November strips bare the grace of leaves,
exposing limbs hardened for winter’s chill;
then blankets these same with felting snows
to protect the innocence of life.
Whereas November’s skeletons rattle in anticipation of burial, December lies dormant, gathering potential. Like a seed hidden in the recesses of time, the natural rhythms of winter are of rest and renewal. Culturally, though, we have grown to largely ignore the natural cycles that create rhythm in our lives.
In the United States, of all the months, December is perhaps the one most crammed with holiday celebrations, office parties, and stress. One can’t help but think of Solstice, St. Nicholas, Rudolph, Santa Claus, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and Christmas presents bought in crowded stores, plus a plethora of other events and obligations. It would be healthier for all of us and for the planet, too, if we just forgot about all the holidays as reasons to travel, shop and spend money.
So how come December has gotten to be such a month-long Hallmark Celebration? Well, that’s due to a successful marketing campaign. We all know that and around the world, most of us have bought in. Before you think me a spoilsport, throughout the month, let’s examine other perspectives often lost in holiday shuffling and perhaps create for ourselves a simpler, yet satisfying observance of the wintery holiday season without the cost, guilt or frustration and yet can be a sustainable source of fun and sharing.
Native Americans in the not-too-distant past were concerned with simply surviving the cold month of December. Winter Maker Moon, Moon When the Wolves Run Together, Time of Cold Moon, Moon When All Is Gathered In, Heavy Snow Moon, and Ice Lasts All Day Moon were descriptive names for the month among Natives of the northern latitudes. Can you imagine what it was like to spend the winter holed up in a smokey, hide-covered tipi in the midst of the Plains with wolves lurking outside and snow drifting in through the cracks? Woman’s work such as sewing and repairing leather garments, cooking and keeping the children from underfoot was done in dimly lit conditions. Let’s get real. What would it be like having to take a pee during the middle of a stormy night? Life for our original inhabitants was a struggle no matter how much romanticizing we do about it. No one was thinking about a jolly man dressed in a red suit arriving on a sleigh pulled by reindeer. No way! Hungry tribes would have immediately slaughtered the reindeer. I’m not sure what would have happened to Santa or his presents. Okay, I said I wouldn’t be a sourpuss. Think of it as I’m just setting the record straight.
What they did look forward to was the recognition that the longest night would soon give way to longer days. Longer days allowed hunters to spend more time securing meat for their families. Longer days meant that the season of new shoots was in the not-too-distant future. It would be a few months before spring actually broke winter’s hold. Severe blizzards could still ravage the land, people could starve to death or run out of firewood and freeze but everyone knew once the longest night was past, that winter would not last forever. There’s a hopefulness in that.
By making simple observations of the natural cycles, we can begin to open up to appreciating the complexity rather than mundaneness of living. When we give credit to forces beyond mortal man’s ability to manipulate, such as the return of longer days, then we can celebrate wonder and rapture. Simple pleasures become more satisfying.
December is a good time to set the intention and make a shift to observe the simple things which we’ll be doing more of as we journey through the month. See you soon!.