It’s been an unusual sort of year’s end. Inside, it looked a lot like Christmas.
We watched several incarnations of Ebenezer Scrooge’s resurrection to a life of hope and compassion, and caught up on rest and reading, and finished remodeling the guest room. Friends visited and festivities ensued. But outside, the world remained in perpetual autumn. On Christmas Day, after our long walk with the pups, we stayed outside to weed the riverside gardens. An utterly new experience for Christmas Day.
It was lovely and warm, but we both enjoy winter and missed her coming. I worried about my bulbs and perennials, who depend upon the blanket of snow and the frozen earth; the cold triggers the biochemical process they need to flower in spring. Birds were singing spring songs and everything seemed a bit fantastical. Confused. Out-of-the-norm. I missed the patterns I love and have come to honor: the four-season journey of life into death into life. Then it rained again, and we battled the incessant mud tracks our walks produced, another winter anomaly. But it was our valued vacation time, so…we relaxed, indulged in treats, and watched Harry Potter choose between the light and dark, enter suffering and loss, and live into the new world he’d help create.
A few days later, the temperatures lowered considerably, seizing rain puddles, however slight and visible, and freezing them enough so that my car’s brakes locked and slid through an intersection on a busy county highway. I almost “carked it,” as I heard someone say in an English movie, although at the time and for a few days afterwards, I wasn’t able to laugh about the adventure. I was glad I’d said, “I love you” to a friend before I left home that day, but I was disappointed by the fear I’d felt in the endless seconds it took to be missed by the immense SUV barreling towards my tiny VW Bug. I was bothered by the tears that followed the incident: I’d like to meet death with more equanimity.
Another friend visited that night and we talked about many things, as we always do. She mentioned a wise old nun she knows, who recently remarked on the current death throes of so many of our institutions: healthcare, education, political, economic…all seem to be undergoing the stages of dying, “…and it’s right that they should,” said the woman. Everything dies, including human-designed systems, when they no longer serve the welfare of humans.
And I’ve been pondering these ideas, wondering how to best serve the process of change in my small life/world with the little time left to me…When I helped midwife my dying patients, it felt as though I’d made a tacit engagement with mystery. Beyond faith, there is no tangible proof of what came next for my companions’ spirits. I ushered them to the doorway and remained present while they passed through. More than a witness, less than a dance partner…what a midwife is, I expect.
Sometimes they responded like I did, in the car: not yet ready. Like the weather this Christmas: clinging to autumn. Like the institutions, clinging to their power and its threatened transformation. Fear is natural, even, I suppose, a healthy response to the unknown, but I feel it can’t be the last response.
In all the experiences I’ve been graced to share and engage with death, I can only remember one time that a woman resisted her dying all the way through, and it was the hardest, most wretched death I’ve encountered.
Thankfully, most of the spirits I’ve accompanied to death– my loved ones, patients, animal companions, my trees and gardens–eventually, they breathed into acceptance of their dying, even perceptibly entering a deep peace as it came nearer.
I hope I can help midwife the coming changes, in whatever small ways expected of me, and again trust mystery, the pattern of life into death into life, and have faith that spring will bring flowers. I’m grateful for my many wise-women friends; I’m certain they’ll be beside me, in discernment and in bringing new life to birth.
This weekend, the weather turned cold once more.
And sweet snowfall blanketed the earth. Winter is here.
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13 thoughts on “Green Christmas”
I loved how you tied all these themes together, and I am SO glad that you weren’t hurt when the brakes failed…..I can totally understand how you felt, I should have died in a car accident many years ago, it was a very strange story actually….but I was just like you, resisting death and badly shaken afterwards.
I was amazed to see your greenery on Christmas day, and am pleased you now have your normal winter snow! Our weather is just as strange, totally out of kilter, one day it is warm, the next the world is frozen, and friends abroad are reporting strange weather too, it must be climate change, none now know what to expect….
Your story about the lady resisting death gave me goosebumps, how sad, I had a dog that resisted once and it was heartbreaking!
Your pics and thoughts here are beautiful, you have given me much to think about!xxx
Oh, thank you for your visits and friendship, Dina…strange times…glad you’re here to share them. You’re one of my inspirations, a wise woman, indeed, and your work makes such a difference in so many lives!
The car experience was very scary, fast/slow, and could have gone either way. There was nothing I could do to change it, which was the hardest part, and so has given me the most to be with, I suppose. At any rate, I’m glad we’re both here and our angels are active and we’re trying to use our gifts well and in community. 🙂
I am most honoured to be considered one of your inspirations, but certainly don’t feel very wise!!! At all….lol….
Yes, I feel that strange times are upon us to and am glad to share them with you too….how lovely that we got to meet!!!
Yes….it wasn’t our time, but I completely understand how terrifying such near misses are and that feeling of fast/slow and powerlessness…..here’s to our Angels!!!xxxxxxx
Such a thoughtful post, Kitty, as always full of wisdom, questions, and possibilities. We are out of season here but I admit to enjoying every minute spent in the garden, against all odds! Yet I am also aware that the birds who usually live here in this season are nowhere to be found – have they settled further north, seeking cold weather? The tips of daffodils are poking up already, but they wouldn’t have even been planted without the mild weather that let me, burdened by heavy obligations at work, plant amazingly late in the season. So, I can only embrace the oddities of the season, accept the true winter that is coming our way tonight, and dreaming of warmer sunnier days to come while planning the garden by the fireplace 🙂 And, I’m so glad to hear that you survived the driving encounter; it is normal, I think, to grasp at survival and is perhaps an inherent protection from life’s sudden surprises. Have a blessed new year!
