what takes your breath away?

Raindrops on roses
And whiskers on kittens
Bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens
Brown paper packages tied up with strings
These are a few of my favorite things

A few weeks ago, as I was making a routine journey back and forth along the busy street I traverse several times a day, I couldn’t help but hear the leaves.  I heard them.  Yes.  That’s what I wrote.  I  h e a r d  them.

They were the deepest, most crimson red they’d ever be this year.  Saturated with beauty and singing their highest notes.  An opera for my ears, a crescendo of color.  Have you ever noticed that?  How autumn leaves are this most vivid, crisp color just before they begin to fade and fall to the ground?

There are so many things like this that take my breath away.

Yesterday marked the winter solstice, the darkest night of the year, and at a time in which we find our world community tempted toward anxiety and despair, when I know so many of us are caught up in the tumult of life, it’s these moments of awe and wonder that fill me with gratitude and propel me forward in hope.  There are kind strangers holding open doors for you.  There are clerks smiling behind cash registers.  There are even drivers nodding and letting you in to jammed city streets, waving back at you, you’re welcome.

There are so many things . . . just listen.

By now the rains have come, and those beautiful leaves have fallen at our feet, a small sacrifice for the springtime flowers to come.  But it has me singing, welcoming the coming light into the world and wondering, what takes  y o u r  breath away?

 

 

Cream-colored ponies and crisp apple strudels
Doorbells and sleigh bells
And schnitzel with noodles
Wild geese that fly with the moon on their wings
These are a few of my favorite things

wintercouple

 

 

MERRY CHRISTMAS, from two or three little birds.

 

3    Email This Post

here comes santa claus, fur reals

Santa Claus is a woman.  She is.  Oh, I know you’ve seen those Santas at the mall, those men in eco-friendly fake fur with their synthetic white beards.  Okay, so maybe your mall Santa is a retired motorcycle salesman with an authentic scraggly beard, but come on now.  We all know they’re imposters.  Leaders of all kinds have traditionally been men and so it goes with Santa, right?  It makes sense to dress him up in the suit, hand him the reigns of the sleigh and smile in your apron strings as he gets all the credit.  But we know.  We know.

Earlier this year after losing a few more teeth and scratching her head at the glitter trail left by the toothfairy, my littlest love — almost a middle schooler who’d be mercilessly teased for still believing in toothfairies —  finally figured out that I’ve been the magic all along.  We had a conversation in the car about it, and she conceded.  In the saddest voice, she turned her head towards me and gazed out over those glasses of hers and said, If you’re the toothfairy, then are you Santa, too?  Yup.

And that was it.  A huge rite of passage, done.  No more Santa!  Hooray!!!  We could all relax now.  We can tone this whole Christmas thing down and get to bed by midnight on Christmas Eve.  And I won’t need to stress over those Santa letters or steam them open anymore or listen to any, I don’t need to write a letter, mama, Santa will know what I want.  I can finally put my magic boots away and rest my tired, weary from shopping bones by the fire.

If you’ve been reading this blog over the years you know I have mixed feelings about Santa.  My father was the best Santa, which was wonderful, of course, but when you have a Dad like that, who late on Christmas Eve will actually scale a rickety step ladder, hoist himself up onto an icy roof and then stomp around over your bedroom ceiling so you’ll believe already and hurry off to sleep, well, it sets the bar pretty high.  To pass that magic on to my little loves, my Santa skills have had to become legendary.  Like the time I forgot to leave something under the tree, a small but coveted stuffed cheetah I’d bought too early to remember where I’d hid it.  When I discovered it stashed in a cupboard a few days after Christmas, I tossed it haphazardly in a potted plant beneath the chimney and brought little love outside, exclaiming innocently, Look!  What’s that?  Oh my goodness!  That must’ve fallen out of Santa’s sleigh.  You should have seen the huge eyes, the looking up toward the roof, and the smile.  Well-honed, legendary skills I tell you.  So legendary that until just this last year littlest still BELIEVED.

Now that we’re all clear there’s no fat man coming down the chimney with a sack full of presents, though, she wants to act like the game is still on.  Can we just make like there’s still a Santa?  Can we still wait until Christmas morning to put out all our presents?  Sure, love.  And by the way, what are you talking about?  There is a Santa: me.  She laughs.  Mom, Santa is a man.  Oh no, I insist, egging her on.  Santa is a woman.  You’re looking right at her.  Mom, I’ve seen Santa.  Santa is a man!  You mean all those phonies in the shopping malls?  Those guys are just dressing up and pretending to be Santa.  Santa’s a woman.

She giggles as she hops out of the car at school and just before she closes the door on me scrunches up her face and insists one last time, Santa is a man!  We’ve found a way to play like the game is still on, like Santa is still real somehow.  Still fun.  And after thinking all day of how to keep the game going and convince her he’s a woman, it suddenly dawns on me.  Once we’re back in the car together and on our way home, I ask if the Santa who came to her school for Red & Green day was a woman.  She laughs and takes the bait.  Of course not, mom.  Santa is a man.  And that’s when I hit her with my most convincing argument yet.  She goes to Catholic school, so I start by asking her demurely, so what does Santa mean?  Saint.  Duh.  Very good, I say.  Now what about all those cities over the hill from us.  What are they called again?  Let’s see?  San Jose.  Isn’t that Spanish for St. Joseph?  And what about San Francisco?  San Mateo.  And don’t forget San Diego down south.  She starts to laugh because she knows what’s coming next.  But we don’t say San Clara. No, it’s Santa Clara.  And Santa Barbara.  And Santa Rosa.  You know there’s no San Claus.  San Carlos, yes, but no San Claus.  It’s Santa Claus, pal.  And Santa . . . is a woman.

Merry Christmas!

If you want to tell people the truth [about Santa], make them laugh, otherwise they’ll kill you.

~ Oscar Wilde


If you liked this post, you might enjoy believe or on (re)learning how to listen to trees

 

 

3    Email This Post

if we could hold time in our hands

We have only this moment, sparkling like a star in our hand, and melting like a snowflake.

~ Francis Bacon

baconstarsOnce in a supermarket checkout line I was asked by the bagging clerk, If you could have any superpower, what would it be?  Flummoxed by the question, he offered me some choices his previous customers had mentioned.  Would I want bionic vision and the power to see through anything?  I looked around at the grocery carts in line behind me and decided I was grateful for clothes and walls thank you very much.  Would I prefer invisibility then?  The power to walk about or slip secretly into any room unnoticed?  Again, not interested.  I mean, I love to eavesdrop as much as the next guy and would certainly entertain the thought of being able to trail behind my girls during their high school years, knowing that they knew I could be right there, Invisible Mom, following them at all times at any given moment, but something about that power is fundamentally creepy to me.  And besides, what would I do without mystery in my life?  So what superpower would I want?  And this is when I said something that surprised him because he hadn’t heard it before.  I said, I would want to step outside time.  Not to stop it, but to just move aside.  Maybe find a park bench under a leafy tree and just put my feet up, sipping a latté and reading a book.  Smiling.

Now I don’t mean I want to sit back and watch life go by or anything like that.  It’s not that sort of thing.  It’s not that I want time to stop so my children will never grow up or I will never grow old.  I don’t want to go back to a simpler time either nor do I want to fast forward to some better time.  It’s nothing like that at all.  Here’s the deal as best as I can explain it.

