Monday, December 24, 2012

Silent Night, Holy Night

May the Prince of Peace come to your door this year

art credit, Susan Jeffers

Monday, December 17, 2012

Great Grandfather Claus

     My grandparents immigrated to the United States from Norway, and my father claims that they are descendants of reindeer herders far to the north in the arctic lands that lap the Barents Sea. It is a land of midnight summer sun and a darkness in the heart of winter made bearable by swarms of stars and the cryptic dance of solar winds; a mountain-crowded landscape of deep snow and quick crops, glacial fjords and ice-sculpted valleys where nomads live in close communion with the swing of the seasons and can hear the call of the wild from out of the mists of myth.

     These are my antecedents, I carry them in my bones and even though it hasn’t been proven, if you climbed further up in my family tree I think you would find that I am related to the Merry Old Elf himself!

     If you have seen Miracle on 34th Street, you know what happens to kindly old men who claim to be Santa Claus, so you might think I am daft to claim kinship to that jolly saint of Christmastide, but there are indicators impossible to ignore: 

  • My grandmother’s name was Elfrieda
  • My favorite color is green
  • I wilt in the heat and thrive in cooler climes
  • I express my love and affection for others by giving them gifts
  • My favorite holiday is Christmas
  • I often prefer the company of children to that of adults
  • I spend far too much time wrapping my Christmas gifts
  • If either of my brothers put on a red suit, most children would think they were looking at the real thing
  • Along with all of my siblings, I have an insatiable sweet tooth
  • I don’t look like an elf, but I am told I have hobbit feet
  • My heart soars at the first snowfall of the year
  • With any exertion my cheeks bloom with roses, my face is naturally broad and as the years go by, I can’t seem to shed that bowl full of jelly

Do you see what I mean? Impossible to ignore. Ho Ho Ho…

Merry Christmas.

reindeer photo credit: Daisy Gilardini

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Fly Away Home

     My mother would have been 85 years old today, but she passed away at the beginning of November. Long ago, she bequeathed to me her love of books and storytelling and encouraged my need to write. My dear mom also possessed a child-like appreciation of the world around her and a quirky imagination. I am so grateful that I was able to fly home to Washington beforehand to share in the last days and moments of her life.

     As those of you who have said good-bye to loved ones already know, we find relief from our grief in the stories that we tell about them. My niece, Jacqualine, shared the following memory with us:

     It was a large family gathering, most likely Leif Ericsson day. There were tables laden with all sorts of tasty food and desserts. The great-grandchildren were running around playing with their toys, and everyone else had settled down with a good meal.
     I was relaxing with a plate of lefse, when Grandma came and sat beside me. 
     Around this time she had begun a special diet, so I wasn't surprised to see her with a napkin full of vegetables in her hand instead of dessert. However, I did think it a bit curious that she seemed to be munching away without touching a single carrot.
     So I decided to watch.
     When she thought no one was looking, Grandma reached under her napkin and pulled out a cookie.
     "Grandma," I said pleasantly scandalized.
     She just looked at me with a mischievous smile and a twinkle in her eye, and then in one quick motion popped the cookie into her mouth. She chewed happily, and all I could do was shake my head and chuckle.
     This is how I learned the top-secret napkin trick, which is very useful if you’re in the business of smuggling treats.
     I’ll see you in heaven Grandma. Make sure you save me a place in the choir.

     Yes, that was my mom. I couldn't let her birthday pass without writing something in her memory:

Fly Away Home

Her hands are smooth, now
She stoops to tie a child’s shoe
Golden light above, golden streets
Beneath her bended knee.
Do you remember me?
She follows the line of my asking
Follows the line of my ageless frame
From lowly foot to eternal eye.
Ah, you’ve come home at last.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Walking on Water

     I grew up on the Puget Sound. Winters were mild. Summers were full of rain. But there was one winter with a succession of days so cold that nearby Snake Lake froze over. My father, who was born in the neighborhood, said it used to freeze nearly every year when he was a boy. He bundled us all into the car and we drove down to the lake. It was such a peculiarity that dozens of other families were already there ahead of us. Some of them even had skates. It was a beautiful sight, just like a scene from a Christmas card.

     Other than a frozen mud puddle here and there, I had never walked on ice. I slid down the bank with my brothers and sisters and stepped onto the edge of the small lake. I wasn’t more than eight years old and the whole idea of walking out into the middle had me frightened. I wasn’t afraid of falling down, I was afraid of falling through. Even though there were lots of people scooting back and forth across the ice, I dabbled around the edges. I wasn’t an adventurous child.

     Then my father came along, took my hand and led me across to the other side. I remember holding tightly to his hand and sliding the soles of my shoes carefully across the uneven surface. There were twigs and leaves trapped in the ice; maybe there were fish and frogs watching me from below. I imagined myself gliding and twirling effortlessly like Hans Brinker and the Silver Skates, but I felt more like a tottering, newborn colt just learning to walk. The lake was surrounded by evergreens, leafless scrub, and thin, frosty, winter air. There was an undercurrent of shared excitement and, best of all, the inimitable wonder of walking on water. I was still afraid that the ice wouldn’t hold me, that at any minute it might crack and the dark water would swallow me, my confidence in the ice was thin because I'd had no experience with it, but beneath the fear was the strength of my father's hand and the solid trust I had that he would rescue me from danger. If not for that trust, I would still be dabbling around the edges.

art credit Paul Gauguin

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Threshold of Christmas

     It falls every year like first snow. We stand on the threshold of December and step into the wonder and mystery of Advent. Be Adventurous...