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Candlemas, Rhythm, and Quiet

Updated: Feb 1, 2021

I always tend to be in my witchy parent element in the weeks leading up to Candlemas. The holidays (by which I mean pretty much the entire months of November and December) always throw me into survival-mode, in spite of my best intentions to avoid the overwhelm, so the relatively dull, unscheduled stretch of days between New Years and Easter are a bit of a treat. They are a time to really stretch our roots deep into our sense of home, feel our rhythm, and embrace hygge. I am not someone who complains about winter - at least, not until we get that last series of April snowstorms. Now that Hawthorne is old enough to notice, I’m trying really hard to model an appreciative, open attitude towards all weather, which is easier now that I actually know how to dress for it and no longer attempt to navigate icy streets in heels and nylon stockings.

Another way I’ve changed: I am no longer someone you will find without a plan. As a mom, nothing makes me more nervous than waking up and realizing I don’t have a single activity planned for our day. I swear I wasn’t always this way; this attitude evolved over the course of my daughter’s life, and now my need for “rhythm” is as much a part of me as the drive to eat, drink, and sleep. And just like keeping well-rested, hydrated, and fed makes us feel like better people, our rhythm seems to nourish us as well. When things are going well, everything moves like clockwork: the little gears (days, hours) turning bigger gears (weeks, months) as the whole machine slowly rotates ‘round the sun.

Ever since Hawthorne was around 2 or so, our rhythm has included biweekly themes - usually connected to the changing seasons or preparing for family holidays. I’ve tried to keep them roughly the same from year to year, although (like every aspect of parenting) it’s a constant process of figuring out what works and what doesn’t. Now that we’ve been at this for a couple years, it’s fun to revisit a theme we’ve previously covered and flesh it out with more elaborate stories, or crafts, of nature lessons.

This week, our theme is “Ice and Fire.” And let me confess, as Hawthorne grows older and her comprehension grows, I have a tendency to want to over-teach things and embellish every activity with stories or lengthy explanations. There’s so much I want to share with Hawthorne while she is still completely “mine,” and it often feels like this tender time is so brief that I feel pressured to seize hold of every teachable moment. But, Waldorf wisdom reminds us that little children live in the world of the Will, the doing-self, and at Hawthorne’s age, the best way to educate is by speaking less and doing more. Allowing them to see and imitate, letting our quiet and wise actions spark their curiosity and answering questions simply as they arise - which they certainly will if your child is anything like mine!

So, as we experiment with the effects of fire (melting beeswax) and ice (pouring our snow candles), I restrain myself and hold back my explanations about thermodynamics, or how Taoism teaches us that yin (the cold element) causes things to harden and yang (the hot element) causes them to move. I simply let her watch and wonder, and (oops) dip her mitten into one of the pools of candle wax before it hardens. Afterwards, we admire our handiwork and laugh at how the candles look like cookies, or maybe lily pads, or potatoes. We light one of them in a small dish and eat popsicles as we stare into its flickering fire. I think about how Druids refer to Brigid as “keeper of the well and flame,” and how that’s something for all women to aspire to: to know how to tend both our creative fire, and the deep well of resilience that keeps it burning. Knowing when to act and when to withdraw, when to speak and when to listen, step back, and be silent.

Someday, we’ll talk about all this, and more. For now, though, I’m happy to move on to the next activity as the rhythm of the hours guides us gently through the day - and closer than ever to spring.

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