Wednesday, January 29, 2014

And We Got Snow!

Having just gotten the new wood stove in the day before yesterday, we suddenly had snow predicted for the following day! So, the first thing that became urgent was getting some wood cut up. I had acquired a chainsaw awhile back, against this need, but until now had never used one before. Our wood pile was collected with our old, now dismantled and gone, fireplace in mind, which had a much bigger firebox than the new wood stove has. The logs have to be cut down to fit. So, with snow predicted for that afternoon, I broke out the chainsaw and began figuring this process out. 

Really like my chainsaw - its electric, which has it's draw
backs, however, it starts up beautifully and runs like a champ.

After a go-round of the chain popping off, and figuring out how to safely brace loose logs while sawing, I got it down, and whacked up logs all morning, racing the clouds, the snow and the temperature drop. Now, remember, I've had two hip replacements, and I spent the years prior to those surgeries becoming more and more immobilized from the deformity in my hips, and the severe pain the arthritis caused. Prior to the hip replacements, I could not have spent the morning chainsawing wood. Even just after the surgeries I couldn't have - I had lost over the years a great deal of muscle mass and wind and conditioning, as I was slowed and then stopped by pain. So to find myself now fit and able to take this on was a joy! I am stiff and sore today, yes. But far from unable to go and do, and I feel the more I move and do, the better off and stronger I will become! Which is good, because I still have the rest of the wood pile to whack up, and some of that I will have to split with an ax. I suspect by spring I will regain a great deal of what I have lost over the years - but just to be able to do this much is so exciting!!!

And then, around mid afternoon the snow arrived! Remember, we live in the warm temperate southern part of the States, and snow is a rarity here...its been 3 years since we've had any snow fall and accumulation in this area. So, its a big deal for us. It's also dangerous, because our cities and towns are not set up to deal with snow and ice the way the Northern states are; we have virtually no road equipment to scrape and clear the roads with because there is rarely any need to maintain it, and not having it saves tax dollars. So when we get any snow or ice at all, we tend to hunker down and stock up in ways that make our northern friends laugh at us. But its a serious issue - without the ability to keep the roads safe and clear, we had 6 cars so far that I know of run off the road above us last night, and there have been quite a few wrecks. Southerners, yes, also tend to not know how to drive in snow or icy conditions - why would we? And those of us who DO know how, stay off the road to avoid the majority of the population who at the very least drive too fast for conditions and end up in trees. So, here came the snow, and Dreamweaver's clinic where she works announced it was closing the following day! We were all set for a day together by our new wood stove!

Snow piling up on my van....

And of course I had to go out for a walk in it
as it flurried around me! 

Our beautiful restored home in the falling snow! The snow fall was
very fine and small, not big flakes, but it mounted up fast!

My favorite picture that I took while MacDubh and I were out
for our walk - his Spiffy Winter Coat came in very handy in the snow!

Snow fall on the holly bushes...

We settled in, and one of the things we did, as the snow came down was to get the broom and keep a path swept on the deck so we could come and go safely. At this point, Ibn, our indoor/outdoor cat indicated he wanted to go outside. He hates using the litter pans - according to him truly civilized cats go OUTside to go to the bathroom. However, he hates snow. He fussed,  and fidgeted and I let him out - and he got part way across the deck, stopped in horror, turned around and came back and demanded to be let back in immediately. Of course, I was evil and took a picture of him quickly before letting him back in!

Ibn: "Let me the %$#@ back in, NOW!!!!"

 As the snow fell, we made a huge pot of steaming homemade ham and potato soup, with homemade cheese biscuits on the side - evidently I had burned enough calories that morning running the chainsaw to be hungry - I ate 2 bowls of the stuff!

Homemade cheese biscuits, and ham and potato soup -
unbelievably good stuff! 

Then as night fell we watched the snow continue to fall off and on through out the evening. We only got between a half an inch and an inch of snow, but it was the good soft powdery stuff and was just beautiful!

Snow on the deck, after dark. 

This morning we got up to the sun coming out and a world made over into a magical crystalline clear landscape. Eventually, though it barely got into the 30's, the snow did melt off where ever the sun touched it. However, icicles formed as it melted, and on the north side of our hill, the snow, and some ice remained for the neighborhood children to sled down with much glee!

The lake in the early morning sun - beautiful, clean and crisp!

So, we spent the day warm inside with our new wood stove, wonderful left overs to eat, warm happy cats and the dog, and time together on our snow day! All in all, a precious day granted to us out of space and time to treasure and enjoy!

