the memory of the earth which sustains and buries bones

I grew up with fortune tellers peering at tea leaves and shuffling tarot cards. I became a fortune teller myself. Luckily, I also grew up with big old trees hemmed with moss, knee-deep in black fecund earth, and with the smiles and whispers of unseen People living amongst them. So when I decided just recently that tea leaves and tarot cards were an interrogation of the universe, rather than a conversation, and that I wanted something different for myself, I knew where I needed to go. To the glade, to the meadow, out amongst the gauze-winged and double-kneed spirits.




Yesterday I wrote about old Christmas traditions and how difficult it was to reconcile my southern culture with the northern one I had been taught by my elders, who still considered England home, although their families had emigrated more than a century before. And then I learned this morning that the universe had not finished its conversation with me on the topic. It sent me questions, gentle, unflinching from the deeper truth. For example, why do I deride one set of Christmas card images (summer) for the sake of what is merely another (winter)? When I find home in my old traditions, is it the traditions themselves which provide it, or the personal memories, the smell of small high rooms, sand on the floorboards, pine needles in sunlight, the feeling of love?

What real connection is lacking, that I cling so to nostalgia?

Well, when I look, I see its the same connection that I find missing from tea leaves ... a lack of conversation with the world.




I don't mean that I should submit to a suntanned Santa Claus. I mean that I should notice how the pohutukawa flowers are gold-tipped this year, like they're supposed to be, after a long time of being only red. I should feel the heat of scoria pathways beneath my remembered feet, and see the tiny, translucent rock spirits that flicker through the sunlit air. I have access to a rich, beautiful lore of Christmas within my world, right outside my door. And it's not the things that are done - the beach holidays, the cricket - but all those myriad intersections of my heart and Love.




Beneath our memories are the tangly, nutritious roots of more real memories, shared with the earth. For as Martin Shaw says (and yes, the world is still talking to me through his words, many of which I read before without hearing them in the same way I do for this conversation) ... we didn't dream up story, we ourselves got dreamt.

Beneath our culture is the indigenous culture ... and beneath that the animal culture ... and beneath that the memory of trees ... and beneath that the culture of the spirits, the first People of the world ... and beneath that is whatever word you have for the one who birthed us all. Slowly, I am moving my own friendship through the layers (and back again, and down again ...)

So I understand at last that holding on to a specific culture of Christmas is like reading tarot cards - you get something true from it, but are you really in mutual engagement with the deeper leaf-and-dirt truth of the world?


art by flora mclachlan



I know some of you are card readers, and I wish no offence - I love the cards, I am only talking here of my own personal experience. You may feel ... read ... divine ... experience ... differently, and that's beautiful.



6 comments:

  1. I feel much the same, Sarah, not sure how to celebrate Christmas here in the south. It does not feel right for it to be summer. But I am no longer a Christian anyway, so I cannot celebrate it in the same way. It is the solstice that should have my attention—though I find the summer one more difficult to mark than the winter one.

    I love what you have said: 'Beneath our culture is the indigenous culture ... and beneath that the animal culture ... and beneath that the memory of trees ... and beneath that the culture of the spirits, the first People of the world ... and beneath that is whatever word you have for the one who birthed us all.' Yes! I love to imagine the many layers that create our world.

    And thank you so much for sharing my blog post in your newsletter. It is such an honour to have been shared in that way, that you thought my writing worthy. x

    ReplyDelete
  2. I could not love this more. Partly for the poem to your land, which is beautiful; partly for the example it sets of how so many of us are feeling (and using) the freedom to ask,"But WHY do I always...?", and partly for your words around layers. I am, not digging but maybe stroking away the layers myself, to find a way to talk with the the First. Thank you for enabling me to start my day with these thoughts. xx

    ReplyDelete
  3. Up here in the North, although it is winter, we rarely have a picture postcard Christmas, as depicted usually with snow. We keep to the traditions because they remind us of the past and what was, things that generations have done before us - they make us feel settled. I am a woman of nature who has conversations with it on a daily basis but not in an ethereal way, in a down to earth way, the way that gives me roots to where I live. I don't believe in fortune telling either with tea leaves or tarot or crystal balls - I belong to the present but sometimes give the past a backward glance to remember how it was with those people who were dear to me. Christmas has very little meaning for me now but I still join in with the festivities, it would be mean spirited not to. The illustrations you have featured are beautiful. A thought provoking post Sarah - sorry if I have gone off topic.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I seem to have lost my connection to Christmas so very long ago...it was such a very stressful time of the year for me...now, not so much but only because I finally learned I can't do / be it all. But I agree it's the missed conversation that bothers me the most...conversations with my loved ones including Mother Earth.

    Thank you Sarah for your words, they always give me something to
    think about.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Layers, yes. To me, not the far at all beneath "Christmas" is the indigenous people's recognition of the solstice, the beginning of the returning of the light to the Northern Hemisphere. How that is storied in cultures of the Southern Hemisphere, I do not know. The idea of Christ's birth at the solstice to me is a metaphor for the return (resurrection) of the sun. It all begins and ends with the earth, even Christmas. :)

    ReplyDelete
  6. i love your words about the layers of cultures: "Beneath our culture is the indigenous culture ... and beneath that the animal culture ... and beneath that the memory of trees ... and beneath that the culture of the spirits, the first People of the world ... and beneath that is whatever word you have for the one who birthed us all. Slowly, I am moving my own friendship through the layers (and back again, and down again ...)"

    this makes sense to me, it is a feeling i have had also. we are like palimpsests of ways to be on this earth; we carry in our cells the memory of former forms and kindred forms; we breathe in the long exhalations of tree folk and our babies grow from tadpole to human in a brine like the sea of our origins...and surely, there is also some trace of the animating spirits that tickled the whole into motion, and move through all life...


    ReplyDelete