7AM and my alarm goes off. There’s no rising before dawn naturally in a modern house, the sort in which we still live. Today I will be burning the candle at both ends, as it were, to keep my yule fire burning as late as possible. The dogs give me scornful looks as I slip out of bed. “What are you doing getting up?”, they say with their accusing eyes. “You’re interrupting our sleep! Go back to bed. The lights aren’t even on yet. Silly human.” Dogs simply don’t concern themselves with such things. Soon their stares were replaced with drifitng glazed eyes and twitching paws, chasing squirrels in their dreams.
The world is still dark but the snow, now a few days old, reflects every light, bouncing it around to give the whole neighborhood that early morning winter haze that makes seeing quite easy if one moves slow. And, in truth, it’s not as dark as it was just 10 minutes earlier. The first hints of color are just starting to appear on the horizon. The weatherman said that dawn would be at 7:15AM this morning, so at 7:05 I trundle off in my warmest pajama and gather my things. As the light went on in the garage, the rabbits eyes me with bleary eyes. I was never out at this time of day… What on earth was I doing up? “Go backto bed, silly human.” the rabbits told me as the shuffled in their boxes and nests, trying to stay in a nice, dark space. Dark makes rabbits feel safer, and more at home.
Tradition is such an important part of homesteading. Everything we do is seeped in it, and Yule most of all. Yule is one of the oldest holidays, the sort from which all the other ones stem. Trees, hats, carols, yule fires, gift giving, and even holiday lights came from this ancient celebration to welcome the sun. But the morning before ceremony is still all of it’s own. After assembling my candle, matches, sage stick, and saw (all waiting for me from the night before) I let the chickens outside. I couldn’t imagine a ceremony about nature and mother earth with my animals locked away in their coop. As they stepped outside and stretched their wings, I lit my candle. As the first bits of sun peaked the horizon behind our overcast skies, my rooster crowed. It’s hard to think of a more appropriate sound for the moment, loud, joyful, welcoming the sun. My sage was lit and burned, warding off bad spirits. Then everything fell silent. The wild birds were nowhere to be found and even the rabbits stopped their snuffling and held still. As if the world held it’s breath for a moment while I said my prayers.
I evoked the native American tradition of calling upon the spirits of the four directions and welcoming them to my ceremony, to offer their blessings. My great, great, great grandmother on my mom’s side was native american, but hid her heritage from everyone she could, as the time she lived was one where “injuns” were still persecuted with the harshest of racism. We have little ability to locaate the original tribe from which we came, but the culture has always resonated with me and their prayers are some of the finest in the world, coming from the soul rather than a rote passage.
Starting with the East, the direction I was facing, I welcomed the sunrise, life, and blessings into my home. To the south I welcomed summer, warmth, passion and glory. To the west I welcomed the sunset, wisdom, logic, thoughtfulness and introspection. And to the north I welcomed the winter, the strength to endure, to grow an (in the end) to be at peace.
I selected a log from my log pile as the birds resumed their morning racket. We have no trees to cut, so a precut log was my only option. Never purchased, but rather, a gift from the tree companies working on my street. A big log for our fireplace, a full foot across…. But somehow just the right length, and made of oak. I placed it on my haybale, with the candle just below and my saw in hand. I decided I would try to trim the edges, I took off the small branches coming out of it, and realized that the oak was so thick and heavy it would be very difficult to cut through the whole log… Even with my electric saw. Instead I cut a thick notch into the outer layers of the log and drilled a hole. This will be filled with alcohol and oil to help start the log burning the night. The cuts are ceremonial in nature anyhow, and it seemed that the universe had already gifted me the perfect yule log without my having to worry about it.
The world went quiet again as I picked up my candle and poured some wax over the log and asked the spirits for their blessings. I invited any other benevolent spirits to share their wisdom and kindness with us as the sky grew more and more day. I re-lit my sage, and began to cleanse the air again. I thanked the benevolent spirits for what they may bring, and asked with much politeness and respect that the bad ones avoid our home, and to only give us as much challenge as we could handle.
Then I said goodbye to the spirits of the four directions. I thanked them for their joys and strength that they brought our home each year, and wished peace upon them, sending them on their way, perhaps to another solstice log blessing somewhere else in the world.
By this point, the dawn sky had almost left us, replacing blues and husky greys with shimmering whites and bright light. I lifted up my log on one shoulder, and carried it inside to the hearth, as my rooster let out his last bevy of crows for the morning. He’s such a respectful bird, and never crows in the late morning, only at dawn. The hens resumed cackling and the rabbits began digging in their hay. Soon it would be time to get chores started, making sure everyone had food and water and clean cages… Everything was starting to sound busy again. But for the time it took the sun to rise everything was quiet, peaceful, magical. I was alone in an amazing world where even the animals respected the gravity of the moment. What a wonderful experience.
Good morning bloggers. Today I also sold one of my rabbits, one of Kibbles babies. We have a few new rex rabbits in the barn and so Kibbles can now have purebred rex kits, her first litter of them now being about 10 weeks. The smaller black otter buck went to a pet home for the holidays, somewhat unusual given my usual customers, but the man purchasing it seemed very eager to learn about the best rabbit care options…And every pet has to come from somewhere.
Tonight is my yule celebration. We’ll eat a roast duck, sing songs, wear Christmas hats and exchange some gifts. We’ll light the yule log and wish for the sun to come back into the world. It’s going to be here for such a short time today, and it will be such a long night after it leaves. The longest of the year.
I hope you have a happy Yule this year, regardless of what holiday you celebrate. I hope that today is a joyful day.