Holiday Ride


Thank you Susan.

Black Friday

Elissa told me the story: After leaving India the year before, she decided she had enough stuff, or too much stuff. She made a pledge that for a year she wouldn’t buy shoes, clothes, purses, or jewelry.

I was impressed by her conviction, but she shrugged it off. “It wasn’t hard.” After that, I did some small-scale experiments of my own, giving up shopping for Lent for a few years. I was always surprised by how much better it made me feel. But it wasn’t until New Year’s Day 2017 that I decided to follow my friend’s example. At the end of 2016, our country had swung in the direction of gold leaf, an ecstatic celebration of unfeeling billionairedom that kept me up at night. I couldn’t settle down to read or write, and in my anxiety I found myself mindlessly scrolling through two particular shopping websites, numbing out with images of shoes, clothes, purses and jewelry. I was trying to distract myself, but the distraction left me feeling worse, the way a late night in a bar smoking Winstons and drinking gin leaves you feeling worse. The unspoken question of shopping is What do I need?, but I didn’t need anything. What I needed was less than what I had…

My few months of no-shopping were full of gleeful discoveries…Once I stopped looking for things to buy, I became tremendously grateful for things I received…

It doesn’t take so long for craving to subside. Once I got the hang of giving something up, it wasn’t much of a trick. The much harder part was living with the startling abundance that had been illuminated when I stopped trying to get more. Once I could see what I already had, and what actually mattered, I was left with a feeling that was somewhere between sickened and humbled. When did I amass so many things, and did someone else need them?

If you stop thinking about what you might want, it’s a whole lot easier to see what other people don’t have…. “I realized I had too many decisions to make that were actually important,” she said. “There were people to help, things to do. Not shopping frees up a lot of space in your brain.” …

The things we buy and buy and buy are like a thick coat of Vaseline smeared on glass: we can see some shapes out there, light and dark, but in our constant craving for what we may still want, we miss too many of life’s details. It’s not as if I kept a ledger and took the money I didn’t spend on perfume and gave that money to the poor, but I came to a better understanding of money as something we earn and spend and save for the things we want and need. Once I was able to get past the want and be honest about the need, it was easier to let the money go. It was like Elissa had told me when she first explained the benefits of not shopping: “Our capacity for giving is huge.”

Ann Patchett, from “My Year of No Shopping” in “These Precious Days: Essays” (Harper, November 23, 2021)


Image: Los Angeles Times: Best New Books to Read November 2021

Weekend Plans


Photo of Rachel’s Sully.

Merry Christmas

The picture was taken last night. Part of a family tradition that Grandma started years and years ago —  Grandma sends her gifts which they open on Christmas Eve. It’s always pajamas. The ritual never grows old, and has travelled with us as we moved from city to city, and from house to house, chasing a Life.

It’s 5 a.m. It’s silent now, but for the high winds howling outside my window. The moment reminds me of their younger days, when we lived in much smaller quarters.

We call out good night to each other down the hall. How beautiful, the way that children sleep so deeply and peacefully that their parents’ voices do not wake them.” (Elizabeth Alexander, “The Light of the World: A Memoir.”)

I sit, writing this post. It’s quiet but for my breathing. A tear slides down my cheek.

Martin Amis said that “Time has come to feel like a runaway train, flashing through station after station.”  Melancholy sweeps over me —  I wonder how many more Christmas moments are left before they move on with their lives.

Maybe one more. Please, give us at least one more…

Merry Christmas.

T.G.I.F.


Source: Christmas Wallpapers

Thanksgiving morn. House full of sleepers.

light-night-house-family

Quiet has many moods. When our sons are home, their energy is palpable. Even when they’re upstairs sleeping I can sense them, can feel the house filling with their presence, expanding like a sail billowed with air. I love the dawn stillness of a house full of sleepers, love knowing that within these walls our entire family is contained and safe, reunited, our stable four-sided shape resurrected.

