Potter’s Wheel

She speaks inside me, sitting as she always does at her potter’s wheel. The clay spins and her leg moves in a comforting rhythm while her fingers, gnarled and veiny with age, gracefully work a stubborn lump of red clay into something beautiful, useful, and unique. Her voice has all the cadence of a magician’s incantation, the words rolling and filled with diphthongs. In her voice is the hills, the crystal-clear creeks, and a tree-trimmed sky.

She is patient. She works the clay, her nails darkening with the earth. Her leg does not cease its rhythmic movement. “The land is our life,” she says, watery eyes squinting as she molds the clay. “Our life and our future. Never forget her, child.”

I nod, though I do not understand at first – for I am young and foolish, and the crone seated before me is many lifetimes old, and her wisdom is the wisdom of the ages. The hum of the potter’s wheel continues, the image of the white-haired crone fading into the blackness behind my eyes.

I open them. Above me is the heavy gray of a sky promising rain.

Water is life.’ I think. ‘Because we are water.

Air is life.’ I know, breathing deep. ‘Because without it, we perish.

Fire is life.’ I remember, feeling the heartbeat in my chest. ‘Because our hearts are filled with fire.

“The land is our life,” I say, hearing the crone’s voice mix with my voice. “And our future. We must never forget the land.”

Happy Winter Solstice everyone.

(Image belongs to Lane Brown and can be purchased @ https://www.inprnt.com/gallery/lane/crone/ )

The Veil is Thinning…

The veil is thinning,
and I hear your call.
You always speak loudest in the fall.

The rustling of the browning leaves
is an echoing chorus;
The cooling heat of the sun,
the touch of many hands
Of the ones that came before me,
And the spirits of the land.

The veil is thinning
And we hear your call.
The ancestors have not left us at all.

The start of the day found the temperature just shy of chilly, with an overcast sky, and a draping fog over the land…but North Carolina is fickle about her weather and the day will no doubt clear, with a warm rush of sunlight, and the scurrying of small animals and birds in the trees and brush.

Today is my 35th birthday and I find that the ancestors are on my mind.

The reasons for this abound, but none have to do with getting older. Getting older for me is just what it is. We are born, we grow up, we get older, and then when our time has come, we join the ancestors on the other side.

When I was a child – even a child as young as seven or eight – I felt the ancestors at this time of the year. When I wandered around our large backyard, or played in the field around our home, the whispering leaves and the quiet anticipation that the whole world seem to be filled with filled me up at well. I would often think of colonial times – when there were supposed to be witches and spirits and headless horsemen in the world. I would think of the Native Americans, the first peoples of this land, who were one with it and who were driven off of the land. Whose spirits I imagined I could still feel in the chilly autumn air.

Perhaps I was a sensitive child. Perhaps I had a good imagination. And perhaps I watched too much television.

Regardless, the fall and its main holiday – Halloween to most, and Samhain to a few – captured me and held me tightly until the Christmas seasone swept away the more quiet, magical feelings I held inside with anticipation for rich food, presents, and Santa Claus.

But even then, the feelings that the ancestors were there on the outskirts watching and whispering never truly left. I could feel their presence in the celebration of Thanksgiving, and I would wonder about the Native Americans and why I’d never met any. I could feel the ancestors’ presence in the songs about the virgin birth of Jesus, the Christmas tree, or about decking the halls.

The silent, holy nights. The angels appearing to shepherds in the field. The evergreen boughs of the tree and the decking of halls. The singing of yuletide carols.

Even before I knew the histories of some of our most prominent fall and winter holidays, the hints were there. The voices muted, the language changed, but the presence of those who came before were still there. And still are.

The fact that I’m harping (can I harp? I didn’t know it was a verb) on thoughts of the dead and deceased on my birthday might frighten some, make others nervous, and still others question my state of mind, but I assure you…I’m quite all right.

In truth, thoughts of the ancestors comfort me in these shorter, colder days of the year. Their voices soothe me in the darkness before bed.

I sit in the yard, listening to the wind in the trees, the scurrying animals, feel the faint warmth of the sun, and know that they are there with me. Thoughts of the long-gone and dearly departed do not depress me but move my spirit to peace.