Yes! It felt odd but deeply satisfying to have my hands in the moist, fragrant earth, uprooting weeds on Christmas! But I am ready for snow and sitting fireside, too. 🙂 Back to work tomorrow…and–yikes–a HIGH of -2 with wind chills of up to -40 this week. Now that’s just overdoing it! Very grateful for garden catalogues! 🙂 Thank you for your time and, always, wise and empathic responses and insights, Lynn.
BY ALFRED, LORD TENNYSON
The woods decay, the woods decay and fall,
The vapours weep their burthen to the ground,
Man comes and tills the field and lies beneath,
And after many a summer dies the swan.
Me only cruel immortality
Consumes: I wither slowly in thine arms,
Here at the quiet limit of the world,
A white-hair’d shadow roaming like a dream
The ever-silent spaces of the East,
Far-folded mists, and gleaming halls of morn.
Alas! for this gray shadow, once a man—
So glorious in his beauty and thy choice,
Who madest him thy chosen, that he seem’d
To his great heart none other than a God!
I ask’d thee, ‘Give me immortality.’
Then didst thou grant mine asking with a smile,
Like wealthy men, who care not how they give.
But thy strong Hours indignant work’d their wills,
And beat me down and marr’d and wasted me,
And tho’ they could not end me, left me maim’d
To dwell in presence of immortal youth,
Immortal age beside immortal youth,
And all I was, in ashes. Can thy love,
Thy beauty, make amends, tho’ even now,
Close over us, the silver star, thy guide,
Shines in those tremulous eyes that fill with tears
To hear me? Let me go: take back thy gift:
Why should a man desire in any way
To vary from the kindly race of men
Or pass beyond the goal of ordinance
Where all should pause, as is most meet for all?
A soft air fans the cloud apart; there comes
A glimpse of that dark world where I was born.
Once more the old mysterious glimmer steals
From thy pure brows, and from thy shoulders pure,
And bosom beating with a heart renew’d.
Thy cheek begins to redden thro’ the gloom,
Thy sweet eyes brighten slowly close to mine,
Ere yet they blind the stars, and the wild team
Which love thee, yearning for thy yoke, arise,
And shake the darkness from their loosen’d manes,
And beat the twilight into flakes of fire.
Lo! ever thus thou growest beautiful
In silence, then before thine answer given
Departest, and thy tears are on my cheek.
Why wilt thou ever scare me with thy tears,
And make me tremble lest a saying learnt,
In days far-off, on that dark earth, be true?
‘The Gods themselves cannot recall their gifts.’
Ay me! ay me! with what another heart
In days far-off, and with what other eyes
I used to watch—if I be he that watch’d—
The lucid outline forming round thee; saw
The dim curls kindle into sunny rings;
Changed with thy mystic change, and felt my blood
Glow with the glow that slowly crimson’d all
Thy presence and thy portals, while I lay,
Mouth, forehead, eyelids, growing dewy-warm
With kisses balmier than half-opening buds
Of April, and could hear the lips that kiss’d
Whispering I knew not what of wild and sweet,
Like that strange song I heard Apollo sing,
While Ilion like a mist rose into towers.
Yet hold me not for ever in thine East:
How can my nature longer mix with thine?
Coldly thy rosy shadows bathe me, cold
Are all thy lights, and cold my wrinkled feet
Upon thy glimmering thresholds, when the steam
Floats up from those dim fields about the homes
Of happy men that have the power to die,
And grassy barrows of the happier dead.
Release me, and restore me to the ground;
Thou seëst all things, thou wilt see my grave:
Thou wilt renew thy beauty morn by morn;
I earth in earth forget these empty courts,
And thee returning on thy silver wheels.
Well, there is that. 🙂 Tennyson (here, anyway) does reinforce the natural and fluid “correctness” of death, in the rhythm of all life, doesn’t he? Better than aging forever, poor Tithonus. Thanks, but no thanks, Aurora!
Hm, not sure why I’m listed as anonymous, though. ‘Tis Paul.
And now, suddenly, I’m not anonymous….guess I was supposed to fill out the email address thingy first.
Thought it may have been you, Paul…I do love Tennyson and all the poems he wrote after Hallam’s death, as I (almost always) appreciate all art responding to life’s high and low moments…it seems we’re made to translate our lives through our arts, no?
A very moving post. It often seems that what we learn in our heads is not there to help us with those sudden unexpected tests, that grab us without warning. But those tests are learning experiences too… and visit us throughout life. Always a pleasure to hear your thoughts, and to witness your contribution to this world. Wishing you a very beautiful, peaceful and happy year, warm in the love of those who know you.
Yes, I agree, Shimon, life tests our theories about it all the time…keeps us growing, humble and engaged. 🙂 Blessings on your new year as well, my friend, and on all those precious 4-leggeds and 2-leggeds who light your life.