“I think that I shall never see a poem lovely as a tree… a tree that looks at God all day and lifts her leafy arms to pray.” The opening lines of the poem,“Trees,” by Joyce Kilmer. Indigenous peoples through the ages have talked of tree spirits and trees as wise ones. Trees are striking as they permanently lift their arms to the Heavens in seeming prayer, day and night in communication with the Creator, their outstretched arms reaching for the stars.
Reaching for the stars. The image calls to mind a dance of the Kalahari Bushmen who were featured in the movie “The Gods They Must be Crazy.” The Kalahari, the last men born of the Stone Age culture according to Laurens Van Der Post, have no sense of individuality and so share all they have. They have a dance of gratitude which Van Der Post describes in his book entitled “A Mantis Carol”: “I never see their dancing without feeling deeply moved and utterly irreverent and blasphemous because of our own incapacity for acknowledging what life will give if only we will let it in.” And then there is their dance of the “great hunger,” a dance that says we do not live by bread alone, a dance at life’s end fraught with longing, with arms outstretched taughtly towards the Heavens as they reach for the stars.
My grandfather reached for the stars. He came to the United States, a 16-year-old peasant stonecutter from the mountains of Sicily, knowing no English. He wound up carving the Lincoln Gettysburg address at the Lincoln Memorial in DC. While working on the Gettysburg Address he studied English at night school. I remember him telling me how he was the laughing stock of his fellow stone cutters because, inspired by Lincoln’s words, he carved his initials at the top of the monument, “A.L.” for Anthony LaManna (and, of course, for Abraham Lincoln), followed by: “Attorney at Law.” Working his way through school, he actually did eventually become a VA lawyer. He reached for the stars and touched them without ever forgetting where he came from. And he was childlike as he took care of me, as we danced to records on the victrola or as he played the mandolin and sang to me. I always think of him with a tinge of sadness, for more than anyone, he taught me to reach for the stars.
Reach for the creator– that is what the trees say. At this time of year I yearn for the days of childhood in which God seemed close. This yearning fully ripens each year at Christmas/Hanukkah when the people brighten their houses with festive lights. It is a time of year in which we light up our hearts and look to the heavens and sing songs of love to a babe born not so very long ago, or in which we give thanks for the oil to light the lights of the temple for eight days. We are all really seeking the love that motivated the Kalahari Bushmen to do their dance. We are seeking a savior, and yearning for the Light in this overlit, commercialized, complicated world in which the inspiring simplicity of the Bushmen, the peasant, is rapidly disappearing. And the trees touch my heart in their upward reach for the Heavens. For at this time so many millions of them are sacrificed as they have become our Christmas trees and Hanukkah bushes, to be discarded after the holidays are over.
May we experience this holy season with a simpler yearning, not for presents and parties and hoopla, but with our hearts full of gratitude, taking lessons from the trees, from the Kalahari Bushmen, from our ancestors, and seek Love, in whatever form it takes in our souls.
Christmas and Winter Solstice blessings to all those who have visited Moonside and especially to those to whom I was unable to respond due to physical or mental illness, a HUGE THANK YOU!!
And to all… may you feel the joy of Christmas no matter what your circumstance, color, creed or faith and be blessed by health, happiness and peace in the New Year!
December is my favorite time of year. In this month of darkness, in this the darkest month, the light of the human spirit shines forth in a fullness shown by so many, in so many ways. As the days grow shorter, houses and trees are decorated, and snow falls. In the hushed silence of the nights, lights shine in windows, and the beauty is shared by all. For this season of giving brings the festivals of lights: Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanza. Each tradition incorporates light in its ceremonies and decorations.
A neighbor friend of mine who lives down the road, a donkey in his stable, reminds me of the story of another manger 2000 years ago. And seeing him snug in his stable with snow on the ground gives the illusion that all is right in the world. But all is not well. Thousands know no peace in any season. Yet even those living in the worst conditions show the light of the human spirit and celebrate the season of light in personal ways. For the human spirit is indomitable.
In December’s darkness we light lights. For we are beings of light. A light glows within each one of us. And, at the most basic level, we are beings of light because we are made from stardust. Perhaps that is why the stars hold such majesty for us– we are made from star material.
Einstein said: “A human being is part of the whole, called by us the ‘Universe”– a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts, and feelings, as something separated from the rest– a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circles of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.” We are all cut from the same cloth and our inner light unites us.