Our wonderful wood stove...MacDubh's Spiffy Winter Coat
is draped on the log on the left to dry for it to be all nice and
warm for our next walk out in the cold!

Monday, January 27, 2014

The Arrival of the Wood Stove!

Today, our wood stove was delivered and installed - just in time for we have more winter weather headed this way! We are so thrilled and it is working perfectly! I'm going to let the pictures speak for themselves...

There it is, carried in and set down on its little wood pallet...

And being assembled by the contractor! They did a
fabulous job! 

And the new chimney stack is gorgeous too!

And here we are - fire going and warm....

And then the cats came out to see - "Oooooh - is that for us??? 

It is absolutely gorgeous against the back drop of the stone work,
which is part of what radiates heat into the room. 

It is gorgeous, wonderfully functional, and perfectly timed,
as we possibly have snow forecast tomorrow evening! 

And the cats are going to enjoy it just as much as we are - here
is Lugh, entranced by the fire and half falling asleep where he sits!
He has the right idea! 

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Farewell to Lotus...

Lotus, the grande Dame of our cat family,
who passed away yesterday on
Dreamweaver has already written  a blog post touching on the loss of our cat Lotus yesterday, but I wanted to add my own thoughts. Lotus was a sweet little orange tabby with a white muzzle and chest who was known, as I captioned her picture above, as the Grande Dame of our cat colony. She was very sweet - loved to be petted - but she also had very firm and particular thoughts about personal space. If its not too weird to say, she didn't like cats much. She liked her space and any of the others who encroached upon her were likely to get smacked for their pains. She was treated, generally by all the others with greatest respect.
She REALLY didn't like kittens. Period. Since she was fixed as a very young kitten, she never had any litters of her own, and while she may have tolerated other cats as long as they were worshipfully respectful, kittens were nuisances to be regarded as ping-pong balls and batted around at will. Any small kittens, and we've had a number of them around here, learned very quickly and early on, to give Lotus a huge amount of space.
She was also a freak about tuna, so opening a can of tuna or a can of cat food based on tuna brought her sailing in going "Tun-ah! Tun-ah!" (Swear that's what it sounded like) The minute you put the cat food or tuna within reach, all dignity went out the window and she wallowed. Ergo, her accurate but undignified nickname was "Tuna Face"!
Consistent with her goddess-like maintenance of her "personal space", she was one of the cats around here that you simply could not trim her claws. To do so was to risk life, limb and a trip to the ER for stitches. So her little feet (and she had very dainty, small, trim paws) were tipped with razor edge scimitars all of her life to maintain that personal space with quite effectively.
Which brings me to what it was like taking her to the vet. Oh my....first of all, in keeping with her delicate royal sensibilities, Her Majesty Lotus became violently carsick when she traveled anywhere. Which made transport ever so much fun! Then, there was the fact that while she genuinely loved us, her people, and liked to be petted by humans, tolerated other cats, and viewed batting kittens as contact sport, she loathed, and I do mean LOATHED, going to the vet with a purple undying passion. Veterinarians were Satan-spawn as far as she was concerned, and trips to the vet an approximate descent into hell. Or at least, Lotus saw to it that it was hell for the vet!
Quite awhile back, when her health began to fail, I finally got to see this spectacle first hand. We took her to the vet. We and she survived the trip there, with extra towels. We had called ahead and warned them to break out any protective gear they had, like gloves, because of her disposition towards vets. So, they petted and talked to her at first, as we discussed our concerns with them. No problems so far, they were being appropriately worshipful humans, giving her her royal and respectful due. Then, of course, they had to begin by getting her temperature. Joy. Which generally for a cat means a thermometer up the butt. *I'd* be grumpy, to be honest! They donned heavy leather gloves that went up over the elbow and half way to the shoulder - and thank God they did, because they needed every inch of them!
The second the thermometer was inserted, Lotus went from benignly nodding goddess cat to a furry orange clawing biting raging demon from hell. Dreamweaver and I took a huge step back and said, have fun, guys! I swear I was wondering if the gloves were going to hold or be enough! Wow! Of course, at that visit, we confirmed that the growing "hump" - it really did look enough like the classic "dowager's hump" in a human from osteoporosis that we wondered if that's what she had! - was cancer. Inoperable and nothing to be done. The vet told us that as long as her quality of life was good, even though she was rail skinny from it, that we were to enjoy our time together. She also told us that it would likely go fast when it happened and that we would know, no ambiguity, when it was time to consider alternatives.
That was about a year ago, and we made sure we treasured her every single day - spoiled rotten every second of it! Which suited the Grande Dame perfectly from her perspective! Yesterday, however, which began normally with her usual routine - hop off the bed, go get a snack, something to drink and use the litter pan, then hop back on the bed, suddenly went horribly wrong when she became abruptly half paralyzed from the middle of her back down. She was horribly distressed by this and quite possibly in pain, certainly definitely in extreme discomfort. We instantly decided and knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that the vet's predicted moment was here, and we did indeed know that it was, no ambiguity. So, with our hearts breaking, we took her in and had the vet gently aid her crossing to the Summerlands. The fact that she did not fight it at all, was pretty telling. She was 14 years old and had a grand beautiful long life - and she was very special to Dreamweaver; the last of her cats that came with her to this area when she moved here. So it was indeed the ending of an era, and Lotus' passing brought many old memories, both good and difficult to the fore. We are grieving the loss of our dear cat, but we are also grieving the loss of the past, and for the closing of possibilities and ways that the passing of time brings to all.
Always remember, when you see someone grieving HARD over the loss of a "pet" that its truly the loss of a family member...but it may also be the loss of time, and memories and choices too, that are brought up by that loss.
Farewell Lotus! 
I am certain that the Summerlands has all the tuna you could want, and loving hands to pet you, and that you are reunited at last with your litter mates and friends who all crossed before you. And if there is such a thing as a veterinarian there, give 'em hell, just for us! 
Til we meet again, little orange cat, til we meet again! 

