I stepped from Plank to Plank
A slow and cautious way
The Stars about my Head I felt
About my feet the Sea.

I knew not but the next
Would be my final inch -
This gave me that precarious Gait
Some call Experience.

Emily Dickinson, c. 1864

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Christmas morning 2016

Christmas Eve sunrise at Lake Padden (taken by Linda)
I didn't go on the walk with the ladies on Saturday morning, since it had snowed on Friday and then overnight the streets became a sheet of ice, making driving hazardous for people without SUVs or, at least, better driving skills than I have. Lake Padden is a fair distance away from my home, so I didn't go. Linda and Peggy, however, did and Linda sent me this picture as they were returning home after a virtuous trip twice around the lake. Another person, our friend Shirley, was also there, but otherwise nobody else showed up.

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.


Elephant's Child said...

Thank you so much for this, and all your posts for the year.
'Father William' was often quoted in our household. And oh, the smell of a 'real' Christmas tree.
Enjoy your day(s).

John's Island said...

Good Christmas Sunday morning to you DJan! You may recall that last Sunday I left a comment on Eye that today’s Eye post would be a part of my Christmas Stocking Stuffers. And what a nice gift it is on this Christmas morning. I enjoyed looking back at your Christmas story on DJan-ity in ’09. What a neat story and I can sure see how you and Norma will never forget that one! :-) You reminded me of a trip home years ago when my niece and nephew were still young enough to get the surprise gifts under the tree and the anxiety their parents had of getting toys assembled correctly. :-) I also enjoyed your reflections on current times and now I will be smiling all day after reading the two stanzas from Lewis Carroll’s poem! As the year comes to a close I would just like to say a big Thank You for publishing Eye on the Edge … it has become one of my favorites in the Blogosphere! Merry Christmas to you and SG!

Linda Myers said...

Ah, the memories of Christmas past!

Marie Smith said...

Wonderful Christmas memories! You take me along wherever you go, but I am not so sure about the sky diving.

Red said...

As I read this post I see that you have put a lifetime of very different experiences together. The experiences are what makes us who we are.

Heidrun Khokhar, KleinsteMotte said...

Your Christmas morning began very differently than mibe and yet there were parallels. I too have had vairied experiences and this morning while still in my bed a flood of Christmases pasy floated through me and made me aware that aging is now a bigger factor that leads to changes needed to continue coping with pride and joy. But then there is a twist and turn in my hrad for It was to be my first as a grandma and I was to share this with baby's paternal grandma. A very new experience was to happen , one to share that joy with in laws whom we would be having dinner with together in our home. Two families are now united in a whole new way. The miracle of new life makes that aging seem less daunting for me.
I always enjoy your reflections on this post. Boxing day has just arrived as I type. A new day is here. Time to dream as it is late and sleep is a must. It was a super Christmas experience to add to many.

Linda Reeder said...

I'm reading this now as Christmas comes to a close, at 11:00 Christmas night. We did have that tree - artificial these days- loaded with gifts, two kids and five adults who were parent, uncle, grandparents and great Aunt to those kids. We checked in with other friends and family via the Internet. There was a Christmas brunch and later a turkey dinner.
We are pretty traditional in this family, and while that means a lot of work, that work is part of the celebration. I know we would miss it is we decided to simplify.
And now Christmas is over, but the good feelings linger, and so will the extra pounds!

Jazbriz said...

Your writing is so wonderful DJan, this post was lovely. Of course, Christmas in Australia is hot and a very different part of the world. Thank you for your posts of your life and I do enjoy your 'walks' in places that are so different.

Carole said...

Thanks DJan. What a beautiful post. Such a wonderful way to start my day. (Even if it is one day late.)

Tabor said...

Boy did that poem bring back memories. I think I may still have that children's book on the shelves of the guest bedroom! yes, we do seem transdimensional at this time of year. I just created a word that I like and that I will use throughout the year!!

Rita said...

Yes, that was fun to read. Apparently I hadn't met you yet in 2009 because I didn't remember the story and didn't see a comment from me...but we've known each other quite a few years now. I hope it was a nice Christmas and you got to your coffee on decent roads. Ice everywhere here now. Happy New Year! :)

Arkansas Patti said...

I really enjoyed your elf story. Guess I hadn't found you yet when you wrote that. What neat kids you were to save Christmas. I'm totally impressed.
You are much colder than we are. Windows are open and I am in shirt sleeves. I could use some of your snow to get in the mood.

C-ingspots said...

So beautiful and fun to read! :) Thank you DJan. For your thoughts, your memories, your wonderful stories and especially, for just being who God made you to be. Love, laughter, good people and blessings; may they be abundant in your life to come. Merry Christmas.

I've often wondered how the animals survive too, but they are stronger in many ways than we are.

Rian said...

Merry Christmas DJan! I too wonder and worry about the critters that have to spend the night out on those bitter cold nights. However, the ones around us have their Christmas boxes and beds as well as heat lamps to help. But they didn't need any this Christmas as it is not cold at all these last few days here in Texas.

My childhood Christmas memories are all wonderful and do include nativity scenes and Mass... as well as Santa and presents. But even though we no longer attend Mass, we do still believe in celebrating Jesus' birth - even though it may not be so obvious as in the past.

And I too wonder about time and space. Our lives are made up of our experiences and I don't think that what makes us who we are ever totally goes away... whether it lives on in another time or dimension, through our dna, or just lives on in the minds and hearts of those who share our lives...???

You mentioned lying under the Christmas tree as a child and looking up at all the lights and branches... well, do it again, Djan! I JUST did this by accident the other night (was actually doing a yoga position with my legs on the wall as my back hurt) and just happened to be lying by the lighted tree... and looked up. It WAS beautiful! Kind of magical! Now I know why the cats love to lie under the tree.

Sally Wessely said...

Isn't it a wonderful thing how those memories of Christmas Past live on? I am grateful for memory. I think it would be a terrible thing to be afflicted with those memory robbing diseases that so often rob the elderly. When you say you are old, I just smile and say to myself, "no she isn't." You may be older and not doing what you once did, but you are not old.

Your poem reminded my of my mother's uncle. I only met him once. I was just a little child when he came to visit us in his very late 70's. He still could stand on his head and did so to prove it to us. He told us he would celebrate his upcoming 80th by standing on his head. He lived in Alaska. He never married. When he turned 80, he wrote my mother that he stood on his head at 80. I guess you are never too old for such things.

Trish and Rob MacGregor said...

A beautiful post, nostalgic yet centered in the here and now!

Hilary said...

Love it.

Anonymous said...

Merry Christmas, DJan. Aloha from Hawaii.

Gigi said...

I am VERY behind on my blog reading, obviously...I hope you had a wonderful Christmas.

Gingi said...

Sounds like you had a wonderful Christmas! Wishing you a happy 2017! <3 - http://www.domesticgeekgirl.com

Anonymous said...

Wish you and your family a happy New Year 2017. Let this year be a happy one:)