Solstice Inspired

It takes 12 moon cycles for our little planet to cycle once around the sun. The oldest human celebrations known have celebrated that feat quarterly – two Solstices and two Equinoxes. These are celebrations of gratitude that the sun “returns”.

Of course we all know the sun doesn’t go anywhere, we’re the ones moving about, but our ancestors weren’t so sure. Summer Solstice is the precise moment when the tilt of the earth on its axis puts the Northern hemisphere as close to the sun as it’s going to be, and the Southern Hemisphere the furthest (Winter Solstice there). In December the roles reverse.

Ra (Egyptian), Lord Surya (Hindu), Helios (Greek), Khors (Slavic), Sunna (Nordic), Sol (Roman), are but a few of the deity names given to the sun, thought to either be a god, or ruled by a god.

Throughout time, no matter how crazy we’re behaving here on our little spaceship, the sun has been constant, while life here is ever-changing. No wonder it has been consistently cerebrated!

☀️Solstice cheer!

past Summer Solstice post:

Evening Light & Tagore On This Solistice Eve

 

Tree Fairy Tales for the your holidays…..

A little Tree Fairy kept me grounded through a month of windstorms, power outages, health challenges for both Mike and I,  and the usual “what do we want to do about Christmas”.  I shared her through a series of stories on social media. For those who do not interact with me on social media, I want to share her here and hope you find her to be a bit of delight in your life.

She and I wish for you Happy Holidays! Happy Christmas! Happy New Year! Happy Hearts!

Tree Fairy came to me with her little potted tree, which I offered to decorate, but she ONLY wanted candles, no other decorations. She was VERY particular!

I don’t argue with fairies.

The next day she comes back and wants me to decorate a big deciduous tree, saying they’re the ones needing color in winter and mumbling something about people decorating conifers, already green & pretty.

I told her the Alders and Big Leaf Maples here were too tall to decorate. She gave me a cross look. .

I decorated an alder for her.

Tree Fairy loves her trees but can be very grumpy about people.

On December 9th I told Tree Fairy about Worldwide Candle Lighting Day. She became very sad thinking of young children who have died. She doesn’t tolerate adults well, but she loves children, helping them when she can.

She went and got a very large candle (for her, she’s only 3 1/2″ tall), then left to go into the woods to light her candle and be with her beloved trees.

She too has lost many loved ones this year. .

She told me the souls of all little ones who die, of any species, go to a beautiful forest in a heavenly world. I don’t know how she knows this.

Tree Fairy did not return until Friday when she came to say Happy Solstice! In good spirits, she looks forward to the coming light, knowing her beloved trees will appreciate the longer days, some already budding in anticipation. She brought some friends (not sure who they are, seemed rude to ask, I believe they are tiny seed fairies). .

She’s returned to her trees, we’ve had wind storm after wind storm, she wants to help those who got hurt.

She is happiest amongst her trees, she said come visit wherever you go to be with trees. She loves people who love her trees.

Those that don’t. Well, a cross fairy has her ways…….she is a warrior!

To see more of my recent and seasonal botanical creations check out page two of “Flora Mandalas”

Holiday Full Disclosure and Tolerance

The winter holiday celebrations can be as divisive as politics. Which is sad given what they celebrate. There are some Christians who say Santa, trees, etc. have nothing to do with the birth of Christ, and non-Christians who say most traditions of Christmas were stolen from pre-Christian celebrations. Some Jewish people put up Christmas trees, others say that isn’t right. There are people who love Christmas music, those who hate it……the list goes on and on of other religious and cultural controversies this month.

a bit of whimsy made by a local carver

I thought I was becoming cynical about Christmas. Even Solstice. We celebrate both. What I thought was cynicism was the feeling that I have to be so sensitive this time of year around pretty much everyone as to not offend anyone, and very private about how we celebrate. Often I don’t even know which way is the “right” way to avoid offense.

