Lavendilly Storytime: Why the Swamp Hen Has a Red Beak

Autumn Leaf Fairy3We spend a lot of time hanging together down by the creek. We play and we explore there, never really with much of a plan. Our story times often unfold while we sit together doing nothing much more than just watching and listening. We call to the river to tell us a story, and then we look around, and listen carefully to find it. The story then appears in a natural and collaborative way between myself, the children and the place we are in.

A few weeks ago, after a morning of delightful unstructured play and wandering down by the creek with my 4 year old daughter, we sung our Story-calling Song to the river, and then it answered in a most delightful way. One of those rushes of wind came hurtling up the river from a distance and when it blew by us, little leaves swirled all around us. There was a story there, but what was it? It sure wanted to be told. My daughter listened for a moment before saying that it wanted to tell us the story of the swamp hen. We didn’t know what the story was yet, and so we watched the swamp hens nearby so that we could find out.

The swamp hens were stepping carefully with their long toes on the lawn near the bank, and digging with their red beaks in the grass. Stepping and digging, stepping and digging. Their purply and deep blue feathers shone in the sun. Unhurried, peaceful, purposeful. Other hens were paddling in the water, and one dived right under and disappeared for a moment before shooting out of the water again like a rocket. We found this most interesting! And so we started talking about what we saw, and why we thought the swamp hens were doing these things.

My daughter had a lot of theories about what these waterbirds were doing. We wondered why they were pecking the grass – she thought they were eating the “moisture” (moys-cha), which, it turns out, she thought was lovely dark dirt. I wondered, if maybe they might be nibbling at some roots or grubs that live in the “moisture”. We wondered how they could swim when they were birds – she thought they must kick with their long toes. We wondered why the swamp hen whooshed out of the water so quickly – she thought the eels might have bitten it on the nose because it had been rude.

AH! That explains why it has a red beak!

And there we found the story. It just came, and we told it while we tried to copy the swamp hen’s movements. Have you stepped like waterbird? Stepping slowly while lifting knees and pointing toes at the same time takes balance! When we got home we looked up swamp hens in our bird book and on the computer and discovered that they DO eat the grasses and soft roots of plants near the river, and they DO sometimes attack eels (known as jurun in Yugambeh Language) – but no one knows why.

Well, we do! Here’s why:

WHY THE SWAMP HEN HAS A RED BEAK

Lavendilly Swamp Hen

Purple Swamp Hen was swimming in the shallow water of the river, looking for some food. It dived down under the water and swam about for a moment, before popping back up for a breath.

It was a beautiful bird with shiny, purply and dark blue feathers, and long, long toes that it could use to pick up food, or to swim for short distances under water. It was a neat bird, a tidy one, and it liked the way its  sleek feathers glimmered in the sunlight. Swamp Hen stepped carefully so that it would never get dirty.

Eel saw Swamp Hen swimming underwater one day. “What are you doing, swimming in my river, bird?”

Swamp Hen replied, “I’m just looking for a little food. There are some delicious delicacies here in this river. Have you tried the snail? What about these little fish? Those are delightful, but you have to be quick to catch them.”

Eel said “Only I am fast enough! This is my river and you cannot fish here! I am Jurun! I am king here.”

Swamp Hen looked Eel up and down, then rudely said, “What are you? You are too slimy to be a fish and too fat to be a snake. You couldn’t possibly be king of the river! Not like I, with my shiny feathers and graceful toes. Perhaps I should be king.”

This boasting from Swamp Hen made Eel so cross, it rushed forward and bit Swamp Hen on the beak. Swamp Hen got such a fright it whooshed straight out of the water like a rocket! Its poor beak was bright red and sore!

And that is why Swamp Hen now much prefers to spend its time stepping carefully and only using its beak to dig in the softer parts of the grasses and plants that grow by the water. Sometimes when its beak is feeling really red and sore, it uses its toes to lift up soft plants and shoots, rather than to bend down and dig. And it never spends long underwater, in case it meets Eel again.

Surrounded by Green

Surrounded by green

feeling the peace

in a space where I can

Be.

Inside and Outside

encompassed by Love.

And when the lonely place reminds me

of the other side of Life

the separation and retreat can be a place of

Reflection and Healing

and a space to Breathe.

Alone in my Space

Surrounded by Green.

Knowing I can step out

At any Time.

