I looked at the sky, and saw not only azure, and clouds, but an almost supernatural glow beyond the trees. What could this unreal brilliance in the sky be? Could I be dreaming, I wondered? Why is it still light out after five o’clock? Dare I risk jinxing my good fortune by speaking the words out loud?
I think I saw sunlight.
Yes, it’s true.
I will welcome spring with wide open arms after surviving this winter. The snow was and is unbelievably deep, the temperatures have been unthinkably low, and the whole season long I’ve been catless and cuddleless. Winter was darker than ever this year, and I am ready to worship the sun.
The lesson the earth teaches every year as the seasons change is that nothing lasts. This is a reason to celebrate and a reason to mourn. Terrible things will pass. Good things will end. Life and death does a dance; can little humans like us keep up the pace with a cosmic paradox?
Winter pounded the lessons in this year. What else can one do, but acquiesce to winter’s severe tutelage the same way a branch bends to survive the accumulating weight of the snow? Learning to bend prevents a complete break, and breaking one branch prevents the death of the whole tree. Seasonal transitions are times for sacrifice.
I agree with Aleister Crowley that “sacrifice is a wrong idea,” especially sacrifice along the lines of New Testament mythology and the cult of martyrdom. Being a martyr is wasteful and utterly narcissistic. The best and brightest of us should make our light shine, not throw it away. The connection between martyrdom and codependence looked obvious to me growing up as I watched women “sacrifice” for alcoholic and abusive men. Those women were held up as examples of good. That’s okay: I’ll take bad. Ya’ll go ahead and feel holy, and I’ll be out here happily not sacrificing myself for anyone or anything, living a life I choose with a partner I love in a relationship where giving goes both ways.
But sacrifice in its ancient sense means to make a thing sacred, and in our ancestors’ world this often meant killing it. A tree is felled to burn for heat in the winter. An animal is slaughtered to feed a community. Crops are reaped so their seeds may be sown. Sacrifice means killing something with intention.
If your soul were a garden would you hesitate to weed it? If your mind were an orchard, would you go years without pruning? If your ego were a veggie patch, would you never sow new seeds? Would you let the lettuce grow tall and bitter, the beets become woody and inedible, the tomatoes and cucumbers rotten on the vine? If one tended a garden the way we too often tend ourselves, the garden would be stable-but completely unproductive. Killing with intention keeps the garden-and your soul, if such a thing exists-growing and changing and producing its bounty.