Last Wednesday, the day after Winter Solstice, Everest and I went out into the yard to check on our tree. The night before we started what we hope to be an annual Solstice ritual inspired by a beautiful book by Eve Bunting called “Night Tree.” It’s the story of a family who adventure out on Christmas Eve to search for “their tree.” They drive to the edge of town, then walk through the moonlit woods until they arrive at a big spruce tree. Then they set about decorating it with popcorn strands, apples and tangerines hung by strings, and balls of honey pressed with millet. They sit down on a blanket to admire their tree, drink hot chocolate, and sing songs. Then they walk back to the car, and that night, as the boy lies in bed, he imagines all of the animals of the forest gathering around the tree to enjoy the fruits and treats that the family left behind. It’s such a sweet story with pagan roots that honors the animals and leaves a tree uncut.
So on Solstice we decorated the spruce tree that sits in the corner of our yard, the one we planted next to Mocha’s burial the day she died. We hung the popcorn strands and apples and took a walk around our yard to admire the stars and breathe in the crisp mountain winter air. Then we went inside to have hot chocolate (or our sugar-free, dairy-free version : )). And the next day we went to see if any animals had found the treats. An apple was missing, and some popcorn, and we smiled to think of who might have found it. Raccoons? Squirrels? A fox? Birds? Then Everest said, “Let’s go down to the creek,” and when we got there he said, “Mommy, is there anything you want to say goodbye to?”
Let me backtrack a bit, especially for those of you that are new to this blog. On Summer Solstice, we started another ritual of writing down anything we wanted to let go of on leaves and burning them in the solstice fire circle. You can read about it here. We continued the ritual on Autumn Equinox, and it warmed my heart to hear Everest saying these words last week and inviting me to initiate the ritual once again. I said, “Yes! There’s a lot I want to say goodbye to.” He proceeded to make one of his signature leaf boats and said, “Okay, say it to the leaf.”
I said, “I want to let go of my impatience with Everest. I want to say goodbye to my shortness and any time I speak without kindness.” Then we threw the leaf into the water; he grabbed his large branch and stirred it in. Everest said, “Do you think there’s anything Daddy wants to say goodbye to?”
I ran back up to the house to get my husband and told him that Everest had requested him for the letting go ritual. Daev came back down to join us. Everest repeated his question and Daev essentially repeated what I had said (we’re working hard over here to find more patience with our kids). Then we asked Everest if there was anything he wanted to say goodbye to and he said, “Please help me say goodbye to being mean to Asher.” We watched our leaves swirl into the water and drift slowly downstream.
Then Daev asked, “And what do we want to welcome in with the additional light?” We asked for more patience, and Daev said, “How about with each minute of light we’re given a bit more patience and kindness?” We all agreed. Then we said a final prayer for the earth, for the suffering of all people and animals to be relieved, for the healing of our planet. Everest stirred it all in.
As we all walked back up to the house, I said to my husband, “You know, for as far back as I can remember I’ve longed for the time-honored rituals that indigenous people perform. I’ve felt a hole in our modern life for these ancient and rooted rituals and haven’t known how to fill that hole. But this year something shifted. I see the beauty of creating our own family and individual rituals that naturally spring from our life in a direct and meaningful way.”
This ritual of the letting-go leaves began at Summer Solstice, continued at Autumn Equinox, and is alive again at Winter Solstice. It’s a ritual that Everest helped create and loves participating in. It offers containment for the passing of the seasons and it reminds us to ask ourselves the key questions of all transitions: “What is it time to let go of?” and “What would I like to embrace?”