Day 1. Advent Descent

Sam’s first autumn leaf
It's the 1st of December today, the first day of advent in the Christian and the secular/chocolate calendar, as we count down to Christmas Day on the 25th. 

My family celebrates our own version of Christmas, but I find the Winter Solstice has more meaning for me personally.

I've been thinking today about the journey down into that point in the year.

The journey down into the shortest day and longest night.

The journey into the depths, before the light (slowly, slowly) begins to creep back in again, as we head towards February - Candlemas and Imbolc, Valentines Day and the returning of life.

The descent before the rise.

One of the reasons that I have been working so much with the seasons, both in my personal practice and in how I serve others, is due to the seasonal shifts having been a source of pain for me.  

I've struggled with seasonal depression, and issues connected to my personal cycles, as well as worrying about ageing and all the things that come with a life where I've been trying be the same all month, all year, all decade...

So.

Rather than turning my back on that discomfort (which, trust me, I did try for a verrrry long time!) last year I decided to start really leaning into it. Turning my face to the darker months, the decaying times, the way the energy moves.

Go looking for magic under the leaf litter.

I couldn't be a nature lover who only loved spring and summer, not any longer!  (This is how A Year of Wild Wisdom was born).

And this year, I am doing my own kind of advent calendar.  

Days of ascent and rise, counting down from the 1st of December to the Winter Solstice and then carrying on through until Imbolc.  It's about 66 days.  

My intention is to mindfully go looking for signs and stories, magic and reminders to bring you each day, walking into the descent and up again through the beginning of the rise towards spring. 

TODAY WAS DAY 1. OF MY ADVENT DESCENT JOURNEY

I started with a little walk into the woods with my elderly sweet dog.

I followed his waggy tail up the hill, pale lemon sunlight catching on cobwebs between seed heads.  The temperature has risen a little bit again after frost and a sprinkling of snow at the beginning of the week.  

Winds from storm Arwen have shaken down branches.

And SO MANY FALLEN LEAVES.

The pavement inches deep in oak and ash and sycamore and hawthorn leaves (and many more). 

The woodland floor the same.

A thick carpet of shades of brown confetti.

And I was thinking about that beautiful meme that starts to get shared at the beginning of autumn:

The trees are about to show us how lovely it is to let things go.

I wholeheartedly agree. 

I love to look to the trees for guidance on letting go.  There have been many times I have turned to them for support and inspiration when I've been holding on too tightly.

And.

There's another layer here too.

I kick and crunch the leaves on the pavement, wondering how long they will stay her before they get tidied.  

Looking to the woodland on my left as I walk, noticing how the leaves there are a part of the landscape, the ecosystem. The trees let them go, and they stay there, fallen and decomposing into mulch, repurposed as homes, food, protection.  A carpet of rich nourishment.

We love the autumn leaves as they change colour and fall, and then they sort of become a nuisance to many people who desire more tidiness.  We are a throw away society, and we often want to throw the leaves away too.

And of course, they can be slippery and oh! The leaves on the line.  They do need to be moved away sometimes.

But what of the things that we let go of?  Are we sometimes a little to hasty to tidy them away...?

Oooph.  A realisation that yes, I have done this.  The letting go feels so good!  Ugh, that weight is finally gone! But what happens next?

Did I mourn the endings enough?  Did I learn from them?  Or did I brush them aside?

There's no judgement here, no right or wrong, but a sense of curiosity.

When I feel depleted and low energy, is this part of it?  Perhaps there's an energy source I've been missing out on.  A way to recycle my own letting go into something new.

You might have heard me talking a lot about reading 'The Wild Edge of Sorrow: Rituals of Renewal and the Sacred Work of Grief' by Francis Weller, it's been a game changing book for me.  And there are themes in there that feel connected to the leaves too.  

Weller writes of our loss of ritual, how many of us are also grieving for the loss of the time and space to share our sorrows and losses.  The ability to share collectively the things we are grieving for, speak of them to others who don't want to just 'fix' us, or give unsolicited advice or reeeeeally don't want us to talk about it at all... and maybe that wider loss of ritual and connection is a part of this too.  

The woods have their own cycles of ritual and change and renewal.  And we humans have lost our versions of that somewhat.  

I think about how the forest is a collective being, made up of interconnected individuals.  And how the leaves have their place there as a part of that.

And I wonder if my previous years' struggle with the seasonal changes has been a symptom of a wider loss; not just a personal journey but something bigger than that. 

As my own leaves have fallen, as my life has shifted and moved, I tried to sweep the things I have let go of aside, to look tidy and carry on as if nothing has happened.  But I have struggled to process or repurpose the lessons on my own.  

I suddenly feel lighter for needing other people.

I feel less worried about the fact that I love to have a mentor - for all the times I have signed up with mentors and witches and teachers who know how to meet me in these more difficult places.  OF COURSE!

I pick up a big, beautiful fallen oak leaf on my walk back down the hill.  Crisp.  Shades of warm brown, slightly mottled.

When we get home, I dry off the dogs muddy paws.  

I string some raffia between the shelves in my work space, and pin the leaf to the string with a tiny clothes peg.  

So begins the 66 days of descent and rise.  I wonder what else I will gather to hang here...?

A journal prompt has emerged today which you are welcome to use too:
How can I make the things I have shed, lost and let go of into mulch for the roots of my future self to draw nourishment from?