Thursday, December 12, 2013

"Yule walk" - an individual tradition

Last evening, I engaged in what I have come to call my annual "Yule walk" after the defacto Winter and the approaching Yule. I started it some years ago without even thinking of it as a "thing" in of itself, or any type of annual "tradition." It can be whatever someone wants it to be, but for me it's a very individual tradition. It's an opportunity--two or three weeks before the chaos of Christmas and New Years--to take a reflective walk on a cold night by yourself. It should be a personal spiritual endeavor to connect with the past, present, and future at this dramatic weather-shifting time of the year. A time of the year that strongly feels like an "ending"... with a new "beginning" intuitively "visible" in the distance.

Several years ago, amidst some very negative issues for me, I took this reflective walk which resulted in a powerful spiritual experience... which then cemented the concept for me of actually naming it and making it an annual tradition. Last evening I had somewhat of an upset stomach... and somehow the spiritual sparks didn't happen for me. You cannot force it. I did enjoy it, and I did reflect on some of the things that I wanted to. Of course I could just go again, but somehow once in December feels right.

I hike all the time, but there's a difference here in that.. you should feel free to just stop at certain points when you see something that you would like to gaze at or when you want to complete an important thought. It isn't a walk in the woods, the foothills, or at the beach. You should be able to see some homes in the distance, which are lit up against the cold dark sky... and which may remind one of holiday seasons past. For me, I see some old homes in the distance, against the mountain slope. I have roots here, so I feel the full connection to the past; but that specific geographical element isn't entirely necessary as I will explain.

The brightest "star" in the sky is actually the planet Venus
I just wanted to describe what a perfect Yule walk is to me. For me, a Yule walk is like a December Samhain, therefore choosing the right time is important. Generally--Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday--are the best nights. Friday and Saturday are "busy evenings," Sunday evenings are filled with the pressure of starting a new week, and Monday evenings have a certain pressure associated with them. Mid-week just feels right... with Wednesday or Thursday usually perfect. Unlike Samhain, I think the mid-evening, 7-9 PM is best.

I recall many years ago, of a joyful experience when we were hit with an early cold season in November; so I wouldn't rule out--for myself--of having a November Yule walk. However, mid-December really seems most appropriate. I think a nice clear cold dark evening is best! It's best to choose a place which has special significance for you. I think a place that is neither remote nor too bustling... and relatively quiet. If you don't live in a place where you have roots... then perhaps a semi-urban setting at the base of a nearby mountain or high point. The mountain can then become your antennae to the world.. and the past. Also, an industrial section or a business park should be quiet at night; and they are well-lit in case you don't like to walk in a place that is too dark.

I remember back in the 90s, a movie called 'Beautiful Girls' which really brought up the issue of people from a small town coming back home for Christmas. In other words.... the polar opposites of--on one side--the image of a warm home with all of the relatives together on a cold Winter night during the holidays... and of--on the other side--people living far away from their roots for any number of reasons, usually economic. This issue is like a question which doesn't really have an answer. I remember I worked with a young woman from South San Francisco, who moved to New York City to be with a boyfriend from there, and six months later she came back saying "there's no place like home!" South City wasn't so bad after all.. within that idea. This concept is part of the Yule walk I think. 

There are certain issues that I like to ponder during this walk, and they usually relate to "the past" in relation to the present. Perhaps even things before your time, but within the basis of a certain continuity. However, all of this is tied to the personal perspective... your place in the world, over time. Not "ego," but how you fit into larger concepts over time. I mean, if you think about it, for example, "1890" really wasn't so long ago! There are many houses from that time still around. Your great grandparents, or two or three greats, were alive then... and they probably were with many relatives by the fireplace during the holidays... some "place." That long forgotten "place" is part of you, and part of the Yule walk.

Although my Yule walk didn't pan out exactly as I had hoped, I did have one experience which is worth mentioning. As one point, as I walked along a moon-lit trail on the outskirts of the city, I came to a fork in the trail. In one direction, a trail led to an old train tunnel; beyond which there was total darkness, and a place that one would not want to walk in at night. In the other direction, the moon-lit trail continued. In some ways, it could have represented the choices of fate that we make in life. As I stood there for a moment at this remote spot, an owl came by and landed on an awning above the ramp of a loading dock of a small well-maintained old-fashioned commercial building which was nettled against the trees of a lower mountain slope.

The large fluttering wings certainly got my attention, as well as a second owl  then landing next to the first one. After about ten seconds of staring at the owls' backs, which were slightly illuminated by the moon and distant lights, the owl on the far side of me leaned over and looked directly at me. Never before has any animal looked at me with such intensity as I looked upon it's slightly illuminated face... into those burning eyes. After a moment, they suddenly took off in my direction and flew off almost directly in the sky above me. If this was an animal messenger, then what was the message? The owl is a powerful ancient symbol of wisdom; and to me, it somehow represents the character trait of "firm but fair." Perhaps it was to share the spirit-wisdom of my Yule walk with others?

This walk should be crafted to fit your individual-self. It's a time to ponder different times and places in relation to your life; and it should be at a time where you don't feel rushed. It's a time where you should feel free to conjure up creative thoughts about time and place without having to ask for some special permission. Allow your mind to run free. Think about a favorite ancestor that you never knew. Look into the dark sky--at the moon, the mountaintop, or at Venus--and say their name out loud!! That person is still alive, because they are you. They may even hear you. Maybe they even see you if they're between lives and if the spirits open the door; and you may add the title of their relation to you or vice-versa, or anything else, out loud as well. The Yule walk is about spiritual-grounding, creativity, and connecting to the best of the past.... leading to hopefully bringing out the best in you in the coming year.


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