happy birthday, greenman
Tags: celebrating the Winter Solstice, gratitude for chlorophyll, ornamental kale, pinestraw, plants as the foundation of the whole world, solstice, the food chain, the green origin of it all, the Greenman, the greenman's birthday, the wheel of the year, Yule
Just yesterday I was musing on the idea of us all being “green under the skin.” I didn’t mean the kermit kind of not-fitting-in-with-the-mainstream green. Nothing so symbolic. I was really thinking of how our entire existence is built upon the work of chlorophyll in transforming sunlight into a kind of energy that may be transferred between lifeforms all the way up the food chain.
Without the initial energy transfer done by the plant cells, none of this would exist. No green plants, no world.
The “green fuse that drives the flower” drives me and you and everybody else. Such power is awe-inspiring.
And it was this photo which somehow set off that train of thought, with my bemused noticing of the bit of lichen growing on the end of the pine straw, and how it echoed the lowlights and hints of green in the kale leaf.
I realized this morning that it’s the Solstice, celebrated some places under the name Yule, and thus Greenman is being born today. He’s an ancient character, and various versions of his face pop up all over the globe. You probably have an image of him pop into your mind’s eye, even before you click on the link, if I tell you Greenman is the one with the vaguely-human leaf-covered face, the one who looks like the personification of my thought about us all being green under the skin.
It seems strange that he’d be born today, when it’s so cold and the world looks, well, dead.
But then again, his birthday does make perfect sense. Solstice means “a pause, apex, or turning point.” Yule originated from the Norse and means “wheel.” The great wheel of the year is indeed at its turning point all over the world today. Every day for the next half a year, we’ll be getting more minutes of sunlight until we reach the next Solstice in June*, when the green that clothes the Earth will be at or near its seasonal peak.
We couldn’t have a plant-faced deity being born then; he’d need to be his grown-up self to take full advantage of all of those rays; right?
The Earth is turning, and I’m taking this pause at the top of the wheel’s flight to recognize how much I am supported, by all of the green life and all of the mysterious, interwoven, organic systems on this planet, and to observe with awe and gratitude how very much we are all intertwined. You and I, and the bees, and the trees. I’m grateful that reality could penetrate my busy modern consciousness for more than a flash. So often, I forget.
In that spirit, I wish everyone a joyful Yule, a deep and meaningful Solstice, and the wonderful reminder that we are all green under the skin.
*This reality, of course, is reversed for those of you reading this in the Southern Hemisphere.