Do you get quiet like this, sometimes, where you just have to step away from all the outside noise and input, because the inside clamor has gotten so loud?
A friend’s mom went out of town, and offered to let me stay at her place for a few days, and she didn’t have a tv and I couldn’t work out the wifi and the at&t connection was nonsensical, so I mostly wasn’t online. I listened to cds (cds! practically 78s, these days) and then also had long stretches of quiet. I walked a lot, through unfamiliar neighborhoods, through mist and fog, and I read through my own old notebooks and women who run with the wolves — yes, I’ve gone back to that one: after reading the “handless maiden” chapter, I went through and read/reread almost all the rest.
This is a difficult time of year. There’s the long dark, the part of winter that’s about nesting, about nestling in, about going inside, dormant, finding and nurturing what’s going to sprout and spring forth come March. Then there’s the approach of the xmasness, how the commercials start before Thanksgiving now, how blatantly capitalist is the holiday, and yet we’re supposed to find some love and nurture in these exploited traditions. Folks at this time of year begin to talk family, togetherness, and I just remember the terror of being a teenager in my stepfather’s home, how every holiday was an opportunity for more abuse, one more chance for me to do something, everything, wrong, one more chance for him to make an example of my selfishness or thoughtlessness: is it any surprise that I came to want to avoid any celebration — even all these years later?
At my church (my what?) we’re talking about Advent. That’s the season now. The only thing I knew about Advent was the calendar, the one with chocolates or little presents behind each date’s window, the ones with xmas scenes printed on the cover. Apparently there’s more to Advent than that. It’s a time of waiting, of preparation for new arrival, new growth, new possibility. There’s a wreath with candles that are meant to be lit, one additional per week — and here I’d thought that only folks celebrating Hanukkah or Kwanza got to light candles at this time of year. Of course, yes, all that candle-lighting comes out of much older, pagan traditions — bringing light into the darkness of winter, celebrating the persistence of the evergreen trees that reminded us to hold on to the possibility, the coming, of new growth.
I do a little research and am alarmed to find that Advent is not only about preparing for/anticipating the birth of Jesus (which we’re supposed to believe happened around this time of the year, even though I think there’s been some ‘evidence’ that shows he would more likely have been born late summer) but also about anticipating his second coming. That last bit creeps me out a little bit (or more than a little bit). Our church isn’t at all evangelical, or even terribly traditional (at least in my understanding of traditional), and so the minister didn’t mention that second coming bit (or at least not in so many words). Maybe that’s another candle. We’ve only lit two so far: hope and peace.
Of course, after spending all this time with Pinkola-Estes this last week, I’m prepared to visit these stories from christianity as archetypes, metaphors, psychological structurings or possibilities. So, the minister at the church invites us to consider, at this time of Advent, what we’re waiting for, and what’s awakening in us: in our own lives, in our families or communities, our nations, our planet.
I’ve been holding those questions close in my belly over the last week or so. They might feel like a writing prompt for you — please note, I’m not asking you to do anything religious with them (unless you’re feeling especially called into that writing). Just consider those questions as starting places for your writing: what’s ready to awaken in you/your character? What are you/your character waiting for right now?
Thanks for your patience, your persistence work, your strong fidelity to your deepest, most creative self. Thanks every day (even when I’m not here) for your words.