“What makes a king out of a slave? What makes the flag on the mast post wave? What makes the Hottentots so hot? Who put the ape in apricot? What do they got that I ain’t got?”
“Courage” — and that is the theme of February.
This is something I have been struggling with for quite some time and now, as I approach the golden age of fifty in two weeks, is really a good time to find my reminder of that which I seek… my courage. I know I have it, but reminding myself of that fact seems to fall short (see my earlier post “Lessons from the Yellow Brick Road” for more).
The “altar” this month reminds me of how courageous it is to let go of our comfort zone. The branches of the tree from last month have now broken away from the trunk and are free to find their own way. It reminds me of how difficult breaking away can be. Who can imagine a branch flourishing without the trunk to sustain it? Yet these branches fly free among the moon and stars of the Heavens. Letting go of all that we have known and “branching out” on our own is a true act of courage. I remember what it was like for me to leave everything behind and begin a new life in Rochester where I didn’t know a soul. It scared the hell out of me. Like the floating branches, I felt like I had no roots. However, in detaching myself, I discovered a whole new life I never could have imagined. Has it been perfect? No. Was it the right thing to do? A hearty yes!
Adorning the branches are the white flowers of last month along with both evergreens and new leaves. For me, I am reminded of how the white flowers represented the winter snow on the January altar. Winter is a season where all seems dead. Growth has halted as the world is at rest. But February (and Imbolc) brings the promise of new growth, which is symbolized by the green leaves and the evergreen branches. This reiterates the courage in the detached branches, as it takes a brave soul to suffer the loss of the old ways to make way for the new. Death of former patterns and things that no longer suit us has to be suffered through if we are to reach the new growth that awaits us. Yet even though we may let go of parts that no longer suit us, there will always be that which remains to remind us of our beginnings. The birds that soar with the branches once nestled in the tree left behind. The birds had symbolized those we loved and nourished in January, and that love does not leave us, even as we leave and take flight.
I also noticed the blue color of the stars and the ring around the moon. For me, this is a two-fold symbol.
First, leaving our comfort zone and all we know can be sad in many ways. When fear rises, nostalgia has a tendency to kick in and make us long for the comfortable parts of the past, even if they don’t really suit us anymore. That’s why some people fall back into old patterns when the new ones get difficult. From my own experience, I fell (several times) back into an unfulfilling relationship because it was easier than being courageous enough to go on alone. Nostalgia has a way of coloring the memory.
But blue is also a color of serenity and peace. I can only find peace within myself by having the courage to detach and follow my bliss.
In this way, the blue of the stars and the ring around the moon represent this conflict. Although it may be sad to leave and move onward, having the courage to follow our own path is what will ultimately bring peace.
The same conflicting symbolism holds true for the blue netting that floats above the branches. It could be viewed as the safety net that may catch us if we fall once we’ve taken flight, or it just might be the net of the past that threatens to ensnare us if we lose our courage.
As a safety net, the blue could bring us the peace of knowing that we can often count on people from the past to be there to help, even as we branch out on our own.
On the flip side, it could represent things from the past that never quite leave our memories and could trap us if we let them.
As I ruminate about my own courage and think again on my earlier post, I know that I am still looking for that physical symbol as my reminder that I do have courage. I need and want that reminder as I venture forth so that I will no longer fall into situations that threaten to trap me in old patterns.