Clear, simple, concise…I like it!
Clear, simple, concise…I like it!
January 9th. The Christmas tree, or should I say fire hazard now long in the tooth droops in the corner of the living room. Brittle needles find their way to the hardwood floor, forming a circular colony of tinder. Surprisingly, the scent of pine has been growing stronger, filling the front rooms of our small cape cod style home. Holiday postpartum has descended upon this place. Andy Williams is not singing of the “Most Wonderful Time of the Year.” Festive open houses are closed. The last of the baked goods have fossilized and so been shown out to the frozen garden plot for the birds to beak. The heat runs near constantly as the days of subfreezing temperatures depress the mercury in this part of the world.
I miss the holidays, the anticipation, the many opportunities to raise a glass with old friends and make new ones. Over the years Christmas time has always managed to deliver joy, optimism, and magic. I found myself this season thinking for the first time about the fact that I have only so many Holiday celebrations left. It may sound morose, indeed but this recognition of reality is also a useful reminder. Living fully, openly, and with the intent to make the most of each moment is a choice…just that, a choice. We only have so long to become our best, then we rest. Have you made strides in this quest over this last year?
When the twinkling lights go dark, and the long nights unrelentingly hold the world, we may turn inward, we may be saddened, or we may take no notice. To each his own. I for one find myself a bit saddened, a bit grateful, and a bit nostalgic. Every day is not Christmas, though as Charles Dickens suggested we might do our best to keep it in our hearts throughout the year.
Barring an untimely demise, I will find myself eleven months from now decking the halls, raising a glass, wrapping treasures for those I love, and feeling that twinge of the childlike excitement that the holidays bring. I know not all share my opinion of the magic of Christmas time, and to those who struggle during the season, I wish you strength and love. May your days be merry and bright, long after the twinkle lights have faded.
Can we change or can’t we? Sometimes I believe I’ve changed for the better, my usual goal. It’s just then that I catch a glimpse of my old self and I feel the specter of immutability giggling at me through the looking glass. I like to think change is possible. For some people, metamorphosis may be the only path to freedom; freedom from an existing legacy, they are reluctant to leave behind. I count myself among those who feel life has its length for the purpose of growth. I want to be a bit better at the end than I am today. Better at what? All of it!
Each year I engage in the hopeful ritual of making new year’s resolutions. They symbolize the hope of change. Against all odds and history, I write down a few bits that I’d like to bring to fruition in the coming year, fold them up and seal them in an envelope bearing the calendar year scrawled in ink on the front.
I recently opened my “2018” envelope and found that my resolution success rate for the past year was a meager twenty percent. A failing grade to say the least, though I suppose twenty is better than zero. Perhaps I set my sights too high. Or it could be that I’d merely forgotten my goals, as some of those I’d written came as a bit of a surprise when revisited. At first, I thought I’d failed. Indeed by some standards, I have failed miserably.
However, if I were to achieve a twenty percent annual increase in an investment opportunity, I’d call that same percentage a smashing success. Its all relative I suppose. Getting somewhere is better than getting nowhere, if one is in the mood to get going at all, and I am. So for the sake of momentum, I’ll choose to view the outcome of my 2018 resolutions from an investor’s point of view.
This year I will again take out the paper and pen, pour a cup of coffee and sit by the desperately dry and brittle Christmas tree. The cold winter light will spill in across the weathered wooden sashes of the living room windows and cross my page. Then and there I will again challenge the concept of immutability. Goals will be set that may not if history is any indication, be reached. I will laugh in the face of past failure on the eve of a new year. Once again, without any reason for confidence in the matter, I will choose to find resolve.
In honor of our first light snowfall last week, this post comes in the form of an audio track, an instrumental entitled “First Snow.”
I was walking amongst the leafless maples and oaks traversing a rolling ridge as this first snow of the season fell around me. With the help of a steady wind, snowflakes clung first in small then in great numbers to the barren trunks and branches across the woods. These white giants rose from a shimmering landscape as the snow began to blanket the ground, brightening the forest as I made my way.