~ Katrina Kenison, Magical Journey: An Apprenticeship in Contentment 


Notes: Photo: Mennyfox55

Make Someone’s Holiday

Stick with this to the finish. (Apple’s new holiday ad)

when the decorations come down from the attic, time goes both ways at once

Every year when the decorations come down from the attic, time goes both ways at once…

All day long I’m surrounded by reminders of nearly a quarter-century in this house. Who I am and who I’ve been, and who everyone else I love has been…

Then the Christmas boxes come down from the attic, and time extends backward even further, beyond this house, and forward to a future in which the broadest outlines are already clear though the details are still unknown. Getting down the Christmas decorations is always a reminder of eternity, that unfamiliar space where past and present and future exist simultaneously — a space I can enter, even figuratively, only at Christmastime.

Here is the ornament in the shape of a baseball player from my husband’s boyhood years. Here is the little felt-covered drum my mother helped me make from a paper-towel roll. Here are the blown-egg ornaments my high school Secret Santa left in my locker and the gold-and-silver Benson & Hedges box a college friend hung on the tree in my first college apartment. Here are the metal lapel pins that proved I’d paid for admission at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the only “decorations” I could scrounge up when I was in graduate school. Here are the twisted-tin icicles my husband and I bought at a craft fair the year before we got married, already looking ahead to our own first tree. Here’s the little marionette Santa my mother-in-law won as a door prize at a Parkinson’s support group just before what turned out to be her last Christmas.

Most precious of all are the homemade ornaments from my children’s preschool years: messy, often unrecognizable figures — is that an archangel or Medusa? Rudolph or Popsicle-stick conceptual art? We hang them on the tree every year, ugly as some of them indisputably are. They remind my husband and me of that brief time in our family’s life when there was still someone at home small enough to jump up and down, clapping with glee, when the Christmas tree lights came on for the first time, even if it was only a test and the lights were spread out across the floor or still tangled together at the bottom of a cardboard box…

Last year when I packed up the Christmas decorations, I set aside our oldest son’s homemade ornaments in a separate box. He is on his own now, and I know the day is coming when he will have his own tree to decorate, his own holiday traditions to establish. He didn’t put up a tree this year, so his father and I are still keeping them safe, but we are also ready for whatever comes next.

For now those ornaments are back in their old familiar places, hanging alongside all the other reminders that the people who are gone from us are never truly gone, that the little boys hopping up and down with excitement are still somewhere inside the grown men who can set that homely angel in her place at the top of the tree without even straining to reach.

~ Margaret Renkl, from “The Christmas Time Capsule” (The New York Times, December 24, 2018)
 

Photo Credit

Stir the Soul


Notes:

  1. Attendees at Christmas Eve Mass in Surabaya, Indonesia. (Juni Kristwanto, wsj.com December 25, 2018)
  2. A man stands inside a damaged church in the village of Tel Nasri, Syria. (Rodi Said, Reuters, wsj.com December 25, 2018)
  3. An elephant wearing a Santa Claus costume performs for Thai students during Christmas celebrations at Jirasart school in Ayutthaya province north of Bangkok. (Chaiwat Subrasom, wsj.com December 24, 2018)

Merry Christmas!


Photo: Erin Vey (via Your Eyes Blaze Out)

Christmas Eve (3:44 a.m) … and Magic

And Lindsay captures it wonderfully in her photo above and in her post titled “Snow Falling” – while I sit here in darkness, early this morning, watching snow fall on Christmas Eve:

“There is something absolutely magical about snow falling. I am always in awe of the eerie silence that falls around the house as it lightly touches down on our roof and the ground around us. I love how from somewhere it picks up little hints of light so it resembles glitter falling all around you…It was magnificent. It was glorious to be able to lean up against the window and just watch the big flakes fall luxuriously down around us. Something about snow makes me feel like a little kid all over again.”


Inspired by: “—light snow, silence, the empty streets, the fog, thrilling cold—so much beauty. Like breathing pure oxygen.” ~ Susan Sontag, from As Consciousness Is Harnessed to Flesh: Journals and Notebooks 1964-1980

 

Come and Get Your Love

Volume Up! How great is this! ‘Tis the Season.


