Waking Up, Coughing

I’ve got the Awfuls. It isn’t a cold, it’s a sore throat and maybe bronchitis. The lady at the clinic said it’s viral so antibiotics won’t help. She’s sure it isn’t pneumonia, which is a very good thing. She prescribed sugar-free popsicles and ice cream. They do help temporarily, and so do ice packs on my chest. But I wake up in the night coughing instead of breathing.

So at 3 AM, well after the eclipse, when I wakened trying to turn my lungs inside out, my first thought was what am I doing wrong to catch this? What did I do wrong to make myself so vulnerable? The question immediately billowed out much larger — Where did I go wrong in my life that bought me to this moment? Eclipses seem present questions like that.

From deep in my still half-dreaming mind, the answer immediately came: nothing! This was so shocking that I froze halfway out of bed and nearly fell over.

Nothing? I thought. How could the answer to such a huge question be — nothing at all? I’d thought I’d need a lot of soul searching and would wind up with a long list of answers — mistakes, misbehaviors, wrong decisions, weaknesses, maybe even wickedness. But how could it possibly be nothing? Nothing at all?

I got back into my bed and tried to think about it, but kept slamming into the same brick wall — nothing. Nothing at all. Period.

Finally my mind stopped spinning in the same tight circle enough to let another thought in. It kinda tiptoed as if afraid to startle me again. “What’s the matter with what and where you are?”

“I’m sick and I feel horrible.”

“So? It happens to everyone.”

“But, if we did everything right — right thoughts, right action, right contemplation, and all the rest — surely our bodies wouldn’t do things like this.”

“Yes, they would. You’re not immortal, you know.”

“Of course I know that!”

“Let’s suppose you’re here to learn things. What teaches you the most — the things that go ‘right’ or the things that go ‘wrong’?”

I don’t much like the obvious answer to that. But I also realize that regarding myself as a failure when something goes wrong may just be getting in my way of learning what O Universe is trying to teach me. And, no, I’m not anywhere near ultimately understanding that. But I’m again reminded that all of the ‘negative’ things we know we don’t want to do to others, are not helpful when we do them to ourselves. Peace and love travel in circles — it’s better not to stop them anywhere.

“O, and by the way, you could be taking a bit better care of yourself. It probably wouldn’t have stopped you from getting this — it’s quite a nasty virus. Think about what you’d do differently for someone else and try doing for yourself. “

Signs, Storm Winds, Omens, & Birthdays

16 October 1987
On that night, twenty-nine years ago, there was a storm where I lived on a hill outside of Bath in England. It was a terrible, unpredicted storm — the worst at that time of year in 300 years — and the screaming wind woke me just after midnight. When I got up to look out of my small window at the thrashing trees, the window frame was yanked from my hand and slammed it against the stone wall. Luckily, the leaded glass was old and strong and wise to the ways of the wind. It didn’t break.

I looked at a clock: 12:01 AM. It was my 50th birthday. Poking my head out to feel the wind, I calmly said aloud, without the thought going through my brain first, “The winds of change are blowing tonight.”

It was a bit of a struggle to close the window, but then I slept soundly until sunrise, which doesn’t come early in mid-October. Upon awakening, I remembered the storm and looked out again. The autumn leaves were all stripped away, piled in drifts against old walls, and tree debris was everywhere. And I remembered — the winds of change had blown. Everything felt different, as it does after an ordinary storm, but even more so. The air had the sparkle of autumn, clear and bright, scoured clean by untimely wild wintry winds.

And yes, that was a year of great change for me. I moved — not far, just to a cottage nearby. I raised a small standing stone, planted many flowers, covered a lot of the roof with old-fashioned pink climbing roses, found a wild spring under my kitchen floor and persuaded it to move just outside, dug a place for it to make a tiny pond with water lilies, acquired a crafty cat (Samantha, the wisest healer I’ve every known), fell in love unwisely, and went home to Scotland on a holiday accompanied by the cat. (I was born in Oklahoma, grew up there and in Kansas and mostly in California, lived in Norway, moved to Scotland, went back to California, then moved to England where all of this took place — but Home was always Scotland.) It was a busy and life-changing year.

15 October 2016
A lot of things have happened in the twenty-nine years since that storm, and now I’m living in the forest near Port Townsend, Washington. It’s my birthday evening again, and a great storm is predicted. The wind is rising.

16 October 2016
Just as I wrote the above, the electricity went off. Very dramatic. It was 10:01 PM. The most sensible thing seemed to be to sleep, so I did — until the lights came back on — we’d only caught the northern edge of the storm. All of the cats jumped up on the bed, and Gabby Su firmly said, “The lights are on. Isn’t it time for breakfast? Aren’t you going to feed us naooow?”

They know perfectly well that breakfast is at nine, and the clocks in their stomachs are quite accurate. They were probably just hoping to catch me sleepy and off-guard and trick me out of an extra meal. I looked at the clock — 12:20 AM — and said to the cats, “It’s my birthday, you know.” I laid back down, intending to sleep, but I was restless.

So I went outside to look up and around. The wind had died, and I could see the stars in the clearing sky between the quiet trees. I wondered if there would be 79 stars if I counted, but really that was silly — of course there would be 79 — and more! My years are nothing compared to the stars in the sky. But as I stared up at the stars, I heard a quiet voice saying, “The storm is over. The light is back.”

What If the Universe Is Shaped Like a Cow?

cow-universe500
This may not make
a lot of sense
but I was sitting here thinking
about life, death, and the
eternal verities…
and the thought came dancing in,
“What if the universe
is shaped like a cow?”
And I thought about astrophysics
and hypotheses piled on top
of knackerty knotions
all sparkling and bright —
except when they are black holes.

I thought about people
being born and then dying —
the ultimate in absurdity.

What if the universe
is shaped like a pig
and in its heart of hearts
it says, “Oink!”
Or shaped like a peacock
that screams Skreeeee!”
and has eyes in his tail
made of ring galaxies?

Would it make any difference
to you or to me?
Well, it might make us laugh
more often.
Or take ourselves less seriously.
Or turn to the person beside us
and say, “It’s all so absurd
that I can’t help
but love you.”

© 2016 by Jessica Macbeth. All rights reserved.

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Midsummer Journey 2016

These are my notes from doing the Midsummer Meditation yesterday. The card I drew before starting the journey is:

The Faery Who Was Kissed by the Pixies, Morna, who says, “The answer to your question is, put simply, love — love given with wisdom and compassion, love without selfishness or possessiveness.”

Morna tells us that giving and receiving love and intimacy in a wide variety of relationships is important at this time. She gives you notice that this is a time to open and heal your heart.

Different aspects of life may well be flowing happily together, healing separations and hurts from the past. Bonding may take place and deep feelings emerge. Changes for the better may occur in all aspects of life, but especially in relationships which are deepening and becoming richer.