In a world full of complexity I find this simple meteorological phenomenon, snow, to be a gift of pure magic. It never fails to remind me of the boundlessness of “the bigger picture.”
So this little piece of wintertime (as I hear it anyway) is my gift to all this holiday season.
Download song (mp3) here: First Snow mp3
I spent 3-4 hours last weekend refurbishing runner sleds. I have a bit of a fascination with these playthings. Over the years I’ve accumulated five of them. The first one I received for my fifth birthday, a 1966 Flexible Flyer. Another belonged to my maternal grandpa, dated 1906. The third I found in the shed of the house my sons and I moved into once we were finally able to move out of our one bedroom apartment. I stumbled upon the last two in a pawn shop on Nolensville Road here in Nashville, Tennessee. If You aren’t familiar with Nolensville Road, it is rife with pawn shops, paycheck advance loan joints, and killer Mexican restaurants. In addition to the family of runner sleds, I am in possession of one ridiculously long wooden toboggan, the sled, not the hat…and when the hell did we give birth to that term for a ski cap? But I digress. Why this winter snow and sled proclivity? I’m guessing it is a subconcious reaction to growing up in alway sunny southern California.
Yes, I now live in Nashville, Tennessee. No, we don’t get a lot of snow these days, though we used to. In the early nineteen something-or-others we had such a winter here in middle Tennessee that the Cumberland River froze over. The mighty waterway that splits our fair city turned solid to the point where one could drive a car across it. Global warming…politics/science aside, I refurbish the sleds in the hope that we will have at least a day or two this winter to run them.
Peter Pan would have liked sledding. Not the pop psychology Peter Pan, the immature fuck-up that many equate with the “not willing to work” type. From what I read the real Pete fought valiantly for what he valued. He worked to be free and shared the fruits of his indefatigable labors with the lost boys. Courage, rather than immaturity may be a fine way to define Mr. Pan. Do what we have to do to protect what we love, right?
As it relates to surviving the aging process in modern times, what about blinders? Some of those who are not familiar with the term “horseless carriage” may also be confused by the term “blinders.” Blinders where created to be worn by horses as they pulled carriages through the busy streets, often more like mud troughs, of bustling turn of the century cities. They were designed to protect the beasts from overstimulation. Blinders, therefore, aren’t intended to create a state of blindness, rather they are intended to facilitate focus. I think we can all give a nod to the value of focus. Focus is the rail on which we are able to forge momentum. It is the way we get from standing still to full speed. Growing up is one thing, acting the role of a “grown-up” is another. Focus is most likely about creating a life that matters, whether it fits a societally accepted norm or not.
Some people loved sledding when they were children. Some people did not. Some who did appreciate the sport lost that love as the grew up. Others did not; (Sidebar, I realize my fixation with riding sleds is absurd). Deconstructed, the act of sliding down a hill on a fast moving vehicle has no scientifically significant value. You can’t necessarily become spiritually whole, the richest man in the world, or the president of the United States by sledding down an icy hill…or can you? Olympic bobsledders may win gold medals then return to their day jobs at HomeDepot. Are they the better for it? Probably. Have they become the Dalai Lama? Ehh!
Sleds aside, what do we gain from our adult choices; from putting aside childish things? Do we gain Money? Security? Power? Freedom…Whatever the fuck that means? Most likely yes. What do we lose in exchange? The process of maturing is exciting, confusing, intoxicating most often inevitable. It can bring great things, but at what cost? Do we have to surrender our child-like wonder in order to survive as adults? If we do in fact, have to sacrifice our childhood consciousness to become grown-ups what language will we use to communicate with children? If not their’s then who’s?
Peter Pan was written by James Matthew Barrie in 1904. He saw struggling children in need of relief, and so created a fantasy world based on his hopes for their emotional survival, or so I surmise. He crafted a surreal safe harbor for humans faced with the reality of aging. It was to be his most celebrated work. It overshadowed all others in his career. Curios that a story so well received at the time of its creation has been reduced to a term used to define those who refuse to conform to rather rigidly defined acceptable forms of “adulthood” in modern times.
