By Margaret Gilfoyle
“Dear Great Spirit,
Your gifts to us are so many
When we look at them and think of them
Farther and farther a-field
Until your gifts to us encompass the sky
And everything underneath it
Our hands are open to the sky”
I love the words of this prayer* in the context of thinking about the holidays. They’re a reminder that the gifts of life do not necessarily have to be sought, but NOTICED. They are here, right where we are, and exist, truly all around us. How looking UP, literally into the sky, observing daily cloud formations, the sunrise, sunset, flocks of birds, the soaring hawk or eagle, can bring about a rushing sense of wonder and gratitude, and entice us to be more present in our lives.
Stopping while walking, zeroing in on what attracts us—the bright red rose hips, symmetry of pine cones, the silkiness of pine needles, or tenacious leaves still hanging on to branches—breaks the flow of “hurry” during our days. Nothing is commonplace when details are noticed. Routines love to be broken.
Time in nature and with our SPIRIT’S nature are loving gifts we should give to ourselves. Especially during these months of November and December, with so much focus on “The Holidays”, when we can sway into overwhelm with activities and demands that may diminish the joy the season is meant to represent. Beyond spending money, juggling gift lists, waiting in long lines everywhere—we can transform our perspective and really absorb these gifts, maybe even transcend to-do lists.
Day-time walks to explore what animal tracks and activity may be found in the snow, night time star-gazing, visiting a planetarium to learn about the constellations in the winter skies, snowshoeing or skiing beneath the full moon can uplift us out of the commercialism of Thanksgiving and Christmas and perhaps create a new tradition of how to share time together.
Celebrating the December 21 Winter Solstice (in the northern hemisphere), is another beautiful, contemplative way to connect with the natural world that the whole family, or a group of like-minded friends, may enjoy. Design your own simple ritual, or seek out an established group—and you’ll take part in an ancient ritual present in most every ancient culture.
Bringing Light into the Darkness is a common theme throughout traditional Winter Solstice observations. As winter and increased night time hours are symbols of going inward, so too you may include a time of darkness in a ritual, perhaps sitting in a circle. If there are gentle bells to ring, singing bowls, quiet drum rhythms someone is inspired to make, or recorded music to listen to, let it be done in darkness for a short while.
Then one by one, each person may say a word or a phrase about what going into darkness, or coming out of darkness, has meant to them in their life, lighting a candle as they finish speaking. When all are finished, the room is aglow with candlelight and a sense of magic and empowerment. All the better to face the days of winter, with a heart warmed by spirit, and an expanding, real sense of connection to all that is. Blessings to all on our sacred journeys.
*excerpt of original poem Threshold –Hopi Soul Song by Margaret Gilfoyle