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Story: The Old Woman Who Went Inside

I am working more and more with fairy tales for adults these days. I have re-written a few, and I have written a few new ones. I have been re-discovering the amazing transformational power that is held within a simple story and have worked closely with a few people recently to re-write stories or write new ones that re-tell their experience with a new eyes. Stories don’t always have to have happy endings to be powerful, either. Melissa and I have been writing transformational stories and meditations for Sacred Essence for several years. You can read a few of them on our website (and keep checking back, we add a new story every month!)

This particular story is not one for playgroup! It is one I wrote at the end of last semester. It came into existence after listening to the song “Hold It Up To The Light” by David Wilcox, and it partly describes my personal experience, and partly describes the companioning journey of client and creative arts therapist, however, like most fairy tales, there is a subtext. I know what it says to me – what does this story say to you?

Crone

Crone, by Jennifer McCormack

The Old Woman Who Went Inside

by Jennifer McCormack, 2013

Once there was an old woman who lived in the middle of a village. She would sit on a bench in the sunshine at the front of her house spinning her yarn, and people would come and sit with her when they needed some support. She would share her wisdom with those who had troubles without answers, for she had lived long and listened well. She would mix up special brews, lotions and make talismans, for she was interested in many things and had long realised the power of the natural world. She would also tell stories and people would come to listen, for her words took them to other places.

She was happy to help, and had done so in this way for many years. She would receive payment, exchange news, enjoy the company of the villagers and was loved in her community, but she wasn’t content. She was starting to get pissed off.

The villagers would come to her and praise her for being so wise, so patient, so clever at knowing just the right thing to do. Of course they were right – SHE knew it! She’d lived long enough to recognise her own wisdom, experience and mistakes, but she had grown tired of being everyone’s first stop. She thought they probably could have solved their problems by themselves if they’d given it some thought, or if they had listened to her last time they asked. She had begun snapping sharply at people who came to her for answers. She left her bench in the sunshine and shifted her spinning wheel inside where she sat in the darkness, the only light coming from the one window in her small cottage.

The villagers were confused and left her alone for some time. Old women can do what they like. They had a right to be snippy if they chose to! They were not sure what the matter was though, and they didn’t know what kind of reaction they might receive if they knocked on her door. Inside her house, sitting in the dark the old woman was enjoying the solitude, but after a few weeks she opened her door just a little. She didn’t mind the darkness, she didn’t mind her own company – but why wouldn’t anyone come inside? She might not want to solve their problems but she missed their company, and besides, the less people who came, the less payment she received.

Eventually someone did knock at her door. The door creaked open a little more at their knock and they let themselves in, calling softly to her as they stepped hesitantly inside. The went to sit beside her and the old woman pointed to a chair but said nothing, just kept spinning her yarn by the light that came through the window. Except for the hypnotic rhythm of the spinning wheel, the house was quiet. Still the old woman did not speak. Eventually the visitor held their trouble up to the light of the window and the old woman looked up. With a few words, she pointed out the obvious, the not-so-obvious, and the curious but would not give an answer, just kept on spinning. The visitor thought for a moment and suggested an idea that came to them, suddenly finding that their trouble felt lighter. The old woman smiled as her visitor went home, after leaving payment in a bowl on the table.

Soon others arrived. Those with troubles held them up to the light and they would tell their story and together they and the old woman would comment on what they saw, and somehow things started looking clearer. Those who need talismans and potions were directed by the old woman with a flick of her head to her garden, where they helped themselves to the things they felt they needed, and those who came to her for stories found rhythm in the sound of her spinning wheel, and they ended up telling rich and wonderful tales of their own. Some people just came to sit in the dark and the quiet with the old woman. It was cool and reassuring in there. They would leave payment in the bowl as the left the house: some money, a gift or some food.

After continuing in this way for a while the old woman began to leave her house again, to tend her garden, to do her shopping, to sit on her bench in the sunshine to spin. Sometimes she would sit with the villagers on her bench, at other times they would go inside and sit by the window. Sometimes she would mix a brew or make a talisman or tell a story, but at all times people were invited to respectfully choose what they felt they needed, and create their own stories. The old woman began to enjoy the company of the villagers, again discussing ideas together, walking through the garden and meeting on her bench. She lived a long life, sitting on her bench in the sunshine. As far as I know, she is sitting there still.

Birth: The Birth Dance

mother and child

The Birth Dance

written by Jennifer McCormack, 2007

The sun and the moon, the planets and stars all heard your angel call.

They sung you a bridge, that you may dance to earth from your celestial hall.

Your father and mother heard your life song and prepared a heavenly home on earth.

A soft loving space to experience the world until you are ready to birth.

Your heart and your mother’s, your blood and hers, carry the beat of your song.

Together you move and dance to the rhythm – you dance and so you grow strong.

