|Christmas Eve sunrise at Lake Padden (taken by Linda)|
And now it's Christmas Day, and I sit here in my warm home and ponder the plight of all those without adequate shelter at a time like this. It's 26°F outside, dark and quiet. Where do the deer and the birds go when it gets so cold? Of course, cold is relative, as there are blogging friends of mine who live where the temperature and wind chill are well below zero, and somehow the wildlife survive until conditions improve. At least, most of them do. But I am safe, warm, and connected to the wider world through the wonder of the internet.
I will venture out at my usual time, although there is no yoga class to attend and my regular coffee shop is closed. I arranged to meet my friend John at the local Starbucks at 8:00am (or so) and figure the roads should be clear and there will be little traffic to worry about. No hills to navigate between here and there, so I should be fine. I will endure a little difficulty to get my local fix.
It's almost six in the morning here, and I know that all over the world there are children, young and old, who are waking to mounds of presents under a decorated Christmas tree, and people all over the world are celebrating both Christmas and Hanukkah, which happen to fall on the same day this year. This hasn't happened in four decades. I remember what it was like to have a family that celebrated Christmas like that; I grew up in a home that always had a real Christmas tree, meaning one that started its life in a forest and smelled of pitch and pine. Every year Mama would pull out the ornaments, some of them handmade by us. The tree sparkled with lights and tinsel once it was decorated, and we would stand and admire it.
One of my favorite memories was lying with my head under the tree, looking up at the branches and absorbing the magic of Christmas. The aroma of the tree was strong and the view ignited my imagination, conjuring up images of elves and Santa and reindeer and, sadly, no images of Jesus, who was absent from our very secular Christmases. I really didn't know anything about the reason for Christmas; I grew up in a home that didn't attend church. Thinking back, I must have known something about it from school, but I don't remember. it's been a long time.
When I was a teenager, I discovered religion and began to attend the local Episcopal church when we lived in Georgia. The priest came to our house and visited, and before long, not only was I a member of the church, but so also were my siblings. We joined the choir and attended every Sunday. I well remember one Christmas Eve, which I wrote about here, when my sister Norma Jean and I were impromptu Christmas elves. I first wrote that in 2009, seven years ago now, but it's still fun to read. For my more recent followers, it will be the first time you hear the story. Think of it as a Christmas gift from me to you.
I am old and surrounded by memories of Christmases past. They swirl and dance in my head, remembering times when I spent Christmas in Arizona, jumping out of planes all day long, making formations with friends new and old, enjoying myself in a very different way than I do today. It might seem like a far cry from that life to this one, but that is the nature of time and space. Does everything that I once did still exist anywhere but in my own head? Is it possible that we really do exist in different dimensions, with the person I was still climbing outside the airplane at altitude, my entire being concentrated on exiting at the same time as everybody else? In my dreams, I sometimes find myself right there, or flying in the sky under my parachute, and it feels as real as me sitting here right now with my laptop.
But now I am old, and I've stopped doing things that made perfect sense ten or twenty years ago. However, that reminds me of another Christmas gift that I want to give you: a poem by Lewis Carroll from Alice in Wonderland. It's only the first two stanzas, but they just popped into my head and I knew that they are perfect for this wonderful time:
"You are old, Father William," the young man said,
"And your hair has become very white;
And yet you incessantly stand on your head—
Do you think, at your age, it is right?"
"In my youth," Father William replied to his son,
"I feared it might injure the brain;
But now that I'm perfectly sure I have none,
Why, I do it again and again."
And with that admonition, I realize that standing on my head might be just the thing to do after my latte! Please have a wonderful, delightful, and memorable Christmas. Your family might be a large extended one, or a small one with virtual friends and family, but whatever it is, I hope you cherish and appreciate them, as I do you, and my own family and friends, with gratitude for the life we share. Be well until next year, when we will meet again.