Sunday, December 12, 2010
Ritual of change
Tomorrow is St. Lucia Day, a wonderful celebration in Sweden to honor the light before the dark of winter masks the earth. I've been doing a lot of thinking about ritual, and how many things in the holiday are lacking in ritual, or are masked as ritual.
Genuine rituals are important. Many years ago, I decided I would not get whipped up about the holiday, and if someone didn't partake in my life much, sending them greetings once a year just because they were distantly related, or closely related, was somewhat dishonest. My parents always went overboard with gift giving, but as we aged, I found the gifts became more and more about what they wanted me to be, versus what I was. I always loved sending cards, and still send some but I decided long ago that partaking and sharing love with friends all year was more important, for me. I was not raised a Christian, but I do believe Jesus was wonderful teacher, so a day to celebrate his birth, I think is all very good. But the pressure - usually unspoken - to partake in family gatherings with people you really wouldn't choose as friends [nor they me] - it's become a drain of my energy. I did years as the dutiful daughter, and well, I guess I gave myself permission to be rogue daughter-in-law now.
What it boils down to is that I only have so many more days in my life to create. No, I'm not ill, that I'm aware of. But I could go tomorrow, or in 40 years. Either way, it's a flash. I don't want to be in situations where I feel I'm given no choice but to partake, because I 'should'.
I realized this month I've taken a couple jobs without really thinking about it. I'm so used to being the dutiful daughter, or artist, or seller, that I took jobs that use my creative energy, but I'd rather be using my energy in other projects.
So I decided I want a new ritual for Christmas Eve. This Eve, rather than driving through fog and rain to stand for a few hours and do cocktail talk, I am staying at the farm. I'm going to commune and give blessings to my pastures, especially Muddy Hill, one of my favorite vantage points at the farm. I've written before how that spot lets me think, or cry, or feel hope, and feel like me. That hill lets me see the farm in one giant perspective.
I watched the funeral of Elizabeth Edwards, a beautiful simple service filled with humor, and ritual, I thought about my family's rituals or lack of them. The memorial service itself, of sitting with the deceased body and sharing stories and shedding tears, was not something we did for my father, and I think it was a mistake for the living. He came from a line of agnostic or atheists and it wasn't that I think he wanted anything grand. But there were many people that were sad, upset even, that they didn't get to 'pay their respects'. It was my mother's call, of course, to not have a service, and it was so like her. Instead, we drove his ashes to a cemetery of white tombstones, for war vets. He was placed on a stand while some very sweet, and very old, retired soldiers played the haunting "Taps" song. It lasted about 2 minutes, and we didn't even see the ashes go in the grave. There are very strict rules at vet cemeteries- the graves must be left sparse and uncluttered of stuffed animals, pictures, and tokens. As my mother, brother and his wife got back into the car, I returned to the marble stand where my father's ashes were sitting in a box. I had brought along a feather from Apifera's hens, and I quickly snuck it into the box of ashes.
Rituals let a person partake and share, often in community. But one person's, or family's, ritual might just cause exhaustion to another.