In Praise of Candles

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February 2, 2022- Long before the Groundhog was deemed a prognosticator, the world turned to blessings with candles, to get a sense of when the North could expect to see buds and feel the promise of new life. Today’s date was the time for having one’s throat blessed by two candles, crossed at the median point of the throat. The idea was to ward off respiratory ailments, and like many practices of Christianity, arose from a mix of commemorating reported events in the life of Jesus the Christ and the faithful’s understanding of Roman or indigenous northern European practices. Candlemas happens to fall forty days after the western date for Christmas and roughly thirty-thirty five days before the Lenten Season, which itself commemorates the forty days spent by Christ in the wilderness of Judea-thus representing a midpoint of sorts.

Candles more commonly provided a way to light the night, especially inside a dwelling or place of business, where the use of torches would have been more dicey. Even in the age of electric or solar-powered lighting, candles are important to have on hand, in the event of a power outage or in case flashlights turn out to have expired batteries. Candles also help us in celebrations, such as birthday parties, and in vigils for fallen community members.

Animal tallow, once the most common material from which candles could have been made, competes with oil-based paraffin as a source for candle-making. As with all things petrolean, there is a lot of controversy as to whether those who use candles are somehow contributing, collectively, to climate change. I prefer to use candles made from essential oils, and these are only lit sparingly.

To me, candles are simply an important symbol of hope and of resilience.

The Groundhog and The Rattler

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February 2, 2020-

Punxsutawney Phil “said” it’ll be an early Spring.  Phil is the latest of a line of groundhogs, all named Phil, who have been enticed out of their lairs, for these past 114 years, in western Pennsylvania.  Before that, Germans reportedly lured hedgehogs out of their dens, on February 2.  In each case, if the animal saw its shadow, there would be six more weeks of Winter.  If it didn’t see its shadow, Spring was close at hand.

Here in AZ, a rattlesnake, Agua Fria Freddie, saw its shadow, so Spring is close at hand.  Had it been cloudy, we would be expecting six more weeks of BRRRR.  Not really- we rarely see snow, and only a bit more frequently experience cold weather, in the winter months.  Last year’s late February “Snowmageddon” was an anomaly.

Good fun aside, the continent is expecting a One Day Big Chill, this week and a few storms are predicted for later this month.   February, Valentine’s Day aside, is a month that, along with August, many folks love to hate.  Let’s be fair, though.  The Mini-Month has its share of surprises, and this past week’s relatively mild weather was no exception.  Valentine’s Day, even without a significant other, is a day for affirming love-of various kinds.  Presidents’ Day brings a break that does not entail pre-determined community obligations and, for some, a new car.  Leap Day is one of those anomalies that brings a birthday which implies aging only every four years.

So, our animal friends have “prognosticated” a month that would seem to satisfy just about everyone.  We are not easily fooled, though, and will make the most of what actually comes to pass.

 

 

Those Shadows Seen and Not Seen

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February 2, 2019, Phoenix-

So the critters back East, in Punxsutawney and Staten Island, have assured us that it’ll be an early Spring.  No shadows were in view, and after that region went through yet another polar vortex, followed by a modicum of thaw, the comfort is probably just a tad cold.

Sitting here, in a lull, during a timely and productive update session regarding the progress of our Faith in central Arizona, I think of the other unseen shadows, with which many of us deal, on a daily, or long-term, basis.

I took care of the biggest shadow, that of my nest-egg, sometime back, and the proceeds from the sale of a house, back in 2014, are in trust, for when I need them, beginning a few years hence.

The shadow of aging has its match, in daily use of essential oils, CBD and hemp products and, at least for  a month or so, Thrive products- a gift from a grateful friend. Those and regular exercise keep me healthy and moving.

Any potential family shadows are best handled with proactivity:  Research, setting time aside and regular, clear communication.  This is true for all points along the family continuum.

The shadow of intellectual cramping is best countered by free dialogue.  Closing one’s mind to opposing points of view does not make one smarter.  I don’t see how not exposing young minds to either liberal or conservative opinions is going to improve their problem-solving ability.  As a youth, I read “Mein Kampf” and “The Communist Manifesto”, being captivated by neither, but at least understanding how the authors arrived at such illogic.  Closing off college campuses to Ben Shapiro, or Markos Moulitsas, will never save even the most infantilized freshman from following the primrose path of choice.

There are greater shadows-some real and some figments of vivid imaginations:  The Social Security/Medicare fizzle, or lack thereof, in the 2030’s;  the coinciding “end-of-the-world”, right about that same time; the potential change of our nation’s form of government (some have spoken of this, since Orwell published “1984”); the generations dropping the ball of civilized behaviour ( I seem to remember how “slovenly” and “unkempt” the Depression Parents and the  GI Generation regarded us Baby Boomers).

Shadows are dispelled by light.  The lights of  faith, understanding, clear communication, discourse and above, all, consistent, firm action, will work wonders at clearing the darkness which seems to pervade so many lives, at so many levels.

Happy Groundhog Day!

Another New Dawn

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March 22, 2018, Prescott-

I got up well before sunrise, as usual, and went about the routine, except that coffee and breakfast waited until after my annual lab work for next Friday’s physical.  I was first in line, so that was an in/out process.

I did something else, with assurance from my spirit guides.  On what would have been my very frugal father’s 91st birthday, I tore up all correspondence from a sweepstakes company and tossed a few other pitches for money that I just don’t have to spare for them.  Dad always honoured his commitments and his obligations, and I walk, as best I can, in his footsteps.  I am assured that all else will follow, as needed.

It was another moment when I got a nice message from a good-hearted new online friend, and pondered my commitments for the rest of this month.  Meditation told me, once again, that my choices are just that, my own.  Nothing can really be imposed on us, except to pass on, when that day comes.

This dawn brought heavy cloud cover to us in Arizona, heavy rains to southern California and yet another heavy snowfall to the Northeast.  Punxsutawney Phil is rolling on the ground, laughing, with his little trick; the groundhog lied.