Here’s an illustration of what I mean. One Christmas, when I had been very ill for months, Mike and I were enjoying a rare, leisurely, festive time together a few days before Christmas. At the gallery of a local artist who illustrates children’s books, Mike purchased a print of a little shepherd boy, taken from a book about the Christmas story. Mike loves Christmas and because of his Basque heritage he identifies with the shepherds in the Christmas story. (The Basque who came to this country, including his maternal great uncles, herded sheep in the isolated hills of California, Nevada and Idaho. A job no one else wanted). We walked out of the gallery and saw a friend to whom Mike enthusiastically showed his purchase. The friend’s only comment, said with disdain after Mike said why he bought it, was “but it’s so Christian.” My heart aches even now when I think of how crestfallen he was.  This person would not think of them self as intolerant. Yet this is the sensitiveness many people have around this season.

Though we celebrate in our house the way we want, it is like belonging to a secret society of two. How we celebrate has changed over the years, adopting new rituals, traditions, letting go of older ones. That’s the way life is. Of course new religions incorporate the traditions of older ones, its human nature. Archeological finds show just how long we’ve been adopting the ways of those before us, or from other places and cultures. Life is not either/or, people are not either/or……well, yes they are, and we see the results of that in our divided, polarized country, and in other countries, where everyone on all sides of the political spectrum talk of the “others” as though they had nothing in common and were from another planet. This intolerance of differences generates violence, at least in thought, and too often in action. Violence toward others is not taught in any major religious or spiritual tradition that has stood the test of time.

I’m quite certain I have much in common with someone who may have voted differently than me. We may both love birds, read plant books, support women’s shelters, have had cancer, drive the same car……who knows. I choose not to talk politics with people with different political ideals, but politics is not all life is about. Political choices may represent important individual values, but I know people who vote as I do and do not share all my values. They may not even tolerate how and what I celebrate this month. We are far more complex as a species and as individuals to put each other in boxes and categories based on limited knowledge of the “other.”

So here in our secret society of two, where Decembers past has often been a time of healing and recovery (i.e. recovering from surgeries, colds, flu, etc.) our celebrations are low key. Up until a few years ago we spent Christmas Day with family, usually elsewhere, occasionally here. We miss these family gatherings, but also enjoy just being “home for the holidays”. I have had a long standing “bucket list” item of spending Christmas in a cabin somewhere, then I remember – I live in a cabin somewhere.

the greeter on our front door

So here at this cabin in the woods is what is important to us when it comes to holidays. I apologize if any of this offends you. Actually, I don’t want to apologize, rather invite you to share with me what you celebrate this month that might be different, maybe I would enjoy your traditions and celebration also. Or perhaps you don’t celebrate anything you just enjoy December plain!

1) A nativity set, there are several to choose from, the tiny one from my childhood or various wooden ones. I have few friends who put up a nativity, but to Mike and I that is what Christmas is about.

2) Lights and candles are important because that’s what celebrating the Solstice is about, bringing back the light, celebrating the cycles of dark and light. And because here in Washington December is just plain dark and days are short.

3) We listen to a lot of music. (Mike can watch the same Mormon Tabernacle choir Christmas special DVD every year, me not so much, I like something new!).

back porch trees, two golden crest cypress

4) Though I often vow NO TREE, and NEVER thought I’d have an artificial tree, we always have a tree, sometimes a small table top artificial one, or a potted tree on the porch outside the window, or a cut tree. Sometimes more than one. Mike is delighted when we decorate a tree. In his younger adult years, up until we married, he didn’t really celebrate Christmas with anyone. Thirty Christmases later, he is still making up for it.

advent wreath

5) We now do an advent wreath to help us stop and focus on the spiritual aspect of this holy season, we light a candle each week, do a reading, meditate and slow down. Mike was in the emergency room last Sunday so we postponed our candle lighting to Monday, it helped “ground” us back into the season’s vibrations after a stressful Sunday.

6) We try to take a ride in the mountains, a walk somewhere quiet, depending on my body’s willingness. Connecting with Nature and the calm gray/green of winter in the northwest is very important to me this time of year. Nature reminds us human species that it truly is a time of peace on earth, and at least in the northern hemisphere, a time of rest.

7) Gift giving is minimal, fortunately an attitude shared by extended family and close friends. Something simple or homemade, if anything at all. (And this year I liberated myself from Christmas card sending by sending Thanksgiving cards.)

8) We have a special Christmas meditation with those in our meditation group.

little angel from my childhood on this year’s indoor tree

In a small house, where there isn’t a lot of room for decorating, besides the tree and nativity, you might find these favorite symbols of the winter season and holidays – snowmen, angels, deer, a variety of evergreens and their cones, red and white carnations, and (I have a mixed relationship with them) maybe a poinsettia, which Mike loves.

So if you’re in the neighborhood and don’t find our holiday celebrations offensive, drop by, we’ll share a cup of wassail! And if you too like the songs of the season, we could have a sing-a-long!

little china snowmen quartet

Just a few of many other posts of the season…

Solistice Thoughts

Christmas Eve Lessons From Nature

A message of peace

Sweet Silver Bells

Solistice

Seasonal Reflections

Solstice

“In a way winter is the real spring, the time when the inner things happen, the resurgence of nature.” Edna O’Brien

Living in the woods, I miss the sun on the days it shines because it hides behind tall conifers. Looking forward to the sun coming out of its hiding places!

There is a moody magic to winter with its extremes of brisk windy days and calm still days. Perhaps because the northwest is my birth place and is “in my genes”, I find cloudy days and rain bring comfort. Though there is much going on around us that is upsetting, stirring the energies of our hearts and minds, try tuning into the winter message to go within, find your own stillness, make time to allow yourself to rest and incubate dreams and actions for the new year and prepare oneself for what the new year brings.

Animals know far better than we do how to honor the shifting energies of the seasons, using those shifts for their own well-being.  Some animals hibernate in winter, especially in colder climates, some semi-hibernate, coming out on warmer days to restock winter stores, clean house, and get a little exercise, those who stay active all winter sense the weather changes and behave appropriately, bedding down for a cold winter’s night or storm. A matter of survival? Perhaps we need to learn from them for our own survival! Instead, most of us  ‘soldier’ on at the same pace, winter, spring, summer & fall!

Wishing you peace and love however and whatever you celebrate during this mid-winter time!

Winter posts:

In my last post, Nature’s way & a few mandalas!, there are listed other posts for the Solstice.

The previous post, Decking the halls – wandering thoughts on seasonal decorations, lists many Christmas posts.

Spice up, warm up, your winter days! is good for self care and warm coziness through the winter!

I also highly recommend a blog post from Amadea Morningstar, a person who has been a mentor and Ayurvedic health practitioner in my life. It is a thoughtful piece to consider during these dark days of winter and challenging times, especially as we move to a new year: Moving into the new with intention and the five elements.

 

Nature’s way & a few mandalas!

IMG_0110We humans make much of changing seasons, dividing life cycles into tidy quarters, twelfths, etc. It’s understandable. Dependent on Nature, people have always strived to understand Nature’s transitions, to find order & predictability. Nature’s seasons are more a river whose waters bubble, divert and twirl even while moving predictably in one direction. Water sidetracks into eddies, reversing direction; some into calm pools, resting, taking its time; some rushes predictably, down stream and over cascades. Weather, water and plants challenge our need for predictability in life. Maverick plants bloom “early” or “out of season”, we have a Rhododendron that often blooms a single blossom in September, months after other blooms on the plant have died. Roses love to do this (thus the story of the Christmas rose.) Primulas bloom in early spring, yet the soft yellow one shown above brightens a gray December day with many blooms, joining red winter berries & evergreens. Early? Out of season? To the plant the time is just right! 💚

Nature, like life, is not so predictable!

Enjoy the coming winter solstice!

Solstice posts:

Candlemas & Imbolc

Evening Light & Tagore

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Snow berries brighten winter woods along with a variety of red berries.

 

Solstice Thoughts About Our Thoughts

A few seasonal thoughts and a warming recipe with star anise, my gift for you!

from-the-dark-to-the-with-glowHere in Northwest USA, where days are quite short on the Winter Solstice, frosty fog obscures the sunlight, a fitting welcome to this turning of the seasons! Outside my window three deer munch along the trail into our yard, hesitate, and munch back up the trail. I have not seen them in months and it is a sweet solstice gift to know they survived hunting season.

If you are not feeling celebratory as we enter this holiday season, I hope this quote posted on Facebook by a friend, might help you along.

