By Heartward member Sandra Jensen
Yesterday we held a Solstice gathering at Heartward members Dylan and Lizzie’s house near Lewis, a gathering for Heartward core team and all those interested in our project. I counted eighteen or so adults and several children. We talked, we gathered in circles both large and small, sharing our dreams, our gratitude, and all that we wish for Heartward. We brought objects that represented our words, objects that held meaning for us. There were yummy things to eat, and Lizzie guided us as we sang together. As always it’s so lovely to meet in person, discovering more about each other, making connections with those we hadn’t met before.
For me this is the perfect kind of celebratory gathering. I particularly love being in circle: it seems to so easily bring all of us to a deeper, quieter place in which we can share what’s really going on for us.
A deeper, quieter place isn’t how I normally think of Christmas gatherings. I suspect for many of us this can be a stressful time of year, at least for those who celebrate Christmas. All that shopping, cooking, all the joy we are supposed to feel – what pressure! My mother was an atheist but we did celebrate Christmas when I was a child, and I’ve kept the family tradition of baking cheese scones and date scones for Christmas breakfast, but mostly I could quite happily snuggle in at home watching a good film and eating something tasty.
I once spent a Christmas alone, in London. I was in my 20s and had just been given a Walkman (remember those!). An utter revelation. I’d worked a late shift at a restaurant on Christmas eve, so I slept in and then in the afternoon I wandered through Hampstead Heath watching the dog walkers, the families working off too many mince pies and too much mulled wine, Annie Lennox singing Sweet Dreams are Made of This into my ears. Although I was alone, I felt the precious joy of being connected to everyone, to the world around me. Without words, without having to do anything.
But as with yesterday’s Solstice, I imagine another possibility: I live close to people I appreciate, and we share an ease around these festivals. There is no pressure to “celebrate” or buy things. When we gather it’s because we want to, because it’s fun to do so. For all of the festivals – whether Jewish or Pagan or Buddhist or something we create ourselves. Some of us play old pop songs while others dance; we'll share and chat and sing together. And if we are feeling low or depressed it is safe to express these feelings, or to be held gently by another. I might curl up with a blanket and watch everyone, as I so often did as a child, both apart and together, perhaps my favourite place to be.
It is this that I dream of for Heartward celebrations, simply being together. A sense of deep connection, one that doesn’t need presents or a big fuss, just a warm knowing you that are not alone. That our very community is the celebration, and it is the community that we gift with our presence and careful tending.