New Year’s Eve Prep

Finding Allies

“We’re on our way to the Art Center to work on stuff for the New Year’s Eve parade. Anybody else want to come?” Charley issued a cheery invitation to anybody in earshot in Gaia Natural Foods, while Ursula gathered up edibles to sustain the group artistic endeavor.

A dread-locked head popped out from behind the produce aisle. “I keep hearing about the parade. What’s the deal?”

“The young people started it ten or so years ago. We rent the community center and hang out with costume trunks and music and potluck goodies. Just before midnight a lot more people turn up and we all head down Main Street with flaming torches, giant puppets, and banners. There are drummers and general shenanigans. This year Ariel’s brass marching band friends from Portland are coming so the music should be particularly fun.”

“I’ve heard about that part. What are you doing at the art center?”

“During this week between Christmas and New Years we take over the large common room at the Art Center and get creative. Some puppets last from year to year but it’s fun to make at least one new big thing. The huge skeleton man and turtle finally got eaten by rats in my daughter’s barn. I don’t know if the guys will want to get down the big bird they hung up at ReBound. But when we left last night it looked like a dragon was beginning to take shape.”

“It’s really fun,” said Ursula coming up. “You never know who or what is going to show up. The young folks have already made one trip to ReBound scavenging for likely materials and will probably make a few more. I’ve got fabric I’ve been collecting plus other odds and ends. I want to make a bunch of banners this year.”

“Maybe I’ll come by. I’m pretty good on the sewing machine. I’ve done a lot of theater work.”
“Perfect,” said Charley. It really is street theater.”

“Is the parade legal?” asked an older man overhearing their conversation.

“The kids always wanted it to stay anarchistic like it was in the beginning,” answered Charley. “But us parent types rented the hall for a staging area the second year and by the third year felt we should honor the City’s request to work on some of the logistics. Small town politics, you know. For one thing, it was making things awkward for our friend, Tad, the police chief. Then the City made us apply for a permit that involved paying 300 bucks for event insurance. We went along with it that year to keep the peace. The next year a group of us identified with it were out of town and the parade happened anyway. The following year we pointed out that it had taken on a life of its own like Times Square and that the City’s insurance covers it just like the 4th of July parade they sanction. They agreed to mellow out about it if we would help with security. So we round up volunteers to wear vests at the intersections. The whole thing only lasts about twenty minutes from start to finish.”

“Who’s we?” asked the man.

“Cedar ReSources  – a citizens group that is working towards sustainability in our area villages. We see the parade as a great community building opportunity. It doesn’t hurt the economics of the holiday week either. Now there are parties and bands at a number of venues and people make reservations at the inns along the street months in advance.”

“Come on by the Art Center to see the process. For sure show up for the fun on the 31st. You could even wear a security vest,” Charley offered.

Ursula reappeared with her basket loaded. “OK. I’ve got cheese and wine and chips. Carrots and cauliflower. Molly is making hummus. Raven promised brownies. That should hold us for the afternoon. I’m figuring we can order some pizzas for whoever is around at supper time.”

“Let’s grab some beer.”

“I hear they’re making animal masks this year like the ones they did for Solstice,” said the young girl behind the counter. “I’ll be there when I’m off work.”

 

 

The Art center was already humming in creative chaos when Charley and Ursula arrived. Beer bottles from the night before and active looking latte cups were scattered amidst piles of fabric and poles, glue guns and scissors. A young girl Ursula didn’t know was making fairy wings with Maddie from Elder House. A couple of sewing machines stood idle at the moment but obviously had been put to good use judging from the clutter around them. Ariel’s cadre of teenagers doing papier mach masks had been joined by Thea. Raven was helping Orca and Summer turn a rainbow colored tent into a dragon’s head. Its tail was a roll of green nylon fabric Cali had contributed from her garage stash.

As Ursula spread out provisions, a group came in the door. “More materials,” said Carlos as he and Marina came gaily through the door. “Buckets for drums. We want lots this year. And look at this cool wire mesh. It’s gotta be good for something.”

“Here’s some more sparkly fabric for you fairies,” offered Marina. “It came in just as we got there. How ‘bout these placemats for the dragon’s eyes?”

“Phew!” said Ursula quietly to Charley. “Looks like we’re on a roll here. The last couple of years have been kinda flat. The news of the brass band coming helps.”

