In winter, the little old house and I have a tense relationship. Sometime around November, the trees that shelter us from the road and the view of the neighbors turn their backs on us and disrobe. Suddenly the old fence that rides the hill crest is exposed as a tottering drunkard and the shaded, soft green yard of summer is revealed to be a mossy, lumpy, sodden, mess. In the country there is no concrete (unless you put it there yourself) and so every one who comes through the door has tramped across the lawn and the dirt driveway and brings some of it in with them. Onto carpet. (Thank you 1970's homeowners who thought wall-to-wall was a much better idea than the old fir floors. Brilliant.) Don't get me started on the long-haired dog. By February I'm ready to sell out and move back to the city. Where at least the mud is paved over. And there is take-out on every corner. And food carts. Also coffee shops. And the libraries carry more than John Grisham novels and old National Geographics....
Every house has its seasons, every year its ups and downs. Today is Candlemas, a hodgepodge of a holiday that began as a pagan ritual celebrating the birth of spring and the time when we turn soil, and has morphed into a feast day for the church remembering the presentation of Jesus in the Temple. I think of it as the end of Epiphany, a day to celebrate returning light, and returning green. Yesterday I collected all the candles I could find and brought them up, massed them in a centerpiece on the coffee table. Tonight we'll have dinner by the fire, with all the candles lit. These little rituals are vital, I think, for keeping equilibrium through the year. Without small markers, little bits of beauty, the year blurs into one long drudge of work and disconnect. Our bodies and our minds need to be connected to our place, rooted to the ground where we live. We need to rise and fall with the breathing of our own particular earth. Yesterday I went out in the rain and brushed back leaves to find the folded red heads of the hellebores, the first green tips of the muscari. Tonight we light candles in thanks and allow ourselves to dream of flowers and sun and good things growing in the garden.
Christie Purifoy wrote in Roots and Sky: "Every beautiful thing has been spoken into being by love...But sometimes beauty is hidden; sometimes it is quiet. It waits to be discovered and unveiled. Sometimes it asks us to help create it." I think that's what ritual is all about, not being swallowed by the march of days, but making deliberate stops, carving out space for beauty and connection and remembrance.
I've written more about ritual and some of the ways I try to stay connected to rhythms here:
Made up Life - keeping special days
Take a break, will ya? - monthly media fast
Body, Soul, Earth - embracing the evening
And as promised, I have copies of Christie's book to give away! I have one on hand, and the other should arrive any day, so if you'd like to be entered in a drawing for a book, leave your name and email, and if you'd like, a comment about your own rituals, and I'll draw two names. International entries are welcome. Deadline 9pm, PST, Friday.