Last Friday night, my wife, my son and I drove up though golden-leaved oak wood pastures, high into the mountains beyond Madrid, to celebrate the fiesta of San Martin with my son’s school. We arrived at dusk at a small hamlet, and walked down a dirt track to a small organic farm in a high-mountain valley, now an hour from the city, in a setting that looked like the Swiss Alps, and certainly not like we were still in Spain at all.
The old farm buildings nestled in the valley, dogs ran about our feet, chickens scrabbled for scraps, and the german lady who runs the farm stood in the top field wielding a huge wooden staff to keep two white stallions at bay as parents accompanied around 100 children, each carrying a home-made candle lantern, across into another field, where we stood in a vast circle singing songs as darkness began to fall beneath the thinnest slice of a cresent moon.
The idea of this celebration is that the candles in the lanterns keep the light in our spirit alive as the light goes out of the year (… lighting candles at home every night from here to the new year helps with this too. Try it and see.)
As the candle lanterns swayed in little hands, and the children and adults sang traditional songs to revive our spirits, and the clouds drifted across the slice of a moon, I felt deeply moved. But it wasn’t just the sense of wonder from being part or this amazing meeting of people, tradition, and place.
What made the tears well up in my eyes was seeing the mountain tops beyond the forest, cloud streaming over the peaks, the feeling of an infinite connection between the totality of this scene and every cell in my body – a deep, primal, whole-being yearning for that reconnection with it all, with the spirit of the universe that was waiting up in the mountains to say, yes, I’m still here, where have you been?