I have never worn a watch, except maybe if you count that one Timex glow in the dark waterproof watch my dad bought for me at Thrifty’s Drugstore when I first learned how to tell time and that I really just wore so I could put on my goggles and watch its second hand circle around as I counted how long I could hold my breath underwater.  It had a velcro strap that eventually gave me some kind of skin rot rash and then that was it for me.  No more watches.  Many years later when someone asked me why I never wore a watch, all I could think to say was, I guess I’m philosophically opposed to them.  The thought of strapping time to my body makes me anxious.  The idea that these shackles are even remotely fashionable let alone high-end luxury items, astounds me, too.  As my closest companions will be quick to tell you, time is just something I don’t keep well.  It’s not that I don’t respect it.  It’s not that I don’t respect the way others respect it (and organize their lives around it, said with absolutely no judgment whatsover).  It’s just I resent it is all.  I resent the way it makes us feel: panicked, rushed, impatient, sentimental, old.  Maybe its the romantic in me, but I want this superpower, to live timelessly like trees or stars.

And yet isn’t it always this time of year when the calendar pages fly by, when the countdowns begin and like leaves dropping from trees the clock on the wall tick tick ticks.  Yes, right on schedule, right about now I’m starting to get a little grumpy with time.  I start to get short with her for barging in like this, and I want to call her nasty names in front of my children but settle for single letters instead.  F U, B!  See that park bench over there?  Do you?  Well, I’m going to go grab my books and a blanket.  See you in February, sister!  But time, she holds my coat and snickers, hear those sleigh bells jingling?  Ring ting tingling?  Damn her!

And so it goes, every November.  Whether I’m wearing a watch or not no longer matters.  I’m tangled up — despite my denial and protest — in the race against time — in the maddening holiday rush against the ticking clock.  And I wonder each year how can I possibly step outside of it?  How can I just move aside?  Because you and I both know I’ve already got two rolls of adorable “sheet music” wrapping paper in my trunk and am already hunting down the perfect velvet red ribbon to go with it, not to mention some complimentary red paper to make that perfect splash of color under my as of yet purchased but certain to be ten foot tall tree I complain about never having time to decorate.  And the catalogs are pouring in.  I’m picking out gifts and creasing pages and panicking because I know that as each second ticks by, one more item in the size and color I want is getting loaded onto a truck bound for someone else’s house which means I’ll have to go to the mall and then there’s the traffic and . . . .  Is it possible to truly enjoy this time of year?  I mean, can one actually have a happy holiday when there’s this little drummer boy reminding you to bake, shop, wrap, write, repeat?

One of the ways I try to maintain my philosophical opposition to time is to spend it as joyfully as I can.  I try to read a beautiful book like Marilynne Robinson’s Lila.  More candles come out around the house.  If I’m in the kitchen baking treats for my friends, there’s music and dancing.  If I’ve got to go out and face the shopping mall, there’s got to be a stop for pastries and a latté somewhere where they’ll trace a heart in the froth.  I smile at the clerks and get out of the way of that lady rushing ahead of me.  Spend a day in San Francisco, wandering through the de Young or walking in the park before taking the long way home down Highway 1 at sunset.  Sure, I notice everyone looking at their watches, wondering where I’ve found the time.  It’s not that I ever lost her.  No.  It’s not like that at all.  I’ve simply stepped aside.

Being with you and not being with you is the only way I have to measure time.
~ Jorge Luis Borges

I’m curious to know . . . how do you make time for JOY during the holidays?


 

Creativity occurs in the moment, and in the moment we are timeless.
~ Julia Cameron, The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity

Time isn’t precious at all, because it is an illusion. What you perceive as precious is not time but the one point that is out of time: the Now. That is precious indeed. The more you are focused on time—past and future—the more you miss the Now, the most precious thing there is.
~ Eckhart Tolle

Clocks slay time . . . time is dead as long as it is being clicked off by little wheels; only when the clock stops does time come to life.
~ William Faulkner, The Sound and the Fury

Everything changed the day she figured out there was exactly enough time for the important things in her life.
~ Brian Andreas

Another glorious day in which one seems to be dissolved and absorbed and sent pulsing onward we know not where. Life seems neither long nor short, and we take no more heed to save time or make haste than do the trees and stars. This is true freedom, a good practical sort of immortality.
~ John Muir

 

3    Email This Post