, which mirror back again, the tree. What a wondrous precious thing to see, like a magical message from Summer past, or Summer Becoming…A gift from the Earth lying there to be seen hopefully by one such as myself who needed to be reminded of the ever present, ever faithful Cycle of Life-Death-Life over and over again, and my place within that awesome Wonder.

Sage in snow. A teaching every day, every day…..  (Bundle up!)

From Christine, The Greening Spirit

Moi hat 2 My other blogs:

Cooking for Pleasure and Comfort- http://sensuoussoupsandsuppers.wordpress.com

The Power of Words and Intention- http://wordmagicandthelawofattraction.wordpress.com

Piano teaching hints, memoirs and beautiful music- http://pianomistress.wordpress.com

 

 

Sulamith ED PICA img_0784-2-achild-is-born1 (3)

 

Christmas! A Child is Born! The Light is Renewed! Gaudete!

(click on Gaudete  below)

Gaudete                                               

www.youtube.com

One of the Great Mysteries is the hidden but ever-present spark of Life that resides within the heart of the seed lying deep in the cold soil of Winter. ..the sacred Spark that bursts into the Fire of Life when the birthing…the greening…time is right for outward manifestation.

The Great Mystery for many in this Season of Darkness is the story of the Christ Child …the Light…born of most humble beginning on the earth plane but with a Fire of Destiny that will change much of the consciousness of the world with new teachings of peace, of love, of integrity, of hope, and compassion.

Those of us who are parents, grandparents and relatives know of the great excitement in a family around the birth of a child! ..So tiny, so tender, so vulnerable , so full of new surprises and possibilities. And often so healing, bringing family members who perhaps had fallen away from each other together once again to gather around the manger of “home” to gaze together with wonder on this little gift from heaven, the new divine child, who may bring news for us in our busy, forgetting lives.

What a wonder-full way that God chose to present Divinity to us here on Earth..filled with humility, humanity and a most tender beginning.

God-be-with-us….

(artwork by Sulamith Wulfing)

From Christine, The Greening Spirit

dreams

 

 

 

Mary's Time for Birthing the Divine Child Draws Near (artwork by Sulamith Wulfing)

Mary’s Time for Birthing the Divine Child Draws Near (artwork by Sulamith Wulfing)

The birthing of every child is a sacred…and dangerous…time in the life of  a woman.  And the birthing of One who has a high destiny is especially in need of divine assistance. Sulamith Wulfing’s artwork captures the sacredness of tonight’s theme, with Mary as Virgin Mother about to birth God in human form, assisted and sheltered by  heaven’s most loving Angel Guardians.

The whole of the Christian story of the birth of Jesus is one of great Mystery…a story of wondrous Miracles all along the way,  and the movement into fulfillment of Great Destiny.

It is not possible for any of us to fulfill our own high Destiny (and we are all called to it in some unique way) without the assistance of the Divine in our lives. That is one of the many messages of this holy night…to know that we might say “yes” to the birthing of our own God-given talents and the highest destiny and goodly purpose of our lives, and to believe that God-Within-Us wants to be expressed in the world through our humanity and our “Yes”.

Tonight, in this Great Story of the coming of the Cosmic Christ, we wait…we wait…with Mary…..

From Christine, The Greening Spirit

Little Solstice Bonfire

Mary of Advent: Enclosure, Stillness, Waiting (Artist: Sulamith Wulfing)

Mary of Advent: Enclosure, Stillness, Waiting (Artist: Sulamith Wulfing)

 

 Path of Sacred Mysteries: Advent as a Marian Time of Waiting
ADVENT in the Christian tradition comes in the cold and dark of winter when it seems that we will be waiting forever for the return of Spring, the season of new light, life, warmth and the emergence of the greening vegetation that sustains us. It is in these dark days and even longer nights that we must not lose energy and Faith that although all seems hidden and silent,  a great Mystery is taking place within the womb of Mother Earth; the seeds of something wonderful and NEW are gestating in the darkness itself , and will indeed, undeniably and and with utmost certainty be born out of the Waiting Time to bring new Life and Hope everywhere.

In the Christian tradition, it is familiar to focus on the birth of a Savior..THE Savior… and so Advent is celebrated week by week, with the lighting of a candle and the reading of Scripture that expresses the LONGING of the people to be saved, rescued and renewed by One who will bring new life, new hope and new meaning to humanity in dark times. However, although the Catholic/Christian path was the inherited and beloved path of my own roots originally, as I have grown older as a woman, a mother and now a grandmother, and have spent many years in and with spiritual circles of Women, I have come to ponder  another perspective on this Holy time before the actual birth of the Baby…and that is,  ADVENT as a “Marian” time, and the story-REALLY pondered  studied, imagined and ritualized, as the story of a young, innocent Child-Woman asked to partcipate in an astounding happening: Maryto agree to be “overshadowed” by God, to defy the rules of Nature and become pregnant by Divinity…and  yet to remain within the tribe of her people, undercover as it were, containing a very great Mystery within her that surely could not be explained in ordinary society.  (artwork on the left by Janelle Michaels)