You are experiencing love therapy for your heart.

Faery blessings on the loving!

I am right here, sitting at home. When I tried to “go” to the Otherworld, the guardian informed me that this is the Otherworld. Everywhere is the Otherworld — nowhere is left out. Not everywhere is Earth, not everywhere is my house, but everywhere is Otherword if I just let myself be Awake and Aware.

I knew this, but I’d forgotten. I’m glad to be reminded. So I’ll sit right here with my cats, knowing that we are all in the Otherworld, and sensing it’s magic around me. As soon as I remembered that Marzipan came, gave me a kitty kiss, and laid down to be my guide. She is purring. Okay.

The God and Goddess want me to practice loving — to do it, feel it, dream it, learn it. It’s very important for me to be learning love just now — love for everyone, everything, including myself. Love is what keeps us alive — and I need to stay alive a lot longer to get the things done that are mine to do.

They have handed me a list: write books (especially Marzipan’s and Gran’ma’s Oracle and the Green Woman’s Book of Healing — maybe others too, they say, but those for starters), do healing (myself, family, everyone I meet to whatever degree is acceptable), and learn to dance more, play more, create more, plant more, breathe more.

I can see why they think I need to practice love in order to live longer if they want me to do all that! There are five books planned just for Marzipan alone!

I’ve been working on this, realizing that it was timely, and I do feel ready to agree to do it. I can do it much better now than in the past. Having my sisters here helped me a lot about that. “Love is patient and kind.” Easier said than done, but all the same, doable.

I hold out my hands with my eyes shut. They put something in my hands — very light, very small. It feels fragile and feathery. It’s a baby wren. No, it’s three baby wrens. They are tiny! They eat, the god tells me, bugs and love. They will help me remember to practice. Goddess says they are also very charming and enchanting and will improve my magic. (O, punny!)

Marzipan says wistfully that she will look after the birds for me, if I like. I agree that we can share them. She takes them one by one off to her “safe place” (her enclosed bed where she doesn’t allow the other cats) and purrs them to sleep. These wrenlings may grow up very confused but well loved.

I am so grateful…. The God and Goddess ask me to draw another card from Gran’ma’s Oracle. I do, and it says:

What to do? Which way to go?

“Weeeelllll, it all depends,” says the Really Good Faery. “To decide your course, ask yourself, please, is this is going to do any unnecessary harm to other people or any harm to you? Be careful – that isn’t a simple question.

“But, If no harm, then why not go ahead with what you want?”

She would like you to remember that being really good does not always mean keeping everyone else happy to your own disadvantage. There is a difference between what people want from you and what they need from you. To be really good, it is important to take care of the needs, when you can do so without harm to yourself, but their wishes are not your responsibility at all — although you may like to fulfil them for the fun of it for you both, just for love, not for need.

Faery blessings on the giving, the giver, and the receiver!

The God and Goddess look at each other and nod. I guess that’s okay then. I probably needed to be reminded of that too.

© Copyright 2016 by Jessica Macbeth. All rights reserved

That Does It!

God/dess was quietly sipping Hir chamomile tea and thinking S/He would like to dream another new world, a better world. S/He liked to challenge Hirself to make each world better than the one before. That was what S/He did to comfort Hirself when things got difficult. It had been another rough week. It was, of course, the Earthlings still at it.

It seemed such a shame. They made so many sweet babies (too many really), but things just kept getting worse there. You had to give them credit — wrecking the climate worldwide while simultaneously making global war based purely on bigotry and greed had taken a lot of ingenuity. But you had to deduct all those points and more because they had actually done exactly that.

God/dess knew that poor Earthmother was doing the best she could, but everyone was realizing that something had gone seriously amiss there. Giving them total freedom to develop had seemed like a good idea — after all, it had worked well in so many other worlds. Didn’t they realize that they needed to fix things for themselves? That freedom included responsibility for themselves?

Just then the computer alarm went off — again. Prayers were flooding in at an unprecedented rate. S/He shifted Hir focus of awareness and found the office and courtyard outside full of doves, with an occasional cuckoo scattered among them. S/He held out a finger to the closest bird and it hopped on. Fluttering, it gasped out, “Florida, nightclub, 50 plus shot dead, more inj—” and fainted dead away.

“I’m on it,” S/He whispered grimly. Thousands, possibly millions of birds immediately disappeared, their message delivered. There were still thousands more. Possibly millions. Each one carried a message of unnecessary death and sorrow. S/He took a message from one of the cuckoos. “Please, we need a complete reset. This is just getting worse.” God/dess almost smiled. Trust a pagan to say “please”. They did like to keep up the old traditions — when they remembered them.

S/He wiped a tear from Hir eye.

That was it. No more.

The keyboard clicked >Earth>Humans>…. Hmmm. S/He thought about it for a full millisecond in all dimensions simultaneously, flipping through the possibilities far faster than light could move. DNA? No… it was so flawed — complexity upon complexity. Healers? Too few. Purge guns from the world? That might help temporarily, but not enough. There were so many parts of this, but it boiled down to a fundamental double-sided flaw in so very many humans — believing that they mattered more than other people and thinking that it was their right to do whatever they wanted to others. No empathy; no compassion, no true feeling for the community of all earth.

A few more keys clicked. The big green key went down and stayed there. Throughout the multiverse, the Powers converged on Earth. Within three milliseconds, they had checked all life forms and deleted those lacking empathy or compassion. God/dess was pleased to note that the population problem was immediately eliminated. But there needed to be healing as well. This would require finesse…

As dawn rolled around the planet, people woke and were astonished to find the world so still, rather like that silence that falls with the snow. Only this stillness had a crystalline quality as if everything were waiting to burst into song. And there was a subliminal sound of something — of comfort, of joy, of loving — a subdued and mellow rumble and roar.

Nearly everywhere there were people missing. The U.S. Congress, the various Houses of Parliament all over the world, and many other governing bodies and bureaucracies were decimated. Some were empty but for the tea ladies and floor sweepers. Rulers — kings, dictators, generalissimos — had all vanished. Armed forces were left almost without officers and some of their men had vanished — and those who were left were happily using the bombers to dump explosives into volcanoes and cheering at the fireworks.

Some pulpits were empty. God/dess hesitated a moment here. Grinning, S/He set up a subroutine that would instantly stamp the word LIAR in flashing florescent letters on the forehead of anyone misusing Hir Word out of insanity or for personal power. S/He thought of a certain comb-over and Hir grin grew wider.

The presses of the big newspapers were nearly silent. Among the smaller news distributors, some were buzzing busily and in others the computers and presses had melted into a stinking, smoking heap of slag. In many businesses, some offices were empty, especially the bigger and more luxurious ones on the higher floors. Wall Street and other stock exchanges were less populated than the moon. Banks… well, we don’t want to even think about the bigger banks. No, not at all. It was that way everywhere — the people who cared about others survived, even the ones who needed a lot of improvement and had foolishly followed false “leaders”.