Back to sled riding for a sec, and for those without snow in there lives please substitute an appropriate metaphor. If at times we feel stuck, sad, discontented, hopeless or just bored, perhaps a swift ride on a polished set of steel runners could be the perfect emotional reset. If everything is just fine, all is right with the world, would it not be still be a hoot to make time to feel the rush of plummeting down a snowy hill, just to see where it takes us; feeling the wind blow through our hair as we descend a slope of memories long left behind. Why the hell not?
Freedom, heaven, hell, sorrow, joy, regret, redemption; they live within all of us. On good days we get to choose which of them we will invite for a play date. I find that when the long nights of winter begin to weigh on me the ensueing darkness can be parted by pushing off hard and diving onto my ’66 Flyer for an icy glide. Sometimes its the simple things, often even “childish things” that make the world brighter, better, and for at least a rare moment, timeless.
I love Christmas time. Peace on earth, good will toward men, etc.. Who could argue with that? One doesn’t have to adhere in any particular faith, denomination or horoscope reading to find those concepts at least somewhat reasonable.
The Christmas tree, which I love, was not likely on the scene manger side in Bethlehem those many years ago, nor at any of Dr. J’s following birthday parties in the first century AD. It’s not a symbol of Christmas biblically, yet every December, or late November given one’s proclivity regarding such things, most of us pile ourselves, our families, or our friends and/or loved ones into the car and set out to find the perfect tree. The perfect dead tree that is, to procure, lash to the top of our car, and position in a place of prominence in our homes. Why?
The indoor tree as I understand it has its roots, pun-ish, in pagan ritual. It is meant to be symbolic of the fact that even during the darkest, most barren times endured in the northern hemisphere life will eventually spring anew. It is a reminder to be patient; to respect the way of things. To be clear, I’m not talking about the kind of patience seen on the Black Friday evening news during which local affiliates and their national counterparts recount the mob scenes, in-store fist fights of the day, etc. Wink! It’s more of a Christ-like, or buddha-ish if you will, patience that the pagans hinted at with there indoor arboreal relocation ritual. Coincidence?
Christmas spirit is, in my opinion, a safe place, an opportunity to reset, to reconsider one’s perspective in the midst of a dark, cold, and often trying time of the year. Candles glow, firelight dances across the room, the smell of pine permeates the house. These are all choices to which we can give life unless one is in lack of a fireplace. Even those who have no built-in way of burning yet other dead tree and thereby contributing in their own way to global warming can burn the yule log through the convenience of Netflix, or a discount DVD. No, It’s not the things or the smells per se, but the opportunity, the idea, of having the choice to create the experience; something different that shines an inner light on the darkness. That’s what fuels my Christmas spirit.
Christmas giving is or can be a two-way street. Some give to be appreciated. Some give to give. Christmas time allows a perennial look at who we are and why we do what we do; if only we might take the time to decipher our motives. It’s likely that most of us appreciate Christmas in theory. However, have you heard someone utter the words, “I just have to make it through the holidays?” It’s likely that those folks have fallen under the western interpretation of the season that involves hosting, presenting, performing…ugh, exhausting right? The greatest gift of Christmas spirit I can give is the gift given to me by the pagan rituals…patience. Loving more than I usually do. Letting mishaps pass as though they were nothing because let’s face it, in the ultimate scheme of things they often are just that. A dropped ornament, someone who will remain nameless licking the baking spoon before we have finished laying cookie dough on the tray, anxious children acting out due to excitement are all part of the experience, and of course the impatient driver, shopper, clerk, etc.
Christmas spirit comes upon me, overtakes me and empowers me. Christmas time fills me with the hope that I can choose to be my best me. To be more giving, more hopeful, more patient than I might otherwise choose to be. That is the best gift of all. And so with joy in my heart, I wish you a very Merry Christmas time!
I am but a tiny grain of sand on an infinite beach, or desert maybe. The “infinite” makes it difficult to know for sure because the old metaphor never specifically defines the roll of “an ocean” in the mix. If we are just talking about “sand” it could be an endless Sahara Desert; makes me thirsty just thinking about it. A beach as seen by some is the most amazing strip of Real estate in the universe. We’ve all heard, “I could never live without the ocean nearby!” For others it’s sand in the crack, sunburn and “It’s cool, but I’ll take the mountains!” As for the desert, I’ve never met someone who saw this geographically threatening environment as the be all and end all of permanent residences, so for the purpose of out metaphor above I’m going with desert, ha!
