Remembrance

by | Apr 28, 2016 | Seasons Newsletter, Uncategorized | 14 comments

Remembering the dead with our white stones

 

Outside the dark, noisy café, a woman sat on the pavement.

‘You’ve caught the sun,’ I said, as I stopped to talk.

 

‘Yes’, ‘it’s sweet autumn’, she said.
I agreed. ‘These fine days feel as if they could last forever.’
‘But they won’t, the woman said, balancing her lunch dish on her knee, ‘and that’s why it’s sweet. Because it’s about to change.’

As I walked on, through the flickering sun and shade of the tree-lined streets, I reflected on her words.

 

Crossing over

Soon, very soon, these mellow days will have passed into the chill of the dying season. Southern hemisphere Samhain/Halloween, the threshold to winter, is almost here.

It’s a poignant threshold, and one that invokes remembrance for me—not just of the sweet times, the extended swims and evening walks, but also of friends and family who have left this world of the living.

 

 

For April 30 is the night of the dead, a time to remember those dear ones, as we cross into the darkest season and the cold begins to bite.

How do you feel about this crossing? What remembrance comes up for you?

 

A ritual of remembrance

On April 30, or a day or two either side, you may like to honour your loved ones who have died, by lighting a candle and placing a stone for each of them around the flame. (Or you could write each name on a piece of card.)

Our family gathered a few days early to celebrate Samhain/Halloween. I asked my granddaughter (7) to gather dying things from the garden, and you’ll see them in the header photo above: pieces of dead wood, leaves, twigs and stems in various states of decay.

I brought fallen pohutukawa leaves. I love the way they turn red in this season, and how that red reminds me of the summer glory of the pohutukawa’s flowering. Remembrance, again.

 

 

I also brought rosemary to sprinkle around on the black cloth, because Shakespeare’s evocative words—‘There’s rosemary, for remembrance’—are always with me when I see this herb. (The words are spoken by grief-stricken Ophelia in ‘Hamlet’.)

In the centre, I lit a beeswax candle. It contains the memory of summer flowering, and its scent filled the room.

I love the festival of Samhain because of the way it makes space for our grief and our remembering. Children and adults alike can name our losses, whether of pets, relatives, friends or famous people who have inspired us, and to know that death and grieving are part of life.

When we gathered as a family, we took turns to pick up a white stone from a tray, and place each stone on the altar to represent someone who has died: the little one’s great grandmother, my parents, a baby daughter, Prince . . .

 

 

Bringing simple rituals into family life is so satisfying. Maybe you have found this too? I would love to hear about your ceremonies.

Blessings to you all, including our northern hemisphere friends who are in the season of high spring. Even as we in the south feel our plunge into winter, we know that the green season is also alive and well, and will come again.

 

The dead are always looking down on us, they say
while we are putting on our shoes or making a sandwich,
they are looking down through the glass bottom boats of heaven
as they row themselves slowly through eternity.

—Billy Collins

This post is an excerpt from the Seasons Newsletter. If you would like to receive the Newsletter in your in box, you may sign up on the Home Page of this website and receive a free audio meditation.


14 Comments

  1. Penny

    I always appreciate the distinctive ways you honor the passages of time and of seasons, Juliet – and I appreciate this one. It is full of meaning and sweet remembrance. Here in the northern hemisphere, we welcome spring now, but, not without thinking of the fall season, which I am always ready for.

    Billy Collins and the “glass bottoms boats of heaven” – an evocative line.

    Reply
    • Juliet Batten

      Penny, how lovely to hear from you! Thank you for your kind words. There is always time for remembrance, no matter what season we are in. Ever since I found the Billy Collins poem a few years ago I’ve had moments when I imagine my parents peeping down at my through the glass bottomed boats of heave, and I smile.

      Reply
  2. Marilyn Simkin

    Thank you for your lovely remembrance session that you have just put up. I really appreciate it as I go through a time of remembrance, facing what that brings and what needs to let go.

