Saturday, November 26, 2011
Contemplation of our lives comes easily at this dark and insular time of year. Warm lights, candles and fires comfort us when darkness comes in the afternoon. I am looking around the house and wondering about decorating for the holidays.
I have always loved the lights of the Christmas tree and can remember as a small child falling asleep under the spreading branches of a heavily scented pine or fir. Now considering that we lived in Saskatchewan at the time, I am sure the tree wasn't quite as majestic as my child-mind remembers it, but for me it was magical. The twittering lights blinking, the angel winking at the top. We even had a stuffed Santa doll (which I found about a week ago sorting through my Mom's decoration boxes) to cuddle and dream with.
This year will be quite different. Mom is gone. That is a big enough hole but one that isn't as raw as it was last year. Both of the kids will be spending the 25th with different families as they grow up and away. So it will be Gerry and me on the day, and to be honest, I am looking forward to it. I don't mind the peace of an empty house and we have both been so busy for so long that it will be lovely just to spend some time with him.
In the meantime, I have been tasked with managing the holly sales for the farm where we keep some of our beehives. It has been fascinating work! Long a closet farmer, I am getting a real (albeit safe) taste of what the farming life is like with its uncertain weather, uncertain markets, uncertain schedules, and uncertain crops. How amazingly determined true farmers are to carry on in the wake of all that.
My work began late....beginning of November, and I have been scrambling to organize pickers, set up shipping schedules, learn all about the flower auction system in Burnaby, market the product to various local and wholesale distributors, and ultimately learn about the harvesting from the amazing woman who has been doing it for 19 years! Watching her and the other pickers work has been the greatest of educations.But doing all this amongst 14 acres of holly got me wondering about its history as a symbol of many midwinter holidays and festivals, so a trip down google-lane confirmed what I thought--holly is midwinter's sacred plant.
Long associated with rituals and celebrations, holly has an ancient history. Druids wore holly around their heads when heading into the forests at winter solstice as it symbolized death and rebirth. Ancient Romans used it to celebrate Saturn during Saturnalia, and for early Christians, holly was thought to have the power to drive away evil spirits. The Green Knight of Arthurian legend was described as not having a sword but carrying a solitary branch of holly as his weapon.
In flower essence literature, holly is said to be one of two most primary of essences. good to "heal the inner being and stimulate the basic loving nature of the human soul" (http://us.flowersociety.org/heart_healer.htm). Holly has also been used as a Celtic sleep spell and a bag of holly leaves and berries were thought to increase the ability of men to attract women.
So if you are in the stores, gathering up treasures to pass on to loved ones over the holidays, take a close look at the holly and wonder. Wonder about its history and stories, wonder where it comes from, wonder who it was who picked it. Then buy some and pass it along. Read or re-read the story of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight -- make it one more tradition for a child to remember while falling asleep under the tree. Then tuck up close and enjoy the love of family and friends. The holly will be there to remind us that out of darkness comes life.