today is my personal christmas. today is a triumph and blessing. today i took the day off to make my mother's stollen recipe. and it worked. it worked!! this is a yeast bread i have made alongside my mother and last year, alone, i failed in my attempt. but not this year.
this year, i altered the recipe (how daring, considering my very green culinary skills). i eliminated the candied cherries (that dye must be toxic) and substituted dried ones instead. i only made 1/2 the recipe (who has room for 6 loaves in the freezer??) i added more spices. generously. and i will forgo the white frosting on top. melted butter and sprinkles of cinnamon and sugar are what this rustic triumph calls for.
my home smells amazing while they cool. even if the insides aren't as well done as i imagine, they are perfectly perfect for me. finally my mother is here again.
It was an apron that helped me define it. Red, with snowmen clustered on the front, hung from a hook in the hall closet. It was my mother's. She wore it 2 Decembers ago as we baked for the holiday in her kitchen. It was our last time baking together.
This December I rescued the limp apron from its hook and took it home. It was a recent grey day when I put it on. It was then I realized it was my grandmother's apron because it carried the faint scent of her house. My mother had worn her mother's apron for the 2 Christmases she spent without her. (They died less than 2 years apart.) Now, I wear it, infused with the energy and glad enthusiasm of the 2 women who made my holidays magical.
On a recent grey day in a red apron, standing at my own kitchen sink I could define another undertow in the slow process of grief. I am missing and mourning the loss of the deep feminine spirit in my life. That spirit was held and richly shared by 2 German immigrants who insisted on linen tablecloths, full-course exceptional meals and candles on Christmas trees. They held standards and shared them freely through their feminine wiles not only at Christmas, but all through the year. Without them there is so much less heart and warmth. So much less magic.
It is mine now to bring forth that heart, apron-clad and candles burning. Not just for December, but for every moment of every year I feel capable of bringing my essence and ideas to the fore. The red apron made clear to me the troubles of the earth itself, of this life we all live. We, as a collective, are missing the benefits and safety of the deep feminine spirit. Where ever the feminine strengths are lost or shut out, grief, and even insanity, ensues.
Women of all ages, but particularly women of the age of knowing, mid-life and beyond, bring forth your spirit. Bring forth your warmth and compassion and enveloping ways. Share openly your wiles and ideas that usher us back to safety and love and all that we crave at our core. Be the deep feminine spirit. In aprons, in overalls, in business suits, in glitter. However you evoke magic and meaning in this life, bring it.
I drove into the full moon on my way home and I remembered when the orb held me in such awe, when I would sit in the backyard as a child, staring and knowing for certain it and my soul were connected; knowing there was magic in moonlight.
I felt none of that driving home.
She asked me the other day if there was a time I had ever felt very happy. My lips were silent while my brain raced around decades, attempting to pull out the period of time I was happy for more than mere moments or days. I said I would have to think about it.
The question, a revelation due to my lack of instant response, was a puzzle I gnawed at. Not wishing for a life revue to come up with something, anything, I remembered 19. Being 19 and being loved and being part of a team with dreams and plans until there was no longer a team and then it was back to me.
It has continued to be me even when it wasn't and the sudden knowing of not knowing how to reclaim the freshness and exuberance of being 19, and the vision of magic in moonlight.
Now, the Crone is tapping my door. So many things have ended. She tells me not everyone has lived their greatest happiness before she comes to call. She speaks of magic, but now it is practical. What was exuberance outside is now waiting to be seen and known as residing within. Residing within, she repeats.
Let happiness be felt in new ways. It will suddenly be sustainable. All I have learned and striven to understand of magic and things unseen live within my cells. If it all feels less shiny now, less wondrous, it is because it is too close to home. Rather, it is home. In mindfulness, in silence, in wearing my mother's ring.
Content is the new happy, she says. Self possession is the new happy. The world is within and now known to be such.
While Tina grieves and slowly processes the terrible loss of her horse, Chance, I will be giving some love and attention to Chance's companion, Solly. Equine therapy continues. I put on my boots, cut up some apples, dug up some courage and went to the barn by myself for the very first time. As luck and the Universe would have it, Renaldo's mom was there to give me confidence and help me with the cross ties.
We did well together, Mr. Solly and I. A calm and thorough grooming was followed by walking in the arena. I learned what his voice sounds like, although I have yet to understand what he's talking about, and I also learned he likes to role on the ground in the arena. Next time, we will reverse the order of things with walking first and grooming second, so as to preserve my fur-beautifying skills for more than 15 minutes. We rounded out the day with grazing on grass and a successful return to his stall. There were many apples along the way.
it is said that everyone grieves differently. that grief is a process. that it will catch you off guard over and over again. my process has felt like falling down a well, causing me to feel un~well and reclusive. not being one to easily ask for help, it has taken some time to devise a plan of how to climb back out.
i began with the simplest of silent prayers to no one in particular~ "please help me." i asked this over and over for days and weeks.
along with my prayers, i knew instinctively the way out of the well included horses. but the lift up and out would require losing my baseless fear of them. overcoming one fear to soothe another.
so, i asked for help.
and miss tina answered with generosity and compassion and her 2 rescued horses. this is my second week of meeting her at the big barn with 11 apples split into bites. i've learned to put a harness on both her horses, to walk beside them, to groom them and shift with them when they fidget. today we worked the lunge line.
already, i can feel a change. more courage, more calm, more willingness to speak up. i am beginning to see the light.