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old bone memory

On the translucent evenings this time of year, I look south and dream of Christmases past. I've never lived south, but I'm not talking about geographical direction - rather, about something in the sky, the air between here and somewhere. Southward, nostalgia lies. At least for me.

Maybe it's a small white creature tucked within a pine-scented shadow's curve, a thing of delicately sharp teeth and soft fur, a thing for which we have no name because we believe all emotional experiences derive from our own minds, instead of from the worlds around us - the interior galaxies of trees, the secret dragons, the slip-sliding yunggamurras of rivers, the glimpsed tails we think are windswept clouds.

If I was to describe my nostalgia for advent, I would speak of the ways in which, as a child, I always sought winter glimmer in our summer hours. So - pale horizons, the drift of light against dark tree trunks, the scent of fresh pine, tinsel sparkling like icicles, the lingering chill of early mornings. Every December, I try to have summer meet with the old traditions of my English heritage, and somewhere in the middle I make my own private magic for the season. There are no surfing Santas for me. I grew up in the wintry country of my elders' own nostalgia, itself an inbetween place that vanished from existence when they passed on.

Those old traditions are seldom seen in my culture now, except in storefront windows and on greeting cards. I miss the experience of living within a mutual bone memory. As I write this post, I am taking small interludes as usual to allow words a gathering space before I lay them down here. In the interludes I am listening to this video of the great storyteller Martin Shaw. And as so often happens, so very often, the world is conversing with me about the very subject of this post.

For me, the old northern stories of White Christmas resonate with my deep self - they contain bone memories of mythic truth. Unfortunately, this happens in the middle of summer here. And so I celebrate the Solstice instead now, to honour the mythic truth of summer's lore. But it also means that I miss out on the communal celebration of winter's lore, the embedding of it in annual tradition. And yet I would miss it anyway. Here at the bright end of the world, there are even calls for new Christmas songs, summery songs. I wouldn't mind at all - I would embrace it joyfully - except there is no depth to what is replacing the winter traditions. No hanging of oak leaves. No baskets of flowers left on neighbour's doors. No cornucopias. No summer stories told. It is all barbecues, backyard cricket, and a sunbathing Santa Claus. It has no roots, no story. It is skin memory - simply the stuff we do. And that worries me. As Martin Shaw says, we need stories of depth and substance to help sustain our communities through these difficult times. They are the songlines to our souls.


  1. I grew up in hot climes, where Christmas meant beach and sun. But I do enjoy a white Christmas and the cold - it has its own magic.

    I love how you write - it's beautiful!

  2. A sense of place and its seasons are so tightly woven into our mythologies, traditions and cultures. How the migrations of our ancestors separate us from the resonance of these things, transplanted from their homes...living in a far northern place, we are closer to aligning with those norther European markers, yet our spring is quite a bit later than an English spring, with particular signifiers of its arrival like the rising of sap in the sugar maples, which the Native Americans tapped for syrup.

  3. yes! our ancestral folkways have an ancient wisdom in them...as do the ancestral folkways of your land's first inhabitants. i've always thought how challenging it must be to find a way to integrate both streams of wisdom in the southern hemisphere holidays. we are made of the land in which we are born or where we have lived most deeply, but our hearts carry an echo-song from our foremothers. i suppose the trick is to find an intersection of the two songs, that of the land and that of our remembering hearts...

  4. thank you, each of you, for your comments. always so much appreciated <3

    nofixedstars, i want to draw from something you mentioned - "your land's first inhabitants." i have been thinking just very recently about how a land's indigenous people are perhaps not really the ones colonists met, or even the animals the earliest explorers (now the indigenous people) met, but the Spirits who lived there first.

    actually, I think the Irish talk about this best, with the tuatha de danaan and other races which they acknowledge. in my own country, I think of the forest spirits and bog spirits which the Maori have named as gods and monsters ... and that still live amongst us, although they've grown so very quiet and cautious, and I fear they may retreat into the stone, as the tuatha de danaan did, or over the western horizon.

    1. mmmm, yes---it would be arrogant to think we humans are the first or only beings anywhere, wouldn't it? other voices precede and underlie ours...i think they are still there, only we have (mostly) forgotten how to converse with them?

      and that makes me think of the odd "thrum" that i hear when pressing my ear to large rocks...

  5. nodding yes:
    we need stories of depth and substance to help sustain our communities through these difficult times. They are the songlines to our souls.

    thank you for sharing your thoughts


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