I tell them that my soul remembers them, even if their faces or their names are lost to me. I tell them they are not forgotten. They live on in this world because we, their descendants, live on in this world. We struggle and love and work, just as they struggled and loved and worked.

I may have said it before, but the fall time is my favorite time of the year…because it is a quiet, reflective, magical time – when the veil is thinning, and our hearts can entwine more fully with those who have gone before us.

Ever-Changing – a poem

This past week, to highlight the autumn equinox, I had planned to upload a couple of poems celebrating autumn or fall in general. But after reviewing some of the poetry I’ve written, I came across another poem and felt compelled to share it instead.

In the spirit of the changing season, where the beauty and abundance of the summer gives way to the leaner, more mercurial nature of autumn, with its changing leaves, frantic, scurrying animals, and more reflective feel – here is my poem “Ever Changing”.

As I read through it, it felt oddly appropriate – not only for the season, but also for the world at large right now. I do hope you like it.

EVER CHANGING

The times are changing and so are we,
changing like the seasons
in the sea of Space and Time,
changing like the tides
ebbing and flowing,
pulled by the moon on high.

The times are changing and so are we,
changing like the seasons
in Time’s boundless sea,
trapped in a cycle,
never having leave to rest,
except in the embrace of Death.

The times are changing and so are we,
changing like the colors
of pearly dawn and smoky dusk,
our hues forever changing,
blending and melding,
with those changing with us.

Copyright © J.S. White

Looking Forward to the Fall…

In the North Carolina piedmont, the fingers of autumn are starting to creep into the everyday.

Spider webs, both large and small, are draped over every bush, hedge, between tree branches, in little hidden corners of the porch. In the humidity, there’s a suggestion of coolness – a welcome reminder that the heat and stickiness of summer will soon end. Harvest decorations are popping up in the yards and porches of neighborhood houses, along with the macabre decorations of avid Halloween enthusiasts (a cousin of mine is one of them, she decorates as soon as the school starts every year).

Dove season – a tiny little window of recreational hunting that only lasts for two weeks – started on Labor Day. Incidentally, dove season usually coincides with the harvest of corn in our area, which makes for better hunting as the fat, little birds are eager to snatch up any fallen grains in the newly cut fields.

This year, however, the fields are still ripe with corn, the tall stalks beginning to brown. Less corn means less complacent doves, which means a rather disappointed husband for me. Still, there’s still turkey season and deer season to be had, so hope isn’t lost for John – who fancies himself a hunter, but who really uses hunting season as an excuse to cut his phone off and sit around in the woods for hours at a time.

And for me?

I’m enjoying the promises of cool weather in the whispers of wind through the trees. The scurrying of small mammals as they hurry to fatten up and line their nests in preparation for winter makes me smile. I think of setting out pinecone birdfeeders drenched in peanut butter and bird seed; of gathering little piles of acorns and bundles of sticks like I did when I was a child…just because.

I think of the warmth of family gatherings and sharing hearty foodstuffs like roasted vegetables, ham, and attempting to bake fresh bread (a new goal of mine this year).

Like so many people, autumn is my favorite time of the year. And this year I have a feeling I’ll enjoy it even more, because I plan to really be present and celebrate the season.

The craziness of last fall and winter made it difficult to really be present mentally. My focus was definitely more on those things out in the world instead of those in the local, natural environment. This year I plan to change that. I want to celebrate the season more fully, both in my everyday life and in my inner life.

I plan to crochet more. I plan to bake homemade bread for the first time (and then a second, and a third). I plan on sitting out in the autumn sun more, soaking up its energy and breathing in the cool, crisp air.

I plan on acknowledging how, regardless of how technologically-advanced our society has become or how crazy the world still is, I am still a part of nature and that it still has important, timeless things to teach me.

I’m looking forward to the Fall…this descent into reflection and the gathering up of things.

I’m looking forward to sorting through my thoughts, my feelings, reflecting on my place in the world, and what kind of seeds I want to sow, not only in the coming months, but in the days after the darkness of fall and winter have passed.