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Posts Tagged ‘winter’

I’m always sad to see the Yule season end. I like the anticipation and the coziness of the season, and while it’s fun to ring in the new year with celebrations and champagne, I always find myself a little let down by the sudden wintry reality that follows. Not just back to work again after a break (which is always too short), or the putting away of warm and cheerful decorations, but the seemingly cold feeling of waiting for spring that follows the celebration of the sun’s return.

There’s quite a lot of waiting in the winter, and it feels strongest to me right around the beginning of January. Our weather is such that we dont have long to wait for spring, but it’s frequently rainy and chilly here right now, even if we do get warm days in between. Though the sun is returning, the light doesn’t seem to change quickly enough. It’s still dark when I leave for work, and almost dark when I get home.

I’m looking forward to driving during the sunrise again, in a month or so, and to the days warming up into spring.

This year, though, I am trying to pace myself and savor this time of year. This time of year is so quiet, and I want to take advantage of that. We know the sun is returning, and the patient waiting offers an extension of the time of reflection that usually follows Samhain. I can make plans for my garden, perusing seed catalogues and diagramming garden beds, but I can also take the time to meditate on the cold (or even IN the cold, for short periods of time).

It’s also a good time to enjoy the quiet in my house after the bustle that defines November and December. The early evenings offer more reading time and time to spend preparing my house for the busier times of year, as well as time for deep reflection and increased devotions.

Instead of always looking ahead, this year I want to try to really dig into this period of stillness before Imbolc and the return of spring in March. I will light candles, burn incense, cook warm and hearty foods, and keep the fire of my hearth bright and welcoming.

Then when spring does come, I’ll be rested and ready for growing things and being outside again.

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I’ll be doing my Yule ritual today – an ADF style ritual honoring Sulis, modified slightly from the ritual found in the Crane Breviary. I’ve been enjoying looking through the rituals there, and this one seemed to fit the kind of ritual I want to have. I need to look more into the Order of the Crane – it seems like a good balance of inner and outer workings, and like it might provide more of a community than the DP is currently. While I appreciate everything that the DP has to offer, I’ve not felt that it’s brought me much into connection with other Druids, and that’s something I’d really like to have. Plus I just think the Crane symbolism is really rather spiffy.

Husband unit and I will be opening our gifts this evening as well, since we’ll be celebrating multiple times. It always seems like we end up with our own celebration on or just before the actual Solstice, and then various family celebrations happen around their holiday of Christmas. Still, multiple chances to give (and get) presents is OK with me!

I’m not really ready for the holiday season to be “over” though, and I intend to keep the greenery out in the house for awhile, even if I take down the tree. Though the light will begin to be stronger again, it’s still going to be winter for awhile, and I really enjoy the look and smell of evergreens. Most of mine this year are in baskets with florist’s foam, so they’re staying healthy and fragrant.

If you’re one of the people in the path of the winter storm, I hope you have a beautiful, snowy Yule and that the blizzard conditions don’t cause you or your loved ones any harm. Here in the swamp, we’re going to have a slightly cooler, very windy day, but no real effects from the storm front. It would be nice to have snow for the Solstice, but that is extremely rare around here (as is snow any other time during the winter). Still, the cooler day will be nice for having a fire in the fireplace, and maybe it’ll feel a little more like winter today.

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We’re having our first actual bout of Winter here in the swamp this week. The front came through late Sunday night/early Monday morning, and it got down close to or just below freezing last night. I’m expecting a freeze warning tonight again. Actual frosts are very rare here, and snow is even more rare, so even the native plants can take damage from a particularly long cold snap.

The sun is bright today, which is part of why it’s cold. The air is drier than usual, so there’s not a cloud cover to keep the warmth up next to the Earth. Later this week, when the usual coastal moisture comes back, it’s going to warm back up.

Dealing with frost down here in Zone 9a is a tricky thing. We have drop cloths and old sheets in a bin in the garage that get dragged out and spread over all the delicate things that live here. I keep a small citrus tree in my yard that’s particularly susceptible to frost, and things like a dieffenbachia (dumbcane), a pencil cactus, and a plumeria have to get moved into the sun porch and sheltered well against cold. This can be challenging, especially because the plumeria is nearly as big as I am.