Anyway, (The use of the non-word “anyways” is one of my only grammatical pet peeves. Not sure why that one stuck in my craw but when I hear it said out loud my fists involuntarily clench and I taste metal in my mouth)…So anyway, maybe we are grains of sand, whatever. I love the fact that in that light neither we nor the things we do hold much importance. Puts things in a humility based perspective framework right? The funniest part about that is that if your ego is anything like mine the first words out of its loudmouth are “Bull Shit!” Well “Whatever” to that crap too! Despite it’s best intentions the ego is often the “desert,” wishing it were a “beach.”
We are complex vessels of potentially self-torture inducing duality hurtling through a desert or a beach or a glass factory for all we know, and soon enough we suddenly find ourselves lacking the consciousness to wrestle with the beach/desert conundrum. We are gone, in the blink of an eye, the same length of a blink we rode in on, and 99.9% percent of the sand grains in the universe will never even knew we had crystallized.
Opening the cosmic door, reaching into the void and pulling back a handful of “meaning” is the greatest adventure, balancing act, magic trick, win around. We construct lives made out of our individual interpretations of “meaning,” pure and simple. We make them up. Are they real? Does any of this matter? Prove that it doesn’t, and I’ll give you some silica.
This holiday weekend I’ve had a lot of time to think about the problems in my life. I’ve also spent time wrapping my consciousness around my many blessings. Life is spectacular even as I struggle with some massively disconcerting and potentially life-changing issues that are beyond my control. Welcome back to the cosmic door, which it turns out is not unlike Forrest Gump’s box of chocolates. We never know what we are going to get, but I do know this. I am here now, today, stretching to stand tall in my little sand suit. I am so grateful for my family and friends, teachers, past loves, the grocery clerk who always smiles when I come in, the homeless man singing on his usual corner at the 2nd Ave overpass, and you my reader friends for being kind enough to accompany me on this greatest of adventures. xo
Thanksgiving fast approaches. Bringing with it all the joy, or discomfort that our memories allow. Gratitude for what we have, or eating all we can hold depending on one’s persuasion, define the day. Such disparate perspectives all find their way to some moment between noon and 6:00pm-ish on this most American holiday, (unless you are Canadian, they have one too you know, different day though) when we sit down with people we love, or tolerate, or loathe to “give thanks.”
Growing up I remember seeing paintings of the pilgrims (bless their sexually repressed hearts) sharing a meal with the native Americans whose kindness and wisdom made that very moment, the very survival of the colonists possible. I have no idea if the scenes depicted actually happened, but I do know that from the native perspective things definitely went downhill from there. Not until the advent of reservation land casinos did that cultural nose dive take a turn. Finally, something for which the true North Americans can be thankful. Too little, too late? Probably.
I usually spend Thanksgiving morning in the woods, either hiking or mountain biking, most often I make this “pilgrimage” alone. During this holiday opportunity for reflection, I will pause to take in the majesty of this world that we are so fortunate to call home. I am truly grateful for my one chance here on earth. Grateful for my wonderful family, my dear friends, a roof over my head and the unlikely outcome that is me, or you and every being issuing a breath even for a moment on this planet.
On this day some will share laughter with loved ones, others will issue volatile political challenges, purposefully foisting discord on innocents who only wish to celebrate the moment. Thanksgiving political discussions are the shit, right? Ha! On the other side of the relational tracks many will be alone; of those, some will be so by choice, others by unfortunate circumstance. For the solitary, it can be a challenging day to endure without a place to find welcome. Holidays are societally bipolar, no?
Wherever you find yourself this Thanksgiving I wish you peace, joy and most importantly a window in your world through which you can see with crystal clear clarity, something worth being thankful for.
Namaste my friends.
Darkness falls inside
Sinister side of Autumn
Drained of color