When you and your father and mother are ready to embrace one another in love,

the sun, moon, planets and stars dance joyfully from above.

The tune of your song plays loud in your ears, your mother moves in anticipation –

and when you dance your way into her arms, the whole world bursts with celebration!

All of your family has heard your life song and they’ve sung together for ten moons.

May you always dance to your own special tune, that is our wish for you.

Advent Week Four: The Blessings of the Human Kingdom

This is the last week of the Four Kingdoms of Advent, and we celebrate the Kingdom of Humans. I have written about the Mineral Kingdom, the Plant Kingdom and the Animal Kingdom individually, and we as humans carry the blessings of each of these Kingdoms in our bodies: in our bones and bodies we have the strength, structure and physical condition of the Mineral Kingdom. Our life force and sense of vitality is a gift from the Plant Kingdom, who also share with us the gift of adaptation, nourishment and beauty. We share skills of social interactions, behaviour, instincts and feelings with the Animal Kingdom – all of these blessings combine and have allowed us to develop something that makes us different.

The Human Kingdom contains the power of creative knowledge and the ability to transform ourselves and our world around us. As Amber Greene described it, “we are CALLED to use this gift!” It is the eternal wrestle of mankind to be something more than we are, and those with hearts that are called to beauty, truth and goodness in the world will find out how best to use their creative intelligence.

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The Advent tells the story of the birth of the Christ Child, who was recognised as one who would grow to be a great teacher and leader – a king among men who had access to divine wisdom that he would share with the world. Putting ‘religion’ aside, I still see this story as one that is important and very accessible to us all. Whether or not you believe in Heaven or God or Jesus, in the Advent Story that has been unfolding over these last few weeks we have everything in place for us to birth ourselves anew, and with consciousness. To me this is a story that perfectly describes the potential within each of us to be great and to use our creative potential in the world in wonderful ways, no matter how ‘humble’ we feel our talents are.

Mother Blessed Book

Mary, in her pregnancy, carries the idea and the potential for something wonderful, and looks for the blessings in life even when life was not be making it easy for her.  She represents the power of birth and creative transformation – a divine gift given to her by the Holy Spirit. Joseph is an old man who has lived a long, hard-working life. He realises this child Mary bears comes from something ‘beyond’ him. I know that feeling – of not really being my children’s mother. I look at my children in utter wonder at where these spirits came from, and feel humble and proud that they chose me to be one of their parents. In this relationship Mary has connection with Heaven, wonder, beauty, spirit, positivity, gratitude, creative power, while Joseph has connection with the Earth, goodness, values, wisdom, work, perseverance and loyalty and together with their love they share their gifts with another human being – this Christ Child who stands with one foot on the Earth and the other in Heaven.IMG_0058

I think the Advent Story tells us that WE are the Christ Child. We have the potential to grow into something beyond ourselves because at the moment of our births we are given the gifts of Mary and Joseph, and the blessings of the Mineral, Plant and Animal Kingdoms. We are human, and we have faults but through divine gifts we have the potential – ALWAYS – to look for something better, brighter and more beautiful in ourselves.

Madoona and Child Figure WM

THE BLESSINGS OF THE KINGDOM OF HUMANS

Written by Jennifer McCormack

Old man Joseph, Mary and Donkey have travelled far together,

Through all kinds of landscapes and through all kinds of weather.

And yet no matter how rough their ride, they went with gratitude,

For they knew that journeys are easier with a positive attitude.

They were closer now than ever before, to their destination,

And when they reached Bethlehem there would be a celebration.

For Mary carried the Holy Child who soon would be birthed,

and this Babe was destined to be a great Teacher on this Earth.

They’d been travelling through villages, lots of little towns.

It was lovely to see some other people about and all around.

When they finally arrived, their lengthy journey at an end,

They were surprised to see how busy was the town of Bethlehem!

Travellers like them had taken rooms at all the available places.

People turned them away from their doors with the saddest faces,

“I’m sorry we have no room for you, but you could try next door,

Perhaps they’d have a place for you to sleep upon the floor?”

A child had been watching poor Joseph and Mary growing in distress,

They were weary, hungry, so very tired and having no success.

He said “I know a little place, it really isn’t the best.

But it’s warm and dry and it would be a place for you to rest.”

He took them to his father’s inn and asked if they were able

to rest a while with their donkey in a corner of the stable.

The innkeeper looked at them with kindness on his face

and said, “Of course, my rooms are full, and it is the only place.

It’s clean and dry and very warm, you’ll rest well with my cows.”

He brought them blankets, food and water and left them with a bow.