I also have a large hibiscus – by large I mean it’s taller than the garage doors – that I don’t think I’ll be able to really cover well this year. It didn’t die back last year, so it’s gotten enormous. I really hope it doesn’t end up frostbitten!

We have lots of areas in the yard for small critters to shelter, like our woodpile and in the shrubs next to the house, but I always worry a little about the toads and lizards. We frequently find them trying to stowaway into the house, which is a dangerous place, as I have cats!  This is a good place to live, if you’re a cold blooded animal, but these periodic cold nights have to be tough.

People who live here tend to get grief about not knowing what to do when it’s cold, and to some extent that’s true. Not even the native things that live here are really designed to deal with the cold. I grew up in a northeastern state, where the squirrels are fat and furry and have enormous tails. Squirrels around here are skinny, with skinny tails that you can almost see through. They’re not accustomed to the cold because they really don’t need to be.

Which is why I’m wearing my warm things without shame.

It’s chilly, but it won’t last long.

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I do a lot of work to bring my Druidry into my life in a way that I can be happy with how it’s incorporated but also keep a very low profile. This runs me into trouble occasionally, but most prominently around the holidays.

My family is extremely Christian (they think being non-Christian is grounds for divorce, among other things), and so I have to smile and nod a lot, and let them continue to think what they want about me and what I believe. I need their support due to physical and mental health reasons, and I really value having a close relationship with them, so that arrangement doesn’t bother me most of the time. The good outweighs the discomfort, and it’s usually easy to dodge religious conversations or to talk generically about hope and blessings.

But around the holidays, it gets troublesome. I can sit through a Christmas Eve service without too much fuss (just like I sit through an Easter service every year as well), but it always feels a little hollow. I haven’t been struck down yet, but I am still not really comfortable in church, even if I love the Christmas carols.

I want to celebrate the Winter Solstice, to bring evergreens into my home as a reminder that the world will become green again. To decorate with the symbols of winter and nature. I can put up with Santa and the secular western Christmas holiday, but my family always gives me nativity sets and asks why I don’t have the advent wreath up.

I know that a lot of the symbols of this holiday are cross-cultural or have become secular. Many of the “traditional” Christian symbols, like Christmas trees, are borrowed from earlier Pagan ones and have become acceptable as part of the secular celebration of Christmas. Even if the actual Christmas Tree is a relatively young tradition, bringing evergreens into the house is quite old. Even the celebration of Christmas in December is a bid to appropriate an existing holiday and Christianize it.

Knowing all that, unfortunately, doesn’t help much with the practical applications. I’m expected to send Christmas cards. I use the excuse of not wanting to have to send out two different cards to send a very nature oriented, non-Christian-specific card, but it’s still seen as buying into their religious tradition. In return, I get a mailbox full of Jesus cards that I don’t want to put up on my mantle.

On some level, I appreciate being a closeted Pagan. It stretches my imagination, and I enjoy using symbols and items from Paganism to make the celebration of holidays my own in a way that other people will enjoy without knowing that they’re being Pagan.

I also truly love the decorations and celebrations this time of year. They give me the warm fuzzies, and I love participating in those traditions with my family. I love putting up holly and evergreens, pinecones and red ribbon, cranberries, oranges, and candles. I love having a tree decorated with white lights, red ribbon, birds, animals, and little nature scenes. My family has even bought into it, buying me new “Winter Woodland” ornaments for my tree every year (just as they buy snowmen for my aunt and Santas for my mom and snowflakes for my cousin). I even love a lot of Christmas music, though not the tinned, Christmas-Pop stuff they play in stores on eternal repeat. And cookies are pan-religious, right?

It’s easy to decorate for fall or spring, but for some reason decorating for Yule/Christmas is the one time that I feel conflicted, no matter how much I love and cherish having those decorations up in my house.

