Realms Of The Soul, January 2019

The Realm of Segue and Transition

In the valleys of the Pacific Northwest, January hauls in a mix of rain, snow, and gray days that strand me between a nostalgia for the years that are receding and a longing for the upcoming summer and the return of the light.

While raising our children, we celebrated the 12 days of Christmas every night through the 6th of January. We’d gather after dinner, read a passage from a small book titled “The Knights of Christmas,” and exchange little gifts in front of our fireplace and under the watchful eyes of the wreaths that hung above it. January, in my recall, seemed brighter during the “Knightly” rituals of those days.

This month we’re sharing a collection of objects that celebrate our journey across several longings, those memories of the holidays at our old house that served as a stage for the childhoods of our kids, the visual beauty and structure that is inherent in winter, the gradual return of the light, and the anticipated sounds of spring.


We collected pine cones last summer while on a trip to central Oregon with friends, and other cones found outside of a cabin where we stayed last September with our children and several of their children.

We treasure this photograph of our kids in front of the old fireplace on some “Knight” of Christmas so many years ago – smiling out from a frame that I found in a thrift shop for $2.00. In the spirit of seasonal transitions, the frame has an inset tile that suggests the image of pine cones.

Kathy and I recently found pieces of fallen birch limbs during a walk along the river. Birch trees are always losing their white-barked limbs, which, if not too big, can be hauled home in a car and cut up into various lengths to bundle or stuff into vases and boxes. We glance at the box of limbs and images of cabins and crackling fires come to mind without our having to light a match.

⦁ The bells, one a gift from a friend, one found in a New Age bookstore, and the other discovered in an old house we remodeled, are hard not to ring without conjuring the voices of old Decembers, and – when they are small like these are – the melodies of an much anticipated Spring.
⦁ We are burning 3 kinds of incense this month, cedar to calm the spirit and as an antidote to the darkness of the news, lavender which calls forth the beauty of the upcoming seasons, and sage which sweeps the shadows out of a house.

Near our tray this month, we’ve placed two snow globes beside a small box of uniformly cut birch twigs. The twigs remind us of the structure and dependability of nature. One of the snow globes contains a singular tree, both of us drawn to it for its Zen-like lack of complexity. The other globe was found shortly after we said goodbye to our family’s big Labrador whose name reflected the fortune he brought to us – Lucky. The globe serves as a daily reminder of – despite the dulled skies -the joy that Lucky so willing discovered on even the bleakest of days in January.

It’s gray out, but the days are getting longer. Grab a tray or a big platter. Pick up some candles and celebrate the return of the light. We find candles for a dollar or two from thrift stores like the Goodwill. They’re always a bit nicked up – like the reflections we encounter in our mirrors – but they burn brightly with an inner pride.

Get out some pruners and look over the limbs of the trees in your yard or that of a willing friend’s or take a walk and discover those fallen and waiting to be discovered in a park. The limbs don’t have to be birch; any color will do. It’s the shapes and formations you make with the limbs that will trigger your imagination. (Always use caution when arranging miniature firewood near burning candles.)

Rummage your drawers and closets – no sense letting your hoarding instincts rest; find an old photo – look for a frame. Pick up some sand from a next trip to the beach; add some pebbles from an upcoming walk along the river. Sand and pebbles, once in a vessel, can be infused with sticks of incense.

What objects, once cobbled together, would bring a brighter light into your life?

Gather your memories, your prayers, your hopes, and become good friends with the visual gathering of your intentions. Sit near by. Let your eyes become the wings of your imagination. Call gratitude to join you. Quiet the noise; nourish your soul.