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The Stories of Christmas

The sky wept stars last night and rain today, and now the heat begins again. It presses against skin and grass so that everything struggles to open and close, and the world becomes increasingly parched. Down here in the south, we are singing to our Mother Ocean for relief. And she is coughing up slugs and deadly jellyfish.

I love Christmas. I love all the old traditional images of snow-covered cottages, night-eyed reindeer, chimney smoke spiralling into a wizened, grandmother-grey sky, perhaps because it is like a beautiful dream of something I have never experienced. But I become frustrated with all the online articles and posts about this mythic season of winter, light-in-darkness, death, silence. There's an arrogance to it which could take on an -ism if one was so inclined. Myth was made to be local. It may have universal messages, but the particulars of the stories were based on what people saw when they opened their door. That's the point of it - truth, godhood, exists in all forms for everyone. Please do tell me your local myths, your heritage, by way of sharing. Then ask about mine. Together we will weave a tale of many different colours and textures, different seasons and landscapes. When indigenous stories are disempowered, we also lose hold of the sacred truths that not only guide us but also protect our environment from human ignorance.

Christmas here is midsummer. The stories of light-in-darkness do not fit into our brief sweltering smokeless nights when the clouds are so pale you know they are infused with lingering daylight. For us, the king is not a child, but at the height of his glory. He rises to take his golden throne. He feels safe, he is benevolent, we seldom have storms. Lady Nature loves him with a mature love - no delicate trembling petals, but the robust blooms of roses and hibiscus, the laughing colour of pohutukawa. Sometimes it seems she loves him too much, she forgets all else but him, and the earth becomes too god-golden; it becomes dried up.

The message of summer solstice is the same as the winter one : trust. (All these stories, they hold our hands, they remind us we are sacred ourselves.) But now our trust is for dark-within-light, for the little death (rest) of a cool night. We are promised rains to come again. We know the summer birds will find their long way home, same as we will.

Often I read rich, earthy stories from hedgewitches and wild-dwellers, and I wish I could write like them. But being in the forgotten half of the world reminds me of the importance of writing locally - from my own heart. I do not gather medicines from bushes. I gather it from the sky. I must write the universal truths in the dialect of where I live inside. Otherwise I'm just appropriating summer stories for my winter heart, earth-drums for my sky-sighing, and that's the surest way to lose language.

What is the world where you live telling you about Life in this season?


  1. I do think that we must embrace, hold dear, listen to--the spirits of whatever land we dwell in. our ancestors long ago knew that, and honoured the spirits of places they came into as well as the ones they brought with them. then people settled down. and began to think that wherever they lived was the center of the world, not just their own center. and later, even that amount of rootedness and reverence was lost in hubris, in arrogant assurance that some people had a "destiny" to conquer and rule others. those others were increasingly seen as alien, less than, "uncivilised", "ungodly", and their own customs and devotions and wisdom were forcibly disrupted by conquerors and colonizers...


    in my world, it is indeed the dark time, the turning inward time, hearth-guarding, fire-keeping, garden sleeping time. that soothes my soul; it is *my* time of the turning year. yet there is a slightly jarring note amongst the winter music (and/or quiet) here---there is a skip in the rhythm, a loss of step, a sickly irregularity that feels deeper than the normal variations over time. the cold, frosty winter following a gradual autumnal slide into coolness has been replaced by erratic temperatures wildly ranging from week to week. thunderstorms in december, rather than snow. nearly 80F one day, and 26F a handful of days later. snow came (to everyone's surprise) but melted away in a couple of days as the temperature wobbled back upward. animals seem confused and I worry for them, being disrupted and push-pulled about from season to season in the space of weeks. the familiar magic of yuletide has been overlain with an anxious quality breathed out from the very earth and sky.

    I hesitate to press "publish" on this comment. it seems so depressing! I wouldn't want to add to your own burden of that-which-feels-wrong-in-the-world. and I am trying to find daily the still center of it all, and to hold a vision of health and wholeness for the earth and her creatures, including us of course. I try to remember the message which this land has held for my european ancestors as well as for indigenous peoples of the area---which is the timeless story of the winter sleep of all things, that will stir again into life in the next season and time. my current wish is to learn what the chaptico-piscataway tribes called the red-breasted bird that we call a robin...which is manifestly not the robin of england, after which it was named by english colonists in the new-to-them world. and then, one day, I should like to know what the "robin" calls himself...

  2. I was just talking about this with my husband, how my southern hemisphere friends often seem silenced during this time of year, as if they aren't allowed to share what their Christmas experience is like. ~ I love to be reminded that we are each experiencing our own truth during these seasons. For me, it is cold and dark, but for you, light and heat. I think it's marvelous. Thank you for sharing from your place. We want to know!


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