Today is the 12th night, the end of the Yule season, known as Loppiainen in Finnish, the official start of the year, when you pack away the decorations, and start planning the next growing season. In Scandinavia, Winter Solstice marks the mid-point of winter, out here in the more temperate, further South Pacific Northwest, the beginning of it.
After the holiday season we all take a big, deep breath, let it out in a collective sigh of relief, and turn inward; happily into our crafts, bonfires, to each other.
Time feels more expansive, after last two months of whirlwinds blowing through.
In November and December, we fight for the light so hard, with all of our lanterns, candles, and long dances, that when the quiet and the darkness finally descent, we are spent. Sure, the light is returning, but not for a while still, and suddenly, we're a little grateful.
There is an opening here, in these cold, quiet days of winter. They seem, to me, some of the truest of this place. I've never understood folks who feel the need to escape the winter here to warmer climes, and other bio-regions, but each to their own (I often get my travel bug in the spring, if ever.).
I am the happiest here, rain hitting the windows, frost nipping down the chimney, cold floors in the morning, the warmth barely able to make it past the wood stove.
There is secret life everywhere: owls hooting through the trees, mice rustling around the grain scattered for the chickens. One hen hiding her eggs out of sheer wildness and stubbornness. The deer have gone deeper into the woods now, but the field and the trees are full of crows and eagles, ravens talking at us loudly when we approach. We yell at each other, bargaining across the cold air. "If you leave my chickens alone, I'll leave you alone too!"
The storms have come, gone, and come again. Some of the best in recent memory. Branches raining on the roof, the power flickering and going out. Ferry riders emerging a little green in the face, proof that going to the mainland is a bad idea in general.
After the storms, a holy calm. Wildcrafting the newly sweet berries, the windblown lichens. At night, the Milkyway is sending us morse-coded messages, shooting star blazing across the field.
"This is home." I think to myself at those times, a place of belonging, to the land, the roots and mycelium, to the cranky ravens, the spiders that move in when the weather turns again, to the good people; not always the picture perfect folks from some country idyl, but always unexpected, wild and wily, crass, funny, and brash, and brave.
They are artists in laborer's clothing, a bunch of genius waitresses, landscaper poets, and carpenter musicians. They're old men who drink too much, and have secret beautiful hobbies carving bone, or making clothes, the kids half-feral, high on sugar and freedom, young men gone to seed with their beards and dress-Carhartts, women who build fires and houses, people who grow food before they eat it, and make things first useful, then beautiful, and foremost wild and free. "These are my people," I think, "following their hearts, not what is expected, practical, good for business, the approved aesthetics, or sanctioned beliefs."
Together we dance, sing, drink, eat, burn things, put on our best clothes, and then pull on our rubber boots. These winter months, we gather, and roam, come together, and then vanish back into our respective homes to warm our toes by the fireside.
Surrounded by water, we make certain choices, certain sacrifices, small and endlessly worth it. Worth it alone, for the day of cold midwinter sunlight on our cheeks, pouring in through the thin canvas of the boat.
A seal, always following in our wake. Cormorants sunning themselves. The smooth stones of millennia, of a time before the glaciers, a time of molten earth, remind me always of how important it is to find your place in the Known Universe, and to give yourself to it, fully; to stake a place in space, and to know it,defend it, cherish it, love it for what it is, protect it, be present, and observe it. How you can spend your lifetime getting to know one small speck of this vast Earth.
If there's any work I'd like to dedicate myself to, that is it.
It's good to be home, you guys. Happy New Year!
I live by the ocean/ and during the night/ I dive into it/ down to the bottom/ underneath all currents/ and drop my anchor/ this is where I'm staying/ this is my home -Björk "Anchor Song"-