But…

In the place of each and every missing person, there was a small ginger and cream cat. Fluffy. With big eyes and very endearing ways. And the tiny cats purred. Everywhere. Their purr was bigger than they were — that was the rumble heard around the world. And the purr made all hearts beat together — that was the soft roar in everyone’s ears.

infant Marzipan

God/dess watched. And purred. If this didn’t work, they weren’t worth saving.

People just stood around, blissfully smiling at the sky, at the trees, at each other. Smiling. It would be hours before they realized that they wanted breakfast. And they wanted breakfast together.

© Copyright 2016 by Jessica Macbeth. All rights reserved.

Writing & Other Simple Things

At the end of 2013, I did an inner journey for Yule. In it I really needed to take a look at some things from a different angle — with the help of the fae and Gran’ma Maple.

Some of what I wrote then was: Under my feet the path feels rough, irregular — not a well-worn path, but one that is not often used or has fallen into disuse. I have an impulse to stop and clear some of the clutter — the slippery leaves, the tumbled stones — and to rake it smooth. It will be much more use in the future if I take care of it now. Sometimes these impulses are just distractions but this one feels valid and a good beginning, so I spend a bit of time tending the path itself. There’s no point in having things be more difficult than they need to be.

The path winds between the great trees of an ancient forest, and I’m surprised to notice that clearing a bit of the path affects the whole — the clearness spreads so the entire way is easier to walk. That was easier than expected — sometimes intention is almost all we need. Intention followed by just enough action to fulfill it.

The now-smooth path leads me to a natural clearing in the forest. In the center, there is one ancient maple tree. I recognize her from my worldly life — Gran’ma Maple. How lovely! I lean against her trunk, comforted by her presence. I’m surprised by the amount of tension that drains out of me as I lean against her. And I suddenly realize that one of the things I need to release is the underlying tension caused by feeling that I have to do everything for myself. I don’t. I have help. Why do I feel that I must do “it” all by myself? And can I let that old habit go?

Intention and action… I have the intention, clarity is needed on the action. But first, I want to know more about what I need to release, and I ask Gran’ma Maple what else I need to do. I feel the movement of her silent chuckle. “You don’t think that is enough for now? You think that breaking a life-long pattern and replacing it with a healthy attitude is easy? You don’t think that way for other people — why do you not be as gentle with yourself as you are with them?”

I think about the big difference I felt when I let go of that tension and wonder how much of my energy usually goes into maintaining that “I can do it myself” attitude and self image — not into actually doing things but just into believing my old lie to myself? And then the doing things is even harder sometimes. But doing things for myself when I can is appropriate, while telling myself that I can do everything for myself is not only unnecessary and untrue, but apparently is stressful in many ways.

I get that. Now… I ask Gran’ma Maple about right action. And again, that silent chuckle happens with a rustling of leaves. “Dear! By now you surely have all the tools you need, and if you don’t, you’re perfectly capable of inventing them as the need arises. Blessings on the path!”

Here I am two and a half years later, approaching Midsummer and feeling overwhelmed by all the thing I want to do. I recognize the feeling and know I’ve been here before, but still haven’t quite let go of creating so very much to do and worrying about how little time there is to do it in even if I live to be a hundred years old. I am much better at letting people help me. Not perfect — I still feel guilty and “lazy” when I ask for help. (It would be so much easier if people could magically know what I need and, if they feel like it, just do it, and then I could simply say “Thank you!” but I do realize that this would still give me that uncomfortable feeling of not doing everything for myself.) Lesson not learned! So once more I decide to stop trying to figure this out in my head and see what my heart and soul have to say on an inner journey.

I bow to the Lady and Lord and ask for their guidance (that’s easy — I have gotten some of this asking business right!) and I light the candle symbolizing their presence. I ask them, “What do I need to do at this time to prevent or cope with my tendency to put myself into overwhelm?”

First, I draw a card from the Faeries’ Oracle to give myself a starting place. The card I get is …

She of the Cruach, the Great Yin polarity of the Universe is the many-named Mother of all. She is nurturer and protectress, and in her hands we are safe, secure, and grounded.

This gives us a secure base to work from so that we in turn may offer her nurturing, patience, and creativity to others through our own attitudes and actions.

It is very important for you to focus on that at this time.

Remember to balance that nurturing with the strength of He of the Fiery Sword and to channel their energy instead of using your own personal energy.

Faery blessings on the being!

Well, DOH!

What I love about asking questions of the fae is that they often fairly clout me over the head with the answer!

Of course I need to ask and allow them to energize these projects instead of Trying To Do It All Myself! It isn’t only humans who are willing to help. I could be channeling the energy of God/dess for the things I’m doing. This would be entirely appropriate as these things are my attempts to work in their service!

I know how to do this — it is just like healing. Each time I start to do the work, I can begin by earthing, centering, allowing the energy to flow freely into the writing. While working, I simply need to continue to stay earthed in their hands, their energy — and not to fall out of it into worrying or hurrying or criticizing myself. And when I find myself falling out of the flow and pushing myself, I can simply stop and rest or stop and reground as appropriate. I can even ask them to nudge me when it’s time to stop for a break — another thing I’m not good at remembering yet.

This is so obvious. I’d feel silly if I didn’t already know how silly I am. I’ve only been doing healing most of my life. This uses the same principles exactly. Now one more card, in case they have anything to add.

From Gran’ma’s Faery Wisdom and Gnomic Utterances: the Oracle:

The Unconditional Elf is one of Santa’s Special Task Force elves. This is the one that makes gifts for people whether they deserve them or not. He also delivers them out of season, so they might happen at any time at all. These gifts are not lumps of coal, unless the people are very, very cold and have empty fireplaces.

The only question about the Unconditional Elf is: is he giving you an unconditional gift or wanting you to help him give one to someone else? Or both? Hmm? What do you think?

There are many Unconditional Elves, and this one is named Fred. “Fred” means “peace”.

Faery blessings on those who give and those who receive! May they often be one and the same!

Quite likely the answer to the question above about giving or receiving’ is simply ‘giving and receiving’. I’m receiving to give, and giving to receive. Marzipan’s Adventures, Gran’ma’s Faery Wisdom & Gnomic Utterances, this blog, the web pages, the prospective e-books are all just energy flowing both ways at the same time.

Filled with enthusiasm (but knowing it is well past bedtime), I bow again to God/dess and thank them for their helpful insights. The candle is blown out with gratitude, releasing the energy to work in O Universe, including me, and I saunter gently off to bed, hoping this will help you, just as it is helping me. Good dreams!

