Archive for the ‘holidays’ Category

When I read the book “Return to Wake Robin” by Marnie O. Mamminga, I knew it would be a glimpse into my past summers in Hayward, my hometown, although I never actually spent any time in a cabin on a lake until last summer.  There was one passage that was very familiar to me, when they went into the town and explored the various stores on main street.

I understood the expression of what her grandfather said about being Up North from my own interpretation of true wilderness.

Over the years, on one of the many endless all-day car trips Up North, when fatigue begins to set in and there are still several hours of driving left, I often ask out loud why Erle and Clara didn’t stop earlier, especially when their ride took two days of travel over dusty, bumpy roads.  Why travel 450 miles when 300 might have worked as well?

“Erle must have been asked the same question, for he was often know to remark, ‘You have to come this far north to get this kind of beauty.’

“And he was right.  Like ‘The brightest star in the Milky Way’, his love of the Northwoods shines on.

“From a grandfather we never knew, that is quite a gift.”

It’s a shame many of the resorts were converted to private property, but times had changed and people started traveling farther by air to places like Disneyland for their vacations.

I thought about writing about this a lot, but I didn’t.  I realized I had only spent two childhood summers in Hayward.  Then it came to me:  it’s not just about being in the wilderness, it’s about childhood and having the freedom from responsibilites.  That’s what really touched me.  So now I have to see how I can start feeling free from the burdens of adulthood responsibility.

Tomorrow is the first of October, and I don’t think I’ve done anything on my “Fun Things to Do in Summer” list.  It’s still hot here in Arizona, so I can still do some of them.

Today the North American Bear Center in Ely, Minnesota broke ground on the Hope Learning Center and Northwoods Ecology Exhibit addition to their center.  September 16 was the anniversary of Hope’s death.  Someone read the following quote:

“We need another and a wiser and perhaps a more mystical concept of animals.  Remote from universal nature, and living by complicated artifice, man in civilization surveys the creature through the glass of his knowledge and sees thereby a feather magnified and the whole image in distortion.  We patronize them for their incompleteness, for their tragic fate of having taken form so far below ourselves.  And therein we err, and greatly err.  For the animal shall not be measured by man. In a world older and more complete than ours they move finished and complete, gifted with extensions of the senses we have lost or never attained, living by voices we shall never hear.  They are not brethren, they are not underlings; they are other nations, caught with ourselves in the net of life and time, fellow prisoners of the splendour and travail of the earth.”~~Henry Beston, “The Outermost House”

I had included part of this quote in my “Sacred Life Sunday” journal when I learned of her death in 2011.   I hope the Hope Learning Center will educate millions of people on black bears and how we can co-exist.


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I began the practice of mindfulness while reading “The New Earth” by Eckhardt Tolle, although I admit the practice was sketchy and I did not finish the book.  I did begin to experience mindfulness more fully based on my weekly walks in the park.  Unlike the older park about a block from me, this park already had many tall trees when it was created.

When I began being mindful in nature, trees become a focus of my attention.  Because I live in the  desert, I appreciate them more, because I come from northern Wisconsin, rich in forests.

To me, they are a sign of strength, of timelessness.  My favorite part of “The Lord of the Rings” was when the Ents came to the rescue.  I wrote several years ago about a stand of over 100-year-old trees that were destroyed in my hometown.  Those trees had been there longer than any  people, and there was a picture in the paper of a man grinning like he had just conquered Mount Everest because he had cut down the stand.

About a month ago I really began noticing the trees on my way to work and errands.  We had a  record-breaking cold spell of about a week in February.  Water pipes busted in some peoples’ houses.  The gas company turned off the gas supply to hundreds of homes because of the lack of supply.  I was lucky and did not have any of those problems.  But those problems were  temporary and did not cause a lot of long-term damage.  Sadly, the damage it did to trees seems longer lasting.  Some palm trees have new green sprouts, but some magnificent old pines and other large trees do not.

