Holistic Coach and Consultant
Copyright © 2021
The following blog is a chapter from this upcoming book, to honor winter solstice.
With ease and comfort parked in a National Forest near Mt. Shasta, I shift my focus to review plant studies and Michaelmas for the upcoming biodynamic celebration.
Only vaguely familiar with the Michaelmas festival that takes place around the autumnal equinox and is incorporated into the celebration, I turn to several lectures from Steiner.
I’m reminded of Steiner’s book The Cycle of The Earth As a Breathing Process of The Earth, read about a decade ago while struggling with seasonal affective disorder. Steiner’s words had completely relieved that angsty state.
Steiner describes winter solstice as the still-point, as the very end of the inbreath of earth taking in its soul and spirit entirely below the earth’s surface. Then the stillpoint shifts and the outbreath begins, at first barely discernible. Spring equinox marks the midpoint of outbreath when daylight and darkness are equal; it is when soul and spirit of the earth further emerges out beyond the earth’s surface, when plant life begins to bud and be seen. This outward movement continues and culminates in summer solstice, the outbreath’s stillpoint on the longest day of the year, when all the earth’s soul and spirit is above-ground, floating about and communing with the vast outer cosmos. Then the earth’s inbreath begins once more, at first, once more, barely perceptible. Through summer during the first half of the inbreath, life and growth still proceed above the earth’s surface.
Michaelmas occurs at the autumnal equinox, when the hours of light and dark are equal. It represents the end of active summer growth above ground that has waned and now ends, the harvest now complete and stored away for nourishment during this fallow time, as the inbreath of earth continues. The elemental spirits of all of nature also make their descent to beneath the ground, and prepare to rest as well as nourish this inner, still earth. Seeds beneath ground are in a barely perceptible gestation during this time.
My personal sense of light and dark used to be most strongly focused on the light of summer solstice, also my birthday. That day was a natural high, a sense of levity, of being “out there.” Perhaps I was more susceptible to the darkness because of this birth-day.
My former winter-solstice dread began at autumnal equinox when the earth’s cycle shifted to more darkness than light and was experienced as a crushing heaviness and sense of clinging by my nails to a crumbling cliff. This dread increased daily until the the winter solstice moment passed. Instantly, as though my feet discovered a ledge on the cliff to perch on, I could finally take an easy breath—like I made it through another year without plunging into the void.
My “seasonal affective disorder” became most pronounced the third year of medical school. That was when I succumbed to the lack of spirit in my medical training—when my belief in holistic healing and the power of, for example, a natural childbirth, could not withstand the medical system. I consciously chose to play the long game, to become licensed and then hopefully integrate the medicine I longed to practice with conventional medicine. But by choosing to stay in this medical training, conventional medicine subsumed me. A part of me still hoped to remain a healer, yet the light of life dimmed; this formerly beloved and known light was now barely glimpsed in tiny pinpricks through the thick darkness.
The lectures in The Cycle of the Earth released me from this winter solstice dread. They also helped me discern between the darkness of destructive forces and the dark of winter solstice. Instantaneously, I began to look forward to the increasing darkness that became moments of deepening stillness and quiet to sense the inner warmth and light of my own spirit that gathers inside of me like those plant seeds buried beneath the earth. I became conscious of the actual solstice moment when the inbreath pauses, that still-point—and experience it as an ever-slight twinge, like a faint earthquake or rocking of the earth that marks the outbreath’s beginning.
This current “study” of the Archangel Michael and Michaelmas is now illuminated by my own experience of the earth’s inbreath. Michael represents this opportunity to gather our inner forces just as the earth takes in its soul and spirit. These dark hours provide time and space to prepare, nourish, and grow the inner light that shines regardless of any dark forces that surround me.
The earth’s breathing, the polarity between dark and light, and this inner deep, quiet joy of winter balanced with summer’s expansive dance—Michael is in the center of all that.
When Michaelmas occurs, as plant life grows fallow, Michael is there to remind us human beings of this opportunity to become internally and consciously active in the dark stillness. Though I barely registered this Michael-being when my seasonal affective disorder first lifted, now I recognize him as an essential spirit-guide; he is essential in my Joan-quest. My will to make the world a better place, my battles for goodness discovered through Joan are what Michaelmas is about.
I don’t yet know much about why the art depicting Michael show him standing triumphantly on a demon or dragon during his descent underground. Does this represent how we all face our demons as the dark nights approach, how we must grapple with them during the descent? Is this symbolism akin to my discernment of dark destructive forces and the inner beauty of the dark times for creating inner light?
Does the Archangel Michael hold our world in balance, hold the greatest enemies at bay to give us each the chance to fight for goodness until the spring, when the world once more emerges above-ground?
In Twain’s book about Joan of Arc, yes, the Archangel Michael made an impression—he was her most important spirit guide to help her begin to fulfill her purpose; now, I realize Michael can also be my spirit guide. Perhaps it was his influence that enabled me to embrace winter solstice.
Could it be Michael shows me and every human being we have the choice to find our courage and take up the challenge, embrace the darkness, and transmute it into goodness?