And that night Mary birthed her Babe, in that quiet shed

With Joseph at her feet and the Donkey by her head.

They were all spellbound by the beauty of this tiny Holy Child

Mary slept a healing sleep and when she woke she smiled.

“This Babe was born upon the ground, and a great teacher he will be,

I shall teach him all I can, and then he shall teach me.

I am grateful for friends and families and for places filled love,

and for this special little Babe I thank the Holy Spirit above.

I give thanks to the kindness of others, when they see a need

who can see that inside another lies potential, like a seed.

We all have the ability to grow and learn, to open up our hearts,

and try to be and do the best we can, its the greatest way to start.

For every parent anywhere knows the awesome power of birth

That love and trust and honest work will transform this Earth.”

Story: Gramma Sun and the Summer Solstice

This story was written as a shared progressive story on my Lavendilly House Facebook page. It was a lot of fun – I began the story and a few friends dropped by to keep it going. Occasionally I got a bit excited and kept it going all by myself … I was very surprised with the direction the story went in (it wasn’t the story I had in my head!!) This is what happens in community – sometimes the story you have in your head is a part of something bigger, and shared ideas offered in the spirit of openness can lead to an even better scenario than was originally conceived. Synergy 🙂 It was very exciting to be a part of an unfolding story, as if it were alive on its own (which is often how I feel about stories) and I am grateful to the contributors for helping to write a very magical Creation Story to explain the Summer Solstice. I have edited it a teeny tiny bit, just to help it flow in story form.Fire Altar Mat (2)

Gramma Sun and the Summer Solstice

Written by Jennifer McCormack, Hollie-B Lunation, Lorrie-Corrie Clemato, Victoria Edmond and Elizabeth Murray.

