This deviates from the strictly UU perspective I normally write with here and delves more into mystery and the esoteric.
The seasons in Florida, being what they are, have left me feeling somewhat disconnected this past year of living here. Recently it has started to change. For one, it actually is cool out. We are having fall! It is especially cool in the mornings, sometimes down in the upper fifties. While the days still get quite warm, the mornings and evenings being so cool has helped connect me more deeply to the land.
There is a shift that happens within me at a certain moment in fall. In Pagan community, we refer to this moment as the veil thinning -the veil between the living and the dead. Samhain, Day of the Dead, All Soul’s Day, and even Halloween, all center around the mysteries fall ushers in. A time to think about our Beloved dead, the passing of time, the release of old habits, and the things which scare us.
In my house we put together a Samhain altar for our dead and share stories. When we lived in Arkansas we visited the gravesites of our ancestors. We observe trick-or-treating and often around midnight I am doing solo ritual work looking at what I am releasing and what I am calling in for the next year. Alongside honoring the dead, many Pagans view Samhain as a new year; a time to let go that which no longer serves us and call in what we hope to have more of in our lives.
These two seemingly unrelated ways to honor Samhain have been an important part of my spiritual practice for over twenty years. I realize now how connected they really are. Honoring our dead and remembering their lives while also being surrounded by conventional Halloween revelry reminds us that our lives are short, far too short to be lived frozen in fear. So we cull. We burn our undesired habits in the Samhain fire and we begin to visualize what we believe will enrich our lives.
Last night I spent some time working with divination and art as a way of opening to something larger than myself and determining what theme or work lies ahead for me this year. I went to bed with the descant from a favorite chant floating in my head, “hold the vision that’s being born.”
This morning I sat looking through the glass window above my desk into my back yard. There’s a tree with a broken limb, for over a month now, but it still hangs on and is full of bright green leaves. The sky through the trees tops is a startling blue. Green is everywhere. My yard bursts with life as though it doesn’t know the dead are walking among us. Then I realize the scene before me is a rich metaphor for living.
Over the past few years I have cultivated the practice of leaning in and letting life break me wide open and I will continue to do so, but I refuse to die. I refuse not to bloom. I keep my skies blue and look for the spaces of light in small openings of the canopy. As my eyes took in the reality of dead brown leaves amid bright green palmetto and papaya fruit on the tree, I realize there is more here for me than what I’ve previously been willing to open to.
There are more lessons for this year beyond leaning in, breaking open, and holding on to good. This year is about living. These past several years my work has been to let go: break open, cut, and cull, to go back to zero. Even last year’s work with holding on to good, which is in no way finished, was about holding on to something while everything else was cut away and poured out from something broken. Now, holding on to good is about gathering things to me as well. Living life: expressively and radically. Letting myself be seen and, as a dear friend put it to me, “loving myself exquisitely.”