My compassion and admiration for Mary in this story is great and profound. It must also be said, having studied archeological histories that there is vast evidence of archeological HERstories also and that this particular Holy Story is not the only one of its kind..many that pre-date Christianity. But this is the season of ADVENT in the Christian tradition, and it IS winter,  during which the Earth is pregnant with the seeds of Spring’s new Life.  And so though it may be a departure from the traditional focus for this season of Advent, there is in truth for me a  very personal call to honor Mary in the enclosed time of her pregnancy, holding the Light of a very special Life within her, in a posture of Stillness, Solitude, Calm Waiting and Mystery.

It is also a time of personal remembering for those who have experienced 1514610_1431458313745785_3675754312023749390_npregnancy as a Mother-to-be in the waiting time, or for everyone borne of a Mother…and an honoring of an awesome event that can only be experienced by, and through the body of a Woman. (Artwork on the left: unknown artist- click to enlarge, Mary and Elizabeth)

 

***Notes on Sulamith Wulfing’s painting at the top of this essay. A deeply passionate mixing of both Christian and pagan symbols…metaphors all….the protective sweep of the Angel’s wing over Mary signifying Divine protection, the Full Moon symbolizing the fullness of pregnancy, the Winter scene of quiet, stillness and solitariness and the unseen seeds underground, and most powerfully, the cave-like enclosure and slab of stone on which Mary sits…a metaphor of both Womb and Tomb which are , and will become,  part of the big story… the prophetic  birth and death of Jesus, her Son

 

 

Christine, The Greening Spirit

dreams

Next on the Path of Sacred Mysteries, Part 3: Christmas Eve

 

Night sky

It is a Holy Night. It is a time of special Sacred Mystery. It is Solstice, Dec 21, 2017 , the official first day of Winter..the frozen fallow season in the Northern Hemisphere… and the night when the earth is tilted on its axis farthest away from the sun while rotating and whirling in its orbit without spinning off wildly into the even darker void.

1510562_613984021984137_1944865603_n

Solstice

 

The Divine Fire/Sun (Capricorn) of the sacred masculine gifts of fertility and guardianship merging with the Divine Lunar (Moon) Feminine gifts of Nurturing and Protection is more possible ….and necessary at this time of history. His-story plus Her-story = Our-story.

 

And so, now is a feast of the Cosmos,  and of the indigenous earth-centered or Pagan Path of Sacred Mystery on this Solstice/SOULstice night. THIS holy time calls us to look deeper into the symbols and metaphors of what the Dark, the Light, the ever-faithful; seasonal cycles , the cold, the wind, the ice,  and the  powerful forces of Nature have to teach us about our proper place in Creation. This night is about our Creaturehood, our vulnerability, our humility, as well as our magnificence since we too are made of star-stuff and the Flame of Life that animates us while we are here. We are Sun, Star, Moon, Water, Flesh, Fire and Air. 

Tonight, it is good to step outside into the cold and dark and gaze up into the sky, listening to the silent sleeping of nature, and the winds moving through the bare branches. It is then time to go back inside and light a candle, symbolic of fire’s power to bring us warmth, joy, passion, and Life.

Solstice/SOULstice…and many blessings upon us all!

From Christine, The Greening Spirit

christine_phoenix_green ** Note: Artwork credits: unknown

 

December Mysteries

December. Cold. Dark. Very dark. How do we navigate through the loss of Light and Warmth in these northern  climates that have such dramatic changes in Seasons?

There are three paths which we are pondering here about how we navigate through the Winter season especially through the month of December when that darkness and cold make us long for the rememberance and hope for returning connection, light and warmth..the return of HOPE itself.  Part 1 being the most immediate and superficial, “The Commercial Path”, Part 2 being the  creative Cultural Path of Beauty, and finally, but perhaps most meaningfully Part 3, the Path of Sacred Mysteries.

Sacred Mysteries are those deeper times  and experiences  in which we really do not have control and for which we have no pat answers or explanations. Sometimes we experience dreams or even “miracles” or epiphanies which defy reason. In response to this, we attempt to create understanding and meaning through stories and myths that call us inward to ponder deeply the meaning of our life here. These myths and stories help us to find answers to important questions like where did we come from, how did we get here, who do we belong to in both the visible and invisible worlds, what gifts are we suppose to share with others,  how should we love, and how might we connect to each other, the Earth and he Divine. The Commercial Path is but an empty illusory fix and diversion, fleeting and ultimately meaningless. The Cultural Path inspires and uplifts, but the Path of Sacred Mysteries is transformative and can change our lives and our way of living and loving,  forever.