P.S. I was so excited about this that I woke up before 6 AM (after going to sleep just past 2 AM) and I thought, “I’ve got to try it!” And what happened? Nada. Zilch. Nothing. Would you believe that it took two hours of frustration to realize that it was working — just as I’d asked. I was being given first a gentle and then a strong nudge that it was time for something else — time to rest, time to sleep, time to dream. That’s the necessary other side of Getting It Done. Sheesh. Am I slow or what? Yes, I’m slow. I really am. But they are patient and will try to help me, even at my most daft. I’m so grateful.

© Copyright 2016 by Jessica Macbeth. All rights reserved.

Creation & Gratitude

The Universe is trying to spiral up and out. Light wishes to expand. It’s what light does. It shines. It spreads. It moves.

The Fae tell me it is important to say ‘thank you’.

When and why did saying ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ go out of fashion? I notice on the internet, especially Facebook, that people who want to share something someone else has posted like to say that they are ‘stealing’ it — and yet in most cases it was put there to be shared. So what is the big difficulty in using words like ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ and ‘sharing’ that is so hard that people would rather say they are ‘stealing’ something?

Sometimes others say that they are not going to ‘beg’ for something, meaning that they are not going to say ‘please’. When and why did a small courtesy become a humiliation in their minds?  When did snatching something away from someone become a better thing than saying, ‘May I please have…?’

When I ask people about this, they laugh and say, “I want to be a pirate.” Oh. Or, “I think it’s cute.” Really? (Another of the things the Fae like to say is, “You become what you pretend to be.” But we [perhaps] will talk about that some other time.)

Yet… the Fae keep telling me that saying ‘thank you’ is very important. It gives energy back, keeps that energy from stagnating, dying. To keep it alive, keep it moving. If we say ‘thank you’ and ‘you’re welcome’ appropriately, we keep circulating that kind of energy. We channel energy into words and actions, and if that energy is “plus” (charged), it is re-energized and becomes stronger in each of us. Each time we stop, everyone is drained a bit. People who want to grab it all and hold on are just holding onto something that is dying. The only way to keep it charged, to keep ourselves full and overflowing is to keep passing it on.

Now, every healer knows that when you channel energy it fills you as well as filling the person you’re trying to channel it to — unless, of course, you’re being silly and using your own energy for the healing (more about that some other time). There is a lot of energy in O Universe — more than we can imagine, more than we can use in a sesquillion lifetimes. And, if we handle it right, the energy we use becomes stronger — and it circulates.

So I have to ask myself what am I doing to put energy back into the circuit of kindness? Of courtesy? Of healing? Of compassion? The energy that propels the universe — look at a galaxy — it moves. And all the galaxies together move. They comprise the universe — and all the universes together are the multiverse, which (you guessed it) moves.  We are always doing something. Even doing “nothing” is letting the energy become stagnant, leak out. What puts the “charge” or “plus” or “energy” into the system? What keeps it all from running down? What kind of energy are we moving, you and I?

Shall I tell you what the Fae say? They say that the way we add to the creative, healing, compassionate, joyful energy in the universe is by feeling joy or gratitude or kindness. Can you believe that it’s that simple? Every time you generate a truly good feeling in yourself it puts a stronger positive spin on the energy of the universe. It adds that spin to the non-local consciousness of O Universe. It changes the Multiverse. Every single honest smile changes the Multiverse.

Thank you for your help!

p.s. I just looked up at Marzipan. She smiles. Partly, it’s the markings on her face that give her a smiling look. But it’s also the slight pucker of her mouth that pulls her whiskers forward in true cat’s smile. It’s the way her ears perk up, listening for a friendly word, and her head tilts slightly as she gives that cat’s slow blink of affection as she sits erect, paws neatly together, attentive, waiting for a loving response. Utterly charming. You really can’t not smile back. And the Multiverse grows.

New Years Past

Okay, a New Year’s Eve story from several years ago. Don’t know why I haven’t told it before, but I haven’t. It’s kind of long for the internet.

A few years back, I was living in a very poor neighborhood — not surprising as I was then very poor and ill myself. There were so many impoverished people around me — some because they were old and not well provided for, some because they were too mentally or physically disabled to work, and a few (very few) because “poor” was simply their lifestyle and they didn’t have any idea how not to be.

It was a bitterly cold night. There had been quite a bit of snow, a brief thaw, and now there was a mixture of slick ice, rough re-frozen lumps of snow here and there, and the freezing cold of the air. It wasn’t late — maybe 7 pm — and I’d suddenly realized that all the shops would be closed on the morrow and I was out of cat food — not mention various important bits of human food. Poor, but I had enough to get cat food and a bit of people food.

So, I went out to the car in a hurry, warmed it up a little, started carefully for the street, moving very slowly as I backed out of my parking space and turned toward the road — slowly, slowly through the treacherous ice. Almost immediately she slid on a large lump of ice in the parking lot and started moving slowly but stubbornly sideways.

Dear heavy old Volvo — there was no stopping her once gravity took hold. She slid toward the ditch between street and house and started inexorably down toward the bottom four feet away, nose-first. I slammed the brakes on hard — unwise tactics on ice, but there was nothing to lose at that point. She stopped halfway into the ditch, badly tilted, and with the front wheels in the cold, thin air of open space. The car frame under me resting on the ground, and the back wheels loosely touching — no traction at all, but gently kissing the earth. Balanced. Just. My foot stayed as hard on the brakes as it could go and the car trembled on her balance point with my every movement, every breath. I hung on. The stars looked down as stars do at such moments with apparent total disinterest.

No one was outside — not in that cold. I waited. And waited, all of my focus on that brake pedal. Eventually an old car pulled up across the street where I knew an elderly woman lived. A pile of men and boys got out. Noticing my strangely precarious parking spot, the eldest in the lead as a string of others followed, all strolled ponderously across the icy street toward me, almost like a herd of peaceful elephants drifting across the veldt toward an interesting but not threatening curiosity. How had they all gotten into that ordinary-sized car? I rolled down my window and Eldest stated matter-of-factly, “Hey, you got a problem here.”

“I know,” I said humbly. “She slid. On the ice.”

He nodded. They ambled around the car, quietly discussing the problem. I sat with my foot hard on the brake. The parking brake never was worth much, but I had pulled it, slowly and carefully, on all the way on as well. Eldest, gray hair shining in the faint light like a halo, gently drifted back to the window and announced, “Some of the boys sit on the back, bring her rear end down to ground,  some push her up and back from the front, and some pull her backwards with ropes up on the parking lot while you give her a little gas. Not much or she just slip. We do it.”

I wish I could do a Samoan accent here, but I can’t so you’ll have to do the best you can with making it yourself. And did you know that some Samoans are BIG people? These were tall and sturdy. I couldn’t count them, milling around in the dark as they were, but the grown ones were massive and both they and the boys were enthusiastic. Yes, it might be possible.

