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  • Writer's pictureSara McFarland

New beginnings fed by the tears and songs of grief

Updated: Jan 10, 2023

The full moon is just past.

The days are growing longer in the northern hemisphere. Now, more than ever, I feel time speeding up, slipping through my fingers… It seems to happen every year. Just at the beginning of the year, when time seems to stretch endlessly in front of us, when I am not yet ready for the dark time to end, when I think about how next time at year's end I will move more slowly, tend the dark even more than this year, my longing not yet met, my thirst not yet slaked… More time in the dark with the Holy Beloved, resting, listening, slowing down… And January comes so soon and so fast and full and hard. And I need to somehow get “up to speed”, when I never got down to the depths I wish for… Every year.

When I listen in now, I feel a sadness, a loss, a grief. Perhaps this is normal, as the time of dying has passed and grief arises to mourn that which was. Is it alright to wail and cry at the beginning of this new year? What if that were my new year’s ritual? It is not possible to grieve preemptively, or for that which is still here. The harvest of the end of the year, the celebrations, the gatherings leave no room for grief and loss. But now, when the holidays are over, and we “get back to work”, it is possible to feel what was, and what wasn’t. Now I can feel the loss. The dreams I carried, which never came to fruition. The plans I made, that fell through. The thousand ideas that were never mine to realise. The few that were, that I failed to manifest. The exhaustion and missing and longing… Might it be possible to stay here for a little while longer. Here, in the dark. While the world speeds up again. Maybe, right now, in the time of the Wolf Moon, I can actually slip between the cracks and find a window of solace, of solo, of dark rest and grief. This feels like a relief to my entire system. What kinds of mourning rituals do I know for these times? Do I let myself keen, as my ancestors once did? Do I go out, as the wolves howl at the beginning of their season of lovemaking, and howl my loss? My personal small losses and the loss of this beautiful world? The simple human recognition that we are all destined to die and to lose all whom we love. This unchangeable truth that breaks our hearts. The poet Mary Oliver, says,

“ Tell me, what else should I have done?

Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?

Tell me, what is it you plan to do

With your one wild and precious life?”

She tells us what she has dedicated her life to, to fall down, to be idle and blessed, to pay attention. So, what is it I plan to do with my one wild and precious life? I will continue to do what I have been doing…grieve the losses and celebrate the harvests and love as big as possible. Howl, sing, dance, tell stories. I will be an agent of shifting consciousness and continue to dedicate my whole self to Earth and the Web of Life. I will listen to the Holies and the Ancestors through ritual and trance and invite others in to the circle of the wild ones. At some point, I will die and offer my body as food. May my life and my death be a mycelial network of nourishment for those that come after me.

Here is the whole poem, written at the other side of the year, when the light saturates everything and we glory in the summer. Now, we have the seed of summer planted in our hearts as we prepare the ground for the first shoots of spring. May Earth dream through each of us, the flower that is waiting in our hearts, to bloom.

The Summer Day by Mary Oliver

Who made the world?

Who made the swan, and the black bear?

Who made the grasshopper?

This grasshopper, I mean —

the one who has flung herself out of the grass,

the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,

who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down —

who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.

Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.

Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.

I don't know exactly what a prayer is.

I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down

into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,

how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,

which is what I have been doing all day.

Tell me, what else should I have done?

Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?

Tell me, what is it you plan to do

with your one wild and precious life?

Blessings on the swans in the winter fields, blessings on the still sleeping bears, blessings on the not yet born grasshopper, blessings on the dreaming seeds of grasses and wildflowers. Blessings on the growing light, blessings on the grief and on the birthing, blessings on the new year, blessings on the heart seeds of summer, held in the fruitful dark of January, blessings on this wild and precious life.

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