So it’s Christmas Eve, and I have a yearning to attend a midnight mass … but in thinking this urge through I realize that I have no desire to attend a Catholic mass or any other church service. I grew up Catholic, and my medieval mind has a yearning for something like Gregorian chant … but my wild heart yearns for the forest.
Yes, I may head out into the woods at Midnight, light a candle, sing and improvise a few songs under this dark night (it being the New Moon, there will be no moon in the sky; it being cloudy today, stars are not likely to be here either). But what sparked into my heart was an old idea of mine, newly remembered: to create a “Forest Mass” — ignited by Celtic soul and sprinklings of song and poetic word, and the wisdom of the trees, stars, earth, the Light that returns (harp too!).
So this is my quest for the next year (in addition to completing my novel “Because Of The Red Fox”) — to discover and create this Forest Mass, a quiet song and celebration woven of the trees and earth, the stars and true things. Breathed in by dreams.
I’ll share my journey with you here. Please join me.
And merry everything to you, in this Season of Miracles. May you know blessings and beauty, and the holy light that burns in your heart!
Snow Forest - photo by Jane Valencia
Newbery Award-winning children’s author Susan Cooper and her The Dark Is Rising sequence deeply influenced my youth into adulthood. I may very well owe the fact that I’m a bardic harper to the way her stories echoed within the myth of my soul! You can read more about my journey with The Dark Is Rising series in my article, “An American Harper In Wales”, first published in The Folk Harp Journal, and now beautifully displayed on Eldalamberon.com.
Years later, when I’d begun to celebrate the Winter Solstice, and was performing Celtic Christmas concerts, I discovered the poem below, written by Susan Cooper for (I believe) The Christmas Revels, a magnificent community-based production that celebrates the ancient and mythic roots of many of the season’s folk traditions. I love this poem, and hope you enjoy it too!
Loom Of Trees – photo by Jane Valencia
The Shortest Day
by Susan Cooper
So the Shortest Day came and the year died
And everywhere down the centuries of the snow-white world
Came people singing, dancing,
To drive the dark away.
They lighted candles in the winter trees;
They hung their homes with evergreen;
They burned beseeching fires all night long
To keep the year alive.
And when the new year’s sunshine blazed awake
They shouted, revelling.
Through all the frosty ages you can hear them
Echoing behind us – listen!
All the long echoes, sing the same delight,
This Shortest Day,
As promise wakens in the sleeping land:
They carol, feast, give thanks,
And dearly love their friends,
And hope for peace.
And now so do we, here, now,
This year and every year.