It wasn’t. Even several large Samoans in bulky, heavy winter coats didn’t seem to outweigh the engine and strongly-built front end hanging out in space. (Old Volvos were famous for their strength and toughness.) I wound up six inches farther into the ditch in spite of the vein-pounding, strong pushing and pulling. I was seriously frightened for the ones in the front, who seemed not willing to give up. I jammed the brakes back on.

By this time my other neighbors were out, gathering in shivering clumps, talking quietly to each other and shaking their heads, but not coming near, not wanting to get into whatever trouble might ensue. One woman did offer me a cup of coffee, but for the most part they were heads-down people — poor in money, poor in spirit, pre-defeated people staying back out of trouble.

Eldest came back to the window. I mentioned, not really hopeful, that it might be a good idea to call a tow truck. Eldest shook his head.

“New Year’s Eve, all this ice — tow truck busy everywhere. Not come for hours, if come ever. And if tow truck do come, he call cops and report.” He slowly shook his head. All of them shook their heads like big tree tops waving in a strong wind. “Not wanting cops. Just trouble, cops. Big fines, maybe jail. You not want cops.”

I agreed. I didn’t want cops. Really, I couldn’t pay for a tow truck anyway. I sat with my both of my feet jammed on the brake, one on top of the other — the first leg had long since started to quiver with the strain and needed its mate to help. (It occurs to me now, as it didn’t then, that with the back wheels off the ground the brakes probably weren’t doing any good at all, but even if I’d thought of that at the time, nothing could have made me release them. Opening a window was okay, opening a heavy door, letting it swing its weight forward as it opened was unthinkable in that precarious position.)

Considering things slowly with my near-frozen brain, I said, “We could do it with a heavy truck. With chains on its tires. And a big chain to pull the car. Because an ordinary rope just isn’t going to do this. But… we don’t have any of this.”

He said, “Yeah, we don’t got, but maybe I know where we get.” He sent several men off in their car on incomprehensible errands and went with them. He left two of the sturdiest to stand guard over me. I don’t know what they could have done if the car decided to tip another inch and go down nose-first into that steep, deep ditch. Then I noticed that two more of the biggest had quietly gone to the back and were sitting on it again. I don’t know if that really helped, but it was comforting.

I saw my cats sitting in the window — waiting, watching, probably wondering what I thought I was doing now. And where was their promised dinner?

About an hour later (it felt like ten, like my dashboard clock was seriously lying — I swear the hands barely moved for long stretches of time) their car came back with only Eldest and the young driver.

“We fix,” he announced, looming over the car with an enormous, gleaming smile scintillating in the starlight.

And what to my wondering eyes did appear but a huge behemoth of a truck lumbering down the road? Looking about to fall apart, but certainly meeting the criteria of big, it pulled ponderously into place behind me with gentle mutterings and rattles. There was still plenty of room in the parking lot. The driver, sized to fit his truck, gazed at the car calmly, considered, nodded once, smiled at me, went to the back of the truck, and began pulling chains out, letting them clank and clatter to the ground. There was a rattle of tire chains as they struggled with these fairly foreign-to-us-coastal-Washingtonians objects. At last, the tire chains seemed in order, and they began rattling and tugging at a much more mammoth chain, stretching it out on the ground. It looked a lot like a massive boat’s anchor chain. They hooked it on to the truck and wrapped it thoroughly onto and around the strongest points under the back of my car (whatever they were) and looped it back to the truck. It certainly wasn’t hitched to the wee metal loop meant for hooking things onto. Nor to the rusted back bumper. With a final jerk and a tug that jolted the car and made my stomach somersault, they stood back. Eldest checked the chain and nodded. The truck driver checked it and nodded. The nods ran through the rest of the watching forest.

Back at my window again, Eldest said to me. “Truck pull, you feel her moving back, take foot off brake and give her little gas. In reverse,” he stressed, looking at me intently to be sure I understood. Feet still pushing hard on the brake, I restarted the engine, let her idle, and put her gently almost into reverse. He grinned and patted the window frame.

I nodded, thoroughly rejecting a sneaky, scared inner vision of the chain breaking under the stress, the truck plummeting into and through the houses on the other side of the parking lot, and the Volvo and I diving down into the hole ahead. Even in the snow, the ditch looked hard and dangerous. I knew from personal observation that it had big rocks in the bottom, and by now that ditch yawned fifteen feet deep in my mind. Or maybe even bottomless. I knew it was three or four, but it felt like fifteen. Or bottomless.

“We do, lady, we do.” Deep voice at the window. Very reassuring. I believed him — by then I couldn’t imagine him not doing anything he was determined to do.

The truck rattled, coughed a few times, and revved up with an uncertain rumble. I noticed that all my other neighbors had silently disappeared. I hoped they were not all in the house right in front of the truck. The chain tightened and the Volvo quivered. I could feel every link in the chain go taut. Go, baby, go! Be a real Volvo!

We began to move very slowly, inching backwards, the car’s undercarriage scraping along the gravelly ground. I took my foot off of the brakes, put her into reverse, and gave her a little touch more gas. The front end started to rise as the wheels began to touch the edge of the ditch. Finally, they were back up on terra firma. Another two slow feet back. Eldest slapped the side of the car and shouted once. A word I didn’t know. The truck stopped. I put on the parking brakes and turned the ignition off.

As I climbed out of the car on trembling and shaky legs — I had been holding the brake down as hard as I could for over an hour with both feet and every bit of strength I had and I might have been afloat on a sea of adrenaline. I was surrounded by huge grins and happy murmurs of approval. There may have been the patting of backs and shaking of hands amid the clank of chains being removed. I reached back in the car for my purse, but Eldest put his hand on my arm, and shook his head “no”. Fiat!

I began babbling, “Thank you thank you thank you thank you” over and over. I hugged Eldest and he hugged me back. I hugged all of them, I think, there in the dark and cold, still babbling. Samoans, these Samoans, my neighbors did great hugs. I needed all of them, giving and receiving in the only currency that met the need of that moment.

Eldest offered to have one of the younger ones park her for me. I said, “Oh, no! I’m going to the store.”

He laughed and slapped the car again. “You go! She good car! You go!” There was a chorus of quiet laughter and approving “you go!” and I went. I must have been crazy — the snow plows had been along the main streets but hadn’t done much good there and had not even attempted anything in the supermarket’s parking lot. But I got the cat food and with the rest of my money I bought the biggest cake, the most lavish cake I could find. It said ‘Happy New Year’ on it in Spanish. That seemed appropriate — good will expressed mutually incomprehensibly.

