Last night we
celebrated the Winter Solstice in Berkeley.  Old friends and newer gathered together to invoke, dance, sing,
and burn the boughs of last year’s celebrations in a brilliant
conflagration.  I hope the Yule Fire’s enthusiastic flames will prove an omen for the coming year, as the meager and
fitful fire of last year symbolized 2009 for me.  

This year the
longest night followed by the return of the sun cannot happen too quickly for
my tastes.  2009 has been a year
dominated by the energy of Samhain, not only personally (which I doubt
interests most folks here other than myself) but nationally and world wide.

I remind myself
that in a world of change, decline and death are as much a part of our world
and our lives as birth and growth. 
This is as true for countries, civilizations, ideas, ecosystems,
species, and religions as much as for us two leggeds and our fellow travelers
on this planet.  In all their
marvelous variety.

 Gary Snyder wrote “‘What a big potlatch we are all members of!’ To acknowledge that each of
us at the table will eventually be part of the meal is not just being ‘realistic.’
It is allowing the sacred to enter and accepting the sacramental aspect of our
shaky personal being.” (The Practice of the Wild
is a wonderful book, by the way.)

 Last night for me the sense of what is dying away was
more tangible than the sense of what is coming into birth.  But something is.  At first the earliest stages of
pregnancy and renewal are always invisible.  Only the Mother knows, and perhaps in the earliest beginning
even She is unsure.  For some time
to come the greater length of the days will seem to be overwhelmed by the
greater cold winter’s remaining months. 
The growth that matters will occur in hidden places, safely below the
ground.  But it will be taking
place, as it has for countless years. 
And from this greater context even those who this year are short on
personal joy can take much comfort.

 As we celebrate this eternal cycle, and this time of
renewal, surrounded by the debris of a year I am glad to see gone, may the
growing light of sun and spirit gradually warm and open our hearts to the
earth, to spirit, and to one another.

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