Within this dark stillness, I glimpse a threshold that opens into multi-layered light; it is life after darkness—is the opposite of extinction.
I have enough sense of Michael now to begin this next adventure. Mark Twain was my portal to Joan; I hope this upcoming celebration is my portal to Michael.
Though eager to read more of Steiner’s lectures about Michael, I can take in only so much in a day. Besides, then there are the dishes.
The fifth life process is maintenance. I will improve Jane’s daily maintenance by washing dishes more often, and shake out the small three-by-five-foot rug that holds all of my footsteps—no wonder it needs a shake every day!
After cooking a meal that is much easier with clean dishes, I continue this break from enlightenment-study with some crafting.
Since leaving the “Dylan Covered” CD with Joe, I’ve been trying to find it. Spotify does not include the raffle-ticket-won CD, but does include other covers—I’m especially enamored with Odetta singing Dylan. I had come across and downloaded a film, Rolling Thunder Review, a documentary about Bob Dylan’s ever-changing and enduring traveling band of that name, to further pursue this Dylan craze. While basting one of the mini-quilts started at Beth’s house in Vancouver, I watch this documentary, witness Dylan’s capacity to listen to others, build community, and nourish people and the earth as he brings music into the world for its own sake—simply because of its joy. Dylan joins my list of heroes, is a member of my personal troupe of warriors for the good.
What a lovely additional gift from the Joe encounter—getting to know Dylan better. Funny how a small detail creates a thread woven through the tapestry of one’s biography, becoming a story in its own right.
Like the song, “Simple Gifts,” that I wrote about in Re-Creation. Begun with bowing the tune by ear during those first months of playing Fiona, which led to a conversation with a Friend of the Shaker Community about the song’s origin that sparked my imagination and led to a Shaker library visit, then my questions still unanswered, finally led to a meeting with a Shaker community member who related the story about when “Simple Gifts” was written. Sometimes I tell this “Simple Gifts” story-thread at book readings, and then invite the audience to sing the song with me.
The now-basted quilt put away and screen-time over, I settle into pre-bed reading—currently Peter Matthiessen’s book, Shadow Country. He mentions Samuel Clemens, aka Mark Twain, throughout the book; in the context of his banker character who hopes that Twain will be his dinner guest with Thomas Edison and Henry Ford, other characters mention Clemens’ opinions and anecdotes about politics and current events, and in tonight’s chapter, his character, Mandy, expressed hope to someday see Twain with her own eyes—“that she might live long enough to behold her hero, if only from afar. . .” What a coincidence with my recent readings of Twain’s autobiographies, when I, too, wished I could behold him.
I sought out Matthiesen’s book after recently re-reading The Snow Leopard, an impactful book from my youth. Matthiesen’s writing was so good, I decided to read everything else he wrote--Shadow Country is my first follow-through.
The book takes place in the south during the mid-to-late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the same time period of Twain’s autobiographies. With his frequent reference to Twain, Matthiesen’s book is now interwoven into my interest in history of that era.
My eyes pop wide with another coincidence. Twain wrote The Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc during the last part of the nineteenth century. Earlier today, Steiner described the Archangel Michael’s arrival to the earth sphere to fulfill his role as the prominent archangel of our time in the last third of the nineteenth century. What a coincidence. . . .The Archangel Michael arrives on earth and within months, after repeated unsuccessful attempts to write his Joan of Arc book, Twain succeeds, including his description of Joan’s visits with Michael.
Images dance around me—the tantalizing influence Joan had throughout Twain’s life, the coincidental arrival of the Archangel Michael when he finally wrote The Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc, the upcoming trip to San Miguel de Allende during the Michaelmas festival week, and my own Joan-quest.
Before I delve further into this topic of the Archangel Michael, I must confess. Perhaps you have already gleaned from my writing that I perceive a spiritual world and experience spirit everywhere, including minerals, machines, everywhere.
Well-educated in the scientific world, my perceptions have always gone beyond science. I was as awed by electron microscopes as any other doctor or researcher, yet the vast spiritual realm was always present and beyond what a microscope could expose and explain. I learned about DNA, yet after the phenomenal achievement of “cracking the DNA code,” all the expected answers to how we exist and how to achieve health did not “materialize.” I love using that word in this context.
Now that you have read the first two sections of this book, you may already be annoyed at my spiritual references. If that is the case, you may be more annoyed with this section.
Some of my friends who are materialistic to the point of only believing truth in physical scientific research, blanch or argue or disregard me when I mention spiritual science. If that is the case, I invite us to agree to disagree. Consider this book fiction; on my copyright page disclaimer, I always state, memoir is fiction.
I considered turning this Joan-quest into a book of fiction; one of Twain’s past lives was lived as Joan’s scribe, then Twain personally encounters the Archangel Michael during his most recent lifetime and that is the source of his passion about writing Joan of Arc, then a present-day protagonist discovers these connections and whoosh! starts a revolution to save the human race from extinction.
But really, why bother with fiction? Truth is, indeed, stranger than fiction.
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