When I got home again, I fed the cats and went across the road to where the Samoan grandmother lived by herself, though I’d noticed before that she was rarely truly by herself — family was always popping in and out. I knocked on her door, and it was answered by Grandmother herself, matriarch of the clan. I’m far from young, and I’ve my share of wrinkles, but she had wrinkles from here to forever. They got even crinklier and wrinklier as she smiled her eyes into shiny slits and nodded. She knew the whole story from a viewpoint I’d never know. I handed her the cake and said several more fervent thank yous. We couldn’t speak a intelligible word to each other, but we both got it. She hugged me and gestured for me to come in. I could hear a boisterous family party of all ages going on behind her. I was overcome by a fit of unusual shyness and with a final “thank you,” I bolted for home.

It was my best New Year’s Eve ever. I don’t know how many New Year’s Eve parties I’d disrupted that evening, but everyone seemed to think their evening all the better for the disruption. A rescue! What fun! It might have been a lot better still had I been a little braver and less of a hermit. It might have changed my life then and changed my entire perception of my neighborhood. It did change it some, but it might have been a lot more. A revelation. Still, it was no longer seemed a totally unfriendly place of strangers to me. After that, when I went out and daughters were sitting in the sun watching grandchildren play, the daughters and I smiled and said hello. Tall, bulky young men passing on the street waved and lit up with a smile. A gift. A precious gift.

It is now 4 AM on January 1st, anno domini 2016. All of us now still breathing have made it into yet another year. My adventures have been “interesting” in this year past as well and taught me much about community and family, I’m grateful for what this and all of the years before have taught me about what makes people strong, what makes people weak, about family, about community, about people who have it and people who don’t.

If we stand on the solid ground of a cohesive family, a sharing community, it is far easier to reach out to others in need. If our foundations rest on the shifting sands of casual friends who are here today and gone tomorrow, it is much harder to realize that “everyone for themselves” and “look out for number one” are just nonsense, both impossible and foolish. We need each other. At unexpected moments and impossible-to-predict times, we need each other. We can’t just turn our backs and walk away.

And we need gratitude. We ourselves need to know that we have reason to be grateful, even if all we think we still have is our breath and major challenges.

We learn compassion and strength from our families and communities, and that is the key that gives us the ability to stand solid and to reach out to strangers without fear — and without needing to make fantasies and excuses for our fears as we slink away. Perhaps one of the marks of a healthy community is that it can welcome strangers in and assimilate them hospitably.

Living in community and working together in good will through the problems that naturally arise between people generates both a strength and a willingness to embrace others into the sheltering circle. And we all know that a circle is a line that has no end.

Within Stone (or The Altitude of Wu Wei)

My good friend, Nancy Hendrickson of TarotExplorer.com, strongly recommended that I go on an inner journey. Specifically, she suggested that I go to the heart of a stone and there talk to the Hierophant of the tarot and ask him about what the stones are trying to teach me just now — because clearly they are trying to teach me something.

The stone whose heart I’m going into was given to me by a good friend, Jerry George. It came all the way from the high land of Tibet to live with me. He had found several of these small, smooth, pieces of jade and had been surprised to find those particular stones in that place — he knows his geology and they would not have been expected to be there. Where had they come from? How did they get there? No one knew. He brought them all the way back, and for thirty years now he has carried one in his pocket. I carried mine in my pocket or in my purse. (Why do so many women’s clothes not have useful pockets?) Then a terrible thing happened — I lost it. It must be somewhere in my house, but I cannot find it. I feel bereft and ashamed, guilty of being careless of its well-being and special value — unless it ran away, which is also possible.

But tonight I realized that of course I still carry this precious stone in my heart along with many other stones — the standing stones of Calanais, the stones of the blessing cairn here at home, my outdoor altar at home, the cairn on Dun I on the Isle of Iona, Castlerigg stone circle, the huge lump of white quartz that I brought home in Scotland and eventually had to leave behind because the movers refused to try to lift it, and so many others, large and small. I can only begin to acknowledge them all. They live in my heart and sometimes I feel them murmuring in tones too deep, too slow to hear. Trees and other beings live there too, but tonight it is the stones who wish to speak, especially the small Tibetan stone that I have mislaid but that is still with me.

So I begin this journey within at the gate to my own heart. At this moment, it is a small wooden gate with hinges that squeek their own song, swinging loose in the wind. It opens itself for me, and I freely pass through.

The path to the stone is grassy — greenly aromatic, gentle underfoot. The stars in the dark sky above are shining brightly. A soft breeze lazily plays with my hair. Ahead in the darkness the stone rests on the ground. Although the stone I was given is quite small, here it is its true size, as big as a house. In front of me there is a door, the door to the heart of the stone. The door is small, just big enough for me to enter. All around its frame rune-like symbols are carved. The door swings itself open for me, and as I enter in, I see that it is a someone’s home. A bright fire burns on the hearth. On either side of the fire, turned so they both face each other and the fire, are two comfortable armchairs. I sit in the one on the left, and as I do, I remember that the dark column is on the left side of the High Priestess tarot card, so I am sitting in the yin, receiving place.

Faint shadows move in the other chair in the flickering light of the fire, and gradually the hierophant becomes visible. He is dressed like the pope, but in a shimmering cloth that seems to be all colors at once, even white, even black. I am distracted, fascinated by that cloth for a while and when I come back to the present moment, I see that the shadows have solidified, become someone visibly real. It is the hierophant. He grins at me, almost mischievously, as if inviting me to enjoy his neat arrival trick. Without moving, he is here, as if he had always been solidly and really here.

I rub my nose and apologize for having entered uninvited. He both acknowledges and dismisses my apology with a casual wave of his hand. “The first pope,” he elucidates didactically, “was Peter — and as you may recall “peter” comes from petra and means rock. He was the foundation rock of the church. I am not that pope, but I am the foundation, the true rock of the earth. Now, why are you here?”

I’m not sure of the answer — is “I was told to come” a true answer? My mind is a blank. Is this going to be one of those journeys? The ones that go nowhere? I think of leaving and coming back later, but know that only rarely do I come back to the same place again after leaving it. Catch the moment or let it go… which? I feel more like a butterfly than a rock — and how do butterflies communicate with rocks?

I rise from my chair and sit on the floor at this honored teacher’s feet.

“On these journeys of yours,” he prompts me, “you usually ask, what do I, the guide, need from you — remember?”.

I nod. I’ve only been making these intentional spirit journeys for a little under 50 years in this life — you’d think that by now I’d remember how to get back on track when I get lost. Why do I feel so confused?

Ummm. Because I’m not grounded. Here I am, sitting inside a rock, talking to Rock, sitting on the stone floor, and I am not grounded. I try to “sit like a mountain” as I do when I meditate. Not working — I’m still fluttering. How about sitting like a tree, roots running deep, leaves moving in the breeze?

My spirit self stubbornly persists in randomly floating like a butterfly. Why?

