Sunday, December 23, 2007

Making rituals

A sudden blizzard has flown in. Outside my window, the north wind is howling, the maples are creaking ominously, and snow is being blown about as if a swirl of clouds were raging in my backyard rather than the sky.

Yet, while the north wind has been a constant, this morning's sky was a solid gray dullness, a drizzle of rain cast a pall, snowbanks had delved into dirtiness, and the tone of the day outdoors was seriously dark. Nonetheless, I grudgingly went out for my morning walk. Put on my rain hat rather than my toque, my light jacket rather than my purple parka. When I came back I draped everything over the cast iron rads to dry.

Last night we held a Solstice celebration at the Northern Woman's Bookstore. We shared lore about Solstice and the importance of ritual, spent time on blessings and mudras, and enjoyed bits 'n bobs tea and an array of home-baked cake and cookies. Sweeping boughs of pine and cedar graced the air.

One of the blessings we did was to close our eyes and place our hands in the "I offer my life to thee" mudra while listening to a recitation of a Celtic prayer. It was an adaption of one dedicated to Saturday. Called Eternal Life, it resonates with the evergreen boughs of the Solstice season which symbolize the everlasting, immortality.

To all who are down
unable to stand,
we bring the uplifting of Light.

To those depressed
and in the dark
we bring the uplifting of Light.

To those who are weary,
unable to cope,
we bring the uplifting of Light.

To all whose powers
wane and lose hope,
we bring the uplifting of Light.

Bring peace to the troubled,
Grant wholeness and healing.
Come, my lantern, Light of the world
Protect my soul, shine upon us in love.

But it was the Ptarmigan who stole the show. Really, everyone present was smitten by the ptarmigan and the idea of taking ptarmigan steps in the snow.

Deliberately. One determined step at a time. A bird of endurance. A bird known as the expert in conserving energy. That prefers to walk rather than fly, to conserve its energy for what really counts -- like surviving the winter!

The Ptarmigan grows feather-covered feet in winter. It dons white furry boots for its deliberations with snow. Sounds like the source of mukluks, I think!

The Ptarmigan changes colour, adapts to the seasons. Doesn't always use the same strategy. In winter it is white. Of course. In summer, spackled brown and gray. The male and female are gender-benders, i.e. very similar in appearance. Except for mating season when the male grows orange combs for eyebrows!

This photo is not of Ptarmigan steps in the snow; rather, pigeon steps, crow, perhaps squirrel. Ptarmigans are much more north than my home. These steps in the snow are found by the watering hole in the creek under the bridge. A language in snow, if only I could read it.

No comments: