This year I decided to spend a lot of time with old friends, wherever they might be. I stayed in a Never-Never land compound in the heart of Seattle, with a treehouse, massive fire pit, archery range, and lots of adventuring. We rode bikes all over the city, explored rooftops, climbed into abandoned buildings, ate out of the glorious dumpsters, kayaked the city lakes, hung out naked on the beach, swam in terrifyingly toxic waters, screamed and cried into the roar of the highways. I sang praises over the mutated Blue Lettuce, St. Johns Wort, Butterfly Bush, Tumble Mustards, Blackberries, and roses, begging them to break the cement with the roots of their power.
We danced sacred dances in dark bars amidst forgetting and the numb. We marveled at the ghosts still living on the shores of the city, the First People villages still singing and fishing among the mansions and the ships.
Then we went to be among the ancient ones - the elders of the land - the old massive rooted light eaters, those who have stretched upwards and outwards for hundreds of years. They live on the Olympia Peninsula, and we were blessed to walk among them for a short time.
Never enter the forest empty handed.
We always bring food for all of the non-humans living in the wild, especially during the winter, when food is hardest for them to find. Part of our yule celebration is giving thanks for this year's hunted and foraged abundance - so we take a bit (or a lot) of every thing we've gathered during the warmer months and hike it back into the forest to decorate trees with, to share the gifts we were given. Berries, roots, fat, meat, greens, we decorate the evergreens just like our ancestors did for thousands of years. Red meat, white fat, green leaves. Only then do I feel like I can harvest a yule tree, which we carefully select from a stand of overcrowded trees. By cutting one out of the cluster, we are opening up more light and space for the other trees to thrive, while giving other plant species a chance to take hold there as well.
After we make a place of honor for the tree in our house during the solstice, when it begins to brown, we put it in the backyard to dry out all year. On the solstice of the following year, we burn it in thanks for all the year has brought, and we make little prayers for the new year.
This year we decided to hike the old yule tree back into the woods to burn it, to spread the nourishing ashes on the soil where we gather yarrow, thistle, yampah, and lillies.