One CD in my collection played only at Yuletide, for no more than a week, brings me to tears for all the Winter Festivals gone past in since I was twenty. Music to make me weep. The disc only came to me a quarter of a century ago, but it pulls all the memories from the twenty plus years before, the tears flow blurring vision through which I see like yesterday the Yuletide I became engaged to my first husband, and then the Christmases we shared for a year over a quarter of a century. Music to make me weep. The scene changes to the first Yule after I met my second husband, shared three thousand miles a apart on the phone all Christmas Day the same meal, and the same video after, and the first one we were together a year later after his two young daughters moved this at time to Ireland, after the ten years in England and Orkney, then the Yule alone, after he left me for another. Music to make me weep. Finally, six years ago in Bath, the three cats and I with the man who became husband three, a big house in the city and in then the years since after the big house to our place in the country, a home to share a life to cherish a time of gratitude. Music to make me weep. This CD has taken me through three lifetimes since I became an adult, in such different places all of which the music slips into my memory holding tenderly the remembrances of joy and gladness, gingerly those of loss and pain; for this is the power of music, to elicit emotion, to recall events, to jostle free recollections of times and people past and gone, present and here, into the future and yet to be this CD will take me through those Yuletides as well. Music to make me weep. The CD is Celtic Christmas II: A Windham Hill Collection
We are in the process of packing to move house. For me it’s my tenth move in nearly 17 years, for my husband it’s his first in as many.
I have more little, fiddly things to carefully wrap, preparing them to be boxed up until the place for them is ready. These will not be the things in the house, but in what I am calling my Sacred Shed at the bottom of the garden. I am hopeing it will be in place by Winter, it will be insulated and have power so myself and my special bits will be comfortable.
What is striking is finding some little thing that sets off a cascade of memories, some happy, some sad, some bittersweet. People and pets gone, dreams shattered and ways convoluted to get to where I am now, where I firmly believe I am meant to be. The ways have not been straightforward, many twists and seeming doubling backs, yet here I am.
The place we are going is wonderful in a magical place, the place we most wanted to be but had begun to doubt we would end up. Nevertheless, we perservered and in the end we were led to the place, or the place opened up for us. I am not willing to take a stand one way or the other as to which it was – that is was is all that really matters.
So, the response is one of deep and abiding gratitude. Even in the midst of all the upheaval for us and Wyntre, Nocturne and Purfling. We are all a bit fragile and on edge, off our feed a bit and due to the weather a bit hot and bothered. As I wade through packing paper and weave around the boxes of books, bits and bobs (I’ve not gotten to the crockery yet!) I hold in my mind the house we are going to.
In leaving here I give thanks for the shelter is has been for me these past two and a half years, for my husband, his late wife and their family in the nearly fifteen years before my arrival. It has seen its share of angst and sorrow before my arrival, as well as joy and hope. It is now time to pass this house on to another family as a place to make their memories and live their life in what I trust will be joy and gladness. I wish the same things for us as we move into our new home. I trust is will be a haven of calm and a safe harbour of all who pass through its doors. I trust we will live long and prosper between its walls and know when we leave it that we have honoured ourselves and the space to the fullest extent within our powers.
It will be guarded and warded by the spirit animals who companion us, and by the gods who have called us into their service, and the spirits of the land whom we will seek to honour by living gently and working with them in the years ahead.
Now, I’d best take up my tape gun, wonderful invention, grab some more packing paper and see if I can figure out the best way to pack the rest of my study and sacred space this weekend.
Very belatedly I’m listening this evening to two of my favourite holiday CDs. Because of the upheaval in the house I’ve not had the chance to do so before now.
The first one is Celtic Christmas II, a collection put out be Windham Hill in 1996, and which I have listened to for the past twenty years now. This music takes me through two turbulent decades of my life beginning with the year I graduated from seminary and my mother died, encompassed my dream job as worship administrator at Trinity Church in Boston, through a marriage and two divorces, eight moves, one emigration, and, finally now, to my settlement in the UK.
I can see all the events that are part of this process without closing my eyes. Music powerfully evocative in this regard. Some of the music of Enya does the same for me, taking me over the same years, though not in the contexts of holidays.
The power of sound to tug the heartstrings, amazes and humbles me. The way melody can harness emotion and then release it in floods of tears or gentle sobbing, leaves me weak. Love. Loss. Pain. Joy. Emptiness. Fear. Hope. Yearning. All these emotions follow the tracks of this CD and the one that I will play after.
The second one is Celtic Solstice by Paul Winter and Friends. It came out in 1999 and was recorded on the longest night at the Cathedral of St John the Divine in New York City, where I was baptised. It is still available and has some lovely tracks on it. This CD evokes different emotions connected with the place it was recorded, different memories and a longer history encompassing the first 45 years or so of my life and then tucks it into the Pagan context in which I now frame my spiritual practice and path as a Druid, which I have travelled for past 18 years.
Again, the images of my experience dance in front of me and envelop my awareness when I hear this music, so different from the first.
I tend to settle into a deep place of reflection between the Winter Solstice and January first. I review what I have done, and not done, achieved and not quite gotten done or not done to the best of my ability. I give thanks for the gifts I have received. I mourn the losses and rejoice in the births of new experiences. I review and then let go where appropriate. I take the lessons and release that which no longer serves.
This year has seen my second divorce. It has also seen me settled not only in the UK, but with a wonderful new partner and a new life with him. In the Autumn I managed to reconnect with my brother after trying for nine years, after my settlement paperwork came through. We aren’t close really, but at least I know he’s out there. Recently, it has seen as well my reunion and reconciliation with a friend whom I thought was gone forever after seven long and arduous years for both of us. The stories of which are unfolding in emails between us and bringing us tears of joy and sorrow for each other. And because we are separated by an ocean the deep yearning we each have to see each other and hear each other’s voices, and to one more hold each other in the embrace of forgiveness and love, which never parted from either of us as it turns out. The former can be done by technology, the latter will have to await her visit within the next several years.
So, the music I am listening to touches me on many levels and across and through so many layers of my life and my living. I listen and remember. It is an exercise in anamnesis. In unforgetting. In opening my heart to joy and sorrow. Opening my soul to its past. Letting the notes of the instruments wash over me and the words sung take me back gently, so that I can move into the future more whole and with a measure of contentment.
Winter’s cold weaves
expanding icy lace
barely visible, upon
dark needled yew,
bare branched ash,
berried brazen holly,
spreading fernish tendrils
patterning across surfaces,
setting miniscule shards
of crystal standing upon
leaves alive and dead,
making no discernible distinction.
Winter’s cold rests
in places saturated by preferences
eons old and untamed still,
raises misty on the rimes
bounding fields again water swollen
too sodden for any but the swans,
when night-water standing shallow
transubstantiates to ice
slippery and shining
seen in unexpected beauty
on the dawning of the day.
Winter’s cold steals
upon and over roads and pathways,
undetectable until too late,
ice black as night
as dangerous as
frozen projectiles thrown
by no hand seen by human eyes,
from eaves and rooftops
crashing to break the quiet
impaling the unwary.
And now Winter’s cold
drapes shoulders undetected
and gloves fingers invisibly,
it can steal into the Self,
it can freeze the soul
it can freeze the heart
it can freeze the mind
if one be not careful
it can reach out grabbing
the joy, the hope, the wonder
from the season’s bright festivities.
Be wary then and watchful,
though most of all,
be bold with wonder,
be extravagant with joy,
be generous with love,
be not afraid,
embrace with delight Winter’s gifts,
short lived each year,
filled with immense mystery
and the deepest magic.