Letting the light in

Christmas morning, 2012. I’m house- and pet-sitting Mango. It’s going to be a quiet day of solitude — I accidentally left my phone at my trailer last night. So be it. Today it can wait.

My family is gathering on the 27th, when more of us are able to gather. Hospitals are open every day of the year and someone has to care for those sick people, and children of divorced parents usually split their holidays, and sometimes people move over the holidays. I am grateful to have a family to connect with at all.

Last night I attended a warm, lovely Christmas Eve potluck and jam session in a friend’s magical backyard. Sitting outside watching the waxing, near-full moon behind a big, ever-changing, cloud-studded sky, a few stars playing peekaboo, was quite enjoyable.

So much of this season is about darkness and light. It must have been a mystery to our ancestors, especially in the far northern latitudes of Europe where mine lived for so long, to observe the days growing shorter and shorter, the life-giving light and heat of the sun retreating while the cold and dark established themselves firmly. Would the sun return? Was this the end? The warmth of family and community gathering in spite of the backdrop of long, cold nights must have been especially meaningful in the face of this big cold mystery. It was to me, last night.

This must have been mysterious enough that ancient investigators began to measure changes in day length and discovered a pattern that included the winter solstice, the turning point in which the days begin to grow long again, that happened year after year. The predictability must have lent considerable order to chaos and thus been worthy of great celebrations, once they figured it out.

No wonder this time of year is celebrated by so many cultures, that the birth of God’s son was moved to this powerful time of year.

I had an urge this Christmas morning to open all the blinds at the house where I’m staying, to let as much light in as possible.

Today the skies are partly cloudy, here in Austin, TX, where winter exists but only in spurts. Today the sunshine comes and goes. The bare branches of the deciduous trees appear silhouetted against that sky.

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I’ve always appreciated winter for the way it strips away the leaves, exposing the bone structure of trees. Perhaps that’s a reason I’m drawn to giving massage — to feel through the soft tissues to the solid bone within — or to investigating and appreciating the power of the season.

The wind is blowing. The branches are waving, the remaining leaves fluttering and quivering. Hello.

I’m having a breakfast of cooked quinoa with currants, a little ghee, and honey, along with a new favorite, a delicious three-ginger tea (ginger, galangal, and turmeric from Pukka, a British purveyor of organic and Ayurvedic herbal products), a clementine and grapefruit juice. I forgot to buy special food for Christmas morning, and I’m not missing it. Oh, I’ll indulge in tamales and eggnog and sweets for a few more days and then gladly clean up my diet again. January is good for that.

Mango has been offered a bit of sockeye salmon roasted in butter, which he turned down in favor of cat treats. Go figure. Maybe we’ll sit in the sun or snuggle in a Christmas nap together later. And later I will go out, to offer chair massage to the staff at the hospital where my daughter is working, then off to another potluck and jam session with friends.

I enjoy the connections and celebrations of the season, but the most special part of this holiday to me is waking up knowing it’s Christmas, knowing it’s a holy day, a special day unlike any other, and feeling the joy of that.

Even without a gift given or received, without the feasting, without the camaraderie of my beloved family and friends, without church, music, lights, and all the traditions of the season, it’s truly just a day to be awake and to marvel in this big mystery, to be filled with gratitude and wonder for this amazing life.

As is every day!

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