One of my favorite books is Byrd Baylor’s I’m in Charge of Celebrations. A breathtakingly beautiful book, accompanied by Peter Parnall’s illustrations, it’s narrated by a young woman who lives “alone” in a Southwestern desert. She’s not lonely, though, since she’s “the one in charge of celebrations.” She has a hundred and eight of them too—Dust Devil Day, when the dust devils “came dancing in time to their own windy music;” Rainbow Celebration Day, when she saw a jackrabbit poised on a hill staring into a triple rainbow; Green Cloud Day, when she saw a cloud “green as a jungle parrot” high up in the winter sky; Coyote Day, when a certain special coyote followed her through the desert holding her gaze as any friend would; The Time of Falling Stars, when during a meteor shower she also saw a fireball blaze across the nightsky; and her own New Year’s Celebration, which happens in springtime, around the end of April, when the white-winged doves come back from Mexico and the desert is abloom with cactus blossoms.
That young girl’s spirit resonates so deeply for me. I’ve always felt my own sense of the wheel of the year and when I was a child I would create my own holidays according to when good things happened or when I saw something wonderful, just as she did. Now, I don’t do that anymore, but I could, and maybe I will again.
So, if I did, what would the holidays be?
Blue Ice Day will come in January, to mark the time when an icestorm came and blanketed the forest around Jasper with a particularly deep blue sheen of crisp, fiercely shining ice. This ice kept the light that shone through it and reflected it out into the air so that the world seemed hollowed out with a magical aching blueness. On Blue Ice Day, you lean into experiencing the world by candlelight and firelight.
In April will come Dogwood Day, when the dogwood blossoms reach their peak and the creamy branch stretching across the top of my backyard shows itself bright as a floral nightlight in the Georgia dusk.
In mid-June will be Lake Conasauga Day, a special midsummer day and night set aside for a pilgrimage to Lake Conasauga, the highest lake in Georgia, up above Ellijay in the Cohutta Wilderness. It will have to be a perfect bluegold summer day, which is to say there might well be a thunderstorm in the late afternoon, which will then give way to a sunshot early evening with mist hanging over the face of the lake in deep wet pockets. On Lake Conasauga Day, I and whoever wants to go with me will drive up to the lake, enjoy a picnic lunch of crusty bread, Manchego cheese, lime fizzy water, grapes, hummus, and halfmoonshaped fried peach pies from Annie’s Restaurant in Talking Rock. We will then take a nap on the banks of the lake while the food settles. Then we will go for a swim in the cool teabrown waters of the lake, and then we’ll hike deep into the gray shadows of the woods to the Firetower, which requires a ceremonial climb every summer so that a perfect view of the Cohuttas is available. There are stairs, so it isn’t particularly dangerous, but it’s a ways up, and the wind blows hard up there. It’s another world, for just a little while, a windy pocket of perfect vision and separateness, a suspension of body and spirit in time and place. Then we will either have a campfire and settle into a quiet evening of fishing and marshmallow roasting, or we will head down the mountain back home.
In fall, preferably late October, will come a day for frolicking in the leaves: Leaffall Day. It’s all about leaves on this particular day---rolling in them, smelling like them, playing in them, raking them, burning them if possible, taking pictures of them, naming them. Oakfire, poplarchild, sweetgumracer, maplewhirl.
In December, around the time of the solstice and in its spirit, will come Shadow Day. On this day the liminal spirit of wintertime, of threshold and slumbering possibility, will be held forth in a quiet reflective time of meditation and simple stillness. Shadow Day will be a bowl of time, a curve of hours meant for reflection and labyrinth walking, for stillness and the hush of hopeful holy darkness. On Shadow Day, you might choose to suspend yourself from all the bustle and expectation of the world, or you might decide to write things down, examining them and pondering the passage of months and weeks ahead. It’s up to you, your space, your deep emptiness. Shadow Day smells like juniper and smooth stone, like wet earth and damp wood.
I think Byrd Baylor would approve.