The hierophant’s intense dark eyes pin me in place, my invisible, intangible wings still fluttering. To him, to All Stone, I am like a butterfly — light, floaty, ephemeral. As permanent as a mayfly. It dawns on me that I can be nothing else! To the deep stone, I am impermanent, even evanescent. Fizzy me. I stop trying to be grounded like a stone and instead rise gently in the air. The stone I feel most like is a reverse meteor rising slowly up through the air, slipping free of gravity, burning in my moment of bright insight.

I have spent all of these years trying to be grounded. What am I, what will I be if I let myself go free — ephemeral, short-lived, momentary… floating? This is so relaxing. There is no effort in floating. Being a grounded, practical doer is so effortful… and exhausting. I remember with a feeling of d’oh! that I learned once before, long ago, how relaxing and healing it was to just float, just be free, be diffuse and unfocused. I even made a “meditation technique” of it and taught it to others. (At the right time in the right circumstances, this is a valuable skill  — but it is not a substitute for meditation or being well earthed in the right circumstances for that.)

At this realization, the rigid Stone around me melts and becomes Tree, branches waving in the breeze, roots reaching into Earthmama. Yet, though I may sit like a tree to meditate — usually — I am not a tree, not rooted. Mobile. Bouncy sometimes. Sometimes I flop down on Earthmama, my heart energy connected with her, sometimes I float on her waters or sit in the branches of trees, drifting.

Looking for my right place between the states of stone and vapor, I find my own specific gravity, the place where I am at home — the place of perfect balance, effortless, free, not holding, not releasing, just being. Sensing, noticing that this point changes moment by moment, like the balance of a surfer on a wave. The surfer, too, is in a medium where he neither sinks nor rises above — his natural place is on the boundary between. He bobs with the waves and with his own breath, a complex single movement flowing from many natural forces.

I have earth within me, solid bone, flesh, and bonded blood, and I have air and spirit within me, boundless. There is bright fire and flowing water too. All of the elements are part of me. My natural place is to be just as earthed as I need to be to do what I need to do at this moment. That’s it. That’s all.

Yet at other times I may need to soar freely to listen — to catch the messages that waft between the stars. Or at other present moments it may be time to be between the ebb and the flow to rest in my own specific gravity place — to rest, to restore, to recover, to recuperate, to regenerate, to re-create. Note that word STILL. Being connected to the universe, to stone beneath and stars above, is important. But it is equally important to allow Self to just BE, to rest, silent, not rigidly straight, not effortfully rising, but a living stillness that is in constant motion floating on the waves of the breath of the universe, letting my own breath be what it is and find its own harmony.

Tension is about holding an unnatural, inappropriate, or unskillful way of being. We know it is unnatural and unskillful because it requires tension to hold us there — how simple is that? Relaxation is about consciously letting go of that tension by focus and attention (“at tension” — isn’t that sneaky?) Both are doing. Peace is the place between, the point where nothing is needed, no action at all.

Wu wei.

Good God/dess, how could I have forgotten that?

Everything around me dissolves, becomes esse, being, even the man who is Stone. Nothing is left but a smile that isn’t even there.

Winter Solstice

This is an excerpt from Marzipan’s Adventures, a series of books currently being written about some chat sith dos (tufted faery cats) who live on a world halfway between the Outer Hebrides of Scotland and Tir n’an Og of Faery. This is close to the end of the second book. (No, the first one isn’t finished yet, but these things do happen when you’re doing things with either cats or faeries, and this is about both.) You may wish to know that A’ Ghrian is The Sun in English, and here it means more than just a ball of fire in the sky — it is also the spirit of the sun, a divine being. I plan to add at least one photo to this after the initial posting so check back later for the picture. I hope you enjoy this excerpt from the story, written during the most recent solstice, step by step.

by Jessica & Marzipan Macbeth

Solstice Eve

Solstice evening came early, the longest night of the year. It was cold — colder than Marzipan could ever remember. All of the villagers, all of the people from Hill House, all of the wild chattan sith dos, the cattle, the goats, even the chickens, the wild creatures, and birds — all of them stood silently on the western shore and watched A’ Ghrian falling toward the sea.

As the sun just touched the sea, Riona’s rich voice lifted in slow song — a threnody of sorrow, of deep sadness, of grief and desolation. The light, the warmth of the world was dying. Dairri’s tenor voice joined Riona’s, and soon the silver bell of Aislynn’s voice soared above them both, ringing with Ceilear’s clear soprano. Bram’s bass tones were so deep that Marzipan felt as if it vibrated in her bones. One by one, all of the others joined in, even the animals and the birds, and their voices echoed off the hills. Only Mama Isa and Gran’ma Cait were silent — but their tears were their own songs.

Marzipan felt as if something within her was breaking. She held out her arms to A’ Ghrian as she had done every morning of the year past, but this time was not to help him up, but to gently ease his going. She too sang softly, her small voice breaking, almost unheard in the many-voiced threnody, the song of farewell, of morning.  She sang of all their mornings together, of how his warmth touched her and helped her grow strong, of how generous he was with all his blessings and warmth and light through the year, of how he illumined mind and spirit as well as the world. She sang about the plants in her little garden, who loved him as she did. She sang gratitude and love that pulled at her heart as A’ Ghrian disappeared into the sea for the last time.

He would not return.

The song changed, became A’ Ghrian’s coronach, proclaiming his death, and gradually his requiem — remembering him, remembering the glory he brought in the spring, remembering the richness and abundance of summer, remembering the melancholy beauty of autumn, and the dying of the year… and now his death in the cold sea.

As the shadows deepened into night, all of the folk turned and walked with darkened eyes as the cold stars came out above them, hard and bright. They walked south, then up and across Two Bridges Road, and up the snow-covered Green Road, still singing the slow, heavy song of grief and memory. It was a long, sad walk and some of the smaller creatures needed to be carried part of the way. Sometimes one voice would ring plangently over the rest, poignant and filled with pain, and other times all would harmonize together, swelling and soaring and fading… but never quite silent.

When they reached the top of the tor, still softly singing, the Lady Riona and Lord Dairri paused at the entrance to the old stone circle, more ancient than the world itself. They stood to each side and waited until Gran’ma stepped through and went to the altar stone. She turned and lifted her hands in welcome to everyone. Next Riona and Dairri entered and they also bade welcome to the rest. In ones or twos the others followed and then they all sat on the frosty grass, except for Gran’ma who turned back to the altar fire. There wasn’t quite room for everyone in the small stone circle and some of the wilder creatures were shy about being so close to others. They huddled together just outside and looked in. Marzipan could see the light of the altar fire flickering in their eyes between the stones, and she could see the same light on Gran’ma’s face and in that glow saw how Gran’ma sometimes looked incredibly old and other times very young — and all of the ages in between.