“It doesn’t hurt to have Marina and Arlo around, plus Ariel’s new energy. The flock of birds seems to have landed – at least for the moment. Plus Thea and Mariposa for their first New Year’s. Looks like our Intention juju is still working. There’s Finch Terranova too.“

“Such a dance we all do, keeping the energy moving,” Ursula said, moving to give Charley a hug.

“It’s worth it,” he smiled down at her and kissing her lightly.

“It is indeed. Warms my heart, it does. As always.”

“Molly said to tell you that she and Gabe will be down after ReBound closes,” Carlos relayed to Ursula.

“Ursula, did you bring your animal picture books?” called out Ariel.

“Yes, and the Ted Andrews book on animal symbolism in case some of you want to look things up.”

“Can you tell us more about Power animals?” Thea asked.

“I like the way your mask is taking shape. That’s a good way to bond with your Cougar another degree, isn’t it? And you’ll have fun playing with it. Did you tell them about how you got your new friend?’

“Yes, but not everyone can do that formal shamanic process right now. Finch and Zydeco are having trouble choosing what to make.”

“Owen would probably do an emergency session,” Ursula laughed, “but short of that, I’d suggest thinking about some animal you love. Just let one come into your mind. Do you ever dream of animals? Especially if you have more than once.

“ I’ve been dreaming about Elk lot,” said Zydeco.

“There you go. I’d say that is an important messenger for you to explore.”

“But I’m kind of afraid of them when they turn up around ReBound.”

“All the better,” responded Ursula. “Dig into that. As Starhawk says, ‘Where there’s fear, there’s power.”

“Who did you cuddle with as a child?” Ursula continued turning to the others.  “Did you have an imaginary animal friend? It’s really about listening to a call…. Even just opening one of these books at random and seeing if the creature pictured resonates.”

“I had a raccoon friend,” said a skinny teen with multi-colored hair.

Ursula thought she might be the daughter of the woman who worked at the Locovore Garden but she couldn’t remember her name. Sierra? Cheyenne? “That would be a great connection for you.”

“Can you have more than one power animal?“

“Absolutely. I have several as does everyone I know. Sometimes you’ll have a main one for a time. A particular part of your life or a season. And it’s not just animals, remember. It can be trees, plants, even the Earth herself. Stars, gods, goddesses, angels. Anything that feels like a guide or an ally to you. A helper. Something who’s qualities you would like to share or learn from.”

“Awk Awk,” Raven laughed as he flew past with a handful of potato chips.

“Raven and I identified so much with our first animals that we changed our names to join them. He always has been a trickster sort and loves sparkly things.”

“And you are such a Mother Bear person.”

Finch picked up one of the books on the table and started leafing through it with a thoughtful air.

Mother Daughter Ritual 3

“Let’s line up in two rows facing each other,” said Pia, shifting into the process phase of the ritual. “Daughters on one side, mothers on the other. Each can call out fears and joys about separations past and future, as well as about the losses of the season.”

Celeste took a place as one of the daughters and Ursula went to the mothers’ side. June situated herself at the North end of the “reel,” feeling somehow like neither mother nor daughter.

Rhea spoke first. “I hate to think of the fall coming on with winter not far behind. We’ll still have a good few weeks, but I dread the rain. Each year I say I’m going back South for the winter, but somehow I never do.”

The mother of a teen spoke next, “I’m afraid for what my daughter will encounter in the big wide world. Her growing up has gone so quickly. Will she get lost in the Underworld?”

A heart-wrenching moan rose from Ursula’s lips, immediately taken up by everyone.

“I so desperately needed to get away from my mother,” called out Cindy from the daughter side. “With my excellent education, she expected me to be successful in a way most in her generation of Japanese immigrants were not able to be. I was sorry to disappoint her but….” Her voice trailed off.

All moaned again. The energy was building. Celeste spoke next, “I am so not what my mother wanted. Coming out as a Lesbian, especially when I did so, was a kind of underworld to my mother. And June, despite her summery name, seemed to her to be a dark sort of lover.”

“Sweethearts, I know you had to leave home,” said a woman whose daughters were far afield, “to break away from the hearth into the wider world. I’m proud of what you’re doing, but the nest feels so empty with you gone.”

Ursula felt it was time to speak her feelings, “I keep getting that we are meant to be together in tribe, to carry on the traditions we’ve developed over thirty plus years. We need the generation we have borne to help bring in the new world here in our own community. To put to use the training we gave them. I too am proud of what they do elsewhere but I want them around me. Though not in my house anymore, mind you.” Everyone laughed.

