Friday, December 16, 2011

Sleigh Bells and Ink Wells Blog Hop

                                                    Gathering Light
      There were only a few Christian families on our block when I was growing up. One evening before Christmas, the McCarthys invited all the Jewish kids in to see their tree. I was enchanted. Tinsel, icicles, colored lights, angels - and under the tree there was fluffy cotton snow, and  a glass skating rink with tiny gliding figures.

      We knew the appeal for a Chanukah bush would be ignored, but my brother and I tried anyway. To my parents chagrin, Mrs. Dunbar, Bagley School’s music teacher,  taught us the words to all the carols, and we delighted the McCarthys by singing along to Perry Como’s Greatest Christmas Songs.

     I loved to light the Chanukah menorah, adding one more candle each night, and singing the prayer with my mother.  Somehow I understood that we must bring light into the winter darkness. I remember asking a teacher if The Early People Who Lived in Caves and The People Who Lived in B.C., knew that the light would come back as it got darker and darker in winter. 

      Many years later I began studying the mythological traditions that answered my question. I learned of the Great Mother, the God of the Dying Year, and the Sacrifice that brought back Light in the spring. I learned the cycles of death, rebirth and resurrection and taught myth and symbol, among other things, to my college students.

       Since Bill was raised with trees, lights and carols, we have both a tree and a Chanukah menorah, or candelabra. Late at night I like to sit alone in the living room across from the lighted tree, and experience the awe and mysterious silence in which I am totally present. The Chanukah candlefire provides a different experience - a meditation that takes me back though centuries - through millennia.  I return to the great synagogue of Prague, to Sepharad, where Jews, Muslims & Christians created a great culture together.  I enter the study house of Damascus, and the temple of Jerusalem and all the while there is the murmur of prayer - the ancient unchanging prayer.

      We not only need and seek light at the darkest time of the year. Light symbolizes the work of a lifetime, in the form of insight, epiphany and clarity. For me, those are the rewards of the soul’s lonely journey, which often passes through darkness and shadow. Both nature and culture rely on the light. Here is a poem that combines both,  which I wrote in New Mexico last June.

Moonrise, Truchas Peak
     Gathering Light

At Truchas Peak
the blood red sun
below the barns 
the horses
the tired earth
just as the moon
balloons upward                            

At the Santuario de Chimayo
the girl in the gift shop 
tells me she’s out of
St. Anthony  
she has other candles
       (What can it mean
       to be out of St. Anthony?)

El Santuario de Chimayo
In a hallowed corner
of the deep adobe walls
rows of glass votives
flickers of colored fire
from the painted saints
Touch a tapered stick
to the wick
and kindle
The Holy Family

Candlefire in El Santuario de Chimayo
       Light comes in so many forms. The love and connection to an amazing family and wonderful friends, the arts that inspire me,  and the connection to the Self that comes from writing. The result of that writing is my poetry book, After the Jug Was Broken, published this year by Fisher King Press - (if you are looking for a light- gathering poetry book to give as a gift). Light also comes from writing this blog - which allows me to share whatever I value. I invite your comments and your subscription.

 I wish you a holiday season filled with light.

To continue on our blog hop
go to  Smoky Talks: Smoky Zeidel's blog

The Other "Bloghoppers"
  1. Patricia Damery
  2. Debra Brenegan
  3. Malcolm R. Campbell
  4. T.K. Thorne
  5. Anne K. Albert
  6. Elizabeth Clark-Stern
  7. Collin Kelley
  8. Sharon Heath
  9. Melinda Clayton
  10. Ramey Channell



  1. What an inspiring post and poem, Leah. I joined you when you sat before the candles and stared into the light. The cold and darkness of the season was diminished. Thank you, and happy holidays!

  2. I read your book with great pleasure and when I was done I wanted more. Here it is today on your blog, a rainbow of light and some haunting words and pictures for the continuing journey.