 

Angel by Ironshod

Angel by Ironshod

Around the time just before the Solstice this month, I will be posting until Christmas several of these Mysteries…The Solstice, Hannukah, Mary of Advent, and Mary and the Child of Christmas, each one a doorway to greater connection to between Soul, the Divine and the Earth. Please join me in the spirit of all Mystery in pondering and prayerfully celebrating these Lights in the Darkness.

Veriditas!  Christine, the Greening Spirit  (Check also Paths 1 and 2! )

Miracle of Frost on Glass photo credit CP Green

Miracle of Frost on Glass
photo credit CP Green

 

Capricorn Tree

Oh the gifts we give and get throughout the holiday season!  Sometimes they truly fulfill a desire, sometimes they elicit that weird smile that accompanies the phrase…” uh, gee…thankssssssss..uh…so much?”  and the confused inner question (“what were they thinking????). Holidays require a sense of humor!

As a piano/music teacher for over 30 years, I have received my share of musical Christmas ornaments for the tree, mugs with the musical staff imprinted on the sides, curvy black and white keyboard flower vases  and treble clef earrings. All gifts from appreciative students and their thoughtful parents accepted with grace and gratitude.

Not all gifts from family who are not with each other for most of the year are deeply personal although the gifting itself is sweet … another pair of fuzzy socks, a gift card to the supermarket, or a stick-on-the-wall light that comes on with a mere tap so you don’t fall down the cellar stairs.

But sometimes, there is a very special gift that is deeply personal, coming from the heart and hands of the giver and sent on purpose with love and directly to the heart of the receiver.

In my daughter M’s last year at an away-college, she would spend her evenings with her boyfriend who was a landscape architect major at the “studio” where the students worked on their design projects for the semester. A large long room for setting out displays and installations was the place for creativity.

Somewhere over the years I had waxed poetic over the little artsy crafted trees in specialty gift stores…some with leaves of jade,  some with bare branches. And “M” had that memory tucked away on file in her “about Mom” data bank.

That holiday season I received one of the best gifts of all time:  a  hand-made wire solstice tree on a base of slate. M had crafted this over the course of that semester in the evenings at the landscape architecture studio…long 10 foot length pieces of the thinnest wire, twisted and wrapped with care into this little tree, it being naked and bare in the winds of winter, branches blown sideways into the elements. No craft kit, no instructions to follow… a creation from herself, a gifted crafter who loves to figure these kinds of things out as a puzzle. The tree was fixed into the base of slate with the help of her boyfriend’s father, a dentist who had some other tools and crafty ideas himself.

My surprise and delight was just what she had envisioned…! What a gift!

Each year this tree comes out onto my piano in December, with a red tinsel garland around the base and the single tiny red bulb hung in its center..so vulnerable, so simple and so ready to be present first to December and the dark and cold, then to the Solstice with that tiny ball of red..a berry of aliveness when everything is asleep underground, and finally as a reminder to keep the true spirit of Christmas by being still and present through simplicity and love.

Twenty years have gone by since I received this treasure…and today, on my daughter’s birthday…I send her a  BIG hug and another THANK YOU for this little wire Solstice Tree… and for her own beautiful self who was our Christmas gift the year she “arrived”.  Happy Birthday, Dearie, with love!

From Christine (Mom), The Greening Spirit

IMG_3710

 

Me and M on her FIRST day of school (kindergarten) sooooo long ago!

 

 

 

 

 

Warmth, Love, Hospitality Reside Here!

                                                  THE SECULAR PATH: Cultural Rituals of Beauty_______________

It is dark. It is cold. It is harsh outside and the colors of Nature..black, white, grey and brown..are not hospitable. The sometimes death-like stillness can often be unnerving, altho on a good day or after a blanketing snowfall, the silence can be exquisitely peaceful. There can be all sorts of winter fun, but it is the darkness…the  cold and long nights… that wear us down,  as we try to remember with hope, that in time,  warmth, light and the greening will return.

The Secular Path and its Cultural Rituals of Beauty have much to offer us in the Dark Season, starting around the Solstice time and through the next few weeks of celebratory events, for it is at this precise time that we may begin to lose hope of the Sun’s return in spring, and we must make the choice to either “be Scrooge”, or to seek, find or create meaning and beauty until then!

There is a thinking about the word “Secular” that often places it on a continuum with “Sacred” on the high end, and “Secular” on the less admirable end. But as I am using it, it is the word that refers to various ethnic, historical and contemporary seasonal traditions that are expressed through gifts of the creative imagination and the arts. Its myths and practices are not just based on a particular religious or scriptural tradition, but rather draw from the experiences of the human appreciation for the spirit of the natural season, our common humanity, and the attitudes of generosity and goodwill in dark times.

