Saturday, June 21, 2008

The Light in Mid-Winter: a story for the winter solstice

To-day I go to Cindy-Lee's at Cockatoo in the Dandenong Ranges (I live in Upper Gully in the foothills) for an afternoon barbecue and story-telling and lantern-making session. Then we go to Belgrave in the evening for the Lantern Parade. For the occasion, I have written this story:

A story for the Winter Solstice

The Earth is in winter once again. The Sun gets out of bed later to find the Day and tucks itself away earlier to bring Night.

But there is a place that we can’t touch or feel. We scarcely notice it when it is come and it is gone. It is Mid-Winter. The Winter Solstice. This is a very special time. Before this time the hours of The Sun are getting shorter and shorter. After this time, the hours of The Sun are getting longer and longer. Or we can think of it another way. Before Mid-Winter the hours of Great Darkness are getting longer and longer. After Mid-Winter the hours of Great Darkness are getting shorter and shorter.

The Sun is s-o-o important to us. It is the bringer of Life and Light. When we put our plants in the ground to grow our food, to produce beautiful flowers, and start big shady trees on their journey of life – our effort will be wasted if there is not Light. We need Light to live. And while plants and animals and human beings have adjusted and adapted to living with cold in most places on The Earth, we do need Warmth. The Sun gives us Warmth. Our life is in Light and Warmth – not in Dark and Cold.

Our bodies love to be warm. They do not like to be shivery cold.

But it is not just our bodies. We human beings are not just our bodies. We are spirit too. And sometimes, in our spirit, we do not feel warm. Sometimes, in our spirit, we do not feel full of Life and filled with Light. We feel the Dark and the Cold coming inside of us and this does not make us feel happy. Instead, we feel s-o-o sad. We don’t want to get out of bed. We don’t want to talk to people. We want to huddle into ourselves because the sunny parts of our lives feel as if they have gone away never to come again.

So what do we do when we feel dark in our spirit?

It helps to look around at the world created for us. When we make a garden we have to think of all that a plant needs. This includes thinking about the Light. If the garden is too shady because of big trees, we have to prune and shape the trees. The plants in our garden will receive more Light to grow.

We look at our spirit in the same way. We do this by sitting quietly. We sit quietly so that the spirit inside us can listen. We sit quietly so that the spirit inside us can be still and not disturbed. As we still our spirit inside us, it is like pruning and shaping that big shady tree. As we are sitting, as we are still, as we are quiet we find the Light comes to our spirit just as the Light comes to our growing plants.

A long time ago a man called George Fox learned about the Light. He said then – and his words have come down to us to this very day – I saw an ocean of darkness and death BUT – and this is a great, lovely, big BUT – and infinite ocean of light and love which flowed over the ocean of darkness.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Amberley - place of retreat

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Last year, Gina and I walked along the path beside the Yarra River in Westerfolds Park between Templestowe and Eltham. As we stood talking, we looked across the river at a steep cliff and on top of the cliff was what I thought was a rich man's mansion. Well, last weekend - the Queen's Birthday weekend - I spent three beautiful days at the "rich man's mansion".

Once upon a time it was the mansion of a rich man.

It is Amberley and I was one of 65 adults and children, Quakers, who were having a Mid-Winter Gathering. We were so comfortable. It really was a pleasant weekend. You can find more, including recipes from Amberley, at Oz Tucker.