Well, we’ve stumbled full tilt into the “holiday season.” The days are quite short, and what warmth there is during the day leaves quite quickly at night.
This winter solstice is a special one – not only will there be a full moon, but that full moon is in conjunction with a lunar perigee. That means the moon will be as close to the Earth as it ever gets, so it will appear significantly larger than usual. In addition, the Earth is closer to the Sun at our Winter Solstice, which will make the Moon even brighter. The last time this happened was 133 years ago.
Southwynde talked to Belle Bonfils about setting up an account for Hearthstone, and they no longer have the accounting system for donating for a particular person or organization. Perhaps we should set up a blood drive.They’re doing one in Colorado Springs in February…Oh, Southwynde…
Oh, and for the one or two of you actually following the Brussels Sprouts saga – I have really healthy stalks and tiny little inedible buds. I guess it’s back to the produce aisles for me.
It’s that time again time to make sure everyone who is receiving the newsletter still wants to receive it. If you would like to continue to receive the paper newsletter, please let Catherine or me know. If you are receiving the e-mail newsletter, you don’t need to “renew.” Look for an asterisk on your address label – that indicates you are renewed. The purge of non-renewed addresses will take place after the January newsletter.
Our thanks to M-Taliesin, Wren, and their students for a lovely piece of ritual theater telling the story of Dea and Dis. Dea’s journey to the underworld was quite appropriate to the waning year. They reminded us of something I would prefer to never forget – to tell those around us that we love them.
The December Open Full Moon will be on Friday, December 17, 1999, at 7:30 PM, at the First Unitarian Church, 1400 Lafayette, Denver, CO. The doors of the church open at 7:00. We like to begin at 7:30.
This month’s ritual will be presented by Dragon’s Tide and will celebrate the rebirth of the Sun King. Unless Lyon Oak Fletcher appears upon the scene in such a time and fashion as to prevent his family from presenting.
We have determined that our break-even point is about $3 per person.
We aren’t going to start collecting at the door, and no one will be turned away for not having a donation. However, we would like to suggest a donation of 3 to 5 dollars per person. (The extra is to cover the pagans that can’t swing $3.) If you can’t afford it, you are still welcome if you can afford more, we’d be delighted to accept it.
NOTE: Hearthstone is a church and your donations to Hearthstone are tax deductible. If you would like to write a check so you can keep track of your donations, we can certainly handle that as well. And if it simpler to write a check occasionally rather than come up with a few bucks every month, believe me, we understand!
Celebrations abound during this season. Among the better-known holidays are Yule, Chanukah, and Kwanzaa. All these events have elements of life and light. This isn't surprising, since the Winter Solstice will be upon us shortly. Most of us will engage in gift-giving to mark the Return of Light.
We will spend time thinking about the gifts, trying to discern what the intended recipients might like this year. We will spend time shopping for the gifts, attempting to find the right sizes, the right colors, the right brands, the right styles, the right everything. We will spend money on the gifts, and most of us will spend so much we go into debt to purchase them.
Then the gifts will usually be decoratively wrapped, whether by us or by the merchant who sold them to us. After that, we will bring the gifts to our homes or our workplaces to await that special day when they are opened. That day when the brightly colored paper and festive ribbons will be removed. That day when, we hope, we will receive our own gift in return: the look of delight on the face of a loved one.
Happiness. That's what we're really trying to give. That's why we spend so much time and money and effort on buying things. We believe that, somehow, things will give happiness to our loved ones.
But, does that tactic work?
If we look within ourselves, we know better. True, some people may crave the status that they believe are conferred by certain brands and styles of goods. Others may need certain tools to accomplish an objective. But, once our basic survival needs for food, clothing, shelter and transportation have been met, most of us don't find material goods quite so important.
The dolls and video games and clothes and such are worth giving. They do tend to bring a smile or two for a while. However, material things should not be our only focus.
To give lasting happiness, I believe we must give something more valuable than money: our time.
We must be willing to turn away from the television and so forth, and turn toward our loved ones. To spend that time listening, caring, bonding. Telling each other our thoughts and emotions.
Please, remember the most precious gift you can give in any season.
I've been racking my brain trying to come up with a way to make up for that recipe I tortured you with er I mean SHARED WITH YOU last month. (My mother said it was "pretty good." That's her way of saying that while she didn't gag, she ate it only because it was healthy...) I thought of aiming for the sugary, sticky class of foods, mostly because 'tis the season to eat sweets until you buzz, but I haven't been in a sweet mood lately and couldn't get up the heart to write it.
Then I got a long distance phone call from someone who shall remain nameless (because I've always wanted to say that) asking for help with a carrot cake. The problem was obviously altitude related and was resolved by her contacting the local county extension office. But in the course of the conversation I confessed that I really dislike carrot cake. It took me a long time to realize why. I don't have anything against the cake, but I don't like sweetened cream cheese dishes, like cheesecake or cream cheese frostings. Much like my dislike for graham crackers lead me to avoid key lime pie for many years, my dislike for cream cheese frosting was keeping me away from carrot cakes.