If in fact there is a continuum, I would put the Commercial Path on the low end, The Sacred Path of Mystery on the high end and The Secular Path in the middle. The middle of the continuum is the proper place for the Secular Path, for its arts and creativity can be tilted either towards the Commercial Path as a tool of  Illusion and Persuasion for consumeristic ends, or incorporated towards the Path of Sacred Mystery to Inspire, especially through the arts. In the middle, it serves as a Path of  Beauty, Fun, Celebration, Surprise and Childlike Delight all by itself.

The Secular Path  during the dark season offers us refreshment,imaginative through art, music, myth, storytelling, theatre, ritual,  decorations There is a spirit of generosity, entertainment, and a touch of magic to tide us over until the harshness of the dark and cold gives way to the more lasting light of spring.

Some “goodies” of the Secular Path of the Winter Season are community tree lightings, writing Christmas cards for the yearly re-connection /update with friends and loved ones, festive decorations  indoor and out, photos with Santa, parties and gatherings of a celebratory nature, performances of plays, ballets and theatre like the yearly Nutcracker Suite, The Christmas Carol, The Christmas Pops, beloved literature like A Child’s Christmas in Wales, contemporary films like “The Polar Express” and “The Snowman”, food and toy drives for the needy, imaginative and creative art installations and non-religious but seasonal music of all kinds from the lovely Ukranian Bell Carol and medieval motets to the “Chestnuts Roasting by an Open Fire”. Something for everybody in the spirit of the interplay of dark and light, cold and warmth, isolation and community, lack and bounty. Goodwill and “Light-ness” in general.

Solstice/SOULstice and music, theater,  and the two weeks of celebration and community that follow is a rich time that can bring deeper meaning to our Lives and our journey through the ongoing cycles of the year.

For a wonderful example of Secular creativity, delight and surprise..very techno-contemporary..check these links to experience a wonderful artistic creation for this Season of Darkness. Enjoy!

“Snowflake and Bubble”   (load fully..there is music and movement!) :   http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E_9AYqhaw64

Random Act of Culture Flash Mob.  (This one merges the Secular and Sacred Paths.  No matter what religious tradition, this is Beauty, taking place at a  secular venue:
 Movie BBC:  “A Child’s Christmas in Wales”  by Dylan Thomas:
 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GrLDaAG7j_o&list=RDHv4-sgFw3Go&index=2
Virtuosic piano arrangement of “I Saw Three Ships” by Maestro Jarrod Radnich  (Secular moving towards the Path of Sacred Mysteries)
Film,  The Snowman:
From Christine, The Greening Spirit
christine_phoenix_green

 

 

IMG_0695 (4).jpg Frost on Glass

The Art of Deep-Seeing is the practice of slowing down, paying attention and being present to the Miracles and Magic that surround us all the time, every day, every place, no matter where we are.

To some, the Art of Deep Seeing comes naturally.This is especially true if one’s personal pace and daily schedule offers the opportunity to not just “look” as we dash through on our way to somewhere else,  but rather to stop and allow things to surprise us. When that happens these seemingly ordinary “things” capture our attention with their beauty, their patterns and colors, and especially their metaphors..that is, what they simply are and  what they suggest to us symbolically.

The morning I captured this picture, or rather…it captured me…. was one on which a sudden sharp dark-night frost unexpectedly coated the windows of my car, the blades of dried grass and the glass jars I had washed and set out on the deck to drain and dry. Yes, in the early morning,  I had to scrape the windows of the car, scatter ice-melt on the front steps and mourn a potted rosemary plant that had taken the sudden freeze to heart, and sadly died.

But then I noticed a slant of cold early morning light beaming through the bushes and across the railing of the deck…and in all crystalline brilliance and color, was a feather-thin pattern and sparkle of ice on those glass jars.  Looking closely at them, I could see the icy crystals in a pattern of radiating stars as if  the frost had captured and imprinted the night sky full of twinkling bodies of light upon the surface of the glass.

The magic of camera went one step beyond the naked eye, and the editing program of cropping and color went several steps beyond the camera. And what do we see once again but the ingenuity, the beauty, the creativity, the mirroring of stars and sky upon earth and in water:  crystals, gems, snowflakes, stars, the sparkle of mischief, humor , intelligence  and LIGHT in the eyes of humans and all creatures on earth. Wealth and abundance of spirit everywhere. .and a multitude of Possibilities!  Is it actually possible to count each individual ice crystal upon that small patch of glass, let alone all the individual ice crystals of that morning?

Rev. Matthew Fox, author of “Original Blessing” often says “Where there is Awe, there is prayer”. (Awe as in “oh wow! Look at THAT!”)

I guess this was a morning prayer.

Move slowly, and with Presence. Be surprised when what was hidden because you looked but didn’t see, suddenly reveals itself to you in your rare moment of stillness.

It’s always about Magic.

Christine, The Greening Spirit

%d bloggers like this: