586. And so the Shortest Day came and the year died and everywhere down the centuries of the snow-white world came people singing, dancing, to drive the dark away. ~Susan Cooper

They lighted candles in the winter trees;
They hung their homes with evergreen;
They burned beseeching fires all night long
To keep the year alive.
And when the new year’s sunshine blazed awake
They shouted, reveling and
partaking of the wassail.
~Adapted excerpt from Susan Cooper

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Wassailing
~by Unknown Author

The word “wassail” is thought to come from the Anglo-Saxon “wel hal” which means “be healthy.” The Anglo-Saxons used the phrase as an everyday greeting. “Waes” is a form of the verb “to be.” “Hal” is the ancestor of the modern English words whole and hale. Thus, “waes hal” literally meant “Be healthy.”

The Vikings who later settled in Northern England used a variant of the same phrase, “Ves heill.” Since the Anglo-Saxons and Norse shared a custom of welcoming guests by presenting them with a horn of ale, a cup of mead, or a goblet of wine, the greeting evolved into a toast.

The phrase eventually evolved into the single word that we know today as “wassail.” The use of “wassailing” to mean “caroling” very likely descended from the custom of singing songs while drinking from the wassail bowl during the Christmas holidays.

Cranberry Wassail
1 gallon ocean spray cranberry juice
5 cups apple juice
2/3 cup sugar
4 cinnamon sticks
2 tsp allspice (whole)
1 medium sized orange sliced
20 whole cloves

Combine cranberry juice cocktail, apple juice, sugar, cinnamon sticks, and allspice in a large pot. Heat to boiling over medium heat; reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes. Strain punch to remove spices. Serve warm in a heat proof punch bowl or chill and serve over ice. Garnish with orange slices studded with cloves. Makes 42 4-ounce servings.

And God said, “Let there be lights in the vault of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark sacred times, and day and years, and let them be lights in the vault of the sky to give light on earth.” And it was so. ~Genesis 1:13-15   ✝

** Image via Pinterest

585. On the first day of winter, the earth awakens to the cold touch of itself. ~Laura Lush

Alas! how changed from the fair scene,
When birds sang out their mellow lay,
And winds were soft, and woods were green,
And the song ceased not with the day!
~Excerpt from poem 
by
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

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Winter is Awakening
The Solstice Sun is Rising

The Heart of Nature
dreaming
Poems of Earth
now sleeping

The Seasons are
weaving
The journeys
of Creation

The Seeds
are Quickening
in Mother Nature’s
Sacred Wing

~Edited poem by Victoria Pettella

Perhaps I will stay with you for a while, or even spend the winter, so that you can help me on my journey, wherever I go. ~1 Corinthians 16:6   ✝
(Paul was speaking here to Christ followers in Corinth, but this could well be a prayer we lift up unto the Lord for safe passage through winter’s dark realm.)

**Image via Pinterest

584. Autumn is the dim shadow that clusters about the sweet, precious things that God has created in the realm of nature. ~Northern Advocate

Is not this a true autumn day?
Just the still melancholy that I love–
that makes life and nature harmonize.
…the trees give us a scent that is
a perfect anodyne to the restless spirit.
Delicious autumn!
My very soul is wedded to it,
and if I were a bird I would fly about
the earth seeking the successive autumns.
~George Eliot

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Goodbye “dreamful autumn,” your “pale amber sunlight” and the “twilight silences” of your “prosaic days” have created their usual “golden spell that penetrates the soul with its mysterious power.” “The leaves by hundreds came…The sunshine spread a carpet, and everything was grand; Miss Weather led the dancing; Professor Wind, the band…the sight was like a rainbow new-fallen from the sky” while “the sound of life” wound “down to its cyclic close” with a “bittersweet, mellow, messy leaf-kicking pause” and “flaming torches” that lighted “the way to winter.” “The mild heavens,” “the tenderly solemn” days and nights, the “reverent meekness in the air,” the bursts of “color and beauty, radiant with glory,” “the fading of holy stars in the dim light of morning,” “the closing up of a beautiful life” all touched again “something old in the human soul.” Your “ripeness and color and time of completion” came “like a warrior, with the stain of blood upon his brazen mail.” His “crimson scarf” was “rent…” “The wind” wafted “to us the odor of leaves that” hung “wilted on the dripping branches…” as your “funeral anthem of the dying year” played on. “The whole body of the air” was “enriched by” the “calm, slow radiance” of your days, and so we listened with delight to your “rhythms that are the heart of life.” And now the “season of mists and mellow fruitfulness” and the wild “music of autumnal winds amongst the faded wood” have lowered to the gradual hush that always comes “with the deepening of autumn” and the approach of the winter solstice. Oh, “delicious autumn,” “the hush before winter,” “the year’s last, loveliest smile” your “magic of earth-scents and sky-winds” truly are “ordained for the healing of the soul.”