Even knowing that Yule/Winter Solstice and Christmas are pretty well intertwined, I still feel a bit like a bad Pagan. There are so many good, non-religious things to celebrate during the “Holidays” (which is one reason I love Thanksgiving so much), so I question why it bothers me so much. I can celebrate rebirth, family, warmth, hope, joy, blessings, and the new year without ascribing to any religion at all. I’m not sure why I still feel isolated by my beliefs in the midst of all the secular good vibes.

Even with a beautifully decorated tree in my living room and a hand-made wreath on my door, it puts a damper on my celebration to feel separated like I do. My Pagan beliefs are sustaining and meaningful, but I’m missing out on the community aspect of celebration. I think I’m just missing feeling unified with my family this time of year. Perhaps I should look into doing Grove work (though I’ll be out of town for the local Grove’s Yule celebration). I like being a solitary, but I also like working in a community, and this time of year I crave that community aspect more than others. (Odd for it also being a very introspective time of year in the Wheel.)

I don’t know that there’s an easy solution to all this. I’m obviously still going to decorate, and still going to celebrate on my own time. I’m still going to make cookies (in the shape of holly leaves and spirals), eat oranges to celebrate the sunshine, hang stockings, light candles, and give gifts.

Maybe I just need to work on accepting where I am, and just let myself love the holidays for what they are.

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Fall is slowly creeping in here, with the leaves on some of the trees turning and falling. Many of the trees here are Live Oaks though, so they’ll keep their leaves until spring, when the new leaves will push the old ones off the trees. Our yard has mainly a southern variety of weeping Ash trees and a Poplar tree (plus palm trees of various types), so we’ll be dealing with fallen leaves for a bit longer. The grass is mostly dormant at this point, so we’re only mowing once every 2-3 weeks. Things are looking pretty dry, so I’m hoping we get some rain soon.

The monarch butterflies are pretty much gone by now as well – they pass through here on their southerly migrations, so we get a good number of them. They’re one of the reasons I really love my butterfly garden in the fall. Sadly my salvias don’t seem to be doing well – I will try giving the garden a good watering, but they just don’t seem to be making it right now. Which is sad, as they were huge and gorgeous.

We also had a cold front this week, so some of the less hardy potted plants are coming inside. We need to build a drape frame for our lime tree as well, since it’s now too big to keep in a pot, and will need to be sheltered if it actually gets cold. Our lows this week are in the lower 40F range, so some of the tropicals definitely need to join the dumcane inside the porch. This will be interesting with the plumeria, which has gotten so large that we’ve put it’s pot on a wheeled platter. I’m not sure it will fit through the porch door, but I guess we’ll find out!

The lizards know where the warms are and have been attempting at cost to life and limb to get inside the house or screen porch. Unfortunately the cats think they’re both fun and tasty, so we’ve found a few corpses and made a few rescues so far. That will likely continue through the winter.

It’s probably time to get the bird feeders up as well. (Or the squirrel feeders, really) There won’t be any more hummingbirds this year for sure; we only saw two all summer, which was sad. Usually there are tons. I wonder if the climate is affecting their migration, or maybe we didn’t have the feeders up soon enough or something. I love having birds in the yard, especially when it’s cold – we’ve had breeding pairs of cardinals and bluejays for a few years now. The wrens usually make a nest in the yard (or in the wreath on my door), but I’ve yet to find a seed they’ll eat. I think they’re more interested in the bugs living in my potted plants.

I’m not planting a winter garden this year, mostly because things were too crazy when I would have needed to get it planted. Instead, we’ll compost the garden plot with leaves and kitchen compost over the winter. It could stand to rest for a little bit anyway, especially since we planted corn this summer. I don’t think I’ll grow corn again, just because it takes up a lot of space for not a lot of produce in the end. Maybe one more try now that I’ve done it before, but I’m not sold on corn as a backyard crop.

The days are approaching their shortest now, and the sun has already set when I get home from work at 5:30. The sun is about 15 minutes shy of rising when I get to work at 6:30am.  Having it be dark when I leave and dark when I get home is hard, but at least I still get some afternoon sun on my commute home.

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