Yesterday was the winter solstice in the northern hemisphere, also known to us pagans as Yule. Many of you commented on the celebration of Christmas Eve by Brian and his clan in LNDtH2, chapter 68 "Golden" that posted last Wednesday. Thank you all for your kind comments and good wishes for the season.
I thought I tell you all that the ritual described in that chapter was, for the most part, the ritual I have used to celebrate Yule for over 30 years. It was usually celebrated with a pretty sizable gathering at a sit-down meal with lots of food and lots of champagne. The three parts of the ritual are pretty much what was described in the story: 1) Dumping the garbage of the past year; 2) Preserving the good; 3) Hopes for the future. Yesterday, I spent the afternoon in a solitary celebration for the first time in my memory, but still followed the three points of the ritual.
1) Dumping the garbage, represented by burning the Yule log. I look back on a very successful year and think over what I wish to leave behind me. I have traveled around the U.S. and I'm currently in a lovely cabin on the Big Island of Hawaii. Lots of great memories and many people have commented to me about how brave I am and how they wish they could do what I'm doing. Well, I'm not brave. In fact, there have been many times that I have looked at a road with longing and said, "Too dangerous. I don't know where it goes." I've often thought that if I were sharing this journey with another person, I'd do more. But there isn't another person. If I don't do it, it's all on me. So I have determined to leave my fear of the unknown behind. I don't have a Yule log or a fire to burn it in, so I burned a Yule cigar, which is sort of like a log. And to celebrate leaving my fear behind, I bought a ticket to Aukland, New Zealand. I have no idea what I will find there or how long I'll stay. I just know I'm going.
2) Preserving the good, represented by some ornamentation for the tree that represents the past year. My journey took me out of North Texas through Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri, Louisiana, and Mississippi. I followed the civil rights march trail from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama a month before the fiftieth anniversary. I ate catfish at Ezell's in Columbus GA and had breakfast with SOL author Number 7 In Lake City Florida. My daughter joined me for a week of spring break and spring training in Fort Meyers. I met distant cousins I'd never met before. I rocked out at Nudie Blues and cut up through Tennessee and Kentucky where I met my high school best friend and sampled bourbon in Bardstown. I researched LNDtH2 by visiting Bloomington, IN and the IU campus. Then I got together with cousins in Mishawaka and Elkhart who I hadn't seen since my mom passed away fifteen years ago. I spent a week watching fantastic Shakespeare at Stratford Ontario. I wandered across the Upper Peninsula and Wisconsin, following the path for a while of Jim Mellon of Wolf's "Road Trip." I met up with old friends and former co-workers in Minneapolis before I headed north along the Mississippi to the headwaters at Lake Itasca. I found out why North Dakota is called the Peace Garden State as I visited the International Peace Garden straddling the border between North Dakota and Manitoba. I met a fan of my stories near there and went exploring sites I'd never have experienced without his help. I drove across Montana and saw both trees. I spent a great week at the American Association for Nude Recreation convention in Idaho. Dropped down through Eastern Washington, winding my way between wild fires and completely by accident met up with friends in Pendleton where we'd both stopped for dinner. Wandered around Oregon for a few weeks and then came up the coast to Seattle to spend time with friends and family, including helping my little sister celebrate her big 6-0. And then I stored the truck and trailer and jumped off the continent to the Big Island of Hawaii where I have had an incredibly productive writing time and spent a week at Thanksgiving with my daughter. I've even met a delightful woman and have been tutored by her in many of the things to do here on the island. Most of all, I have spent hours gazing out at the Pacific in awe. My memory cards are being filled with photos of that beautiful sight and I hang that on my virtual tree.
3) Hope for next year, represented by lighting a candle. Or in this case, flicking my Bic. I hope for a return to what used to pass as sanity in our world. I hope for continued good health. I hope for the courage to go to the places I want to go. New Zealand is my first step. To that I raise my glass of Blanc de Bleu champagne and wish for all of you, a return to the light.
P.S. As I wrote this, "Living Next Door to Heaven" received its 1,000,000th download. You are all a blessing in my life! Thank you.