Something extra special happened to me this New Year’s holiday. I was able to spend it with my daughter. That might not seem like a big deal to you. But it was for me. In the four years since my divorce, she has always spent the week between Christmas and New Year’s with her Father. She wanted this year to be different. She was not interested in spending a whole week with him. Ah, welcome to the teen years! Well, I’ll take her any way I can get her!
To honor this occasion, I wanted to celebrate the New Year in a unique way. I thought about taking her to one of the many events we had going on in our community. There are beautiful light displays, sweet treat festivals, concerts, and fireworks. Yet, neither of us was very motivated to leave our nice, warm house.
Then inspiration came to me! During a break from my cleaning frenzy last Tuesday, I sat down to scroll through Facebook. I follow Elizabeth Gilbert. She is the author of one of my favorite books, Eat, Pray, Love. She spent several months in 2014 as a speaker on Oprah’s The Life You Want Tour (YouTube it!) She posts inspirational messages and stories everyday in her funny, down-to-earth style.
On December 30th, she posted about making her own ceremonies. She describes several that she has made up and carried out. I thought this was so simple, yet so genius. I should know plenty about ceremonies. Girl Scouting is full of ceremony. Miriam-Webster defines a ceremony as “a formal act or event that is a part of a social or religious occasion.” Ceremonies can elevate the everyday to the sacred. And why shouldn’t we do that? It is often the everyday moments that we come to cherish the most.
Gilbert described this ceremony: “One year, I got some friends together and we made bird feeders out of pinecones rolled in peanut butter and birdseed, but before we put the birdseed on the pinecones, we swished the birdseed around on pieces of paper that had all our wishes written on them, so the birds would eat our wishes and fly them up into heaven.” Perfect! I had a plan.
During the cleaning frenzy, we had taken down the Christmas tree. Instead of putting it on the curb for the garbage men, we propped it up on our deck, hoping the birds would enjoy it for the winter. Now we could have a ceremony AND decorate the tree for the birds.
The next morning, I took a plastic shopping bag with me on my way to yoga class. I knew there were big pine trees outside the studio. I collected some beautiful pine cones. Then I stopped at the grocery store for bird seed and peanut butter. I warned my daughter that I had something special for us to do on New Year’s morning. But I didn’t tell her exactly what. We did not leave our nice, warm house that night. I made a potful of seafood chowder. We watched a few movies on TV, and we napped in our favorite chairs until right before the ball dropped.
When she stumbled out of bed on New Year’s morning, I explained the ceremony to her. She liked the idea, but wasn’t sure what to wish for. She settled on a wish for a “great rest of the school year.” Being at an unfair advantage, I had put a little more thought into my wishes.
It was a fun and messy project. We covered the table with newspaper. We had peanut butter, pine sap, and birdseed everywhere. I tied twine loops onto each pine cone while my daughter gooped them up with peanut butter. Then we rolled them in the seeds. I used seed that contained hot pepper flakes; this will supposedly deter the squirrels. I think these will be the best tasting wishes the birds have ever eaten!
I’m not sure how much my daughter really appreciated the ceremony. It was a fun craft project for her. To me, it was so much more. It was a moment to share between just the two of us. It was an opportunity to raise to sacred the first day of a new year — a year with no bumps or bruises yet. A year awaiting us with infinite possibilities. Maybe someday she will look back and cherish that ceremony. Maybe she will realize what Elizabeth Gilbert noted about family: your family members are the greatest spiritual teachers of your life. For better or for worse, there is something for us to learn from every moment with them.
© Vulnerable Path, 2015