Monday, January 20, 2014

Delayed Home Improvement and A Coat for MacDubh....

Well, the arrival of our wood stove has been delayed, perhaps until Wednesday. This delay began weeks ago with one small event that has had a domino like affect ever since. When we went to the company to by the stone for the hearth and the wall (2 different types of stone), there was a sale going on, and it was actually cheaper to buy a full pallet of each type than it was to purchase just the amount needed. We bought one pallet of one and the other pallet of the other. (This by the way turned out to be a Very Good Thing, because we originally were only going to do half the walls in stone behind the wood stove. We changed our thinking, to taking the stone all the way to the ceiling and because we had bought an entire pallet, we had enough stone available to do it, ready to go! That was excellent!)
The pallet of stone when it arrived...,eventually! 

On the day they were to begin, with 2-3 days scheduled to complete the process beginning to end, it turned out that the company we bought the stone from was out of the stone for the walls. They had to re-order it. Truck came stone. Next day....truck came in. No stone. The stone FINALLY arrived, but the contractors could not just sit on their hands, with projects piling up around them waiting for our stone, they had to re-organize their schedules. So instead of working things in around us, they are now trying to work us back into a full schedule. This by the way is endemic to the business. So...its OK. We understand. We are having a nice quiet day, enjoying time together - Dreamweaver has the federal holiday off. The rest and time together are good!

Now, onto the cute puppy MacDubh and his fabulous coat!
I have talked about my dog MacDubh before here on my blog; he is one of the world's truly good dogs. He's also in the running for one of the weirder ones, by parentage. He is a Rottweiler/Dachshund crossbreed. I'll wait a bit, while that sinks in...take your time.

MacDubh on his old dog bed in my studio...
As you can see, his head and neck are too big for his body, proportionally, he's got the deep chest and muscles of the Rottweiler breed...and 7 inch legs, thanks to his Dachshund mama. He's a short, big dog, and he's actually very cute, even handsome...although the longer you stare at him, the weirder the proportions become!
He is also a typical short hair, which means that when we get into very cold weather, he shivers when we go out for walks. Which has always distressed me, a bit. A few weeks ago, we had the Polar OMG Vortex sweep through our sunny nook of the south...and with below freezing wind chills, MacDubh found himself bundled into an old cut down sweat shirt, augmented with duct tape to keep him warm. Which he was very good natured about,  I must add! (no pictures of the fuggly doggie coat solution - there are just somethings I won't do to an animals dignity!) Why, may you ask, is my handsome puppy coat-less? Have you ever tried to buy a winter dog coat for a puppy with his measurements? Nope. Not happening folks. They don't make 'em to deal with that combo of measurements and proportions. beloved Dreamweaver, who is killer at crochet, undertook to crochet him a winter coat before the next cold snap (bearing down upon us as we speak, I might add!)
This led to poor MacDubh being measured five ways from Sunday on a semi-regular basis for about 2-3 days...fortunately, he is a very, VERY good natured dog...and did no more than a little grunting every now and then as she was wrapping a tape measure around his neck and chest and tummy and down his back.