  Gramma Sun stretched out her arms, her embrace was hot and warm. She rose high in the sky and looked down at all her grandchildren on the earth and smiled. In her children she saw the potential of everything that could be on the Earth. She had deep gratitude for the many possibilities her children could achieve. Her eye was caught by a little girl with pig tails who was sitting in the branches of a shady tree.
  This tree had low branches that could be easily climbed and invited you to come up. The little girl often came to sit there and sing to herself. When she sang her heart would lift and sometimes it felt as if the very tree was listening to her. Today, however her song broke off because she heard a tiny voice from below.
   “Why is it so hot?” this tiny voice cried. She looked around to find where the tiny voice was coming from and to her surprise she spied a wee man, dressed in brown, orange and bright green leaves.  On top of his head sat a very large nut, it appeared as though he wore it as a hat!
  The little girl with pig tails reached down her hand and invited the wee man to climb on and up into the tree with him. She leaned against the trunk of the tree and placed the man on a branch above, in the shade. “Hello. My mum told me it is so hot because it is the summer solstice and Gramma Sun is dancing.”
  “Oh dear child” said the wee man, bowing before the little girl with the pigtails. ” your mother must be absolutely correct! Gramma Sun is so hot because she is dancing!  Do you know why she is dancing?”
  “I don’t, but would you like to find out together?” She replied to the little wee man.
  “Well I suppose we could,” replied the wee man, “Just let me rest a while in this shade. Its going to get hot before long!” He took his seed pod hat off and inside it was a small flask which he drank deeply from. “Ah, that’s better!” He said, “I think you should have some too, it will help you stay cool where we are going. We have to go high and visit the Giant Catfish that lives in the Crystal Pool on top of the mountain.  It is said that the Giant Catfish will answer truthfully one question for those who pay their gift. When it cools down we will first climb the mountain and then we must find a special boat. I have been told that it is moored to the Grandfather Willow Tree, but before we board the boat we must first eat a mushroom, 2 pieces of apple and 13 grapes.”
 “Why ever should we eat those?” giggled the little girl with the pigtails, thinking that a mushroom and a few pieces of fruit would not be enough food to help them climb a mountain.
  “Because the mushroom is magic and will make you small like me, the apple has a star inside that will help us speak the star language and the grapes are just so refreshing, and it is quite a hot day you know!”
  The little girl thought it would be very fun to be small like the wee man, but it might also be difficult to eat the 13 grapes when she was so small … so she ate those first. Feeling refreshed she shared the apple with the wee man and immediately she could hear a faint singing. It was an ethereal music that filled the space around her and yet did not appear to come from anywhere at all. It was above her and below her and all around her. It was as if this music, which felt like a kind of singing was breathing through every living thing. It felt as if her own heart was keeping time to this divine song. Her skin tingled with goosebumps. “Oh my goodness!” she exclaimed, “Who is singing?”
  The wee small man nodded his head so enthusiastically his seed pod hat nearly fell off, “Yes! Yes! You can hear it! I knew you were special. It is the stars. You can hear the language of the stars, who only speak in song. They are sure to help us talk to Gramma Sun. She is too hot to get too close to but she dances to the songs of the stars, just like every living thing does, so they will be able to help us ask her questions, now eat your mushroom and let’s be off!”
  The little girl with pigtails nibbled on the mushroom and immediately began to shrink. Her pigtails and her clothes shrank with her until she was so tiny she was no bigger than a willy wagtail, and also smaller than the wee man, who was not very tall to begin with. He nibbled on the mushroom too and the little girl with the pigtails watched as he and his seed pod hat shrunk to match her size.
  “Let’s go!” said the wee man with the seed pod hat, “The Grandfather Willow Tree is at the top of the mountain by the lake, to get there we must break off this leaf, hop on and hold on tightly, then call for the hot wind to blow us to the top of the mountain.”
  This they did, and a warm gust picked up the leaf and before they knew it they were spinning away, riding the wind. Below them they could see the stream they must follow, and that clever wee man held his hat up and steered them with the seed pod! They flew low, they flew high, and once the breeze nearly stopped!! Before too long though, they floated to the top of the mountain, and it was there that they saw a sight so magical, it took their breath away!
  Beneath them they saw the crystal pool with water so still it reflected the light in the sky and the trees all around. Grasses on the banks of the pool leaned over the edge and looked at themselves in the mirrored surface. It was as if everything was spellbound by the breathtaking beauty of the crystal waters. Above the pool, in the sky, Gramma Sun danced and danced to the music of the stars and her movements reflected on the waters as sparkling sun sparks. Little fire fairies from Gramma Sun’s golden dress danced with her, moving too fast and hot to be caught, flitting across the water and over the trees. Beneath the water the only thing that moved was the Giant Catfish, dancing as smooth and slow as Gramma Sun danced furiously and fast. “As above, so below” whispered the wee man, “they dance together.”
  The wee man used his seed pod hat to guide the leaf down the edge of the Crystal Pool, right at the feet of the Grandfather Willow Tree: an ancient tree that grew with his roots deep in the earth and over the bank of the Crystal Pool. His branches hung low and graceful, some dropping gently into the still water of the Crystal Pool. Grandfather Willow Tree had stood connected between sky, water and earth for an eternity and all who lived in him and about him felt his peace with the world. As the little girl with the pigtails and the wee man with the seed pod hat stepped out of their leaf they felt their breath soften and they became aware of the stillness all about them. Here the music of the stars was clear and bright and it felt as if every living thing swayed with joy to the melody.
  Among the roots of the Grandfather Willow Tree which were growing down the banks of the Crystal Pool and into the water, there was a little boat moored. It was so so tiny that if the little girl and the wee man were not so small themselves they may never have come across it.
  The little girl with the pigtails and the wee man with the seed pod hat untied the boat from its moorings, climbed inside and pushed away from the bank. They used a long leaf each to row with and they made barely a ripple as they rowed to the centre of the Crystal Pool.  The water was like glass and as the little girl with the pigtails leaned carefully over the side of the leaf she could see the Giant Catfish’s entrancing underwater dance. She felt that she ought to feel a little afraid, for the Giant Catfish was an awesome sight: an enormous fish gliding rhythmically to and fro to the music of the stars as if he were performing a spell upon all who watched. He could have swallowed them in one bite and not even noticed, but like everything else in and around the Crystal Pool he moved beautifully and gracefully to the star music and she felt very safe.