If I ever find a carrot cake without cream cheese frosting, I'll give it a try and report back on how I liked it. Meanwhile, I found this recipe in, of all places, an Italian cookbook. It sounds yummy, and the introduction to the recipe says that if you use pumpkin puree instead of carrot puree, it becomes a tart traditionally served at a Provencal Christmas dinner. (I realize this looks like a complicated recipe. But I typed it all, and upon closer inspection it's really quite simple. The English language is infamous for taking three syllables to describe an action that can be completed in one.)
By the way, there is no medical evidence that eating carrots in great quantity as an adult has any effect on eyesight. But it couldn't hurt. After all, Bugs Bunny is umpteen years old, still gnawing carrots, and still can tunnel underground like a pro. You can't ask for a better recommendation than that!
TORTA DI CAROTE E ZENZERO
(Two-crust Carrot and Ginger Tart)
For the pastry:
For the filling:
To make the pastry, in a bowl combine the flour, sugar, and salt. Cut in the butter with a pastry blender until the mixture has the consistency of coarse meal. Add the egg, vanilla, lemon juice, and water, and stir and toss with a fork until the mixture just holds together. Remove the dough from the bowl and gather it into a ball. (The dough can also be made in a food processor, pulsing to cut in the butter and processing to bring the dough together.) Divide the dough into two portions, one slightly larger than the other, and flatten each half into a disk. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.
To make the filling, combine the carrots and sugar (and a Tb or two of water if needed) in a heavy enameled cast iron pan over medium heat. Cook down, stirring occasionally, until you have a thick conserve, 18 or 20 minutes, adding a Tb or two of water if the mixture begins to scorch. Stir in the candied ginger and remove from the heat. Let cool. (This filling can be made a day or two ahead of time.)
Preheat an oven to 375 degrees F.
On a lightly floured board, roll out the larger pastry disk into a round 11 inches in diameter and 1/8 inch thick. Carefully transfer the round to a 9-inch pie pan, pressing it gently into the pan. Spoon in the carrot filling. Roll out the second disk in the same way and position it over the filling. (Or, if desired, create a lattice.) Trim the edges evenly, dampen with water, turn under to form a slight rim, and press to seal. Press the edges with the tines of a fork to create an attractive rim. Brush the top with the egg wash if desired.
Bake until golden brown, 20 to 15 minutes. Transfer to a rack to cool completely before serving.
by Ken Cannon
As the daylight grows less and less each day, we turn on more and more lights. We use them to decorate and cheer ourselves at this darkest time of year, and that is good, though some folk do seem to get carried away. As you will see below, I also use colorful lights this season, but I have a bit of a contrary streak, as well. So as we go through this "Season of Light", as a friend of mine calls it, I'd like you to have this short reminder of the importance of darkness:
"The adventure of the sun is the great natural drama by which we live, and not to have joy in it is to close a dull door on nature's sustaining and poetic spirit. With our lights, and ever more lights, we drive the holiness and beauty of night back into the forests and the sea." -- From The Outermost House by Henry Beston.
Standing in my living room right now is a tree awaiting lights and other decorations, which it will receive tonight. (I like decorating Christmas trees at night because the lights show up so much better, and because that's when we did it when I was little). I bought the tree, cut the bottom off, and managed to get it more or less upright early yesterday evening.
Yes, I bought a cut tree, and before you lay into me for hypocrisy, let me say a couple of things. I have internal debates about many things ecological, and like most of you, I make compromises. The Christmas tree is a good example of this, so let me explain my reasoning, or perhaps rationalization.
I could buy an artificial tree which would last for years, probably longer than I will. That they do last so long is part of the problem with them: people get tired of that particular one after a few years, throw it away, and go buy another one. I wonder how big a pile all the discarded artificial Christmas trees from, say, the past ten years would make? And I really don't like to encourage the manufacture of plastic.
Still, I don't much like cutting down trees, either. So get a potted one?
About the only ones I know of that will survive indoors are the Norfolk pines, and most of the ones I've seen in homes look to be in their deathpots. Someone said they get root rot very easily, and that keeping them healthy requires misting. Now, while I don't have a black thumb, I know that I'd be very bad about misting a tree daily. If I lived in a house, I might keep a pine or spruce in a big pot out in the yard and roll it in for a couple of weeks at Christmas, but apartment living doesn't accommodate that sort of thing very well.
So I buy cut trees, and for many years, I felt kind of guilty about it. Buy a tree, decorate it, delight in it a few weeks, and throw it away. Sounds pretty wasteful, if not destructive. Then I realized that in doing so, I was encouraging someone somewhere to plant and grow trees. That is a good thing.
And for years, there was nothing to do with the tree after the holidays except throw it in the trash. That wasn't altogether bad. At least it meant that there was some organic material going into our landfills.
