Lighting the Candle Again

Carol A. Hand

December 22, 2017


Winter Solstice for the Northern Hemisphere just passed

symbolizing growing light

inspiring me to set a candle aglow with gratitude

on this dark December night

for all those who have shared the journey

with creative compassionate spirits shining bright


Lighting the Candle for the Four Directions

This morning when I awoke I was reflecting on my lack of hope and passion these days. It feels as though everything I love, everything that brings me joy and peace and hope is at risk. When did my hope and passion disappear? Was it because of the institutions where I worked that publicly espoused social justice missions but contradicted those values through the actions of the majority? Was it because of the neighbors or ex-spouses who only appeared to be concerned with their own comfort and their own pursuit of happiness? Was it because of the zeitgeist of the times summarized by the observation of my newest neighbor when speaking of a child with serious mental health issues?  “I’m in this alone.” This feeling of being alone, when internalized, is a destroyer of hope and collective action and it seems to be a major obstacle for joining together to address the serious threats of these times.

As I look back, I realize this feeling has been an undercurrent in the past. Every intervention I have worked on hit this stumbling block sooner or later despite my best efforts. Like my neighbor, ultimately I felt alone in my past efforts because I was never able to inspire or cultivate enough hope for a critical mass of others who were willing to put aside immediate personal comfort to carry the responsibility for working toward a greater good. It was not for lack of trying.

Yesterday, as I was contemplating clearing away some of the gifts, papers, and books I’ve accumulated over the years that fill files, shelves, walls and cupboards, I noticed the white candle that sits atop my most important bookshelf – the one that holds irreplaceable books I used to write my dissertation. Of course, like all my mementos, the candle has a story.


December 13, 2014


I was working as the deputy director of health and human services for an inter-tribal agency. It was not an easy job for many reasons, primarily because of the enduring legacy of colonialism that continued to impose dominant cultural paradigms on tribal communities and use divide and conquer tactics to foment conflicts between “traditional” and “progressive” tribal factions. Resolving conflict was a central part of my job, and it often put me in the middle of powerful competing interests. At a particularly challenging time, I needed to travel with one of my staff to a conference on worldwide healing for Indigenous people held in Edmonton, Alberta. The conference helped me realize I was not alone. Rediscovering the candle on my bookcase reminded me of the conference’s closing ceremony.

More than one thousand of us, representing many cultures and nations, stood in a circle within a large auditorium holding hands. Then, one elder walked to the center. She explained that the closing ceremony was intended to remind us that we were not alone. Because we were in a government building, we couldn’t use candles (fire ordinances prevented it), so flashlights would have to do. And then, the lights in the room went out as her flashlight went on in the center of the circle. She signaled to the four directions, highlighting one person from each of the four directions to walk to the center – first the east, then the south, the west, and the north. The representatives were all given a flashlight. As they touched their darkened lights to the elders “candle,” their flashlights were turned on. They were instructed to carry their light to the four directions and light other candles in their part of the circle. The elder explained that it would not be easy to keep the candle fires burning, but if the light went out, people could always return to the center to light them once again.

This morning, I realize I need to take the time to finally light the candle on my book case. It’s not the same white candle I used for a similar ceremony years later for the 40 staff who worked for the Honoring Our Children Project that included nine tribal communities. Building and maintaining multicultural, interdisciplinary teams within and across different tribal cultures was not an easy task. Providing a center they could return to in challenging times was important. But it is the same candle I used in a farewell ceremony with the graduate students I mentored during our final class together. They would all be graduating and scattering to the four directions.


Sending Light to the Four Directions from Duluth, MN – December 13, 2014


As I lit the candle this morning, I thought of the inter-tribal staff who did astounding work, and the creative and inquisitive students I worked with over the years. I thought about my blogging friends around the world who help me realize that each of is sharing our light. And I thought about the many other people who carry light yet feel alone. May we learn to share our light and stand together for the sake of all we love.


Ulali, All My Relations


53 thoughts on “Lighting the Candle Again

Add yours

  1. I will go find our special candle, and tomorrow we will light it. We, too, will be reminded that we are not alone, nor working totally against the tide. Carol, I am so very glad to know you are here on this slowly spinning beautiful blue-green orb with us!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Great post, dear Carol! So inspiring, giving hope and understanding that we are not alone! We’re together no matter the distance! And I join you and light a white candle with coconut fragrance as a symbol of Light victory over the Darkness!

