IMG_0622The 2nd February is Candlemas day, when, in the Christian tradition, beeswax candles were brought to the church to be blessed for use throughout the year, in rituals and in homes.

Well, that is one of the results I got from Google when I went searching.

I like the idea of a Candle-mass. I like the idea of blessing candles. They bless me daily.

This morning, waking as I usually do before dawn, I lit the candle by my bed. It had been given to me by a dear friend for my birthday last Monday, and lit up just enough of the space for me to read a few words of a favourite book. Then I put that down and lay, watching gold light fluttering across the walls and ceiling, and inhaling its rose scent.

Such a small flame, and yet it signified so much to me. Wherever I light a candle, I feel at home. As a child, I loved to light them when the generator failed – it was a responsibility and a trust bestowed. Then in churches – a symbol of faith, even when I couldn’t feel it. Somehow I had faith in the light of the candle to show me a way to somewhere brighter. I am never without candles – tea-lights in glass vases, under oil-burners, on tables for shared meals, outdoors by paths…they are celebrations and comfort, hope and promise, history and mystery writ large over all of my years.

IMG_2385I spoke to Tony Doherty about Candlemas this morning, and he remarked on something I had never considered – that even as a candle is shedding light, it is dying. It gets smaller and smaller in direct proportion to the light and heat it emits. Its job is to give itself away.

I loved that.

As I sit here typing this, there is a candle burning opposite me, its flame moving occasionally when a drift of air whirls past. My heart goes out to it in gratitude. I couldn’t even begin to count the number of moments in my life that have been restored or enlivened by those delicate flames.

So today, here in the sacred space of my workplace, I honour and give thanks to candles. Like friends, they are vital to me, and like friends, it’s all too easy to take them for granted in the swirl of these digital, white-light days. This evening, in the home of new friends, I will ask if I can light a candle in gratitude for all my friends, and for my village of readers.

And for hope.

My own Candlemas…

Melbourne April-May 08 044

16 thoughts on “Candlemas

  1. Ailsa
    Happy birthday for last week!

    I love your writing. You seem to take such joy in the little things in life. So full of wonder, it’s just lovely.

    Now – are you planning on any creative workshops in Melbourne? Why should Sydney get all the fun??

    best wishes

    1. Hi Sally,
      Thank you!! It was a wondrous birthday because I got some work done. That was all I wanted. Beautiful.
      And now today, friends and flames. Life is good!
      Thanks for your comment. Glad it spoke to you. Would be fun to do some teaching in Melb. I’m doing the workshops everywhere else in the coming weeks!
      Gracias. Happy Candlemas!

  2. Happy birthday Ailsa. Great time to celebrate your life seeing out the old and welcoming the new. Have a splendid year. Love candles too. Trish

  3. Hello Ailsa, Long time no post ( ie me, that is)

    Lovely piece about candles and indeed the previous also from Rose Bay Sydney.

    Sometimes I feel so right after your pieces, there is no reply I can muster – that is none that doesn’t seem somehow to sound blunt and klutzy after yours.
    So please know that I am reading and enjoying.

    It’s funny the things your writing brings up in me.
    The candles piece takes me back to my school Grade Four reader, 50 years ago, wherein there was a story about how the Romans used candles as a clock and/or calendar, the markings signifying the time lapse as they burnt down.
    I remember the story stayed with me because there was a little girl in it who wanted to make the day go faster, for some reason I have forgotten ( perhaps just childlike impatience) so she got a knife and cut the candle down, making somewhat of a crooked mess of it. But she was dismayed and disappointed that it didn’t make the night come any quicker to get to the next day she was longing for.
    Her mother discovered the hacked candle and explained to her that some things cannot be interfered with. Time lives by its own rhythm.
    I haven’t thought of that story for decades, but somehow it popped into my head today and I can still see the pictures in it.
    Strange – and lovely.
    Thank you.

    1. Hi Julie and happy 2013,
      Thanks for your lovely comments. So glad the writing still reaches to you.
      Thanks for telling that lovely story. Great concept to embrace as a child, but even better as an adult. Beautiful.
      And you are going west? I’ll be in Perth for the festival from 21st Feb. Very exciting. And funnily enough, I’m typing this on a train, returning to Sydney after a south coast jaunt. Yes, I reckon work is very possible on them. Moving is somehow trancelike on rails. And focussing.
      Good luck with it. Will be curious to hear.
      Happy journeying and thanks again. Xxx

  4. Hi again Aisla, I meant to say I hope your birthday was fine – and all your candles went out at once, granting you your wish.

    We have just over two weeks til we go to WA, so v excited. I am planning a writefest on the return train trip ( Indian Pacific) as I am told there is minimal distraction. Lovely writer Jennifer Mills says she writes best when travelling, ie on the move.

  5. There’s certainly something about candles and incense that give a church or home that spiritual quality.I was forced to read by candlelight recently when we lost power in Brisbane during the Oswald/Australia Day weekend,but the novelty soon wore off.
    Gracias to electricity I say,and happy birthday to you Ailsa.

    1. Yes, gracias indeed! Funny. It’s easy to love candles when we have options.
      Hope all is well after the storms, and thanks for wishes!

  6. Thank you Ailsa for the wonderfully inspiring evening’s conversation at Rose Bay. I couldn’t leave the book once I started reading it and am sure that it will be a constant companion in the years to come. I love your literary references and the delight you take in the wonders of nature, and man (used generically!) You inspire me to walk…… more……. Maree

    1. Dear Maree,
      Thanks so much for coming along last night. It was a pretty amazing evening I thought. And thank you for your beautiful words about the book. If I can inspire others to walk, then that is about as good as it gets for me. To share something that gives me so much joy is really a privilege and pleasure. Buen camino…

    1. Those paintings are pretty astounding Darren. What an artist. I’m sure Tony would be chuffed to know that his words rang out to you. Lovely.

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