Have I mentioned he's really good natured? 

And he loves the cats...the cats love him too! 
So, once she had his measurements and a pattern pieced together from medium, large and extra large cobbled together, she made my sweet puppy his very own winter coat! 

And IS he not handsome in it? 

And despite his good natured grumbling over the multiple fittings, he seems
to love his coat now that its finished! 
So, we slipped him him into it, and off we went into the cold winter night and he loved it! He was frisky and did not shiver and seemed to gleefully enjoy his new sweater! The final great point is that Wordweaving made MacDubh's wonderful winter coat out of the same yarn she made my lovely winter scarf, so we are a good looking pair when we are out strolling the boulevard! And I have to say, I am so grateful to Wordweaving for making my puppy such a wonderful garment, so that he can be nice and warm in the cold winter time!

There we are, in our good looking sweater and
scarf, ready to go for a walk. Thor seems to
think its pretty cool too! 

Sunday, January 19, 2014

And The Latest Home Improvement Project...

Huge step forward in home improvement this past week....we had the fire place pulled out, the stone wall feature installed and the new wood stove will be installed tomorrow! 
The "before" picture of the fireplace - not too bad in appearance,
but not safe either; we've not used it this year out of concern.

And this is where they were after they ripped out the fireplace! 

Cement board was added.

Getting all set for the stone to go in...
Our cat Thor carefully inspects the work in progress! 

Adding the stone was an incredible change! 

And we are very happy with the stone we chose! 

And this is where we are right now -
the wood stove will be installed tomorrow!
More pictures to come!

Thursday, January 9, 2014

The Polar Vortex....

We have felt the affects of the polar vortex clear down to upstate South Carolina the past few days...normally, anything North of us laughs its ass off at our reactions to cold weather, snow, ice, etc. However, this is a temperate clime here...we can have whole winters with no snow, sometimes with 70 F degree temps. We do not have heavy road equipment to deal with blocked frozen roads. Appropriate heavy cold weather gear isn't even sold in the area, many kids have no more than a light jacket. So when the temps over the past few days plunged to below freezing and icy wind chills for us, the rest of the ice locked, snow buried, frozen North above us was nothing but amused, I suspect.

However, for us, the difference between normal temps of 50's and even 60's  and negative -1 F degrees was fairly appalling...or invigorating, depending on your perspective. I found it invigorating! I love winter. The stars are at their clearest, the air is crisp and clean.

When I took this picture, the wind gusts were up to 26 mph, wind chill temp down to 27 degrees and plummeting like a stone. It was going to go down to 8 degrees, and into wind chill driven negative temps below zero. The air and sky were like crystal, the mountains vivid and dark; the lake restless and choppy.... it was an incredibly beautiful day!

The cats all curled up on the heat vents...and we wonder why we are chilly! 

Or they snuggled up to us...
Poor Dreamweaver had to continue with her work schedule, which had her leaving for work around 4:30 AM...I covered her car with a blanket to block any frost or ice, and closed the car doors on the edges of the blanket to keep it from blowing away in the wind gusts. That morning I got up with her, and went out to retrieve the blanket and start her car for her to warm it up. The temperature was -1 F with the windchill...and the blanket got stuck in the car door behind the driver's side! I tugged. I pulled. I said some words I will not repeat here. I crawled through the back seat and pushed and hammered. No results. I had visions of her driving to work with the blanket flapping in the breeze behind her! I was shivering and reaching for my pocket knife to slice off the blanket at the window, when one last tug proved successful, the door popped open and the blanket came free. Suspect it had frozen shut. I didn't tell Dreamweaver about this, until later that day - figured she didn't need to know!
We also stayed in and watched a lot of TV as the temps began to drop. We were watching a re-run of a Nova Christmas special we never tire of...and Amerghin, our orange and white cat came flying in, hopped up and watched every second of it with us...he particularly liked the scene with the fox bounding around the snow, hunting for field mice. Amerghin watches a fair amount of TV with us. Never ceases to amuse us that he does....

He also liked the swans here...

He seemed just as fascinated with the naturalist
who camped out in the snow as we were!

You can see the Christmas Tree in Yellowstone National Park here 

Ibn, our indoor/outdoor cat showed up,
 stated that it was %$##@ cold and to let him in NOW - his words!

