Yesterday I had this crazy idea: “Since CIRCLE is my word for 2012, wouldn’t it be perfect to usher in the new year with a small circle of women at the centre of the labyrinth?”
Almost as quickly as the idea popped into my head, the gremlins tried to shut it down. “It’s too last minute. Everybody already has plans. You’ll look like a loser for not having plans on New Year’s Eve. Nobody will show up and then you won’t have the courage to walk through the dark woods to the labyrinth alone. And besides, if anyone sees you carrying candles in the labyrinth at midnight, they’ll think you’re foolish.”
Fortunately, I have a lot of practice wrestling gremlins, so I was able to silence them fairly quickly. Within moments of having the thought, I posted my idea on Facebook and sent an email to a few friends. Before long, three of them had said they’d be there (and several others wished they could). That was enough for me!
Just before 11, I gathered a few candles, a lighter, and our camping lantern and headed out the door. Except for one of my daughters (who has as many crazy, spontaneous ideas as I do), everyone in my family thought I was a little off-my-rocker. (One of them even said “what if a pedophile attacks you in the woods?” And I said “well, a pedophile won’t be looking for someone as old as me, so I’ll be safe!”)
Pulling into the all-but-deserted park, my heart did a little skip when I recognized one of the cars parked there and saw two women standing and waiting for me. They came! I don’t have to be crazy alone! A few minutes later, another car pulled up and two more women joined our little tribe.
It was a magical night. It was warmer than I’ve ever remembered New Year’s Eve being. The clouds in the sky glowed with the reflected light of the city, which in turn made the snow glow under our feet. I carried the lantern through the woods, but we never needed to turn it on.
I was nervous and a little giddy when we reached the labyrinth. It felt a little surreal that this was actually happening – that I had managed to manifest this with a crazy brainwave and a quick email.
Without much introduction, we began to walk the path of the labyrinth, one by one. It wasn’t easy to see the path in the snow, but I’ve walked it often enough that I could almost walk it blindfolded. At first, two women walked in front of me, but when they lost their way for the second time, they stepped aside and waited for me to lead the way. It felt like a little metaphor – accepting my place as leader when I have wisdom about the path that will help keep others safe.
Once, a woman behind me stumbled and fell into the snow. The woman picking up the rear stopped to help her back to her feet and the two of them enjoyed a giggle together. Another lovely metaphor for life.
The walk was as beautiful as I’d hoped. Snow crunched beneath our feet. Far off fireworks reverberated in the air. Occasional airplanes lit the clouds above us. It felt magical. It felt sacred. As I walked, I welcomed Sophia to walk with me.
At the centre of the circle, I took the candles out of my bag. “Even though we don’t need these for light,” I said as the other women joined me in the centre, “it’s important to have a flame at the centre of the circle to give us warmth and light and to hold the centre as we around the edge hold the rim. Imagine a bicycle wheel – there are invisible spokes holding each of us to the centre of the circle.” I handed the candles to the women and lit them. One of the women had her own candle in a glass candle holder.
There was only a tiny breeze, but it was enough to blow the candles out soon after we lit them. We huddled closer and re-lit our candles from the flame in the glass candle holder. Soon we learned that the best way to keep the candles burning was to hold them together and create a common flame, and then lean in, with our heads nearly touching.
“There are two questions I’d like to ask,” I said. “First, what do you wish to leave behind in 2011? If we had pencils and papers here, I’d ask you to write it down and then offer it to the flame to be burned.”
“And the second question is, what do you wish to invite in for 2012?”
One by one, we shared our secrets. I said that I wanted to leave behind my attachment to the outcome. “I want to let go of always feeling responsible for the results. When I offer up the gifts I feel called to offer, I want to do that with faith and confidence that I am doing the right thing whether or not the result feels ‘successful’.”
And then when it was my turn again, I said “I am carrying two things into 2012. Circle and light. I want to bring the healing power of circle to more people. And I want to be a light-bearer, helping people navigate in the dark.”
After we had all shared, someone looked at a watch and we discovered that it was past midnight. We’d ushered in the New Year with the flames we held in our hands, helping each other to keep a common flame burning, leaning in to protect it from the breeze. A circle of support and light. It was pure magic.
“Before we leave the circle, I’d like to offer you a blessing,” I said. “In 2012, may you find the path you need to walk on. May you continue to follow it even when that feels difficult. When you falter, may there always be someone there to help you get back on your feet and find your way again. May you hold your light boldly in the world and may you find a circle of friends who will help you protect that light from the forces that want to extinguish it. May you have the courage to lead when you need to lead and follow when you need to follow.”
And then we blew out the flame and wished each other a Happy New Year. Each of us left when we were ready, either along the direct path out, or along the same meandering path we’d taken to get in. I chose the meandering path. I needed a little more time to process what had just happened and to dream about what was to come.
Around the outer edge of the circle, I thought about all of the connections I’ve made with people who are bringing similar work into the world – people who are boldly carrying their own light and leaning in to join it to mine to create a stronger flame together. People who are holding the rim of the circle with me. With each footstep, I spoke the names of those people and offered them a silent blessing.
It was everything I’d dreamed of and more. Circle, light, labyrinth, wisdom, hope, support, women… all of my favourite things.
The blessings I spoke for others returned to me a hundredfold.