The song continued, sometimes in one voice, sometimes in several, almost like a conversation, the stories and the memories of the year. Marzipan knew the song in her own heart and how it blended with the rest. She wanted to sit in Herself’s lap, cuddled close, but at the same time she knew this was a time for being alone and lonely in the darkest, coldest night, so she pulled her shawl around her and fluffed her fur underneath it. She was still cold — there was an inner coldness as well as an outer one that she felt as she murmured her song of farewell to her beloved friend, A’ Ghrian, who had warmly blessed her every morning, every day for most of her life.

Just before midnight, the song slowly died. The fire on the altar, which had been flickering lower and lower, went out in a puff of smoke. The wind’s whisper among the trees hushed. For a timeless moment Marzipan felt as if her heart had stopped. Stonemother’s little world was wrapped in deep silence. It seemed like a long forever time in the nadir of the night.

It might have been silent forever had there been no one there to open their hearts, but out of the darkness, Riona’s voice rose again — softly, gently, and this time in a hesitant hymn of hope. Dairri’s voice joined hers, interwoven in counterpoint, voices entwined, rising up to the scintillating stars. Other voices rang in, and it was as if the voices were dancing. The swirl and whirl of the interwoven songs, all coming out of the deep darkness, enchanted Marzipan, both made her breathless and brought her more deeply into the song. Every one sang their own hopes and dreams and wishes, no two the same, and yet they were heart and soul in harmony.

Marzipan hummed in her own purr, thinking of her own dreams. Obviously, she wished all of them joy and her own self as well. Good health to the people and the land, gladness and prosperity to all… but anyone would wish that. What did she wish? What path did she want to walk? What did she want to become?

She didn’t know. Marzipan had reached that strange age where no one quite knows what you’re going to do next, least of all yourself, and at that moment she didn’t know what she wanted, didn’t know what to do. She finally realized that going in circles in her mind wouldn’t get her anywhere, and remembering her lessons, she let her mind grow still and sink deeper and deeper into the song.

Solstice Morn

For just that deeply still moment she could hear the Oran Mor, the Great Song of Stonemother, of the stars, of everything that is — and she remembered. She remembered promising Stonemother that she would try to be the very best she could be — she might not yet know just how or what particular thing that might be, but she knew that was it  — to find the path to her very best. And for that, she would need help — the blessing of A’ Ghrian, of Stonemother, of all of the beings around her — the songs of all of them were a part of her song — and her song a part of theirs. She could feel that wish, that profound desire within her, trying to burst out in a joyous carol, to soar up to the stars and delve deep into the heart of the world. She felt as if something were swelling within her, as if she were a small balloon about to explode.

She stood up, quivering, and far too full to speak. Suddenly she leapt upon the altar where she danced the song she felt. There were no words — just her dance, and as she danced, the fire on the altar re-kindled in a burst of light. She danced in the light, like a living flame. She danced to the song the others sang, and the dance itself was her own heartsong. It felt like she danced forever.

The sky began to faintly lighten in the east, over the sea. She could feel the small presence of the new A’ Ghrian becoming stronger, becoming closer, becoming Himself, the blessing of light and warmth and growth.

Father Eagle soared over them, shouting, “He is coming! Now! He comes!

Somehow, instinctively and without thinking about how she was doing it, Marzipan wove all of the heartsongs together in her dance and entwined them with the light of the altar fire, which was the heartsong of Stonemother, and with the gentle glow in the east. Placing her feet firmly on the altar and stretching out her arms, she lifted A’ Ghrian above the horizon. It was the èirigh na grèine, the rising on the sun. He was born. He lived. He illumined Stonemother’s small world.

And Marzipan held him in her paws as she would hold a babe, a kitten, cherishing him, his tiny and fragile and newborn self.

She could feel her friends beside and behind her. She felt their eyes glowing with the new light within them, and all of them had reached as she did, lifting, holding, loving the baby A’ Ghrian — and all of them were filled with his joyous light. The song rose to a crescendo and ended on a single heartbeat — and yet it went on echoing in the hills, between the trees. Marzipan knew that it would echo there all year, shaping the dance of life in the isles.

Gran’ma stretched out her arms and Marzipan jumped into them, and threw her arms around Gran’ma’s neck and hugged her as close as she could. Riona touched her gently, and Marzipan turned and hugged her. Mama Isa watched, smiling through her drying tears, and Marzipan went into her arms and was gently hugged, then handed on to Ceilear, her very own Herself, and she nestled into her arms — safely home, secure, and almost thinking about breakfast.

Solstice Day

Slowly, smiling, each one left the circle, Dairri and Riona first through the gate, where they stopped on each side, blessing each of their folk as they came out. New sun, new day, new year, new life. Gram’ma Cait was the last out, Mama Isa holding her arm, lending strength. It was a long walk home, north on the white snow of the Green Road, westerly down to the bridge and across to the village. Marzipan got to walk part of the way with Aislynn, who was back from visiting Old Earth, and her chat sith dos, Megan, who was new to the isles. She had heard that they would be home and this would be Megan’s first Solstice on the isles.

Megan seemed a little bewildered — she had never seen so many of her people before. Most of the chattan had gone home from the tor to their own places, but Marzipan introduced her to Jake and Granny Catriona who both welcomed her, but Megan seemed very shy and hid her face in Aislynn’s skirts as she mumbled “hello”. Marzipan tried to be friendly, and was sorry when Dairri and Riona turned off for the Hill House and took Aislynn and Megan with them. She had a lot of questions about Old Earth that she would like to ask Megan. But that was all right — she’d see her later at the feast. Aislynn and Megan had come home and would be here all winter.

As they went through the village, all of the purrsons stopped at their own places except Mama Isa and Papa Davie, who had their vardo just beyond Ceilear and Marzipan’s house. They were going to have breakfast together. While Ceilear and Isa lit a new fire in the old kitchen hearth to begin breakfast and Papa Davie lit the fire in the sitting room, Marzipan went outside to visit her garden. Most of the plants were bedded down for the winter in straw, but she lifted up their straw caps so they could see the new sunlight and she told them about the death of the sun and the long night and then the birth of the new sun and the spring and summer that was coming. They seemed excited about the springtime. Then she carefully tucked them back in, and went in to have breakfast and a good nap.

Marzipan knew that later in the afternoon all of the villagers and the wild chattan sith dos and some of the others would gather in the village hall. The chickens and squirrels certainly would come too — they always came to parties for the crumbs and the singing. So did the wild birds — even the owls. The goats liked to come as well, though there were extra-delicious things in the barn for them and the cows and sheep. Goats liked to be in the middle of things.

There would be music and dancing and feasting. There would be presents, handmade gifts to each other. There would be laughter. And over all of it, there would be the warm blessing of the newborn A’ Ghrian. Marzipan thought, “He’s a little baby — he’ll go to sleep early tonight. I must be there to help tuck him in. We’ll all want to go to sleep early tonight!”