“Nevertheless, I (the Lord) will bring healing to it: I will heal my people and will let them enjoy abundant peace and security.” ~Jeremiah 33:6   ✝

**Image via Pinterest with added text by Natalie

583. Work is not always required. There is such a thing as sacred idleness. ~George MacDonald

To sit with a dog on a hillside
on a glorious afternoon 
is to be
back in Eden,
 where doing nothing
was not boring – 
it was peace.
~Milan Kundera

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The Old Poets of China

Wherever I am, the world comes after me.
It offers me its busyness. It does not believe
that I do not want it. Now I understand
why the old poets of China went so far and high
into the mountains,
then crept into the pale mist.

~Mary Oliver

When Mozart was composing at the end of the eighteenth century, the city of Vienna was so quiet that fire alarms could be given verbally, by a shouting watchman mounted on top of St. Stefan’s Cathedral. In twenty-first-century society, the noise level is such that it keeps knocking our bodies out of tune and out of their natural rhythms. This ever-increasing assault of sound upon our ears, minds, and bodies adds to the stress load of civilized beings trying to live in a highly complex environment. ~Edited comment by Steven Halpern

He (the Lord) makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. ~Psalm 23:2-3   ✝

**Image via Pinterest

582. Happiness often sneaks in through a door you didn’t know you left open. ~John Barrymore

Pleasure is spread through the earth
In stray gifts to be claimed by whoever shall find.
~William Wordsworth

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Lingering in Happiness

After rain after many days without rain,
it stays cool, private and cleansed, under the trees,
and the dampness there, married now to gravity,
falls branch to branch, leaf to leaf, down to the ground

where it will disappear – but not, of course, vanish
except to our eyes. The roots of the oaks will have their share,
and the white threads of the grasses, and the cushion of moss;
a few drops, round as pearls, will enter the mole’s tunnel;

and soon so many small stones, buried for a thousand years,
will feel themselves being touched.

~Mary Oliver

To the person who pleases him, God gives wisdom, knowledge and happiness… ~Excerpt from Ecclesiastes 2:26   ✝

**Image via Pinterest

581. It’s like nature (in autumn) is trying to fill you up with color, to saturate you so you can stockpile it before winter turns everything muted and dreary. ~Siobhan Vivian

The autumn of the year is an artist,
a mural artist who enchants the landscape
with 
touches of tangerine and magenta, crimson and gold.
And we, we who witness and relish fall’s splendor
are invited to tell its story or to dance or to sing
with the same kind gusto as the dazzle of its drama.
~Natalie Scarberry

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Magenta! The mystery of marvelous, magical magenta! But why, why would a color as gorgeous as it be a mystery? Well, magenta doesn’t have a wavelength, and it’s never seen in a rainbow. Yet the rainbow is supposed to be the full spectrum of color, and wavelengths of reflected light determine what color the eye sees. So the answer lies in color mixing. But wait, colors cannot be mixed in physics! And therein lies the mystery of magenta. It has to do, not with photons and physics, but instead with the physiology of the way the eye works. Even though the human eye is sensitive to color, it is only through red cones, blue cones, and green cones in the retina, none of which mixed, result in magenta. However, as it turns out, the brain can be tricked into color mixing or even into inventing or making up a color. And so magenta results from the perceived absence of green in the color spectrum leaving only red and blue, and blue light mixed with red light creates magenta. That’s why my photo of the ornamental grass yesterday and the one today tell me that the Lord, genius and maker of all this is, is a Master Artist as enamored as anyone, including “moi,” with mixing and matching colors and creating what some call “eye candy.”

I will proclaim the name of the Lord. Oh praise the greatness of our God. ~Deuteronomy 32:3    ✝

580. Once more on our morning walk we tread upon carpets of gold and crimson, of brown and bronze, woven by the winds… ~John Burroughs

Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,
The flying cloud, the frosty light;
The year is dying in the night;
Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.
~Alfred Lord Tennyson

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With every north wind that blows the landscape decomposes more and more, and the air grows a little wilder with falling leaves. After each assault layer upon layer of the leafy insulation blankets the lawn and beds in more warmth to protect them from coming winter’s icy blasts. Above, the branches, if not already bare, are now dotted with only a smattering of leaves. They, the ones too tenacious to let go so far, cannot hold on much longer though because the winter solstice will be upon us in less than a week. These brisk northerly winds have also taken a toll on the once verdant and supple, ornamental grasses. Many of them have begun drying out and taking on a shabby, tattered look, but among the shades of brown, remain a few tinged with glorious color. Autumn may be beset with more gray than sunny days and quelling blows night after night, but some continue to hold a measure of winsome smiles and “honey’d leavings.” And as the lusty song of life plays on, earth yet murmurs, “come play again with me,” a call, way, way too alluring for me to ignore.

The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God endures forever. ~Isaiah 40:8   ✝