Do not be dismayed by the brokenness of the world.            img_6473-2
All things break.  And all things can be mended.
Not with time, as they say, but with intention.
So go. Love intentionally, extravagantly, unconditionally.
The broken world waits in darkness for the light that is you.
L.R. Knost

Christmas and Hanukkah both celebrate hope, love, peace.  Because many are feeling we are entering a time, not of light, but of darkness and despair,  it is doubly important to embrace the message of hope, love and peace and carry it into the New Year in all we do.  Let it influence how we relate to others as we fulfill our responsibilities at work, in our families and in our communities.  Let it influence actions we take, decisions we make.  Most of all, let it be in our thoughts.  Regardless of outer circumstances, or who is in “power” we alone control our thoughts, and our thoughts have power.

I recently listened to an interview with Anthony Ray Hinton, sentence to death for murders he did not commit, held on death row in solitary confinement for 30 years.  His story is compelling. I read other articles and interviews of him, wanting to know all I could about how a person survives such a horrific journey into darkness.  Anthony Ray, a good person, raised to live a decent, law abiding life, was convicted because he was black, though evidence did not prove he was even at the crime scene. Anthony Ray went through many phases of anger, mental escapism, and spiritual faith.  He said he learned he could take his mind wherever he wanted to go. For 30 years he went every where, beautiful places, football games, to visit the Queen of England. No, he did not lose his mind and go crazy.  He survived through the power of controlling his thoughts, for his surroundings and circumstances where not intended for his survival.  He consciously and with intent created a life through mind power, a life he was deprived of by an unjust criminal justice system. Bryan Stephenson, attorney with the Equal Justice Initiative worked for 16 years to open the case with new evidence, and was turned down three times. Finally, the case was reopened, the evidence examined, and April 2015 Anthony Ray was released into a world he knew only in his mind.  (His case was not overturned because of DNA, but DNA testing has resulted in many other people freed after equally long prison terms for crimes they did not commit.)

Anthony’s story is an example of the power of the  mind, not the usual example where people say they ‘manifest’ what they want in their lives, or bring about miracle healings, etc., compelling as some of those stories are.  His story is the power of the mind to bring light and beauty into ones soul regardless of outer circumstances. To survive in the face of feeling powerlessness. It is a story of hope.

Let your mind take you where you want to go in the New Year, let it envision the world as you would like it to be, regardless of how outer circumstances may appear.

Have a wonderful holiday season, celebrating in whatever tradition you celebrate, the message of hope, love and peace!  Let peace guide your actions, carry hope in your mind and love in your heart, even when outer circumstances do not seem to reflect any of these three.

Below – a recipe for a warm, spicy, easy winter comfort food, made from most the elements of this mandala. You’ve probably made it yourself, if not, it’s a yummy treat alone, or as a condiment or sauce with other foods.  To make it sweeter, I recommend adding maple syrup to taste. (Makes everyday morning oatmeal a holiday treat!)

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I’ve add many seasonal mandalas to my mandala page: Flora Mandalas.

spicy-apple

Odsc01752ther posts for the season:

Seasonal Reflections
Sweet Silver Bells
Spice Up Your Winter Days
Christmas
The Turtle and The Star
The Chaplin’s Christmas Message

Evening Light & Tagore On This Solistice Eve

Blue skies at 8:45 Solistice Eve!

Blue skies at 8:45 Solstice Eve!

Today, here in the Pacific Northwest, the sun rose at 5:11 a.m. and set, as it will for the remainder of the month, at 9:11 p.m. (website for sunrise sunset times). Tomorrow, Sunday June 21, the sun rises at 5:12, a few hours before the Summer Solstice occurs at 9:39 a.m. .

Most NW woods native plants are through blooming by mid-June, but Ocean Spray is in it's glory, cascading it's creamy white bloom clusters over the surrounding green.

Most NW woods native plants are through blooming by mid-June, but Ocean Spray, in its glory, cascades it’s creamy blooms over the surrounding green.

Walking around this evening, looking at the pale blue sky above the tall fir and maple trees, the few puffy white clouds slightly tinted with sun glow, I wondered what I could photograph that represented, and celebrated, this time of light. It dawned on me any photograph taken would represent the solisitce…..it was 8:45 p.m. yet I could still take bright photos, no flash required! I share my ‘solistice pictures’, taken between 8:45 and 9:00 p.m. this evening.

Poppies often don't bloom until early July in our garden, but with this unusually sunny June they arrived in time for the solstice!