And in this holiday season we behold the night sky as shepherds did two thousand years ago on the birth of the holy infant, in a stable like the one down the road where my donkey friend lives. That night a star lit the whole sky to guide the shepherds, and on these deep, long, silent nights as we light our houses, our candles, our trees, let us look inside ourselves and find the glow that may guide us to The Light.
A lone fir tree
stands stalwart in a forest of red
watching over the turtles sleeping peacefully
in their hibernaculum
in the icy pond
watches over us
A silent night of peace to each of you
and a berry, merry Christmas!
Whatever you celebrate,
may you find
peace, love and joy
In this month of darkness, in this the darkest month, the light of the human spirit shines forth in so many– in so many ways. As the days grow shorter, houses and trees are decorated, and snow falls. In the hushed silence of the nights, lights shine in windows, and whisper in the darkness. For this season of giving brings the festivals of lights: Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, and in the Fall, Diwali. Each tradition incorporates light in its ceremonies and decorations.
A neighbor-friend of mine who lives down the road, a donkey in his stable, reminds me of the story of another manger two thousand years ago. And seeing him snug in his stable with snow on the ground gives the illusion that all is right in the world. But all is not well. Far, far too many know no peace in any season. Far, far too many live in poverty. Far, far too many suffer the effects of the new mammoth storms.
We who live closer to the land are so blessed to share our lives with animals. These creatures are constant reminders of humility and simplicity in this rapid, complex, multi-tasking world. We drive around on a December night and see houses covered in lights with illuminated trees, houses warmed by fires, and imagine them filled with laughter and conversation and love. We are blessed to have so much, when so many have so little. Blessed to be able to celebrate our religious beliefs as we wish, when others cannot. Yet even in the worst of conditions the strength of the human spirit is indomitable.
In December’s darkness we light lights. In truth, we are beings of light. A light glows within each one of us. And, at the most basic level, we are beings of light for we are made of stardust. Perhaps that is why the stars hold such majesty for us—stars compose our bodies within, and, without, our skies sing with stars the hymns of the Heavens.
Einstein said: “A human being is part of the whole, called by us the ‘Universe”– a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts, and feelings, as something separated from the rest– a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circles of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.” We are all cut from the same cloth and our inner light is one.
And in this holiday season we behold the night sky as shepherds did two thousand years ago on the birth of the holy infant, in a stable. That night a star lit the whole sky to guide the shepherds. And, in 165 BCE, the Holy Temple in Jerusalem was re-dedicated and with the miracle of the ritual oil, the light burned for eight nights.
On these deep, long, silent nights as we light our houses, our candles, our Menorahs, our trees, let us look inside ourselves and find the glow that unites us and will guide us to the Everlasting Light.
It is almost Christmas, and my birthday, and today I cried reading an old birthday email from my sister. She signed it “Lisa the Pizza, Tony Baloney and the rest of the gang ‘up there’,” meaning my brother, and my mother and father.
“Tony Baloney” died two years and a half ago, leaving behind three adopted children whom he adored and who adored him, and a loving wife. My father and mother died 25 and 20 years ago, as impossible as that seems. Dad and Mom died this time of year. And my best friend, Wendi, died shortly after. All of cancer of some sort or the other. But they all loved horses.
We now live in Millbrook — horse country. Horse farms dot the countryside. My father and mother and Wendi would have adored it. My brother was the only one to visit Millbrook, coming with his family whom we put up at a nearby horse ranch. They all had the time of their lives. One of my fondest memories of my brother is from that visit. We are holding hands as he is relaxing after a day of riding with his kids. He is drinking and smoking (what eventually killed him) and we are taking in the sunset on the porch of the dude ranch.
I love horses, too. It is in my blood. Dad played the horses and my brother worked on several racetracks, including Belmont. Now I abhor horse-racing, finding it cruel. My brother had horror stories to tell of how the horses were drugged and run hurting. I have seen horses being put down– all for a senseless sport. Dad and I would quarrel about this if he were still alive.
I remember stroking a horse once at a show nearby and the bliss I felt was mystical in a most spiritual way. I wanted that moment to last forever. And the happiest I have ever seen my husband was on a moonlit ride we took in a canyon in Arizona on our honeymoon. Horses bring happiness. My husband knows it. Dad knew it. Tony knew it, Wendi knew it and to some extent, Mom knew it.