“What do we do now?” she whispered to the wee man, because it felt somehow wrong to talk loudly and disturb the peace. All the same, the wee man with the seed pod hat jumped a little when she spoke, for he was also so awestruck by the magical place that he had forgotten she was in the boat with him. The leaf boat rocked upon the surface of the Crystal Pool and made ripples that also began to dance up and down to the music of the stars as they spread out over the Crystal Pool. “We have to give the Giant Catfish a gift, and he will grant us the answer to one question”, replied the wee man.
   “What do we have to give the Giant Catfish? I have nothing with me to offer him as a gift,” the little girl with the pigtails began to feel worried they had come this long way and would not be able to ask their question.
   “Hmm, let me think,” said the wee man with the seed pod hat, ” I don’t think he wants presents. The Crystal Pool has all he needs and he doesn’t look like the sort of fellow who wants treasure. I would think that he would want us to do something for him instead.”
   “But we are so small!” cried the little girl, “Whatever would we be able to do for a Giant Catfish?”
” Give him a gift of ourselves!” said the wee man with the seed pod hat, “what are you good at? What can you share? What do you do that makes you feel happiest? I like to dance,” and he did a little jig in the boat that made his seed pod hat wobble and nearly fall off. He fell backwards, giggling, into the little boat and the ripples on the surface of the Crystal Pool splashed and danced around them joyfully once again.
  The little girl with the pigtails thought about when she was happiest: sitting in the shady tree singing her songs, and she began to sing the one she was humming when she met the wee man with the seed pod hat, before she began this adventure. As she sang, the wee man got up to dance again, jiggling the boat with his steps and soon they began to have such a good time jigging and singing, with the water about them rippling and splashing, that just for a moment they forgot about the Giant Catfish who had glided closer to their little boat to listen.
  “Little People,” said the Giant Catfish, in a surprisingly gentle voice, “why are you here, breaking the peace of the Crystal Pool?”
  The wee man with the seed pod hat and the little girl with the pigtails fell backwards into the boat in surprise. They quickly righted themselves and peered over the edge of the boat at the Giant Catfish, whose face was right up next to their boat and just under the surface of the Crystal Pool.
  “We didn’t mean to break the peace,” said the wee man.
  “No,” said the little girl, “we wanted to give you a gift so that you could answer a question for us.”
   “You have given me a gift,” replied the Giant Catfish. Travellers come creeping here in silence and throw coins and treasure into the pool, and what use are those for me? Nobody has given me such entertainment, and forgotten themselves in the joy of their gift. When you do something you love then you are making the music of the stars, and when this happens all the hearts of all the living things in the world beat to the same rhythm, and just for a moment you were making the music for Gramma Sun.”
   “That is why we came!” cried the little girl, eagerly, “we want to know why Gramma Sun is dancing so fast and so low and so long and so hot! Our days are so much hotter and brighter and longer than ever before, what is she doing? My mum says it is the summer solstice and we want to ask Gramma Sun what is happening.”
  “Gramma Sun cannot speak to you child, but with her warmth she can hug you and help you grow. She watches you all the time and loves to dance while you sing your heart’s song. Sing again, and see what happens.”
  So the little girl with the pigtails thought about how happy she felt when she sat in the shady tree and sang to herself, and she began to sing again. The wee man began to dance again, the ripples of water from the boat began to splash again, the Giant Catfish began to glide around the Crystal Pool again and even the Grandfather Willow Tree looked as if he were swaying his drooping branches while she sang. The little girl with the pigtails sang of climbing trees and drawing pictures, of picking flowers and playing with her friends. She sang of her favourite foods and hugs with her family. She sang of books and bikes and beautiful things that made her heart beat with joy … and then a wonderful thing happened …
  She felt warm all over, and light dazzled her eyes. She felt lifted up as though she had wings and she thought she saw the swish and the sparkle of the sun sparks from Gramma Sun’s golden dress. She was singing for Gramma Sun and Gramma Sun was dancing with her and the stars accompanied them with their celestial orchestra. She saw the wee man dancing in the boat, and the boat dancing on the water, and the Giant Catfish dancing under the Crystal Pool, and it seemed as though all living things danced in sheer joy together.
  She saw the Earth beneath her turn as if it too were dancing with them, and she saw plants and animals and whole landscapes change as the seasons came and went, and sometimes the Earth swung close to Gramma Sun and at others they spun away in their circular, spiral dance. She saw her tree burst into bright green leaves and flowers when the Earth danced close, and then as the Earth moved away the tree began to bare its branches and the light faded, only for the greenness and flowers to return as the Earth and Gramma Sun danced together once more. Sometimes it was as though, even in their dance, that time stood still for a moment, a slight pause when the light was brightest and air was warmest, as though all were taking a rest …  and then the Earth would begin to spin and dance away again.
   Then she understood.
   Gramma Sun danced for the beauty of the Earth and all the Universe. She danced to the music of the stars and the star music expressed the wonder and the magic of creation just perfectly, and while she sung her heart beat in rhythm with all living things. She danced to keep the Earth turning, to keep it alive with wonder and beauty and change.
   It felt as though her song must never end, but once she understood why Gramma Sun danced she had no more words and she danced for a while too, until she and Gramma Sun danced and spun together so furiously and fast that everything about her spun and swirled in a haze …
  Gramma Sun stretched out her arms, her embrace was hot and warm. She rose high in the sky and looked down at all her grandchildren on the earth and smiled. In her children she saw the potential of everything that could be on the Earth. She had deep gratitude for the many possibilities her children could achieve. Her eye was caught by a little girl with pig tails who was sitting in the branches of a shady tree, smiling and singing softly to herself and playing with a little seed pod in her hands.
 

