This Tuesday, December 21st, is our longest night. In the Pacific Northwest, we now have 16 hours of darkness.I arrive at my office and it is dark.I leave my office and it is dark.
My animals curl into balls and rarely wake.
It has been a steady move to this darkest day, since the longest at the Summer Solstice.
Then my tomatoes were growing.Now I am using the canned sauce in stews, breathing in summer scents in the dark, cold afternoons.
Time moves and things shift.We still call this furthest hour of earth tilt the Tropic of Capricorn, but it isn’t anymore.Precession has shifted us into the constellation Sagittarius.Things change.The Mother turns and leans this way now, turns and leans that way later.She dances with the Sun and the Moon and with herself.
We will gather and celebrate the end of the dark, the tilt of the Earth, the Emergence of the light.
To celebrate, we will make a circle, call in the directions, and be with the dark.We will welcome our shadows and bravely visit with them.We can do this because we know the darkness creates the light, and that there is a time for everything.We say goodbye to the time that is gone.
We will invite the light, and breathe life into our possibilities.We will have faith that the light will come again.We will pray for the healing and grace for All That Is, all beings, all life and all death, all that was and will be.
How will we celebrate?
By dancing.We will dance on the back of our Mother, pound our prayers and love onto her back, so that she will know we are here, and that we work to heal her and ourselves.We dance in our bare feet, or in our handmade moccasins, so that our love and faith move out the soles of our feet into her back.We dance with intention, sending our love and awareness into the Earth.
We are here.We know you are a living being, our Mother, and you are being harmed the world over.We are here, and we are helping to bring in the light so that others know you are a living being, and our Mother.
“…here is the deepest secret nobody knows (here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud and the sky of the sky of a tree called life; which grows higher than the soul can hope or mind can hide) and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart i carry your heart (i carry it in my heart)” — e.e. cummings
Today is All Saint’s Day.Tomorrow is All Soul’s Day. It is also a Full Moon, cycle of completion and fruition.
I woke last night to a bright light in my face, Grandmother Moon.It was All Hallow’s Eve, the night the veil is lifted between this world and the next.My Dead Loved Ones were closer and we whispered through the night, delighted to be together, consoling one another that on this side we’re doing OK, and on that side we’re doing OK.I’ll see you again some day, I’ll see you again some day.
I went outside in the deep fog and said prayers with Grandmother Moon.I greeted my recently departed and asked they take special care of some friends who just got there, and others who will be arriving soon.They will.The air was damp and cool in the night. My dog was by my side, wagging her tail, and I cried because I don’t want to say goodbye to her, someday soon.
This edge between the living and the dead is razor sharp.Life without our Loved One is living with a carved out space in our hearts that nothing can fill in.It feels like falling, like in those dreams where you are falling – but you don’t wake up and you keep on falling.It feels like nothing can help or save you and that you will never again find peace in your heart. My slim advice: cry and remember your Love to whomever will listen, as long as you need to do that. It will soften and shift.
It is a sharp edge also because of our own terror of our own death, of saying goodbye to family, kisses, strawberries, butterflies, babies, wind, water, dogs.We are afraid, most of us.And these days, because we are so separated from Mother Earth and our place in all things, because we have tangled and reduced our connections, we feel even more lost.
It will be OK.It will all work out, on both sides.
Remembering and honoring our Dead weaves new connections between the worlds, and roots us deeper to The Mother.When it is our time to die and to leave – and we will, like it or not – we may die in terror or in another more peaceful way. I pray we each die with a sense of connection to this side and to the next.
What helps me stand at the sharpest edge:
Spending these days when the curtains part to visit and praise my Dead, along with millions of others around the world, connects me.You could make a special place to remember your ancestors and loved ones, put out a photo, light a candle, bring a bit of candy (we have lots of that hanging around today!) and a pretty leaf. And then remember Them with sweetness and honor as you go about your day.
In February, before I said final goodbyes to my partner and my daughter, I bought a packet of heirloom tomato seeds. They didn’t have a name, but promised to have loads of beta carotene that held up under canning. Extra vitamins in the long dark months of winter in the Pacific Northwest.
My little seeds grew to tiny plants in the dining room. They grew as my attachment to the man I had hoped to marry broke and I began the long season of missing him without reaching to him. I sat on the floor and watched the wee plants unfold, thinking of a happier summer ahead.
In April, strong enough for a short journey, I gave 10 away, transplanted 20 into pots filled with the soil mixture recommended in All New Square Foot Gardening, and set them on the front patio to grow.
They looked small and cold, buffeted by the Northwest marine breezes. So I covered them with pint canning jars -the same ones, turns out, I canned them in five months later.
I got the guest room ready. My daughter was coming in early June after her last hectic days of college. It would be our final summer ‘just us, like it always was.’ She, off to England to her vocation and her man there. Me, proud of her accomplishments and honored that she would spend a final summer with me.
At the feed and garden store, I tried not to compare my frail starts to the tough and burly adolescents for sale there. I hovered over mine, eventually changing the pint jars to quart ones – a good sign. Suddenly, in June, they took off, tough and strong.
My daughter arrived thin and weary and our summer began. In this glory place of water, mountains, osprey, eagles, horsetail, cedar, salt and wind, I cooked for her, while she longed for the partner she would soon be with. She tended to me, who would not be with mine. She cried easily. I cried easily. We knitted and read and talked. We watched seven seasons of All Creatures Great and Small: The Complete Collection. We did not sleep well.
Out front, looking east to Mt. Pilchuck, nineteen tomatoes grew strong. One stayed small and frail, trembling in the warm breezes. That one, I spent extra time chatting up, based on a study that they grow better if talked to by a woman. By July, I was glad there was no man to contend with. I wanted them all for us.
They grew and flowered and thirsted. My daughter tended them, too, watering deeply and well morning and afternoon. In July, she counted 92 tomatoes on the largest plant. The smallest, my avid listener, had produced one. Hurray for her!
And then the tomatoes ripened the way popcorn pops: slowly, then faster, then in an explosive rush. The first one we picked reverently, with gratitude to The Mother. We praised it, sliced it in half holding our breath, then breathed in the juicy scent of coral-red. It tasted like sun, like our island, salty and loamy.
My little seeds grew to lusty mothers, who spilled their bounty and shared easily. When the fruit was red and ripe, they let go.
It was not so easy for me, but I prayed each day for the will to release my child gracefully. She got stronger and calmer. I let go of my man some more. We finished up our knitting, and she left for good.
She left before the time to put them by, before the height of the harvest. I picked them by myself. She lives now in her heart’s home, far away across the sea, and I live in mine, here, facing east to the Cascades, alone and content.
When next we meet, I’ll take her a jar of salsa, and she can share our summer tomatoes with her man, and remember our tending that brings nourishment in the long stretch of winter ahead.
1. Prepare 6 pint jars
(but you probably will only use 5)
2. Combine all ingredients in a stainless steel pot.
3. Bring to a boil and stir frequently.
4. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring frequently,
until slightly thickened.
5. Put hot salsa into hot jars, leaving 1 cm headspace.
6. Carefully remove bubbles, wipe rim, center lid and screw band down tightly.
7. Completely cover jars with water and process for 15 minutes in boiling water.2 cupsChopped peeled cucumbers2 cupsChopped sweet yellow peppers1 cupChopped green onions1 cupChopped peeled roastedAnaheim pepper1 cupChopped seeded jalapeno peppers Zest of 1 lime1/2 cupCider vinegar1/4 cupHoney1/2 cupLoosely packed finely chopped cilantro1 tbspFinely chopped fresh marjoram1 tspSalt2 tbspLime juice