Too old to ride now I pet horses when I can, and admire them as we drive by horse farms. I photograph them when the spirit moves me. I ache inside for my parents who would have adored it here in our little barn. For my brother, the cowboy, as different from me as night and day, but bonded by a deep love and shared losses. For my friend, Wendi, with whom I shared a not-to-be replicated link of love. Merry Christmas, Tony Baloney, Mom, Dad, Wendi!
My blessing comes from the love I share with my husband who married me despite my mental illness. It comes, too, from our spiritual connection to nature. I admire my husband who works with society’s outcasts as a clinical social worker. My giving is on a much smaller scale– tiny things here and there– online activism and such. You play the hand you are dealt.
Christmas can be a hard time, and New Year’s, too, and I know there will be the inevitable meltdown into tears over losses of loved ones, over mortality, over our material nature. And perhaps you will also have your own moment of bleakness. But I hope that you, too, will be able to touch your bliss at Christmas and find a blossoming hope for the new year.
Blessings of joy to all!!
A chill wind blows the yellowing leaves off the trees. They drift down to the ground like giant snowflakes. The air is pregnant with the feel of the coming holidays. Fall has truly come, with the sudden drop in temperatures, a full 10-20 degrees cooler than a few weeks ago. This is the real Fall, no faltering Fall, but a Fall that will guide us appropriately into winter. November appears as a mirror image of March with its vibrant color of decay, while March is the decaying color of about-to-burst-forth Spring.
The birds are at the bird feeder all the time now. They are not stopped by our presence when we come to fill the feeder or blow leaves under it. Nothing stops them. They swoop around the feeder and the surrounding trees like Kamikaze pilots, darting here and there recklessly. The squirrels are in a frenzy as well, stock piling acorns and walnuts which they will retrieve without fail in a month or so in a snow-covered land.
To me, the trees are most beautiful at this time of year, when many of them are bare and a scattering of leaves remain on dark brown branches. The leaves that remain quiver daintily in their precarious positions on the tree limbs. Yet these are the survivors. The other leaves have fallen and gone the way all living things eventually go. Most trees have lost all their leaves and they stand in stark contrast against the blue sky, the stormy sky, the grey sky. But I find them most beautiful against the night sky, with arms reaching up to the darkness, trying to touch the stars twinkling between the branches, as moonlight dances on their limbs.
November holds the last glimmer of color. A carpet of yellow lines the woods now– and one can see inside the woods that are so dark and impenetrable in summer. Some forests have carpets of oak leaves– dark brown tan in color. Others are paved with variegated colors– vibrant crimsons against yellows and faded greens and tawny tans. The un-mown lawns are now taken over by the spiders covering the fields. At precious moments, one can see a world of webs that only appears in a certain slant of sunlight and reveal a silent take-over by the spiders in webs that sparkle secretly, mirroring the infinite web of creation.
The yellow, brown, and crimson leaves are complemented by the ubiquitous yellow, brown and crimson mums that appear on the roadside near mail boxes, on porches or along driveways. These tough little flowers withstand frosty chills and stand tall throughout most of November– hearty, generous souls, so giving in their colorful, velvety splendor.
Halloween pumpkins begin to sag a bit or shine with wetness as if encased in glass. They will soon be tossed– pine combs, wreaths and fir swags to take their places, and the season of lights will begin. Anticipation hangs in the air. Autumn seems the fastest season to come and go. I try treasuring each moment, but the minute/hours/days just sift through my fingers like so many grains of sand. Then Christmas/Hanukkah comes and fades in a flash and we are into the Nor’Easter blizzards of January. Another year is gone and a new one has come. Would that we could be in forever in the season of love, but it is also a season of loneliness and loss and darkness. It is good we are defenseless against time.
Now, at Thanksgiving, it is our time to give thanks. Inspired by the Native Americans, let us thank the earth. Let us give thanks to the trees for their constantly changing beauty, to the stars for their piercing presence in the night sky, to the leaves for their inspiring colors, to the sun for its life-giving power. Let us thank the Spring for its awakening hope, the Summer for its warm, thriving growth, the Fall for its beauteous bounty, to the Winter for a time of renewal. Let us thank the soon-to-come snow for its hushed, white silence that transforms our world, to all the animals for their pure souls, to our families and friends for their precious love, and, lastly, but mostly, to the Higher Power of our belief for the macrocosm of creation.
Happy Thanksgiving and may you each be blessed with the all-embracing, pervasive, pulsating Love in Nature.
All limited edition original photographs available in different sizes and