a small dark pot of tea on leaf-covered ground

Blessed Samhain to you on this day.

It’s not easy this year to write a poem for today. It feels like pulling at teeth that don’t budge, so today I won’t try to write a poem that does not want to be.

I will clean my ancestor shrine and light the candles and sit and listen.

I will think about the last twelve months and all the moons between last Samhain and this one — full moons, dark moons, Sabbats. Yule, Imbolc, Ostara, Beltane, Litha, Lughnasadh, Mabon, and back again to Samhain.

I will ponder what it means that our new year comes as the old year dies, even though the western society I live in doesn’t celebrate a new year until after the fuss and stress of Thanksgiving and Christmas.

This is a season to ponder death and what might be left behind as we enter a new year.

We have been pondering death anyway. There are multiple genocides and ethnic cleansings happening in the world right now, children and adults dying this minute and the next, and all the minutes between when it started and when it might end.

How cruel is it that there are so many children dead. How cruel is it that they will not have descendants to light the candles and sweep clean the ashes of incense lit in their memory, no descendants to set their favorite food out or simply sit in their numinous presence.

How do we remember the dead who die so young? How do we remember the dead who die by the thousands? How many of us does it take?

There are many griefs I am carrying from the past thirteen moons.

The years since the start of the COVID pandemic have been so hard. There are people I cannot hug, funerals I cannot attend, loved ones I cannot sit with, walks I cannot take, shared experiences that I have to miss out on. I was already struggling with my immune system, and then found out that one of the meds I had needed (which my doctor stopped immediately) was reducing my white blood cells, and there are still a couple of years left before my body is able to re-make what was lost.

So I sit in the grief of knowing that staying inside is the only way I can fortify myself to continue on for however many years (decades, I hope) that I have. I grieve the time lost with my children because of things I cannot do. I still grieve the loss of my family of origin. I think they have got used to not having me around, now. I am a past memory, perhaps an old wound. I cannot honor our beloved dead together with them.

There is another grief that some of us spiritual practitioners share right now: the world turns and time happens but we wait. And in the waiting, there is grief. Perhaps we are holding our strength close for when we need it next. Perhaps these are still times of growth. Perhaps we are not disconnected from the traditions that we hold so dear.

I don’t know.

What I do know is that there will still be thirteen more moons between now and next Samhain. The wheel of the year will not stop turning, and in that I can take comfort.

I will freely admit that I am trying to find the light in a world that feels awash in darkness. I am looking at shadows and mourning, but what I want to remind myself is that shadows exist when there is light. Without light, there are no shadows. And so shadow itself can be a sort of comfort on a day like this.

I don’t always know who I am becoming, but at least I know that I am here right now in this place with this body and in this family, and there is love that I can access when I need it. I hope the same for you.


featured image is a photo by Tengyart on Unsplash

Nix Kelley
Co-parent to multiple kids. Writer. Death doula. Member of the Order of the Good Death. Seeker on the Path of Light. Queer, non-binary, & trans.


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