    Happy winter solstice from Moscow! 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  3. It is a bizarre world in which we exist, Carol, made only so by our species. Hope then, to me, is a futile ambition, although resignation remains impossible. I’m thankful for the few enlightened and compassioned, such as yourself, but will expect nothing wholesome from the dregs or the scoundrels who lead them. As such, I will never know disappointment.

    Thank you for sharing your insight.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for sharing your thoughtful, honest insights, Peter. I agree that it is, indeed, a bizarre world. Peoples’ behavior often makes me feel as though I am surrounded by a surreal dystopian alternative reality that has become ever-more powerful and visible. Yet my family, friends, and the wondrous life around me remind me to do what I can anyway… 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  4. From me here in the UK, a Birmingham expression, “Good on yer kid!” Please don`t ever stop writing your beautiful and inspirational posts, Carol they keep me going because you constantly remind me that there are very good people in this world who care very much and who are courageous enough to stick their head above the parapet. I love you and I am immensely glad I bumped into you here. Have a wonderful break this Christmas time. 2018 is going to be a positive year of great and magnificent change. I can feel it coming…… xxxx

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Dear Nelly, thank you so much for your thoughtful, lovely comments. I’m humbled by your kindness and blessings, and deeply grateful for your presence in my life. Sending much love to you along with my best wishes, dear friend. ❤


  5. Dear Carol, we are kindred spirits. I thank you for the light you bring to the growing darkness that threatens the joy, peace, and hope in our lives. Your example of living keeps my tiny candle aglow. Though, I must confess, it flickers often when strong winds blow my way. You are not alone ❤

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thank you so much for your thoughtful and important comments, Rosaliene. I am deeply honored to be your kindred spirit. My candle flickers, too, and dear friends like you remind me why it’s important to it keep it glowing. ❤

      Liked by 2 people

  6. Loved reading this, Carol. It’s easy to get lost in despair when it seems the darkness is increasing. Your post is a good reminder that the wheel is always turning, and each of us has a choice in either perpetuating darkness or bringing light.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Such a powerful personal offering, thank you for sharing your insights, some of which have lit my inner candle because they are touch points that resonate. One point of connection in particular is that I am shedding some of my old skin. But more poignantly, your experience of inner aloneness is affective.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your thoughtful, lovely comments, Paul. Interesting insight about “inner aloneness.” My mother used to refer to it as “self-contained,” not needing attention or affiliation to be expressive or quietly content. Like most things, it’s both a gift and a burden.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for such lovely comments, Annette. As I have been responding to comments today, I remembered an important truth. What we see in in others is really who we are and what we already know. You are the light of a candle, too, offering to help others on their journey with your wonderful new venture. I send my gratitude and best wishes to you. ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  8. A lovely, thought-provoking post and as I was reading this at 3 am when I couldn’t sleep, I looked up and saw my white centrepiece candle in front of me in the middle of our dining table. I realised I hadn’t lit it yet this Christmas, so I went and got a match and did so. It burned as I continued to read and think of you and all your colleagues who have worked so hard in the name of those who are unable to speak for themselves. Thank you for all you do to help turn the negatives into positives 🙏🏻

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Dear Chris, thank you so much for such lovely, thoughtful comments. I was deeply touched and humbled by your story about lighting your centerpiece candle. Your comments brought tears of gratitude. Thank you for all you do, too, to inspire hope and healing. ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Carol, we do not share any tribal relationship, but your poetry, insights, sentiments and musings sound a most familiar flute song to my hearing. Thanks for your wisdom and for your visits/likes/comments on Sanchismos, even when my Christmas Eve greeting is less than traditional. -Ron

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ron, thank you so much for your lovely, thoughtful comments. Sending my best wishes to you.

      I appreciate your insights and honest reflections about the present “contagion” that threatens us all. I feel the threat, too, and I’m deeply grateful for your reminder about the need to keep focusing on antidotes. ❤


    1. Dear Bruce, thank you so much for your thoughtful, lovely comments and for the example of “earth care” that you live and share. Sending my best wishes to you and your beautiful family. <4


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