    What a beautiful autumn (a sweet one indeed) we have had to date and be able to enjoy.

    Reply
    • Juliet Batten

      Marilyn, thank you, and blessings on your time of remembrance. I find that autumn invites much reflection.

      Reply
  3. minnie biggs

    Never heard of April 30, night of the dead. Is it local or Kiwi? Or equivalent of N Hemisphere late October, Halloween, All Saints and All souls days? Same time of physical seasonal year

    here on east coast Australia we wonder if winter will ever ever ever come, or even autumn. 29 and 30 degrees forecast for May! Maybe this is climate change, same same same weather forever.. except hotter in summer. Of course.
    Bring on winter. Please!

    Reply
    • Juliet Batten

      Minnie, you guessed right. April 30 is our southern hemisphere equivalent of norther hemisphere Halloween/All Saints etc. That’s warm May weather you are having; rather a worry if it’s the effects of climate change showing up. Thanks for posting.

      Reply
  4. Odile

    Juliet, this is what I had posted on your Facebook page after having looked at the little video of your preparation. Again the true feeling that we are all connected and all breathing at different rhythm but all together what ever season.
    “On the 30th of April, as you will be celebrating Halloween, autumn and honouring your beloved dead, we up here in the northern hemisphere, are actually celebrating spring, colors, scents and bursting life! Later on the 31st of October, as we will be entering autumn and remembering our loved ones gone, you will be celebrating life in all its nuances. The big circle of life and death unfolding continuously on this blue dot lost in the universe. The power of life happily healing the sadness of death…
    How so beautiful it is to be aware of this link between both hemisphere with life embracing us all…
    May you all have a soft Halloween time filled with the light and warmth of our bursting spring.

    Reply
    • Juliet Batten

      Odile, thank you for this beautiful comment. I love what you say about the power of life happily healing the sadness of death, and the sense of your spring being present in our autumn, and vice versa.

      Reply
  5. Dana Leigh Lyons

    Loved reading the details of your ritual of remembrance, Juliet. And love imagining you sharing it with your grand-daughter.

    So precious, so necessary–to pause, to remember, to grieve. When I think of Samhain, I think of a Samhain gathering I attending in a beloved past home–in British Columbia. I still pause from time to time to remember and grieve the loss of my home and life there, even as I cherish the home and life I have now.

    Reply
    • Juliet Batten

      Dana, how poignant that you are remembering your beloved past home, and pausing to grieve at different times. I love having Samhain to gather up my griefs, and also to let them arise and be felt through all seasons. Thank you so much for visiting and sharing your own thoughts.

      Reply
  6. Alyssa

    What a beautiful way of remembering your loved ones, Juliet. Thank you for sharing it with us.

    In a world as fast paced as ours is nowadays, it’s so important to stop from time to time – to appreciate what we have, and to remember what we’ve lost.

    Reply
    • Juliet Batten

      Alyssa, nice to see you here. Yes, pausing to remember and reflect is so important. Thank you.

      Reply
  7. Linnea

    Just became aware of your work after living in Wellington for 8 years. Coming from Europe, I have been very aware of the slow evolution of seasonally appropriate celebrations here, and I’m delighted to find your work! By coincidence, I wrote an article with the same title on my blog, about a week earlier. Will add a link to yours, so people can come here and discover your great work.

    Reply
    • Juliet Batten

      Linnea, how nice to hear from you. I visited your lovely blog just now, and enjoyed your seasonal observations and photos. You will find plenty of information in my books ‘Celebrating the Southern Seasons’, which has become a classic, and ‘Dancing with the Seasons’, the sequel. Thanks for posting the link on your blog. (I would have left a comment, but couldn’t see a comments box.) If you’d like to receive my Seasons Newsletter you can sign up on the Home Page of this website and receive a free audio meditation.

      Reply

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