He slept inside safe and sound from the cold!
In a few days it began to warm up. Having navigated negative temps and wind chill the previous 2 days, I discovered when I went outside into a mere 32 degrees freezing temp, that it felt warm! Literally. Unzipped my jacket, and ran errands with the heater off in the car! I did discover a stray can of soda that had been left in the car by accident before the advent of the Polar Vortex - it had of course, exploded.

The air remained crisp and clean and lovely - I took MacDubh out for a walk, and took some pictures. I realized later how blurry the pictures were. You have to understand, they were taken with a 50 lb dog bouncing and frisking on the leash attached to me while I was trying to aim the camera - the amazing thing is that what I wanted a picture of is even in the frame! 

Winter's eve up by the lake...if you look closely, you can see that there are sheets of ice spanning out from the shorelines, broken by open water. Watched a line of young ducklings swim up to the ice, clamber out, waddle comically together towards the next span of open water, and then one by one by one jump back in and paddle off in a line!
Lovely day, wonderful moment!
The baby ducks are actually crossing the ice in the camera just didn't have enough "oomph" to pick them up clearly. I can spot the little blurs of where they are, but I saw where they were when I took the picture

And the waxing moon seen through the mistletoe on the bare winter trees....
Overall, we weathered the cold and the frigid temps quite well, for thin skinned southerners - but in the end, I think our sleepy fur children had the right idea about how best to handle it: 
Long Winter's Naps! 

MacDubh, the sleepy puppy! 

They do let us have the bed, every now and then...

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Some Thoughts On Mindfulness in the Winter of the Year....

Amusingly enough, I had been thinking (yeah, dangerous past time there!) about what I wanted to post...and then Dreamweaver showed me her her blog post she wrote earlier. I had to laugh, joyfully, because we had evidently been cogitating over the same ideas, each in our own way. Mindfulness. Living in the moment. Balance. Ah me - two great minds with the same great thoughts! Actually, its not surprising that we should arrive at similar thoughts, given that we talk about these things between us.
However, I was given some powerful thoughts by a friend of mine who gave me permission to share them.

"Imagine if we just went in a circle, winter became spring, we didn't name things. December did not become January. 2013 does not become 2014. 11:59 p.m. Does not become midnight, then does not become 12:01 a.m. Sunday doesn't become Monday. No lunch hour, no bedtime, no weekends, no hump day. If we live in the now, we live in reality. If we live on the calendar, we live in the world of profits, artificial priorities, hierarchy, injustice, and violence. Is it is perhaps time to stop measuring, stop keeping track, close the book on what was never really important to the soul. Maybe this is what the new age is really about"
(Words of wisdom from my friend, Andrew)

Obviously, in this day and era the concept of time that we have created - and we have created it, constructed it, made it into a part of our social contract - is pretty inescapable. If we wish to function, to earn money, have financial stability, care for and feed our families, and exist in the social web of interactions all around us, we cannot throw out the concepts of hours, minutes, and seconds, ticking by. We cannot, without abandoning our place in the social contract and therefore becoming ostricised by it, ignore months, calendars, goal setting, being on time, being dependable.
And yet, there is no doubt about it. In exchange for socially acceptable "stability", a nebulous promise of financial gain and a superficial sense of connection, we have become the crawling exhausted slaves of "time".  We scramble from moment to moment, our entire lives defined by where we must be, hours or minutes or seconds from now, in an unknown future that has not arrived yet.
We are allowed momentary, socially acceptable pauses, to contemplate events in the past - rapidly speeding birthdays, certain holidays passing in blurs - all of which must conform to a myth created by society of how one's life "should" be, to be acceptable. 
And it all crescendos into a great roaring in our heads, 
of constant time checking, 
did I put the trash out,walk the dog, 
check the mail
ferry the kids
ismyprojectforschool/worklate,oh gods,
what day is it, what day is it?