And then there was a new twist–pardon the horrible pun.  In the fierce tornadoes of April, trees, like the ocean, became dangerous.   Of course they did not choose this.  But it seemed ironic the very tree you had cherished over the years could kill you, as it did in several cases.

Of course, those storms were not normal, and trees have many benefits besides shelter and shade.  For the most part, they are “peaceful and diligent” as Mary Oliver wrote in “About Angels and About Trees”:

“The trees, anyway, are

miraculous, full of

angels (ideas);even

empty they are a

good place to look, to put

the heart at rest–all those

leaves breathing the air, so

peaceful and diligent, and certainly

ready to be

the resting place of

strange, winged creatures

that we, in this world, have loved.”

And this little tree, which I thought was dead, bloomed like this in a week.

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom, one of my angels; and to Mother Earth.

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I was lucky to go to an elementary school in New Jersey that celebrated May Day with a Maypole.  There would be a little homemade carnival, too.  There also was an annual flower show, although I’m not sure if it was at the same time or where the flowers came from.

This year, in light of all the recent disasters, I decided to do prayer ribbons.  I found out they are a tradition of many indigenous people and are used by Buddhists and Native Americans.  Then I found a page on Celtic Holidays that suggested doing prayer ribbons for Beltane/May Day since going out and chopping down a tree was impractical (although it does give you a way to use one of your own trees).

I needed something to cheer me up.  Friday was the 12th anniversary of my mother’s death, and tomorrow is my dad’s birthday (I lost him 4 years ago).  I don’t shop at WalMart for ethical reasons, but yesterday I found a craft store listed in the phone book that I didn’t know existed.  It had lots of neat stuff for many arts and crafts, and the owner is very friendly.

So I made my ribbons after my studies this morning.  I have one each for Japan, marine life (especially in the Gulf and Pacific),  wild horses, and the tornado victims.  There are four because of the four elements, four directions, and four Archangels.

You ask the tree’s permission first, and then you remove them in three days out of respect for it.  Then you burn or bury them in your garden.  I’ll probably tie them to my garden fence, although with the wind we’ve been having they might not be there in three days.

I also love the old tradition of May Baskets.  I was going to make one, but I found this one in a grocery store for $20 and decided it was perfect and a bargain because it had so many pretty flowers. So my May, which is also my birth month, is off to a merry start.

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Bringing In the Light

I wanted to write something wonderful and wise for the New Year.  But the words didn’t come.  I thought about showing what wise words other people said, but that was easy enough for everyone to find.

There was a shadow upon me, a feeling I couldn’t define.  Sting’s song “Fields of Gold” kept playing in my mind.  The writer of the song died of cancer.

Then, on Saturday, January 8th, the massacre in Tucson happened.  Six people dead, our Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords shot in the head and clinging to life, and 13 more people injured.  In some ways it was like 9/11 again, with the same scenes played over and over on the television news.  I kept thinking to myself, “This doesn’t happen in this country.”

I really don’t like politics, and quite honestly I only voted for Ms. Giffords because her opponent was so unacceptable.  I have written her several letters concerning the Bureau of Land Management’s mismanagement of wild horses (“Management to Extinction” it has been called) and have never received a response.  But I certainly didn’t wish her dead.

As the reporters said, Tucson is a city of over a million people, but people know and care about each other.  This was certainly shown by those who risked their lives to stop the gunman and care for other people.  Although we are 75 miles away, we shop and eat there, and fly from Tucson, so it’s almost like we are part of the neighborhood.

I’m not psychic, nor would I want to be.  A very selfish part of me feels grateful that my feelings of dread did not result in any harm to my family or me.  But I hope that everyone can learn something from this tragedy, especially as it seems it could have been prevented, although the blame is being thrown everywhere.

even if it's not possible
to start completely over,
there is still this:
the day, opening into itself
and you, parting the curtains,
seeing all that light come in.
Maya Stein


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That may seem like a strange title, but this year I felt the need to bring more joy into the holidays.  I did all of my shopping and mailing early, so I did feel less stressed, but I also had a strange feeling of not being invited to the party since I was not out there rushing around like everyone else.  But crowded stores really bother me now, and I almost felt like I was going to have a panic attack standing in line in the crowded post office.

