This piece was first published in Pagan Writers Presents Yule: Texas: Pagan Writers Press, 2011. * (Pages 45-47)

Yule in the Green Room

From as far back as I can remember, I have lost the memory of the color green.   Winter would come (in Alabama, that’s around November or December) and the color of grass and pine vanished from my mind’s eye.  I would sit, as a child, and gaze at the parched brown of my yard and desperately push my vision to remember: had it ever been there at all?  Would it ever come again?  As precocious as I was, there was also a deep, formidable well of grief embedded between that lanky frame of skin and bone.  This “loss of green” was the strangest sort of color blindness, for it blinded me of hope as a child and has haunted me ever since.

Christmas trees didn’t help the ache for green.  After all, they were brown in a matter of weeks and dropping in needled-death swatches to the tinkle of lights.  Other children delighted in these trees; I would position my body – headfirst—under the fabled tree the first night and gaze up, broken-hearted.  It was breathtaking.  It was green.  And it would fade.

Now, when I grew up, I realized that there were cedars and firs and that these things could be found in yards and on long highways and interstates in Alabama.  This assuaged the anguish a bit, yet the grass still never spoke green.  Even yesterday, as I made the harrowing decisions on which plants to save in the hothouse and which ones to let die, green was beginning to fade for me.  I found myself touching them, smelling their leaves and begging them to hold on.  Winter, my friends, is very tough on this old witch.  Very tough indeed.    But then, there’s Yule . . .

I suppose for some, Yule is the height of winter bliss.  For me, it is a vigilante in a brown cloak, sweeping his gnarled hand across my battered yard and whispering green.  It is the Oathe of rebirth, the promise of vengeance from so many lost pepper plants, and in Yule I have found so much peace and justice.  Not too shabby, eh?  I suppose it is my Superhero holiday: old and formidable, righteous and vindicated.  (No one ever said I was altogether grownup.)

Several years ago, even though I do not “own” my land, I began planting rosemary bushes in self-defense.  They stand at my home entrance and withstand blustery breezes, tough stews and cardinal wars.  More importantly, they hold the color green, deep and grassy.  When I begin to grieve, I hold onto their limbs and wait for Yule.

It seems to me that this blessed time does more than promise green in the crystal stillness of winter’s bosom.  There’s the requisite hunkering down to home and hearth, the obvious rituals of logs and flour, oranges and clove.  But, for those of us who feel too much, whose soul skin bruises black against the rough hand of a cold wind, Yule is, well, magic.  (Witch’s humor.)  Let’s break this down, shall we?

Yule gives us back the promise of life.

We give gifts to those we promise love.

Yule demands ultimate faith in things to come.

Family gatherings demand our faith in each other’s love. (Hard.  Sigh.)

Yule is a celebration of light and fire, food and wine against a frozen tundra that will, inevitably, give way to spring.

A Pagan life is a celebration of faith and lived spirituality against the anguish of the flesh that will, blessed be, eventually give way to our passage to the Mystic.

Yule marks the battle between the Holly King and the Oak King.  We know the end.

Pagans mark our days against night, our suns against moons, our flesh against souls.

And we know the end.  It resides firmly, and apparently quite contently, in the beginning.  This is the promise of Yule, the savior of green.

Think about this.  Yule is upon us.  No seeds to plant, no harvest to consider, only wood to chop and the long, unmitigatable wait.  We are, in effect, in the green room. [1]  We are road-weary actors sipping cider and warming our tootsies by a fire.   Rethinking our lines, we study our past performances, our missteps, or our elocution of a line that evades us somehow.  We wait.  So much promise, we anticipate the hopeful return of the stage or, better, the possibility of a sequel.  Ah, I hear you.  But, sequels are never as good as the first.  Huh.  Ever seen Godfather II?  You see, it’s always about the sequel: the hope that the good guy wins, or at least gets the girl.  The unbridled trust that the heroine will survive.  And, even if you are resistant, you go to the show hoping for a sign of life, a revitalization of creativity.  The sequel?  Well.  We could always have done it better ourselves.  Except . . .

Sometimes you just gotta’ wait in the green room.

2012 will mark my forty-sixth sequel.  I don’t suppose that George Romano walked into a script all “Zombies?  Been there, done that.”  No.  He made them faster.  More character.  And he never looked back.

So, to quote a favorite character, “What are you prepared to do?” [2]

Well, it’s Yule, ya’ll.  I suppose that I’m prepared to drink spiked cider, make homemade tins of dried sage, rosemary and thyme.  I’m prepared to sing, scry into fires, wear my favorite moth-bitten sweater, and tell legends of Kings.  I am also firmly prepared to grab my script, forty-five years long, and revise.  Revoice a few things and steady myself for the return of green.  My fear is that the sequel will be a lame reminder of the Awesomeness of my youth.  But as the Godfather reminds us:  “Are you read for us today?  For today will set a course for all our futures.”  [3] I wait, hope eternal, in the green room.

Blessed Yule.


[1] In British English and American English show business lexicon, the green room is that space in a theatre, a studio, or a similar venue, which accommodates performers or speakers not yet required on stage. The green room functions as a waiting room, or as a touch-up lounge so that a performer need not return to wardrobe or to the dressing room, while remaining immediately available for a call to the stage.

[2] Brian De Palma, director with David Marnet, scriptwriter.  The Untouchables, Paramount Pictures: 1987.  Spoken by Jim Malone (actor Sean Connery).

[3] Francis Ford Coppola with Mario Puzo, The Godfather II, Paramount Pictures: 1974.  Spoken by Michael Corleone (actor Al Pacino).

*  http://www.amazon.com/Pagan-Writers-Presents-Yule-ebook/dp/B006Y3J120

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