Notes: 1) Lori, thank you for sharing! 2) Post title from lyrics and music by Redbone: Come and Get Your Love (1974) (Don’t miss their video on Soul Train)

He’s coming…

Hundreds of racers dressed as Santa Claus race through the streets of Michendorf, near Berlin, as part of a Noel-themed 10K. (Michele Tantussi, Reuters, wsj.com December 9, 2018)

Walking Cross Town. With No Next.

It’s Wednesday.  I take a late morning train to attend a late morning meeting. There are no meetings that follow. There is no Next, and Next and Next.

I sit in the train. The train clears. I’m immersed in the final chapter of the last book in Rachel Cusk‘s trilogy. I take the time to finish up, I grab my bag, and exit the train. There’s no rushing to the exits, the platform is empty. I walk alone in Kaminsky’s quiet: “What is silence? Something of the sky in us.”

Security at Grand Central is tight. Each entrance is heavily armed. Yet, I don’t flinch – the gunmetal black, semi-automatic weapon looks like a prop in a scene in Toy Story – I’m among the extras, commuters rushing to their Next, and tourists snapping photos.

Broadway teems with tourists mingling on sidewalks, trying to decide What’s Next. I smile, step around them, not interrupting their chat as they stand three abreast. Tis’ the season.

Full body sized neon letters hum and flash overhead: Mueller probe. Cohen. Trump. Russia. This nasty, viscous, mucus is non-stick, and glances off. You won’t touch me, not today. 

My meeting ends. A luncheon thanking colleagues for exceptional work on a project with a highly successful outcome.  I learn at lunch that today is the 86th Rockefeller Center Tree Lighting CeremonyAha! This accounts for the heavy security and unusually large crowds. [Read more…]

I love the dawn stillness (on Thanksgiving Day)

light-night-house-family

Quiet has many moods. When our sons are home, their energy is palpable. Even when they’re upstairs sleeping I can sense them, can feel the house filling with their presence, expanding like a sail billowed with air. I love the dawn stillness of a house full of sleepers, love knowing that within these walls our entire family is contained and safe, reunited, our stable four-sided shape resurrected.

~ Katrina Kenison, Magical Journey: An Apprenticeship in Contentment 


Notes: Photo: Mennyfox55

Share Your Gifts


New Apple holiday film tells a story of a girl who is bursting with ideas but is afraid to share them.  Music: Billie Eilish with come out and play

How wonderful life is while you’re in the world

John Lewis’ 2018 Christmas advertisement tells the story of Elton John being gifted a piano as a young boy. The story begins in present day and works backwards chronologically through Elton’s life and musical career, leading to the moment he received the special present of his grandmother’s piano that changed the course of his life. (Source: The Telegraph, November 15, 2018)


Thank you Lorne

Merry Christmas

“Artist Dan May’s interpretation of Charles M. Schulz’s 1965 classic, “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” is quiet and powerful, a piece subtly addressing troubled times with Charlie Brown removed and elevated from the noise of the world and blur the holidays can become by masking that which is most important.  Dan’s composition instantly struck us in finding Charlie Brown, accompanied by a quietly, emotional Snoopy, not merely reflective but openly longing and prayerful for that which matters most, a loving reminder for us all, particularly during the holidays.” Source: Blurppy.

Each small accomplishment completed brings me closer to…what exactly? The finish line?

katrina-kenison.jpg

All month I’ve been making lists, crossing things off lists, making new lists – grocery lists, to-do lists, gift lists. Somehow the act of writing things down and crossing them out calms me, as if each small accomplishment or task completed brings me closer to…what exactly? The finish line?

Of course, the idea of completion is an illusion. There will be to-dos until the day when there aren’t, and I’m certainly not in any hurry to get there. Nor do I want to look at December 25 as the end of some silly holiday race.

So my challenge today, and every day this season, is to simply relax into the day’s doings, whatever they may be. One thing I’ve learned over the years is that the closer I stay to home and hearth during these short, dark days, the more peaceful I feel.

~ Katrina Kenison, from “Spicy Holiday Granola” (December 15, 2017)

Guess.What.Day.It.Is?


Notes:

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