It’s winter here in North America.  Today is an especially grey, chilly day.  A chance of snow according to my weather app.  Cold weather and limited daylight make for a sleepy, uninspired combination in my book.  It’s no wonder our animal friends invented hibernation for this time of year.  We humans seem to invent holidays and reasons to have parties to get us through the winter. 

Solitude and introspection are difficult, and I sometimes think we come up with ways to avoid it.  Sitting with our thoughts and feelings can be painful, humbling, and even depressing.  It’s much more fun to come up with St. Knut’s Day and National Cornchip Day and Superbowl parties to distract us.  We are a “seek pleasure, avoid pain” kind of people, aren’t we?

But what if we weathered the storm of our thoughts?  What if we allowed ourselves to experience the winter and the cycle of light and dark?  What could we learn if we bravely faced our internal January?

Remember, spring will come again. . . .

Samhain: Endings and Beginnings

Happy New Year!  In the Celtic tradition, this time of year marked a great transition: the end of daylight and summer, and the beginning of the dark time of year.  The last of the harvest had been gathered, livestock were brought in from pasture, and bonfires were lit.

In astrological terms, this is the time of year when the Sun sits at 15 degrees in the sign (or constellation) of Scorpio.  Tradition says that this arrangement indicates when the veil between this world and “the other side” is the thinnest, and we can communicate with loved ones who have walked on.  This year, the Sun is at 15 degrees Scorpio on November 6th.

Many of us fear death.  After all, no one really truly knows what happens after it.  Our faiths might tell us something, science might tell us something, but in reality, we can’t actually be sure.  It is the Ultimate Great Unknown.

Last week, in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, I had the chance to go on a trail run at Valley Forge Park.  It was on Mt. Misery, one of my favorite parts of the park.  The storm had transformed the trail.  A thick layer of leaves covered the normally visible path.  Stately trees now slept instead of standing tall.  I wondered more than a few times if I had somehow gotten off my familiar path and landed in another part of the park.

At one point near the end of my run, a large oak had fallen across the trail.  As I climbed over, I noticed how the tree had created some pretty nifty hidey holes for some lucky chipmunk or squirrel.  I also noticed how that particular part of the trail got more sunlight now that this tree was down.

I stopped my run for a moment to thank the tree.  Some might be sad that the tree was gone, but I saw the gifts that the tree left behind:  new homes for small animals, more sunlight for the younger trees, and a wonderful lesson in the circle of life for me.  This tree had lived a full life, had moved on to another state of existence, and will eventually become mulch and be reborn as a new tree.

Happy Samhain indeed. . . .