Epiphany dawned warm and light-filled. The natural world joined us in our Holy Nights–dark, cold, snowy days of frozen water buckets and a frost bitten rooster. Our animals are not used to such adverse weather and so they spent many days hunkered down in the barn. The Araucanas left their roost long enough to feed and fly back up to watch the hazy white sky shift to grey and back to black again. And so did we pass much of our Christmastide, alternating between snuggling in and going stir crazy enough to bundle up and venture outside for 10 or 15 minutes. At which point the youngest of us, who does not yet sense the value of mittens, sent us back into the warm house with red noses and “told!” fingers. Mattheus stood apart in this, winter baby that he is, and rolled and frolicked and cavorted with a levity he rarely displays. He even convinced John to bury him entirely with snow from head to toe – twice.
As we emerged from this holy slumber to the day to day, the world too, rejoiced at the arrival of the Three Kings, with rushing gutters and overflowing rain barrels, children up to their knees in mud and picnics in the sunshine. Mattheus rejoiced specifically upon finding the King’s crystal in his slice of cake. He is sort of ruler of all around here already, but for one day he gets to do it without any reminders that this family is an equal opportunity organization. Lucien did not lament the lack of crystal in his slice. Instead he found a few specks of almond on the bottom of his cake and exclaimed, “look, I have TWO treasures in my cake!” For once, Mattheus did not correct him. I think he was too busy parading around in his crown and constructing his throne, palace and stables for the royal horses. Opal just grinned at the supper upgrade from porridge to cake. (Almond flour and agave cake, but still cake.)
Underlying this revelry, there is a sincere reverence flowing from each of us in our own way. Together with the Kings, we find gratitude in the fulfilled promise of love and light, of finding our own way, of transforming and forgiving. It is with all of these forces that we look forward to another circle around the sun.
Truthfully, I always anticipate the Holy Nights with excitement, but as the days pass and all that I am questioning remains unanswered, I begin to feel a bit melancholy. But then, Epiphany arrives and I realize that a change has happened, not in the clarity that is thought, but in the fuzziness that flows deeper within. It is not in a resolution or in a richter scale realization (I’ll refrain from saying epiphany), but there is a newness that I can never quite pin down. As the year passes I see the seeds planted during this time begin to unfold and become answers. No wonder this moment in the year is such an exciting time for many.
And about those resolutions, well, I have seen others around me feeling a similar impulse as we welcome this New Year: intentions of how instead of what. It seems I have a way of getting swept up in the what: cold weather gardening? bees? new paint? tree house? those slippers? that quilt? study this or that? woodworking workshop? It’s hard when there are so many exciting things in life to pick just one to do at a time. But all of this what often results in stress for me and losing sight of what is important, so I’m opting for how as I begin a new year.
As always, I look toward the family to tell me what qualities of self I have yet to develop, those which are still rough around the edges, what some might call shortcomings. When I hear Mattheus dictating to his siblings in a scarily familiar voice, I realize that I still haven’t found that hairline difference between authority and authoritarian. As I register the distracted nod of my head and mumbled affirmation of my voice as Lucien continues to rattle off part thirteen of a 20 minute story, I realize that I have neglected attentive listening again. I encourage all three of my children to forgive the hurt feelings of a shove or unkind word, but lie awake at night while the imperfect moments of the day swirl round my head. The next morning, when I look across the breakfast table I wonder how Opal can possibly be careening toward two. Where was I when she stopped being baby and became toddler? Not present enough, I guess. More likely navigating the storm of often colliding people in this little red house, wondering how I will summon the courage to meet it all. And there at the eye of it all, a partner who is patient, accepting, forgiving, striving. A fact I have become so used to over the years that I all too often take it for granted.
Rightful authority, listening, forgiveness, mindfulness, courage and gratitude. You could add patience to the mix too, I suppose, and with that the slowness that is the elixir of life for young children. And, lastly, some semblance of accurate observation, both of myself and others, that I may continue to perceive the world and act accordingly. I think that about does it. Too ambitious, I know. As usual, it is likely that my spiritual eyes are bigger than my spiritual stomach, if you will. In fact, I may have just made about as many how resolutions as a person can work toward in a lifetime. But, eight capacities, twelve months–maybe I need a few more! Hmm, might actually be onto something there.
Settling upon some structure, some (blog) projects to help me cultivate these capacities, well, it’s still swimming around a bit. They’ll surface soon enough, and then, what an exciting year it will be.
Wishing you all courage to embrace the excitement of the coming year, whatever it might bring.