These days, nearly every municipality in our area either collects or provides drop-offs for Christmas trees, which they use to make mulch or as an ingredient in compost. And so this winter's Christmas tree becomes next year's flower bed in one of our parks, a rather nice thought.
Best blessings to all of us for the holidays and on through the seasons.
In the Deep Midwinter…
by Valerie Stone
Stillness, darkness, silence, power. This is the spiritual meaning of midwinter, to me. The seed going underground, animals hibernating, crops being stored. It’s a time of looking within, gathering power. A time of potential more than movement. Death, waiting, stillness before the rebirth of spring. Shorter days, longer nights, the darkness of the season.
Stillness? Darkness? Silence? Doesn’t seem to be that way in our culture! Replace “stillness” with “busyness,” “darkness” with “blinking colored lights,” and “silence” with “Buy now! Holiday sale!” ‘Tis the season to run up your credit card debt!
As pagans, we try to remember and honor the cycles of nature. This often means being out of step with the larger culture. As the days get shorter and darkness grows, as nature slows down and turns within for the cold months, our culture revs up for the biggest retail season of the year. One thing we can do to honor the season is to take time out from the Christmas rush to remember what the season means in the natural world. Take time out for stillness, for reflection, for turning inwards.
For animals and plants, and for many of our ancestors, preparing for winter is and was about conserving resources. Conservation couldn’t be further from what our culture does at this time of year. The Christmas season is many things to many people, but for a lot of America, our culture’s materialism comes to a focal point now. Christmas used to be a minor Christian holiday, celebrated with family and feasting, traditions much more in step with nature. Since the consumer and advertising boom of the 1920’s, all that has changed. Christmas has become the primary holiday of the year, a retail peak, a time to buy, buy, buy! The result: holiday stress. Waiting in lines, waiting for parking spaces at malls, trying to find the perfect object to give to everyone on your gift list. Which all means being out, being active at a hectic pace, and spending resources instead of conserving them, none of which is in keeping with what nature is doing at this time of year. This seasonal orgy of materialism takes its toll on the earth, as well, in the pollution generated from manufacturing all those Christmas items, and the strain on landfills stuffed with discarded packaging and giftwrapping.
As those following a nature-based religion, we can slow down, and use the rituals of the season to follow nature’s way, not our culture’s. One way to conserve at this time of year is to give gifts in a different way. I got a great lesson in this from an older couple I met at a yoga class. They had been given the classes as a gift from their kids. At a certain point in their lives, they had told their families that they were not accepting any more gifts that were physical objects. So their kids got them massages, gift certificates at restaurants, theater tickets, and classes in dance and yoga and art. I thought that was a great idea, so I’m passing it along. Some of these things are expensive, so a group of friends could pitch in to give something like this to a mutual friend. As pagans, there are even more things in that line that we can give: Tarot readings, Wicca classes, I Ching readings -- the possibilities are endless. When I do buy objects for people, I try to buy things that have no packaging or minimal packaging, and I don’t wrap things or I re-use wrapping paper. Another way to conserve is to give something handmade, whether it’s a wreath, an herbal sachet, some home-baked specialty, or certificate redeemable for a home-cooked meal at your place. I always feel really touched when I get a gift like this, and they’re often inexpensive to give for those with limited means. The time spent making something for friends and family can be time spent in reflection on what that person and that relationship means to you. Giving a reading to someone can be an opportunity for them to look inwards and reflect.
For many of our ancestors, midwinter was a time of storing food, gathering with the clan in shelter for the cold months, and making tools or weaving cloth in preparation for the spring. A time of preparation more than action. I think we still carry the echo of those times in our collective psyche, so that all the outward-focused activity of the Christmas season in our culture is out of step, psychologically, with our deep selves. I remember watching “Kundun,” about the Chinese invasion of Tibet. It showed the Chinese setting up loudspeakers all over Lhasa, even outside the temples, to play Communist propaganda twenty-four hours a day. The Dalai Lama heard the loudspeakers when he was trying to meditate, and said, “They have taken away our silence.” I feel the same way about advertising and the Christmas rush. They have taken away our silence, at a time of year when we need it.
So, in keeping with the nature of the season, reduce, reuse, recycle, and also,
reflect, regenerate and renew!
ECO Pagans is forming a few task forces for such things as recycling, special projects, and education, and will be sending out a hard-copy mailing early in 2000 to everyone on their mailing list. If you are interested, but not yet on their mailing list, let them know by phoning Wings (303/561-0387), speaking to one of us at the OFM, attending the next meeting, or emailing me.
Next ECO Pagans meeting: Saturday, January 8 from 10 am to noon at Wings.
If you have something to say, and are willing to let Alia edit it slightly, (generally for grammar – I have the soul of an English teacher) please feel free to submit your writing. Content will not be edited. We can usually make room for more voices.
Please note that information and opinions contained in the articles in this newsletter are the responsibility of the authors only. No endorsement by Hearthstone Community Church, Inc. is implied.
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