Entering into the dark half of the year, some approach it with a deep sense of dread while others embrace the lessons God teaches in creation. It is a good and blessed thing to learn from the trees, who so readily shed their leaves each year. Some release with a luxurious shade of brown while others gleam golden and shimmer in their orange and red brilliance. Releasing all of the stored-up sunlight and sugar is a brave and necessary thing for deciduous trees to do. Those leaves break down and feed the forest. We postmoderns rake and pile and shred and burn and bag and heap. But the forest needs its own nutrients for good purposes designed by the hand of the Holy One.
Darkness is good. Rest is needful. Drawing inside our homes with candle-glow grants us time for kinship that we may have neglected while we were so active through spring and summer. We need a time for feasting and celebration, for gathering around the common fire, for preparing for winter and for remembrance. Psalm 74:16-17 gives witness:
Yours is day, yours also the night;
you established the luminaries and the sun.
You have fixed all of the bounds of the earth;
you made summer and winter.
The ancients believed in thin spaces. These thin spaces have appealed to me instinctively, when the veil between this seen and tangible world draws so thin we can perceive the other side of the unseen and intangible. Mystery exists beyond our knowing, past our ability to touch or do or make. Still, it is there, real.
Apples gathered from branches. Gourds and squashes harvested and stacked. Spirits ready to celebrate with one another.
This time of year correlates with one of the quarter-days of the ancients. We have shared in this Breathing Room space about the Celtic feast of Imbolc, which coincides with our “Groundhog Day.” These next few days mark the first, and perhaps the greatest, of the quarter-days in the eyes of the ancients, the feast of Samhain. It was a time of connecting with and remembering the dead.
Followers of the Christ came to know this time as All Hallows’ Eve and All Hallows’ Day, or All Saints’ Day, followed by All Souls’ Day on November 2. It is sometimes difficult for the rigidly orthodox to accept intersections of traditions and practices. I have found these intersections do not threaten my faith or spiritual journey. Rather, I am inspired to know that God dances among the many and varied peoples across the globe.