In early November, at the Rose Garden Early Childhood Center in Buffalo, we construct lanterns to shelter the light that we carry into the darkness during our Lantern Walk festival. When we walk with our lanterns through the cold, dark evening, a gust of wind or drop of rain could put out the fire. So we stay together in case we need to share a light, a lantern or a hand. We walk, sing, and gather around the fire. While we are encircling the fire with our lanterns in hand, we marvel at the spectacle. The experience leaves an imprint on our souls, one of light and the warmth of community.
The Lantern Walk festival around Martinmas (November 11th) is part of our annual rhythm that celebrates nature’s cycles and our humanity. These celebrations are important and meaningful but not, in themselves, enough nourishment to keep the inner light glowing through the long, dark winter. We need daily, weekly and monthly practices to keep us grounded in our bodies and elevated in our thoughts.
Through a process of trial and error and then building habits, I have come to start my day with movement and meditation before leaving my bedroom in the morning. This practice is followed by healthy food for breakfast and certain hygienic routines. These practices provide strength and steadiness, inner preparation for meeting the external demands of the day. Now that they are habits, they do not require thinking, just doing. My body, like our festival lanterns, is a house for the light—the light of my soul and spirit—so I take care of it. I also choose to wear clothing that is both seasonally appropriate and comfortable, preparing me to meet the elements.
I enjoy the full rainbow of colors and often the colors of the day as indicated by Rudolf Steiner influence my clothing decisions. Noticing the quality of each day and enjoying the grain of the day also provide rhythms that keep us connected to nature and something greater than ourselves. In my office, I have certain tasks on certain days of the week—some daily, others weekly or monthly. My rhythms are regular but not rigid. If there is a child or teacher who needs help, the office work can wait.
Throughout the day, I try to stop and notice that I am blessed, that life is good and that I have so much to be grateful for. In spite of these practices, there are times when I feel the light flickering or threatening to go out. At those times, I notice and acknowledge what I am experiencing, to be true to myself. Then I whisper a prayer for help, for gratitude, for perspective. I might share my experience with someone and before too long, find the humor in it. There is nothing like a good laugh to encourage a tiny spark of light to grow. Although a particular moment may be challenging, I know that whatever it is, just like the cold days and long, dark nights of winter, it will pass. Spring will come again and the light will return. In the meantime, we trust that the spark of light that is nurtured in our souls will grow. If it does happen to flicker or go out, we stay close to bask in the glow of other lanterns’ light, and we remember the sight of lanterns burning bright in a cold and starry night.
Judith Frizlen is the founder and director of the Rose Garden Early Childhood Center, a LifeWays Representative Program in Buffalo, New York. She is also the author of Words for Parents in Small Doses, weekly contemplations for parents.