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A Tired Mother's Impression of Martinmas



The bright summer days are gone, the rays of the sun do not warm us any longer, the autumn leaves are swept from the trees and return to the earth. All of nature is in a process of contraction, the seeds get covered and wrapped up by soil and dying leaves, the days get shorter and so we put on more clothes and hurry home through rain and hasten to be back by dark. We turn inward. After the last beautiful autumn days with their radiant yellow and red fiery leaves, the bleakness of November begins. Many people fall ill or just do not feel well. There seems a general mood of exhaustion and weariness now, after that new vigorous start in September. Where is all our energy gone, where is our harvest, where is there light to guide us in the dark?

It seems we have to light a candle within. All the sunshine of the long summer has turned in the autumn into those glowing red and yellow leaves. All that fire that slowly burns out in nature, it seems that there is just one tiny little spark left to light a candle in a pumpkin or a lantern.

On St. Martin's Day, November 11, we walk in a procession with lanterns along the dark streets. . . But the wind is fierce! We have to relight the lanterns again and again. One lantern is caught by the flame and the swiftly burning paper has to be stamped out. But the journey goes on. Where to?

This year we again walked with our lanterns through the village. Until the very last moment in was uncertain that we would. Nobody felt like organizing the walk and caring for it in the right way. Tired mothers, combining family life with too many activities, single mothers weary of festivals; mothers with jobs and outside oblibations. No, this year we would not do it.

But then. . . Shall we? . . If you call. . . Let everybody bring some. . . It could be in my house. . . And so everybody started to make lanterns. As a concession one or two were allowed to buy and lantern. . .

Do you know how fragile and futile the light of twenty lanterns look when cars with full headlights come zooming by? Encountering the modern world with your little like makes you feel very vulnerable and rather foolish. . . At the first (pre-arranged) house we stopped and sang. Two mothers were waiting at the door, a baby on one arm, in the free hand a candle, on the ground a basket with biscuits. The little babies' eyes reflected the lanterns and the starlight. . .

We walked through a wooded park. . . How well carved the stars and moons in the lanterns, how beautifully the colors of the painted tissue and the bright patterns in the simple cardboard, softly shedding enough light in the dark to guide our path! The smell of the wet leaves, the blowing wind in your face, the darkness of the night and everybody feeling happy with his lantern. . .

It is not all perfect: some children fool about and have to be hushed. It is not all that holy, but we try. . . Finally, we all go home, tired but very content with the image in our hearts of these tiny lamps battling with November darkness in our heart.

Having overcome physical weariness by our own inner fire, we have to wait and protect the light for awhile. On the first Sunday of Advent one big candle will be lit, and each following Sunday another, as a token and as a preparation for the Light that Christmas shines into the world, and which enables us to relight our own candles whenever the wind has been too strong.


As summarized from Lifeways :: Gudrun Davy & Bons Voors
Martinmas window panel by Denny Lane, sourced here.

A Blessed Wilderness

It was just like being in heaven, being in there. In those days there was no road. The park was all a blessed wilderness. I have often thought what a wonderful people we would have been if we had wanted to keep it that way.

~Adolph Murie, biologist, on Denali


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