Christmas in the Southern Hemisphere: Resources for Celebrations

linden garland 3I believe that our celebrations should be given thought – there should be an understanding of what we are celebrating – and why – and then we should consider how to celebrate it according to where we live. It has always felt strange to me to celebrate winter festivities at Christmas time when it is summer in Australia … and Australia is a country with great variety in landscapes so each celebration for each family would be strengthened with an inclusion of local foods, plants, animals, landscapes and people.

The following posts are my journey into understanding Christmas and Advent, and making it real for us according to where we live. I hope you enjoy them, and I would love to hear your ideas too.

ADVENT POSTS

Christmas in the Southern Hemisphere: Advent

Christmas in the Southern Hemisphere: The Four Kingdoms

Advent Week One: The Mineral Kingdom

Advent Week Two: The Plant Kingdom

Advent Week Two: The Plant Kingdom Story

Advent Week Three: The Animal Kingdom

Advent Week Three: The Animal Kingdom Story

Advent Week Four: The Human Kingdom

The Twelfth Day of Christmas: Epiphany

CHRISTMAS IN THE SOUTHERN HEMISPHERE POSTS

Finding Meaning In the Festive Season

What to Do About Santa Claus?

The Christmas Tree

The Jesse Tree

The Summer Solstice

CHRISTMAS RECIPES

Raw Gingerbread

Christmas Spice Muesli

Raw Chocolate Cherry Christmas Stars

CHRISTMAS CRAFT

Handmade Fabric Christmas Garlandslinden garland 3

OTHER CHRISTMAS ARTICLES AND RESOURCES

Christmas in the Middle Ages Part 1

Advent Week Two: The Plant Kingdom Story

This story continues from Advent Week One – when Mary and Joseph begin their journey with their donkey. In the first week they found reason to be grateful for the gifts of the Mineral Kingdom, and this week they continue to travel:

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Advent Week Two Story: The Plant Kingdom

written by Jennifer McCormack

And so the journey continues, with weary travelers three:
Joseph walking slowly, leading Mary and Donkey.
Mary was pregnant with a baby, a gift from God above.
She walked a bit, but Donkey mostly carried her with love.
Back to Bethlehem they walked, Joseph’s town of birth.
Across the rugged landscape, over the rocks and earth.
The path was rocky, the rivers deep, the hills and land were wild
But with love upon the travelers three, our Mother Earth smiled.
She smoothed the ground, sent crystal light, and rolled the rocks away,
So Joseph, Mary and Donkey could travel far each day.
When their food ran out, Mary cried for poor Donkey
“He has so far to go, and I am getting so heavy!
I hope that we can find some food to keep our Donkey strong,
and you dear Joseph need strength too, as you walk along”
That night they gave their thanks to God and Mother Earth so wise,
And when they woke upon the morn, they could not believe their eyes.
For overnight there had grown a pasture like a bright green sea,
and feasting upon its healthy goodness was Donkey, so happy.
Upon the trees they found their breakfast: nuts, seeds, berries and fruit,
And from the ground, for other meals, they found vegetables and roots.
Mary searched for fresh herbs, collected healing bark from wood.
They filled their tummies, filled their baskets, harvested all they could.
Now feeling nourished, feeling fresh, they rested in the shade.
Mary picked some flowers to celebrate this day.
That evening as they made their camp underneath the stars,
Mary and Joseph said “How fortunate we are,
To have the blessings of abundance from the plants around
Nourishment, shelter healing and beauty growing in the ground.
Thank you to the trees and bushes, for the shelter you provide.
For the beauty of the many flowers, growing alongside
Thank you to the fruits and berries ripening on the trees
Thank you for the gift of herbs and healing energy,
Thanks for vegetables, nuts and roots, for everything we need.
And best of all, the gift of life deep within your seeds.

Advent Week One: The Mineral Kingdom

The first week of our Advent honours the Mineral Kingdom: the earth, rocks, stones, variety of landscapes, the essential minerals and elements that make up our land and our bodies. It honours the hard journeys we experience in our lives, which can be made softer and easier by cultivating reverence, forgiveness, joy and gratitude. the following ideas are ones we will use in our family, for other ideas you can go to MamaMoontime and have a read: http://www.mamamoontime.com/2009/11/week-one-of-advent-mineral-kingdom.html

Week One Activities

As the days of the first week of Advent roll by we will spend some time in nature exploring our environment, particularly the minerals. I’m going to be realistic and say that with three little children home full-time on holidays just before Christmas I won’t have much time for lots of crafts, so our activities will be nature-based – and kitchen-based. We will do a little clay craft for our community celebration though.