I also wanted to explore the meaning of Christmas traditions to bring more meaning and less commercialism to my Christmas this year, since I was staying home.  I made an Advent wreath, found a wonderful Advent calendar, and did some reading and research.  I was amazed to learn many of the Christian traditions are based on pagan ones.  It did make the season more special.

That isn’t to say I did not spend too much money.  There really is so much pressure to buy, and of course I had to have some presents to open “from my dog.” Those were books and CD books, and I have sworn never to buy more.  But they give me more pleasure than anything else, and I found some real treasures this year.  I decided I would read them and in some cases pass them on if I felt someone else could benefit, unless they are something I mark for future reading.  I used to not want to make marks in my books, but I realized that was ridiculous.  It does not ruin the book; it only shows how loved it is.

I did decide to reduce my Christmas CD collection.  I usually added one a year, so I decided it was too large because I never played them all.  I kept the ones I really loved, and I gave the others to a woman who adopted three families for Christmas and a young military wife whose husband is deployed.  She was thrilled because I also added some children’s DVDs I had bought for when my nephew comes to visit, but he has outgrown them.  I’ll spare you a cliche on that, but it did feel good.  And I will make my Advent wreath on something less tacky than tin foil next year.

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Blue Christmas

“Christmas is a time when you get homesick – even when you’re home.”  ~Carol Nelson

Lake Hayward

The quote is from a post on “Christmas Blues” by Cindy LaFerle.  Like me, she feels nostalgic for Christmases of the past.  As I always think about the holidays, “There are just too many ghosts.”

I was going to be all ready this year and have a plan.  Then it was Thanksgiving, and I had not done one thing.  So rather than feeling rushed and behind, I’m looking at all my holiday traditions and asking myself what they mean to me and if they are worth keeping.

Actually, there is very little I HAVE to do.  I chose to send out Christmas cards because I love receiving them to see what’s going on in everyone’s lives.  It will be interesting to see if being on Facebook takes away some of the pleasure.  Other things I do because I’ve always done them, so those are the traditions I will be looking at changing or not doing at the advice of my mentors.

And I know, there’s the whole “give to others and you will feel the joy of the season” advice.  That does help, at least temporarily.    But the crass commercialization of the holiday weighs me down.    I am trying to tune it out as much as possible.

I once suggested to my family that instead of exchanging presents, we should go up to the White Mountains (here in Arizona) for an old-fashioned Christmas.  They weren’t interested.  I’ve also thought about spending Christmas somewhere it wasn’t celebrated, but I never thought of somewhere like that where I would want to go.

For the first time I made an advent wreath, and I’m trying to celebrate the real meaning of the season.  I’ve been using the calendars from Living in Season because I’m tired of the months going by in a blur.  I’m trying to be more present, especially when I’m out in Nature.

I’ll “muddle through somehow.”

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My Mother's Lilacs 2008

My mother was a fairly flexible person, certainly not strict.  But when it came to holidays, there were traditions that had to be followed.  My sister and I would chime “Tradition!” from “Fiddler on the Roof” while preparing the relish tray for Christmas Eve.  Looking back now, it was amazing we didn’t get booted out, but my mom did have a great sense of humor.

The funny thing is, those traditions are what I live for on holidays.  I don’t follow them as elaborately as my mother did, and I have added a few of my own, but they’re what make a holiday a special day.

In the same vein, rituals were one of the elements of organized religion I found boring and meaningless.  Today I find them significant and reassuring. 

I’m sure this comes from getting older.  I see it less now as something to cling to than something that enriches our life.  The beauty lies in being able to choose which traditions and rituals we honor and not being forced to practice them.  They must speak to our heart and soul and not be performed in a rote manner.

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