Six years ago, on December 25, I wrote:
A friend of mine pointed out the nicest thing about the Christmas frenzy is that people are thinking about other people, and what gifts to give them.
The pushing and the shoving, the wrapping rush followed by the post office rush followed by the rush to get something for someone who sent you something but you didn't have something ready to give that someone...
We're doing all of this for our fellow humans, and, perhaps, to celebrate a birth.
I’ve written many things over the years, this time of year, but this is my favorite, from eleven years ago. Eleven years ago!
This is the season of wonder. Young children feel it immediately. Adults must be reminded.
Sunset in Mendocino was scorchingly magnificent. The sky lit up interior walls as if the ocean was on fire.
In the bookstore we sounded the Sunset Alert, used only when exceptional winter displays are in danger of being missed. A few moments later thirty people were standing in clusters on the sidewalk, faces turned west, watching the sky bleed in technicolor. Coruscating blues and purples and oranges reflected off their sunglasses.
We gave the sunset our total attention. It was surprisingly quiet.
Scientists think spectacular sunsets are a function of increased air pollution, not angels. Whatever. When the universe calls out for attention that spectacularly, we watch.
The ancient Pacific Ocean ends a few feet from where I work all day. It washes up on the Mendocino cliffs. We hear, see and smell it, but no longer take notice of it unless we're surfing, fishing, or trying out a new pair of binoculars.
Sometimes I reflect that I live on a track not much wider than the one zoo animals lay down in their endless circuit between sleep and food. I drive home, to work, and back again, with little change year 'round.
On my five minute commute I pass a pond filled seasonally with wild geese, a blue heron, egrets, ducks, the occasional chicken, and a grazing cow or two. At Russian Gulch I crane to the right for a quick glimpse of the ocean.
As I turn in to Mendocino I have a moment to see if the tide is low, the ocean rough, the sky foggy or clear. On Main Street I smell the iodine from freshly stranded kelp if there's been a storm, and most days something delicious roasting over at the Moose Café.
For months at a time I have neglected to walk along the nearby headlands or climb down to one of the sandy beaches. I resolve to walk the headlands barefoot, more than once. I pledge to make time to chat with anyone, any time. I will watch the sun set.
I know a long-time saleswoman -- one of many -- whose job is driving to appointments all over northern California flogging books, greeting cards and calendars to retail stores. Each December she bakes small breads for every one of her buyers. This year her breads came in cranberry, pumpkin and lemon flavors.
Joselyn walks into my study, sleepy from a nap, chewing on some roasted peanuts. "If we're not careful, we'll eat all the bad things," she says, handing me some nuts. Then she laughs.
That’s what I wrote back then. This is what I’m writing now: The holidays can get old, if you let them. Mr Cranky Pants gets tired of the music, the colors, the insistent begging of monotheistic bell ringers.
But at the same time Mr Cranky Pants is happy to be alive, to be sharing, to be able to remember good times and look forward to more. What else can one ask, in fact?
Happy Holidays to You and Yours, No Matter Why, When and How You May or May Not Celebrate Whatever it Is You Do or Don’t Celebrate.