Poppies often don’t bloom until early July in our garden, but this unusual sunny June they arrived in time for the solstice!

With these photos, I also share a selection from my well-worn, and beloved, copy of Gitanjali, A Collection of Indian Songs, by Rabindranth Tagore.

Tagore from the Novel Prize web site page about him. There are several pages, including a very interesting article.

Tagore from the Nobel Prize web site page about him. There are several pages, including a very interesting article.

Gitanjali (song offerings) won Tagore the 1913 Novel Prize in Literature “because of his profoundly sensitive, fresh and beautiful verse, by which, with consummate skill, he has made his poetic thought, expressed in his own English words, a part of the literature of the West”.

Song #57.

Light, my light, the world-filling light, the eye-kissing light, heart-sweetening light!

Ah, the light dances, my darling, at the centre of my life; the light strikes, my darling, the chords of my love; the sky opens, the wind runs wild, laughter passes over the earth.

The butterflies spread their sails on the sea of light. Lilies and jasmines surge up on the crest of the waves of light.

The light is shattered into gold on every cloud, my darling, and it scatters gems in profusion.

Mirth spreads from leaf to leaf, my darling, and gladness without measure. The heaven’s river has drowned its banks and the flood of joy is abroad.

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Clematis, a vivdly colorful vine that loves summer so much it blooms for most the season!

Pink old fashion roses, hudnreds of them, cover our garden gate arbor.

Hundreds of old fashion pink roses cover our garden gate arbor

Happy Summer Solstice all!

Mike spend this summer solistice eve day preparing for the winter solistice!

Mike spent this summer solstice eve day preparing for the winter solstice!

Letting There Be Emptiness

A popular adage says when we let go of something we create space for something else. It is a simplistic saying for a dynamic, complex process.  Letting go, like grief, and usually involving grief, has many stages of releasing and holding on.  It’s a process of emptying, and sometimes it results in finding or creating something new, but often we learn to live with the void.

There’s been a lot of letting go for me this past year.  When both you and your life mate are diagnosed with cancer and other health challenges, you let go of many ideas about your life together in the near and distant future as your days shift around appointments, treatments, changes in abilities, income, and routines. I’ve witnessed this in the lives of many friends, too many.  Mike and I have been through this before, but Mike was not so much a participant as a witness.  In one respect this shifting and letting go is what life is about. No one is exempt, we all experience it on many levels.

On the material level, as I waded through the mucky process of emptying my parents’ house of 41 years, getting it ready for sale, there was the letting go of a lots of “stuff’! Not only did the treasures and everyday items from two lives have to go, but things here at home had to be gotten rid of to make room for items hauled home…as I said, letting go is a process, and sometimes we hold on!

a house once full of the collections of two lives, sits empty, waiting for new owners.

a house once full of the collections of two lives, sits empty, waiting for new owners.

Watching friends go through this house emptying process, I notice that how a person experiences it has as much to do with their relationship to their own past as with their relationship to their parents.  For me it was an uncovering of forgotten stories and learning of new ones. Some stories came through discovered letters, diaries, saved articles, etc. Knowing I was dismantling her material life, but unable to participate in it directly, Mom would occasionally remember something, ask about it, then tell me the story the item recalled.  Though there was much I wanted to ask, and sometimes I would, I learned to wait and see what might surface, for in her mind, she has already let go of many things, and many stories.

Like many parents, over the years mine unloaded on my brothers and me most of our own paraphernalia and memorabilia, but there were still bits and pieces of our pasts tucked away in the attic, or found in drawers and closets.  One such item was my doll house.

IMG_0683One time I brought my doll house home and set it up. I don’t remember why, as an adult, with no children, I did that, but it lived in a corner for a while. I enjoyed the process of setting it up, but after a few months realized it was taking up valuable space and collecting dust, so I hauled it back to my parents’ attic, to be mostly forgotten.

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So there it was, in the attic. I kept moving it around mom’s house as I emptied rooms. I could not bring myself to haul it off to a thrift store and listing it on Craig’s list brought only mild interest, and no buyers. This is a very well furnished house from the 1950s! Besides the little molded plastic easy chairs, a couch, beds, pink bathroom fixtures, and red and white kitchen set, it includes a small vacuum, tiny stools, a card table that folds, (as card tables should), lamps, a telephone, and other tiny household items. Not fancy, but very utilitarian was my doll house! Ebay has several collections of the same little hard plastic furniture for sale, but few of the sets I looked at were as intact as mine!

