The first snow has come and gone, a story filled with treacherous roads and power outages. Thursday we drove through snow packed mountains on our way to Thanksgiving dinner, a classic “white knuckle” drive even though the snow had ceased to fall. Sunday marked the beginning of Advent, and this afternoon I put aside work and began putting up the outdoor seasonal lights.
December is a good time to draw a chair up to the fire and carefully listen to the unfolding narratives. In the dominant culture the Christmas story takes center stage during December, yet there are other stories abroad in the land. For many Indigenous people in the North, this is a time for sharing traditional stories. These are culturally specific narratives, often sacred, that are owned by a tribe, clan, or teller. Frequently these are stories that can only be told on dark, thunderless, winter evenings.
There are personal and family tales as well. Over Thanksgiving weekend Jennie’s family shared many stories, stories drawn from throughout her complex family. There were present day narratives and stories of those who have passed into spirit. We were reminded that stories form the bridges that carry knowledge and vision from the past into the unknown future. They are the structures that allow us to understand ourselves as standing firmly between generations, that give us identity in the wide sweeping context of human struggles and joys.
As we sat together, four generations of people who care deeply for one another, we remembered others who now walk in spirit, and wondered about those yet to come. Those of us who are older looked to the true elders for guidance about gracefully meeting the challenges and hardships of aging. The new parents and step-parents consulted with their elders, curious about the repetitions and differences that mark child rearing across the generations. Very often everyone spoke at once, leaving one to wonder who might still be listening. Even so, there was a graceful flow to the conversation, a rich texture to the building narratives.
We humans are the stories we hear and tell. It is this recognition that encourages us to hold dear the stories we are offered, and fuels resistance to negative stereotyping. The small, storied, moments in our lives and the grand cultural narratives teach us we are more than we seem. They remind us we are the embodiment of the earlier generations and the cultural heroes. It is this realization that we are, in some intrinsic way the Holy Ones, that we call forward when we share our lives with the young, or conduct healing ceremonies; in a profound, mysterious, way, these two activities are one and the same.
What are the stories you hold sacred? Are there any you would care to share with us?