Thursday, December 27, 2007

From the Middle of the Holiday Season

For the Solstice, I forewent Reclaiming's annual beach ritual with plunge in the ocean. As it happens, I haven't gone in years, although I find the Solstice plunge at Ocean Beach (at both Solstices) one of [the old] Reclaiming's most moving traditions. Besides, there was no plunge this year due to the recent oil spill in the Bay, which was swept up and down the coast beyond the Golden Gate. Instead, celebrants performed a cool bio-remediation spell using matted human hair. Even though I knew that would be a compelling thing to do, I opted to attend a smaller private circle in Berkeley with some Gardnerian friends in Coven Trismegiston.

Corby had wanted to sing Yule carols that night at Vicki's house. He loves choral singing and had missed Vicki's caroling group last year because he arrived after it was over. Vicki does not operate on Pagan Standard Time. I would have liked the ability to bi- or tri-locate so I could attend all the rituals I wanted to that night. I also had to decline an invitation to Bonny Doon, overlooking Monterey Bay from Ben Lomond Mountain. Corby and I regularly joined this Faery/Feri circle at the Winter Solstice for some years. Then it didn't happen for a few years, and this year we decided it was too far and we couldn't afford the travel time or gas, in consideration of everything else we were trying to pack in. I've missed this annual reconnection with Linnea, Leigh,, Geoff, et al. Missed viewing the Midwinter sky with Linnea's big telescope and sitting under the stars in her hot tub; missed caroling while the mulled wine stayed hot atop the iron fireplace.

As it happened, Corby hadn't finished a job he'd agreed complete that night and got home too late for any of the rituals. I went alone to Berkeley, where I enjoyed the ritual and the post-ritual socializing. I was unable to persuade any of those guests to cross the Bay to San Francisco to party and vigil with the gang at Oak's house. Finally, it was so late I just went home.

On Saturday, Corby and I joined six other people in a ceremony on San Bruno Mountain to celebrate the Solstice by preparing a despacho with our friend Freyja. We offered the despacho, containing bay leaves, sage, a eucalyptus button, flowers, some chocolate, brown sugar, wine, and other organic substances, in gratitude and prayer to the Spirits of Place on San Bruno Mountain.

Not only is San Bruno Mountain "the largest urban open space in the United States - 3,300 acres of undeveloped open space," but it also is "the last fragment of an entire ecosystem - the Franciscan Region - the rest of which is buried beneath the city of San Francisco." Freyja says that this mountain is "one of the Bay Area's major guardians of energy." She serves on the Board of Directors of the San Bruno Mountain Watch, which is working in opposition to the San Bruno Mountain Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP), "the test case for the undermining and dismantling of the Endangered Species Act..."

Harvard biologist E. O. Wilson ranks San Bruno Mountain as one of the world’s 18 biodiversity hot spots. It is home to several endangered species, including three butterflies: the Mission Blue Butterfly, the San Bruno Elfin Butterfly, and the San Francisco Silverspot Butterfly (found only on San Bruno Mountain).

Shockingly, neither Corby nor I, both of whom have lived in the SF Bay Area for decades, had ever been on San Bruno Mountain. From Freyja we learned a chant that the band of Ohlone who once lived there used to sing. It was about jack rabbits and quail and dancing on the edge of the world. Ohlone people have left a record of approximately 13,000 years of human history in a large part of what is now California.

As we were concluding the ceremony, Freyja asked me if I had a song or chant we could sing. It just so happened that I was thinking exactly that when she asked. We sang a chant we in Reclaiming have used on Midwinter Morn for many, many years. The words are by e.e. cummings; I don't recall who wrote the tune. It goes "i who have died am alive again today, for this is the sun's birthday, this is the birthday of life and love and wings, and the gay, great happening illimitably earth." I joined our hands in a circle and led a brief spiral dance round the buried despacho.

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