And we lose the things that really matter...true connection. Connection with the earth. With our fellow creatures. Our fellow sojourners. Our calendars bear no connection to the world around us. We are cut off. For example, for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, the Winter Solstice is only days behind us. For most of us, we were sort of aware of it, flipped on the electric light when darkness fell....if we lived in winter climate, flipped the heat up a notch if it were cold, got up at the usual insane hour of the morning to get to work, also probably in darkness. We feel fatigued and worn out often as the days darken, and the commercial holidays overwhelm us. We continue to hold to a rigid schedule enforced by the clock and the glare of electric lights.
Before the advent of electricity, winter and it's deep dark cold silence had a much greater impact upon us all. Days became shorter, and nights longer, but there was no artificial prolonging of the day. Harvest was done, stock were slaughtered and meat preserved. The rudimentary calendar imposed by the cycles of the sun and moon existed, but life slowed down. Beyond basic care and chores, winter became a time of rest in colder climes, a time when sleep lengthened, an opportunity for crafts and story telling and rest, after the back breaking months of the harvest were past. Living in the moment, connected with the wheel of the year and with family and community, meant there was what I would call fallow time. Winter was hard and cold, even dangerous, but also a time of rest and surcease and togetherness. Light became precious, symbolic, warmth and life itself. Hundreds of ancient fire festivals surround the presence of light and fire became a talisman against death itself.
In those days, we were mindful of this.
We took the opportunity for rest and silence, creativity and celebration.
Today, we reach the longest night of the year, flip on the lights and charge madly on, in just as much of a hurry as ever. We walk into warm buildings without even thinking about what it would be like to try to heat them without electricity.
If we are privileged to have electricity and heat and light, we rarely think about the fact that there are those who do not have that privilege that we take for granted.
Light is lessened in importance, darkness is ignored. Warmth is assumed. And not only do we continue with the same break neck pace we keep all year, but we add more stress and hurry in the form of commercial "holi-days" that in the end have nothing holy about them.
There is no rest.
No silence.
No time for creativity.
No celebration save that of keeping a harried exhausting schedule. There is only approximately 9 hours of sunlight, give or take for the day of the winter solstice, as opposed to its opposite number - over 14 hours of daylight for the summer solstice that balances it...does that mean in the winter, after a long exhausting year of work, we get to cut short our work schedules, set our alarm clocks later, go to bed earlier, sit beside the fire on long dark evenings and talk and be with family and drowse?
No, because the distinction of living in the moment, of resting, of a natural break for the body and soul, of balance has been destroyed by our artificial light, our artificial schedule, our artificial holidays. We go, and go, and go, year in and out without any natural break, ignoring nature's rhythm and process. Yes, we have great benefits of modernization. Light, warmth, safety, the ability for continuity, profit, travel, food storage, advances in health and length of life. We would not blindly throw these things away, for the difficulties of the ancient past - freezing cold in winter, darkness, possible hunger and starvation when crops were bad locally, disease, injury and illness that claimed lives without modern recourse, back breaking work the likes most of us have never known. We would be insane to do such a thing.
And yet we have also thrown away our balance. Our mental health. Our ability to live in the moment. To slow down. To extinguish the last fire of the year, and greet the darkness as holy, resting, before lighting the flames a new for the dawn and return of the light. To take the time given naturally by the rhythms of the earth, to rest, and renew ourselves.
And in devaluing and throwing these things over board for the never ending, pounding social pace of the calendar we have we have constructed,
the ticking clock we have imprisoned ourselves with,
the lights we never turn off,
we have exhausted ourselves to the point of losing all meaning.

We cannot, as Andrew suggests, throw over all schedules and all clocks in the modern world. However tempting it might be to do so! We must live in this world.
But we CAN seek the mindfulness of our ancient past. We can stop and experience light and dark, holiness and living in the moment. We can evaluate our harried schedules and choose what is truly important to us. We can eliminate some of the artificial mandates that our culture insists on attempting to impose on us. We can devote our hands to crafts, and creativity, instead of thronging crowded big box stores for cheap imported plastic goods. We can choose, in the winter evenings to turn off electric lights and light candles and fireplaces for the warming and care of the soul. We can invite friends over for quiet gatherings, talking and sharing and laughing, without blaring endless loud canned music and crowding in with drunken strangers in a noisy bar. Maybe we can't tell our employers that we're not coming in for as long, or during hours that are dark - we can't risk losing our employment!

But we can make space for rest, connection and that spiritual renewal in our own lives at home, however we interpret it to ourselves. 
We can choose mindfulness daily, each step and thought.
We can choose to honor the dark, to call to us it's sacred gifts of slowing down, of rest and surcease. 
We can choose in the flame of the candle and the warmth of the fire place to fill our souls with humbler lights than those of the glare of neon and jammed malls and traffic gone mad. 

And find in doing so that light once again becomes sacred. 

Winter brings with it a divine moment of sacred rest, an opportunity to learn the value of the light, of home and hearth and soul. 

To create our inner most self anew. 
To learn a mindfulness that if we create it and model it and practice it, keep and sustain us throughout the year. 

Celebrate the Ancient Dark! 
Call forth the Holy Light. 
Raise the horn, drink hail!

And rest this winter's night!
Blessed Be, and be blessed, always.