There’s still time!

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For the last few years we’ve spent our Christmas holidays in a house we have near Nashville, TN. After selling our place in Chicago at the height of the housing boom we bought this house in the middle of nowhere to escape the big city. We wanted a change of pace, a new view outside our windows, a fresh perspective and we got that. Unfortunately, a few things happened after that- First, we discovered that we’re not “country” people. Living full-time in the middle of nowhere was making us crazy. Second, the bottom fell out of the housing market which meant we could not sell the luxury log home on 18 acres in the middle of nowhere.

Lucky for us we stumbled on the vacation rental track. We organized the place to optimize the experience and began to rent the house on a regular basis. It worked out so well we were able to make our way back to Chicago over time. But we always find our way down to Nashville to spend time when the rental calendar allows in the spring and summer and at Christmas and New Year’s.

The Christmas trip always sneaks up on me.

I try to keep mindful of the season, to foster a sense of wonder and waiting. I try to keep my mind focused on why I celebrate this particular holiday and generally I fail pretty well. I find myself distracted and worried. Then as I begin to shift the balance back, taking care to still meet my holiday obligations of gift giving and travel planning I find I am drowning in all of it. There are moments, lots of moments, that are beautiful and mindful and real, even in the chaos of the travel and holiday madness and I’m thankful for that.

Today, a few days away from the feast of the Nativity I open my email while sitting in a comfy chair in between arrivals of family members and friends visiting. I am catching up so that I can clear my plate for the next days again. No less than five emails in the box start with “There’s still time!” My heart jumps a little, I know I have forgotten someone or something. I might have left the lights on in the house. I might have gotten confused on which gift was for Chet and which was for Henry. I might have forgotten to get anything at all for Miles. There’s lots to do to get ready, to prepare. The emails want me to know that there is STILL TIME!

And then I’m panicked. I think they count on that. Same day delivery and last-minute shopping was made for people like me who float a little aimless this time of year, procrastinators and seasonal hopefuls. But instead of caving today, only a handful of days before Christmas, I’m going to change the context as much as I can because there is still time- not for shopping and cooking and cleaning and wrapping. Those things will cycle through quickly. If a gift isn’t wrapped we don’t miss all that much. If a sink has dishes when the guests arrive or the countertop a bit sticky we’ll all survive no worse for the wear really, but if I move through this next few days losing track of the reason I celebrate this feast then it wears away at me, it tears down the purpose and the resolve and the motivation to move forward. This context of knowing why I continue to inch ahead is fuel for the journey, now and tomorrow and the next day and the next. It’s where the joy is born, where the celebration is rooted, where the beautiful moments reside. And I want to be there as much and as often as I can.

There’s still time.

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winter solstice…

Tonight being the Winter Solstice, the longest night of the year I thought long and hard about what to write. It is important for me to disclose that this deep and thoughtful pondering was wedged in there between brain functions pertaining but not limited to: homeschooling, christmas preparations, mediating children’s arguments, various and sundry YouTube video watching. The best I can offer up at this point is to recount to you a story, a true story.

About two years ago I was at Target at the Winter solstice. It was nearing dark and I was nearing desperation because I was not done shopping. In a last-ditch effort to finish up I braved the cold and the dark and the crazy shoppers. I pulled into a hard-fought parking space and sat in my car for a minute or seven. I do that. I have to steel myself before entering stores because I hate to shop that much.

As I sat there, working up the courage and looking over my poorly drawn list I saw a woman sitting in her car in the next row over. I reasoned that perhaps she was getting up her courage as well. In the next minute she quickly exited her car and closed the door. Then she proceeded to brush crumbs from the front of her coat. She brushed off her coat and then she unzipped her coat and brushed off her sweater. As she did this crumbs fell from her sweater and coat continuously. This went on for like 3 or 4 minutes and crumbs just kept falling. At one point she pulled her sweater away from her body and jumped up and down a little and sure enough more crumbs found their way to the parking lot. When she was through she looked around, zipped up her coat and walked into the store. Shortly thereafter a flock of pigeons came along and cleaned up the evidence.

This was by far one of the best pre shopping scenes I’ve witnessed and one I puzzled over for a long time. I didn’t know what to do with this visual. I kicked myself for not getting my phone out and shooting it. All I had was my memory and so I did the next best thing. I wrote a poem about it. I made some creative alterations but you get the point I think.

So, happy Winter Solstice, friends…enjoy the darkness, enjoy the light-

solstice to solstice

I would be assuming a great deal in saying

that the woman who leapt from her car

into that frozen day

as I watched from the

warm confinement of my vehicle

was, in fact,

doing some kindness

for the birds

wintering there,

in the parking lot

of the grocery store,

shaking out her coat

and littering the asphalt

with enough crumbs

to sustain them all

from solstice to solstice.

sound and water…

Last year at this time I wrote a poem around the theme of Advent. It was my first and so far my only Advent related poem. I thought I’d give myself an assignment in this season of preparation to write each day of December some small thing regarding Advent. For the most part, I’m doing this because I hate to shop and I’m not skilled at cooking and for some reason whenever I think of holidays all I can visualize is shopping and cooking…and that’s plain wrong.

So to kick off this Advent writing gig I’ll post the poem I wrote last year…and see where it takes us.

 

Advent: sound and water

 

the season shift

not always conveyed

by weather or intention

I yield then

to other channels-

shopping or television,

blinking lights

adding population

to otherwise bare porches

pulsing noise

into my arms

coursing into my veins

a river I cannot ride

only swim

only drown

until, through the din

of sound and water

it comes-

 

a small child,

voice cutting through

the low hanging trees

of branches stinging

the singing rocks

the timbre ringing

takes my face

between two soft hands

each time I look away

with tenderness and

firm conviction

intoning-

look here

see this now

©2010adc