Wednesday, December 25, 2013

What Christmas Means

Christmas morning dawns. Here, in North Carolina, I am the first one up, so I drink my coffee and watch the wrens and nuthatches attack the suet hanging outside on the deck. For me, one Christmas happened last night, when most that is left of my biological family gathered at my mother's house. Christmas Eve is hectic, and involves last-minute wrapping and cooking and other details. The children--teenagers now--gather upstairs to talk while scanning their Instagrams and emails; the adults sit at the kitchen table, drinking wine while the glazed ham finishes baking.

Later, we unwrap presents, one at a time. This is the moment the kids define as Christmas--the receiving of gifts. The surprise of finding out what is in the box, in the bag, in the card. As the presents are unwrapped, I wonder most about how they came to be, what sparked the thought to purchase or make a particular item for a particular person. The process behind the present.

I had many Christmases this year. The one last night, of course, and the one at my own home several days ago before we journeyed to my mother's home. I had Christmas at Thanksgiving with my husband's family, with his sister and mother. I experienced Thanksgiving in Newport with my friend Colleen. Christmas came to another friend's small cottage on Hardy Pond, and in Leicester, my Aunt and I celebrated with yoga and rice pudding. 

Christmas came in Hershey Park, and in Homewood before writing class, and in my hammock while the swallows swooped through the air for bugs. It came during early morning walks with my husband waiting for our daughter's bus. Christmas arrived in a CSA bag filled with kale and Brussels sprouts and sweet potatoes. Christmas came during meditation and over meals made with tomatoes and asparagus from the garden. Christmas comes every morning the ones I love wake healthy, happy, hopeful.

May you have a joyous Christmas, whatever it means to you, and when. 


Sunday, December 15, 2013


This time of year, between the gatherings of Thanksgiving and Christmas, the glitz of New Year's, I find myself craving many things. Cookies, for one. I do love homemade cookies, and Christmas is the time to dress up cookies in their finest. I make an apricot-pistachio biscotti dipped in white chocolate which could be my ticket out of my day job.

I also crave smell. The resiny scent of pine, of exotic cinnamon and cardamon, the clean scent of snow.

I crave music. If you listen, winter is full of sound--howling wind, the tinkle of snow flakes, the groaning of tree limbs under their weight of white. My children perform in their winter concerts, and their music sates me.

I crave light. The days are so short, and so dark. Snow, at least, reflects the little light there is and gives even the grayest day some hope. We've had snow on the ground for a week now, a rarity in this part of the world. At BJs, I bought a Happy Light, and I sit in front of it and bathe in the replicated sunlight every day.

Even as I crave sound, I crave its absence. Silence, the space between everything else, is as great a gift as noise. Now, as I write this, the house is silent, everyone still tucked in their beds. They will rise, and the day will become full of busy-ness. This afternoon, I will find silence in myself when I go to yoga nidra. May that silence carry me through the upcoming week.

What do you crave in this dark time of the year? What is it you want most?


Tuesday, December 03, 2013


The Tuesday after Thanksgiving feels much like the last shreds of turkey still on the carcass, the bowl scrapped clean of cranberry sauce, the last slice of apple pie.

A bit tired.

But tired in a good way. Many people travel to family and friends over Thanksgiving--we certainly did--and being with those you love, these familiar people, has a way of centering me, of preparing me for the onslaught of winter.

This week and the next few are the lull between the next days of activity--Christmas and New Year's. I love thinking about gifts to give and make, shopping for the best deals, preparing my annual jams and cookies. I love traveling south to visit my mother and sister and nieces, enjoying their company and the rituals of the season.

There is comfort in their familiarity, in the routines, and this comfort is necessary to get us through the dark months of January and February (the longest month, truly) when we draw inward. The memories of these visits will give me sustenance, for these are the months I write, really write, for what else is there to do (other than read)?

This time of year, I realize how lucky I am to be surrounded by generous people--my families, my friends, both old and new, both virtual and cyber. I am thankful for my health, and the health of my husband and children. I remain thankful for the ability and freedom to express myself.

I will spend the next few weeks finding ways to express my gratitude. This is the joy, for me at least, of the holiday season.

And to start off my shopping, a trip to THE MILLIONS, where I hope to find a gift or two for my writing friends (I especially like #17, a subscription to a literary journal of the month--fantabulous idea).

Happy days of gratitude, and peace...