“Let me learn to love the night as I know and love the day. Let me learn to trust its darkness and to seek its subtle blessings. Let me learn the night’s way of seeing.”– J Phillip Newell, Celtic benediction
The Lantern Walk (12/11)
We park the car on an angle on the grassy edge of a muddy driveway, turn off the lights, look out into total blackness. The four kids scream impatiently & try to wriggle out of their carseats. “Stay in the car until mommy or daddy comes to get you!” I shout in mild panic, worried they may run onto the dark road.
As my eyes adjust, I can make out a faint flicker of light in the distance. Firmly grasping Moses and Beatrice’s hands (Tim has the other two), we head towards it like a mirage.
As we get closer, dozens of little candles forming lines of light at haphazard angles come into focus. Muffled voices trail out from one central point like moonbeams.
I see the faint silhouettes of peoples’ faces. I know for a fact that these faces are familiar to me, some of them close friends. But in the darkness they look scary, like ghouls.
This is the Lantern Walk. As the days grow shorter, the nursery through second grade children at my kids’ school, plus their families, gather together on a farm at nightfall to acknowledge this darkest time of the year.
The annual event is a rare chance to feel what true darkness is all about. I love the concept, but honestly, I have done this twice now and it wigs me out trying to be a mom when there is so much I cannot see.
The kids keep trying to pull away to explore. Each time I lose physical contact with one of them for even a few seconds, I feel I am losing them forever to the night.
I practically hit my shin on a table that I can now see is filled with the lanterns the kids have been making in school all week (we had to send in a little glass jar). I see the angelic, always beaming, lit-from-within-face of Wynne’s kindergarten teacher, Mrs M, who helps Wynne find her lantern.
There has been much talk at home about the ongoing progress of the lanterns–the glueing of pink and yellow tissue paper, the gold foiled top, the little flowers, leaves and stars attached– but although I can see that each child’s is slightly different.(Tommy’s has a huge fern in it. Wynne uses small maple leaves) they also cast one big peachy glow that in this setting is as bright as a neon welcome home sign.
A sooty cloud moves slowly across the sky, revealing for the first time the light of a near full moon. A strange huge bird which none of us can identify startles everyone as it flies low overhead. The night is full of surprises.
Theo, my four year old, not yet in school, sulkily asks, “where is MY lantern?” My three youngest kids spent the morning at home making their own ‘lanterns’ with the same small glass jars as Wynne’s and a wilder multicolored palette of tissue paper glued on. We put candles in them and lit them at dinner. But I leave them safely at home. (who wants to be that parent whose child drops their lantern, igniting a grassy inferno!). I have to tell Theo, “when you are in kindergarten, you will have your own lantern.”
He points to a circle of light on top of a distant hill. This is our destination, we both realize at the same time, Our eyes trace the long & winding path defined on either side by paper lanterns, back to where we are standing.
“Theo,” Mrs M. whispers, as she bends down close to him. “We have an extra lantern, and if you are very careful, you may hold it. Would you like to carry it?” His already huge eyes grow even huger in the candlelight and I see my wildest child silently shaking his head up and down at her in wonder.
Before I have time to protest, a hush falls over the gathering. A single light starts moving onto the darkned path and we sense it is time to start. The trail is slippery with mud, making a cartoonish squooshing sound underfoot. The smell is of cows and dampness. There are medium sized rocks and bumps along the way. The quiet is unfamiliar and intense, thick and velvety.
Before we got here, my biggest worry was that Theo would try to knock down the lanterns on the ground, Now, he is actually holding a lit lantern! I hold his hand but there is nothing else I can do. It is up to him.
He seems somehow to pick up on the reverent mood of the gathering, the importance of the task that has been given to him. This boy–who is almost always a noisy, non compliant, happy blur of flailing arms and legs– walks the path in utter stillness.
Still my stomach lurches as we walk. I make elaborate plans for how I will catch the lantern if he drops it. But after a few minutes, I realize: he’s got this. He wants this. He is giving this everything he’s got.
He gets to the top of the hill without a fall or even a near miss. He does not set fire to a tree, he does not fall into the small pond, or slip in the mud. In some mysterious way, his footing is sure, focused on the simple, old fashioned miracle of a single light shining the way.
The group makes a circle of lanterns. Some of the older children play a haunting melody on recorder. A story is told. Then the children sing the lantern songs they have been practicing (something to do with the feast of St Martin’s day in Germany). In the night air, the tones ring clear and pure, perfectly on pitch.
A cat comes out of nowhere and the kids start petting him. Then two ghostly figures dressed in white (probably the owners of the farm ) enter the the circle in a graceful dance. None of the children is scared. Each child receives a star cookie, to symbolize the light (in past years this has been my bribe to the kids to behave: ”the cookies are coming!”).
As we leave the circle and head down the hill, Theo whispers in my ear, “I LOVE Mrs M. Because she trusted me!”
Late that night after putting the kids to bed, I sit staring out at the darkness through the picture window in the living room. And I think about what my four-year-old said– “she trusted me.” About what a huge difference it makes to a child when somebody trusts them.
And just then, in keeping with the spooky, miraculous vibe of the evening, a question pops out of nowhere, like a shooting star in the sky: “How much do you trust yourself?”
And I thinking about all the moms I know, wondering…how much more amazing would our lives be if we trusted ourselves–not the parenting and adoption books–really trusted ourselves to navigate through the tricky transitions and rocky terrain of our own lives?
Some questions change your life
Which is why I have been taking some time. Why you have only heard from me when I have something really important to say. After four adoptions plus a new & accidental career as a writer/adoption mentor & advocate in under five years (love when that happens!)I am in deep renewal mode.
Following my instincts. Learning to let the darkness guide me . Gestating Adoption Goddess. Learning to live without adoption paperwork deadlines and high drama. Making the transition from expectant mother to ‘just’ mother.
I am so passionate about some of the projects that are close to being born–a book and ecourse to light the way for other adoption goddesses, an online adoptive mothers’ circle, an expanded blog. But my night vision is getting good. And I’m learning to use my own lantern to figure out how to move forward–where to put my feet, how far to go, how fast, which way–And it says, ‘soon.’ But not yet.
So I put this question out to all of us who are mothers, to those of us who dream of being mothers…on this darkest night of the year: How would your life be different if you trusted yourself? Really trusted yourself? (I’m talking ‘four-year-old-with-a-flaming-torch’ kind of trust)
Some questions change your life.
p.s. If you want to know when the Adoption Goddess online Mothers’ Circle (for adoptive moms and moms-to-be) is starting go here and get on the list at the bottom of the page.
And if you’re interested in the How to Adopt like a Goddess book and ecourse, go here to be notified of publication and start dates.
And if you’re just plain ol’ curious to to see this whole shebang unfold…do sign up to get on the subscriber list on the top right of this page. I’ll light a candle for you.
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