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Ode to Joy

Written by Tara Coumoundouros


Posted on November 07 2019

When I was younger I remember the sheer joy of the winter solstice season.  I remember sled riding in chest deep snow, the exhilaration of the cold wind on your warm cheeks, hot chocolate, building snow men and snow forts, reading a book curled up in a blanket, baking, hanging lights with those big old bulbs that you had to unscrew and replace, the same string of lights for YEARS that I reverently put out like they were the colorful lights of the divine, the nativity set that my mother hand painted, the quite moments at night or early in the morning that the tree would sparkle with all of its lights, and the deep satiation of feeling at home, at place and surrounded by the deep dark holiness of the time of the year.  I don’t think my parents drank coffee often but I remember the smell of it brewing, I remember every holiday toy that we got from the McDonald’s drive through (the 80s were the best) and I remember the magic of it all.  When my son asks me if Santa is real…

I remember magic

I remember twinkling lights in the dark

I remember peace and joy

I remember the greenery with big red bows smelling of pine and cinnamon

I answer my son with a question, a very teacherish way of replying by asking him if he believed in magic?  Followed up with another question after he answered in the affirmative … then what is Santa?  I want him to believe in the magic of the season just like I did.  I know he knows, but he is also someone who loves fantasy and so he can convince himself that he too believes.  The last 10 years of his life I was on a downward spiral, and just like a lot of other mothers I’m sure I question whether or not I missed the best days of his life and I mourn for his little self and ache to see just a glimpse of it once more in the kisses I put on his nose and the glint in his still very sparkly eyes.  Personally, for me I’ve silently and quietly mourned the loss of the magic of the season and I refuse to let him lose it too while I search for it again.  It was parallel with my mental health and the ever-compounding list of life’s burdens and problems that have been steadily growing.  I’ve noticed very consciously the last three years that the season doesn’t have the magic that it once had anymore.  Where did I lose it?  Last year I wrote about being ok with being in the dark, with resting in the season of darkness and not needing to fill my life with artificial purchases and lights and candles and things.  I’ve never stopped stressing over making sure that we have the perfect gifts, the decorations are done just so, but there is one thing I’ve become….a loner, an outsider through choice.  I’ve drifted apart in some family relationships because of my choice of religion, I’ve alienated some folks out of necessity because of stress, and I’ve intentionally shrunk my friend’s list down to only the ones that I needed most.  That was my version of darkness the last few years, but I am coming to realize that is not what my soul wants or needs.  I need…

To remember magic

To see the twinkling lights on the tree

To be at peace and to feel joy

To have my loved ones close, to bake with them, to build snow forts and to be at HOME

This year I am not going to be ok with being idle in the dark even though this is the season of rest according to most witches, for me it is actually my most active season and my soul loves the flurry of holiday activity.  I’m in the dark most of the year anyhow with my depression, even at the summer solstice.  During the summer I find the heat stifling and I am less active and more hedonistic, but when the cold wind blows I am truly alive.  This year I am going to build an incantation and weave it into every stich and cranny an ODE TO JOY.  I like to give gifts.  I’ve always strived to find what I think is the perfect gift, but with my personal financial transition out of a loveless job and into the wild unknown of temporary pennilessness I felt guilt over buying the presents, I felt guilt over being a consumeristic American who created waste and bought too much, I felt guilt for wanting to gift my children more and somehow ended up doing the opposite and spent too much on their holiday gifts.  Goddess save me.  Why is it that those of us that suffer from anxiety and traumas have this damned if we do and damned if we don’t feeling always SUSPENDED in the body?  I remember some less than joyful moments too like my mom always wanting to hide the bills of the things that she spent too much money on, mostly on us from my father.  Seeing her in new light now I know that it was a tiny little subconscious way for her to rebel against the narcistic abuse that he dolled out freely and her own childhood trauma compulsions playing out, but those anxieties somehow get passed down.  Sometimes I use a second account’s credit card to mask the amount that I’ve spent and to spread the burden out some, but mostly it is because I feel guilt too.  Why should I feel guilt for wanting my children to experience the best things?  Who is it that is making me feel like I should feel guilty?  It’s me, it’s only me that’s who.  I also know that the best things aren’t always things and that there has been a big push for experience driven gifts rather than tangible consumer items and so I will feel around with that new momentum somewhere as well…

I will share the magic with my children

We will string lights together all over the house and on the tree

We will share in the simple joys and peacefulness

We will sled ride down the biggest hills

I will shamelessly wrap my kid’s gifts in big bows and provide for them the magic of packages beneath the tree.  I am beyond guilt now and I am slowly recovering from what has drug me down into the underworld in years past and in its place is fleeting resurrected moments of joy, the pure joy, the kind that I described from childhood and I will hold tightly to it lest it runs away again.  Some people say that your birthday is the day that represents the new moon in your personal cycles and so I am starting down the path of the waning moon, because me and Jesus, well we share our birthday month.  I am writing this on the day that we have passed through Samhain and head into the Winter Solstice.  Will this joy disappear again?  My intuition says maybe a little, my husband says “IT ISN’T EVEN THANKSGIVING YET,” and the astrology of it says possibly but I am feeling so much better now that I am excited to see what it brings.  I am happy.  What a monumental statement.  I’ve never been diagnosed with bipolar depression, and really in my opinion that is just a term for those who flow on a larger scale of cycles, who are more sensitive to those waxes and wanes of the seasons, the moon phases, of their personal cycles, but I do question myself occasionally when I feel this way.  Am I manic in this moment?  Will this moment that I can really FEEL the joy sneak away again?  Yes, most certainly I will come down from this happy holiday high, it’s not sustainable forever and it shouldn’t be because we need our lows just as much as our highs but that’s okay because I swear I AM MORE and more okay every day.  I am learning to love myself no matter where I am at.  The joy it comes and goes but the important thing is that it COMES at all again!   It was lost for so long and so I celebrate…

I am the magic of the season

I am the moments of twinkling lights in the dark

I am the ODE TO JOY and I am at peace

I am the whoop of joy as we cap our snowman, and the smile on my son’s face

This season it is magic for me.  It always has been, and it always will be.  It has its tangles in family drama, in consumerism, but at the end of the day it will still be the twinkling lights on the tree that mesmerize me and have me sighing with joy. 

Ode to Joy

I am the magic of the season

I am the joy in the dark

I am lights hung with meaning

I am chocolate peppermint bark

I am the bow tied heart gift

I am a smile on a face

I am the snow fort in the drift

I am joy’s warm embrace

And so it is. 

Much love, Tara Nordstrom