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Two end-of-year traditions: setting the intention of the year-to-be with a word, and choosing a card as a forecast of sorts. If the card is the river that carries us forward, then the word is how we choose to ride that river.

The word - the intention - has been on my mind for a couple of months now. Several have been picked up, chewed on, thought about, and gently set down again. I am cautious in my choosing, not wanting to invite unpleasant side effects in. Frugality could lead to the loss of work, simplicity to a brain injury, plenty could be plenty of strife.

Yes, I am somewhat paranoid about this. But while there are aspects to all of these words that felt right to me, none of them were Right.

In the dark, at ritual, meditating on the gifts that I can offer to other people. Meditating on the gifts that others offer to me. There are the tangible things that are so plentiful and so miserly at the same time, but my mind kept straying back to something more. Smiles, laughter. A good meal, throwing open the door to welcome others in. Conversation and tea, brownies and tears, companionship in the dark night looking at the space station flies overhead, hysterical laughter while drying the dishes.

I thought about what I wanted from the new year - progress on the work I've already begun, yes. Deeper work, deeper relationships. Joy, happiness, security. And I sat in the dark and asked what was at the root of all these things, what supports them, drives them forward?

As the meditation ended, I had found my word, my intention for the new year. There was supposed to be a big ritual for myself to say it but, as with so many things in my life, the ritual was just there in the most mundane of moments. In the kitchen (oh, my magic-filled kitchen), stirring the stew, checking the bread, chatting with mom about Christmas lights and my niece. The call wound down and I, out of nowhere, say:

"I love you, mom." She responded immediately. "I love you too." But what made my breath catch was that she sounded surprised to hear it. Surprised to hear her daughter say those words.

Yes, came the whisper. You begin to see.

The cards sit next to me. Pull one for the year, one to get a sense of what the year will hold. 2 of Pentacles. Balance in all things, in work, in money, in love, in self. Balance between the inner and the outer. Balance between high ritual and simply stirring the stew.

Balance, and to get there, Love.

Balance. Love. Love. Balance.

Yes, comes the whisper. You begin to see.
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Standing on the bridge that crosses
The river that goes out to the sea
The wind is full of a thousand voices
They pass by the bridge and me.

         - Loreena McKennitt, “All Souls Night”

Cornbread crumbled into a glass of milk, a Camel cigarette sitting in the ashtray next to it. Homemade hush puppies fried with catfish, a glass of iced tea on the table. A cup of coffee, the jade sugar bowl carefully washed and filled. My family has gathered once again for supper but there is only silence where voices were once heard. My mind is on times past, of physical touch that no longer exists, of long-distance conversations that have ceased. I allow myself to grieve, to wish for the 'one more time' that inevitably is stolen from us all. But I celebrate too, knowing that their journey is not over, that the cycle continues. I smile as I remember fragments of time, never knowing what memories will surface but delighting in them all.

This is my ritual, this is how I honor the beloved dead.

I think of those ancestors I never knew. I think of my great-grandmother – all I have is a picture of her in a hospital bed, holding a baby in her arms. That was me, just a few days before she died. I feel her with me tonight, our souls reaching out to touch each other in greeting. I look at photographs of other ancestors that are gone from this world and think of their lives, the living and dying that led to my own existence.

This is my ritual, this is how I honor the unknown dead.

I think beyond those dead of my family line and feel the weight of other spirits settle around me. These are strangers to me, at least in this lifetime. I honor their presence as they dance through this sacred space, spirits whose names and faces are lost to the world. On this night, all are welcome to my small fire and all have a place at my table.

This is my ritual, this is how I honor the forgotten dead.

I know that where they are now, I too will be. Those I love will cross that veil one by one, and the tears of that someday grief mark my skin even now. But until that time comes, until the cycle renews, I have those suppers and conversation. I can look into their eyes, touch their skin, hear their voices and laughter twined with mine. I honor those moments, and I renew my pledge to drink the beauty of the living in as deeply as I can every single day.

This is my ritual, this is how I honor the future dead.

Blessed Samhain.

*** This is my Week 6 entry in [info]therealljidol. This week's topic was "Ghosts." I would love to hear what you thought about it, and would appreciate your vote when the time comes. Thanks for reading! ***


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December 2012

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