June spoke up from her position as a neutral sage, “I heard an expression once, ‘There are only two lasting bequests we can give our children. One is Roots, the other Wings.’”

“I have that quote up on my wall,” said Ursula. “But it isn’t any help when I let go into this visceral place of longing….” Her voice trailed off.

Molly, still brimming with feelings from the drive up, knew she needed to speak them out loud into the circle. “I have no daughter. I am the last of my matriarchal line. Belly button to belly button down through the ages, and none now to bear another.” Tears trickled down her face soon matched by most in the group. A tissue box was passed around and there was a little time of silence punctuated by sniffles. Everyone’s sadness and loss was potent sitting there in the center as if in a cauldron, acknowledged and wept for by the circle of women.

Soon Pia, tuned into the slow down of people speaking, took up her flute, thinking to pipe the daughters off. But before she could play a note, one of the mothers jumped suddenly to the Daughter side. “I am a daughter too. I know I hurt my Mom and my Dad choosing to live so far away. But this garden is where I’ve needed to grow. I just wish we lived in England so we could be on opposite coasts and not be so far apart.”

Cali changed position as well to the Mother side next to Ursula, taking her hand. “I dread Menolly moving on – or losing her in some way…. I have had to learn to relax about the future, thanks to my wise mother’s counsel.” She smiled at Ursula.

“I gave up a daughter for adoption many years ago,” whispered Cindy. “She is gone and I don’t know where. I need to mourn that daughter I will probably never see. She didn’t go of her own accord. But I was not able to care for her at the time…. My mother never knew…. I miss her.”

With that, the sluice gates opened and a flood of tears and wailing ensued. There are no words to adequately describe that ancient, primordial keening. Moaning, shrieking even, the sounds of desolation rose and fell. Each set the others off, their personal grief cycling empathetically around and through the circle, binding them into the grief of the ages.

When in the midst of such feeling and sound, it seems like it will never end, and certainly time stands still for a bit.  Yet eventually, wails turn to moans and moans to sniffles. Soon deep breaths and a cleaned out sort of calmness.

June spoke into that peaceful, purged place, suggesting they join hands in circle, mothers and daughters all. “In some ancient versions the two women are referred to simply as the Demeters or even just the Goddesses. We have the universal Mother to rely on and come back to wherever we are, near to or far from our own birth mothers or adoptive ones.”

Pia took up the bowl of pomegranate seeds and after holding it aloft, passed it around. “Take these that they may lead you in and out of the dark places as you will. Pomegranates symbolize rebirth.” Some popped the seeds in their mouths and some smeared them on their foreheads, while Pia improvised a light air on the flute. Soon with giggles, they were all smeared with the bright red juice of the Goddess, bound both to the dark and the light aspects of the worlds.

Suddenly inspired as the sweet silliness and release settled down Ursula leapt up and put on a CD. Over and over, a chant flowed into them, “Returning…. returning, returning, returning to the Mother of us all….” The group of women sank another degree deeper into a trance state with their feelings stirring deeply inside until Ursula rose again, saying to the group, “This is Jennifer Berezan’s Returning. It is too long to play all of right now, but I often use it to meditate to, sometimes to dance quietly or do yoga by myself.”

As Ursula came back into the circle Molly said, “Let us all take the Mother deep into our hearts and use this season to explore the shadow side – the back side of the moon and the richness of composting leaves, the dark lover, in whatever form he or she presents himself or herself.”

“May we always remember that there are different sides to every story and many ways to tell a tale, including new ones that we can foster.”

“Ho!” said several people in unison and soon, standing to face each direction in turn, different voices called, “Thank you to the East for bringing us such powerful inspiration in the form of our elders. Thank you to the South for the passion of our feelings. Thank you to the west for our tears and strong intuitions. Thank you to the North for those stories that still ring with truths after so many years.”

Pia brought things to a close, “The Circle is open but unbroken,” and they all joined in. “Merry meet and merry part and merry meet again!”

“Hoh!”  The multi-voiced cry went winging its way into the night.

 

“Hoh!” echoed the trees and rocks and ocean around them.

“Hoh!” croaked Raven, ancient keeper of ceremonial magic. “I’ll do what I can to make sure this healing sticks and grows in these women.”

“Do they hear us at all?” asked a passing elk cow of the surrounding trees.

“They can’t hear our voices yet but they know in their hearts that we are present and that we thank them,” answered the Mountain in her feminine voice.

“And a few of them heard whispers in their minds,” added Sitka.