1) We will make rock towers down by the creek,

2) Scrape rocks with water to make paint, then paint our faces and bodies with it

3) Decorate some special rocks to represent the things that make us joyful and place them in our garden,

4) We’ll collect beautiful shells from the beach

5) We’ll play at our local creek, shifting rocks to channel the water

6) Spend time making forms in our landscape: tracing figures in the dust, making mud castles

7) Create a specially arranged collection of crystals and shells for our Seasonal Table.

I think the important thing is to get outside and enjoy the gifts of our local community. We may take photos and transform it into a little book to read each first week of Advent, along with some of the things we are grateful for given to us by the mineral kingdom.

Week One Carols

I love singing Christmas carols – but I am also so tired of all the usual carols that are sung this time of year. A month of “Jingle Bells” is too much for me! I love the wistfulness and romance of the wintery, snowy carols but they don’t speak to our experience here in Australia. I don’t think that’s a reason not to sing them … just not to immerse myself in them. Christmas to me largely involves a good dose of Bing Crosby and I wouldn’t have it any other way!

I had a good look around and finding carols relating to the Mineral Kingdom was a challenge! So I’ve put together a list of carols that tell the story of shelter, home, belonging, and that celebrate Mary and her beautiful baby. Ave Maria is sooooooo beautiful. It is quite a complicated song though, however I’m determined to learn it this year. Here are some carols you can enjoy together in the first week:

O, Little Town of Bethlehem – this is Sarah McLachlan

Ave Maria – this is Sarah Brightman’s performance

Gabriel’s Message – this is an interesting percussion and marimba arrangement! Or you might prefer Sting’s version, where the lyrics are a bit clearer.

Silver Bells – this song is a bit wintery and not very Southern Hemisphere but it does echo the sense of anticipation and joy, and the homeliness and warm community feeling that we like to feel when we begin inviting Christmas into our homes – and it is sung by the Master of Christmas Carols himself, Bing Crosby

Week One Story

In previous years I have read the children stories from Collette Leenman’s “Advent Sunday Stories”, which tell the Nativity tale through the Four Kingdoms each week of Advent. This year I wanted to write my own stories.  We’ll begin the week’s celebrations with this story, and each night of the first week we’ll light our first Advent Candle. This little story I wrote for my family, and to share with my community because it incorporates the beginning of the Nativity (to be continued as the weeks to Christmas pass) and it also honours my personal path of earth-based spirituality, while also being respectful to the Christian roots of the original Nativity story.

I haven’t yet prepared props for this story. I usually go very simple and use nature items for my storytelling, rather than making puppets. I love children to use their imaginations and  bring a natural object to life in their own minds. Perhaps some simple images could be painted on the rocks to represent the main characters and honour the mineral kingdom both at once. This time, however, I would LOVE to tell this story at twilight with a sequence of transparencies made with cardboard and tissue paper, lit with a candle behind. Each one a different scene from the story. We’ll see how I go! For my Seasonal Table, the scene will be simple: set with green, brown and blue cloths fashioned into a landscape. We will place rocks , shells and crystals that we have found in our nearby area along the path that Mary, Joseph and their donkey are on. There will also be the Archangel Gabriel there in the sky.

Week One Advent Story: The Mineral Kingdom

Written by Jennifer McCormack

An Angel came from Heaven and told Mary she’d be a mummy

That a very special baby was now growing in her tummy.

The Angel said that very soon people all around the Earth,

Would smile with joy and lift with hope, and celebrate this birth.

Mary, Joseph and their special secret set off on a long track,

All the way to Bethlehem, Mary on their donkey’s back.

The way was long and difficult, back to Joseph’s home,

Donkey carried pregnant Mary over the sharp stones.

They walked up mountains, into valleys, through rivers, over streams,

And though the land looked rough the way was easier than it seemed,

For Mother Earth knew Mary’s baby was a very special child,

And she made the journey gentle, though the landscape was wild.

Joseph, Mary and their donkey each night lay down to rest,

Sheltered by a warm cave, knowing they were blessed.

To Father Sky and Mother Earth the travellers said a prayer,

Grateful for the gifts of earth, water, fire and of air.

“Thank you for the mountains, the valleys and the plains.

For the rivers, lakes and oceans who give their water up for rain.

Thank you to the rocks and stones, for the ground beneath our feet,

for deep inside this wondrous Earth a warm heart will always beat.”