Music for the Holidays

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.

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Counting the Days

I no longer do Christmas, so I no longer do Advent.

This year, however, it does not mean I’m not opening little windows every night to expose what’s behind them. It is a calendar of sorts. It comes in the form of blister packs. Twenty-eight days to mark off until the Winter Solstice. Twenty-eight days until I am free of the anti-depressants I’ve been taking for the past three years and nine months.

I began the journey off of them just days after the Autumnal Equinox. It did not register at the time that it meant I’d be taking the last one on the eve of the Solstice. The timing may seem a coincidence, but I prefer to see it as a co-incidence. Not a random series of events, but one with more intention behind it. More power to assist me on the journey to be ‘drug free’.

I could undertake this step, and knew I would do, once I was granted Indefinite Leave to Remain the UK. It also came soon after the Decree Absolute from my second marriage came through. Both of these pieces of paper gave me freedom. Freedom of soul, energy, mind and body. That they arrived within weeks of each other . . . hmmmm . . . another coincidence? I think and believe not.

In any case, I am taking the journey to liberation from the tablets with deliberation and intention. I have always thanked them for enabling me to make the passage through some very difficult and challenging years and circumstances. I worked with them and they worked for me. Now that I no longer need them I am working with them be released from their hold on my body and mind. Over the course of the 45 months I was on them the dosage was gradually increased under the supervision of my GP, as my body seemed to have gotten used to the amount of drug and needed more to maintain the same level of functioning. The dose was doubled twice; and again under a different GP’s supervision over the past three months the dose has been halved gradually to the original amount of medication. There is no going off such powerful drugs cold tofu.

I realise that the journey of liberation I am making has not worked for everyone. For some it is just not possible to completely be removed from the medication and function. We are all different. Some who have had terrible withdrawal symptoms and say that if they’d known it was so hard to go off them, they’d never taken them in the first place. It depends on the person. It depends on the prescription given.

These last eleven days I approach with gratitude. I am thankful that the medication worked for me and did what I needed it to do at the time I needed the support. I am equally grateful that I am able to cease it now that I no longer need that support.

Dryads Retreat

Dancing to unheard music
played deep
within their being,
Dryads toss branches
shake twigs
to shed their leafy mantles,
encouraging
the
earthward
tumble
as days shorten,
their time of retreat approaching.

They quiver preparing,
less and less turned outward,
their focus shifting,
until no longer sustaining
summer’s verdiditas
or autumn’s splendour,
replaced by subtle energy for winter,
releasing the past demanded.

A sharp gust of sudden wind
no reason to hold longer
freefalling
golden
rain
pirouetting on stems
last leaves languid
on the breeze
downward
delicate
drifting
death,
amassing in wind raked clusters.

Frolicking on curb sides
boot tossed shuffled through,
children gather them
attracted to the colours
red bronze copper yellow brown,
drawn by the shapes
oak birch beech poplar sycamore plane,
contorted as they shrivel,
diminishing,
retaining a different beauty
past feeding earth feeding future,
nourishing our souls,
granting needful lessons:
There is no permanence.
There is always change.
There are cycles to being.
Living comes in many forms
Dying is not only what it appears to be.