  3. What a beautiful post! Love the way you've blended the traditions and found a common meaning at the core.

  4. What a beautiful blog you have -- and what an inspiring post. Light is, indeed, magical during this season of darkness, and your post "highlighted" the importance of light traditions so well!

  5. Leah, Thanks for this great inspirational blog post! I find your references to seeking and creating light in the darkest part of the year both informative and comforting. So glad to meet you here on the Blog Hop!

  6. Leah, your posting dreams me into light and dark, the contrast, the mystery, the commonality of what is sacred, like a rock of light.

  7. What a beautiful poem, Leah! In my home, we have a Buddhist (my husband), a Jew (my daughter, who converted two years ago), and a pagan. We put up a small tree in a pot, which we can plant at the new year. It is decorated with blue and white Channukah lights, and ornaments that mostly reflect nature. Whether you are celebrating Solstice (the return of the sun), Channukah (the light) or Christmas, (the birth of a son), isn't it all the same? In our house, it is!

  8. Thanks all for lovely comments. Smoky, I do soulstice also, but you may be the Queen of blended households!

  9. Leah,
    As a regular subscriber to your blog, I enjoy each one... both from a poetic and artistic standpoint. The irony of this particular blog, is that today I am packing for our trip to Hawaii, and I've tucked my menorah and candles into my suitcase. Although it is already warm and light on the island, I'm compelled to bring this spiritual tradition on my journey... surely the only jews in Wainae!

  10. Oh, Leah, what resonance between our posts today, how exquisitely you tell the story of multiple strands of light-illuminating-and-warming-the-dark as you weave them through your life. Tracing your lineage back, so accurately, to "the great synagogue of Prague, to Sepharad, where Jews, Muslims & Christians created a great culture together" - I just love this! Someday, woman, we've just got to meet up somewhere!

  11. Yes, it's that time of year. How many of us suffer from S.A.D.?

    Brings to mind:

    "Do not go gentle into that good night,
    Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
    Rage, rage against the dying of the light."

    AND. . .

    Life is a fountain
    Forever leaping
    Upward to catch the golden sunlight
    Upward to reach the azure heaven
    Failing, falling,
    Ever returning,
    To kiss the earth that the flower may live.
    — Eugene O’Neill (The Fountain)

    In Greece the light was not something external, that one looked at. It seeped through the pores of one’s body and brain until it existed as a shining, pulsating force within the human citadel, an interior illumination, peculiar to each person, making life not only good but meaningful.
    Irving Stone, The Greek Treasure 1975 ISBN 0-385-07309-7 p66

  12. A beautiful post and I love the poem! (You might enjoy my prose-poem "Ballooning over Cappadocia" on my blog.) I too was a Jewish girl (guess I still am-lol) who loved Christmas trees. I would climb behind them and play with the ornaments in my fantasy world. Look forward to reading more of your work.

  13. Great to see a fellow poet on the blog hop! Happy Holidays!

  14. T.K.,
    I will check out the poem on your web site. Always lovely to meet another Jewish Christmas tree lover!

  15. Oh Laurie, Have Menorah Will Travel! I love it.

  16. I love the Irving Stone quote. Nice hearing from you, the Light Man!

  17. Thank you for bringing the light - your light and ours - on this brilliantly sunny morning when we know, nevertheless, that the days are still getting shorter. In Holland they build bonfires at street intersections, people coming out to throw more on the fires, even old furniture. And that reminds me of the smells of fire - the delicious smell of my father's bonfire of raked leaves, at the curbside in Detroit, which you surely remember too. Probably bad for air quality, but such a lovely smell. You bring back the light in your blog, and may it shine even on our blind friend.

  18. Leah, I enjoyed your blog. I am continually surprised by the multiple talents of my step mom! Looking forward to celebrating some of our family tradition tomorrow with you. David

  19. David thanks for lovely comment. Looking forward to tomorrow!

  20. The tree looks great. The commentary is fun and thoughtful.