Wednesday, February 25, 2009

A Midwinternight's Dream

© 2009 Oona McOuat

The night sky is the colour of a concord grape. Glistening from its depths are a zillion pinpricks of light. Constellations so often unseen here in the cloudy Pacific Northwest flank a smiling crescent moon. As I drink in the peace of this midwinter's night, I am filled with awe at its majesty and promise. There is so much beauty and potential stretching out before me, so much mystery; so much that remains unknown.

by Leigh Hilbert

Many of us are now sensing we are at a personal and global turning point. Change can trigger fear. Every news story seems to speak of the "worldwide economic recession we now face". As I made my way down the mountain at dusk today I reflected on this. Yes, lots of us have been taking way too much for too long from a planet that has been receiving too little in return for her giving. "Feeling the pinch" and being forced to reprioritize our consumption, values and lifestyles here in the west may very well be for the best. But being terrified that our lives as we know them may collapse, and falling into survival mode as a result will not help us make sustainable choices.

Photo by Leigh Hilbert

We tend to quantify our relationships with work and objects and even people - calculating them in dollars, hours and amounts of energy and attention spent - rather than valuing the qualitative - the essence and presence that infuses what we do and create with love, I ponder, as I trek past the newly returned songbirds singing to the setting sun. Once again I am reminded that the worth of life's greatest treasures cannot be measured.

Photo by Leigh Hilbert

Does the economic system support us, or do we, through our beliefs, intentions and actions, support it, I wonder as I stop to tie my boot lace. In other words, am I really sustained by the material world - thus subject to possible scarcity and loss if the market wills it so, or do I somehow interact symbiotically with the world around me, creating abundance or deficit depending upon the energy balance between us?

I think about the founders of Findhorn, about their ability to grow huge cabbages in poor and sandy soil because elements of the invisible realm, the devas and the faeries, were awakened and the impossible became possible. The flourishing of that first garden at Findhorn was not the result of the mythic magic of Jack in the Beanstalk. It was rooted in faith in the unseen and planted with sweat inducing, tangible physical labour.

Photo by shaneandruth

I think back to last night's sky and how it held in its vastness a knowing that so much is waiting to be embraced and discovered, remembered and reclaimed now. Each of those shining stars a tiny seed that might grow into a gigantic and amazing fruit if I have the gumption or vision to plant it.

Here in southwestern Canada it will soon be the time to plant as we cross the halfway point between winter solstice and the spring equinox. Snowdrops, dandelions and crocuses are pushing forth towards the sun's lengthening rays. In a few weeks the first lambs will be born and in the still of the night I will hear their bleating.

Photo by law-keven

This came from my friend Krista of Generacion in Portland, Oregon: "The Mayan glyph for birth means to touch the earth, and in traditional Celtic times, newborns were taken at high noon to touch their brow to the earth." As we prepare for the season of birth and rebirth, it is a wonderful time to touch the earth and to ponder on how our lives are connected to the world around us.

The nights are growing shorter now but they are still the nights of winter's dreamtime, nights of warm nest beds and bedtime stories. As I hiked up the mountain today - the hills in the distance today still covered in snow - a simple story came to me. I will share it with you here.

Photo by Leigh Hilbert

It is time for a little midwinter night's dreaming…

Once a year at precisely midwinter a strange magnetic force field encompasses the earth and causes all phone lines, satellites, electric, nuclear and geothermal power stations and generators, weapons and widgets, batteries, electronic devices and anything that runs on fossil fuels to stop working. (For some odd reason essential life support systems are mercifully spared. This phenomenon is of course experienced at midsummer in the southern hemisphere.)

Photo by Leigh Hilbert

For twenty four still and momentous hours games boys, televisions, radios, SUVs, fighter jets, machine guns, computers, DVD, CD and MP3 players, watches, cell phones and land lines, Blackberries, and ipods are cast aside and people walk to the Gathering Places carrying acoustic instruments, blankets, rugs, a bowl and a spoon, and a yam or an onion (or a gigantic cabbage) for the communal soup pot. When they arrive at the Gathering Place, large cauldrons of broth are simmering over the fire. "Stone soup" it is fondly referred to, as everything that goes into that pot comes out twice as good, and there is always enough for everyone to eat their fill.

Photo by Sfphotocraft

The air is laced with the aroma of bread baking in the wood-fired ovens as families and neighbors, friends and strangers begin to mingle. For the first few years talk focused on how odd it was to be sitting outdoors by a fire in the middle of winter in a silence so vast it was almost unfathomable - no traffic, no buzz and hum of power lines, no idea of what the precise time was even….

"Just think," said one teenager, "This is how our ancestors
lived all year round!"

Now, although the silence is appreciated - and there are designated intervals when all talk stops and everyone stares at the stars or into the fire and can feel the rhythm of their own beating heart - this night has become a time for music and storytelling. 

Photo by SLENGfJES

At first the stories were anecdotal:

"This reminds me of lying on the hood of a car beside someone I loved on a warm summer's night in a green mountain valley gazing at the moon…."

"The greatest peace I've ever felt was swimming flank to flank with a joy-gushing dolphin…. I felt time stop then too…"

Photo by Leigh Hilbert

Now, it is a night for speaking of the winter's journey - what has been lost, what has been found, what is being put to rest and what seeds are being gathered to be sown in the spring. It is understood that endless activity and consumption lead to endless restlessness and hunger. This midwinter accounting, this breaking the cycle of overdoing, this weaning from an addiction to busyness and technology begins to address an insidious yet overwhelming sense that there is always one more thing to accomplish, one more thing to buy or achieve in order for us to be happy.Sometimes, even when the technological world is "back on," people choose to go to the Gathering Place, to build a fire and make soup, to take off their shoes and feel the grass between their toes, to touch and to talk. To remember what is real.

Photo by Kmax

Midwinter dreams to you,


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