Before kids, and later before they outnumbered us, we lived at the foot of a mountain in a small farmhouse beside a brook which each June gave rise to black flies of biblical proportions.
I learned then that if I woke at dawn, I could get out in the garden ahead of them which must be why the garden looked so hopeful this morning when I appeared on the front porch much earlier than I had in some time.
And I did pause there and smile at it, fondly, like one might nod toward a babe in arms, someone else’s arms, and then I got in my car and drove away—east toward new beginnings–to the rising sun suspended over the valley, cupping the fog; more present, but less productive than I once was, finally understanding or at least practicing that just this—this world waking—this light, this birdsong, this body, this breath—was enough.
For a moment, the shopping mall is magical–the twinkling lights, the soft sweaters, the peppermint cappuccinos.
This is the Christmas of soap operas–of shiny new outfits and fancy gatherings. It is my stepmother’s annual black tie event–carols on the baby grand, champagne in the crystal, salmon on the silver.
There’s a part of me that still craves this Christmas, like an old recipe insisting on its place. But there is another Christmas that woos me too–the quiet Christmas of fresh evergreens and fire places and simple delights.
This Christmas requires homemade gifts and handwritten cards; mornings in the kitchen, afternoons at the work bench, evenings on the sewing machine–joyfully rendering no matter what the hour–while the sweet sound of string music plays in the background.
And then, there is my “real” Christmas–the one fraught with tension between presence and presents, commerce and contentment, decorations and deities.
It’s no wonder that I short-circuit.
What is it that I can distill from these competing visions?
What is it that I truly appreciate about this season of light?
It is this ritual that I love…
preparation |ˌprepəˈrā sh ən| noun ORIGIN late Middle English; via Old French from Latin praeparatio(n-), from praeparare ‘make ready before’
It’s hard to align department stores and cocktails parties and frantic hours of wrapping with a sense of the sacred; but I can understand the impulse. We are gathering. We are making sure we have enough. We are afraid we don’t.