IMG_0679Today I mailed all the furnishings of my doll house to Enterprise, Oregon to become part of a little girl’s life I hope to meet someday, the daughter of a ‘virtual’ friend, Jody of Wild Carrot Herbals (maker of our favorite body care products!).

The house, built by my dad, will go to another friend for her granddaughter.

Mom’s house sale closed two weeks ago.

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After sending the boxes of little plastic furniture off at the post office, I drove to a favorite trail at Dosewallips State Park. As I walked out to the beach, the almost-solstice sun was disappearing behind the trees, the low light transforming brown, dried up beach grass into a field of gold. I felt exhilarated, I love the openness of this particular trail, the feeling you are walking out into the water. It is a sparse place, not barren, but only the beach grass grows there. The emptiness allows fluidity – birds fly through, resting on the beach, the tide comes and goes, filling and emptying the river estuary. A place where the emptiness allows a peaceful, simple beauty.

As I looked off in the distance a singular ‘honk’ a few feet from me caused me to turn and see a swan flying by at eye level.

I am enjoying this letting go.

Happy Solstice to you all!  May there be spaces in your life for new the light!

The Turtle and the Star

With the Solstice a few days away, Christmas nearly here, 8″ of snow outside, and howling winds breaking off trees (dashing my desire to go anywhere, until commitments demand it!), I find there is little time, energy, or focus for card sending and shopping….but I have this simple story I wrote last month.  Mike (my totally non-objective ‘tester”!) liked it, so I make it my gift to you…friends, family, readers, all of whom I am grateful for and to whom I wish a holiday season of love and peace. A short-short story, to be shared with a child, or read to the child within!

IMG_0443_2The Turtle and The Star

 “Come out, come out, see my brilliance!”

 “Go away, I am trying to sleep.”

Thus went the conversation between Little Star and Turtle.  Every night it was the same, the star wanting to show off how bright it was, the turtle pulling into his shell to shut out the starlight.

Little Star would plead and cajole.

“Pleeease…your green shell will shine like a knight’s armor in my light.”

Turtle would resist.  “It is night time, it is dark, it is time for sleep. Go away. I have no use for you.”

This last remark deeply hurt Little Star, already feeling a bit puny in a vast universe full of a gazillion stars, most far brighter than Little Star could ever hope to be.

Then one night there was a flood of light, so dazzling, it turned night into day.  The sleepy Turtle, seeing light seep into his shell, was ready to voice his usual grumpy complaint to Little Star when he noticed an immense star, far above Little Star, radiating down to Earth golden rainbows and sparkling light, making his green shell not only shine like armor, but reflect back the golden light.

Turtle’s friend Little Star was just staring, for once speechless, feeling both in awe and terribly inadequate.  This gigantic star with the golden light was not ominous, it was a warm, loving, grandmotherly star casting a steady glow throughout the heavens and over the earth.

Turtle and Little Star sat silently in the golden light throughout the night, sharing the love of this majestic star.  By morning Little Star and the Grandmother star both had faded from sight.  The following night Turtle looked forward to the golden light and return of the Grandmother star, but only Little Star showed up, a sad Little Star.

 “I will never be able to radiant such warmth, such love, such a golden light.  That was soooo awesome, but made me feel even more puny.”

Turtle felt sorry for his little friend.  He knew there was a special place for the friendly glow of Little Star, and he knew where that place was to be found.

IMG_0445After a trip to the forest, Turtle returned with a beautiful evergreen tree. The tree gave him permission to cut it down, for it had a ring of babies around it, seedlings from years of fallen cones.  The young trees needed more light than was filtering through the branches of the giant tree.  Turtle explained his plan to the tree who thought it a grand plan.

Once Turtle had the tree secure in its new home, birds decorated it with berries, flowers and IMG_0451bits of shiny bric-a-brac. Then Turtle asked his friend Bluebird to fly high as she could and invite Little Star to come down to a party.

Bluebird guided Little Star to the top of the tree, and from there its starlight shown down on all the forest animals, shining with warmth and love.

May the blessings of the season light up your life in the New Year.