I am learning that being on the road at Christmas calls for lots of light. Not the kind that you plug into a 110-outlet, but the kind that you plug into with prayer, in order to better navigate the darkness that can occur when you feel the tug of what is missing.
Now that we are in the season, I am aware of the hole in my heart created by the absence of the annual Christmas shopping outings with our six grandchildren. Each year, we used to take three separate shopping trips (there are two kids in each of the families) for the purpose of buying presents for their parents. These trips typically involved lots of store cruising before zeroing in on the best place to find the perfect gifts. Then, there were animated conversations over what Mom or Dad would most like and how much things cost. Somewhere during the day, hot chocolate for the New Hampshire kids and ice cream for the Florida kids, and a requisite tummy ache or two (all age-dependent) would invariably be included. And finally, there were the special moments of wrapping the presents and hand-writing gift cards. The kids now range from 16 to 7, so this has been a long and rich tradition.
There was always a Balsam wreath outside our door in Keene, and greens on the mantle and lots of candles, which got lighted throughout the season of the long nights and deep cold temperatures surrounding the winter solstice in New Hampshire.
We would typically catch a holiday concert during the season in Keene, either a performance at the Colonial Theatre or a chorale concert at one of the local churches. Impromptu meet-ups with friends happened more frequently at this time of year and each was a treasure.
This year is very different and we are conscious of the shift. There is a wonderful line from the classic song that includes these lines, “for I’ve grown a … little colder, … grown a little older and I need a little angel sitting on my shoulder. I need a little Christmas now”. So intentionally, we are improvising and adding extra doses of light this Christmas.
We bought a little potted northern pine tree, decorated with sparkles, and it sits outside our Airstream. A double string of tiny white lights drape the edge of the open awning, creating a soft and lovely festive light. An outdoor citronella candle sits on our steps. One of Peter’s ceramic pigs, a gift years ago from some of the grandkids, is now wearing a red bow decorated with a silver star and he sits like a happy sentinel on the outdoor carpet.
My “little” sister gave me four of my favorite candles, which I have put on the table, our gathering place where we read, use the computer, write these blogs, and eat our meals. They are lighted every evening during this season.
Sunday, we found a choral concert at a church here in Bonita Springs and joyfully listened as the beautiful voices of the New Chorale of Southwest Florida shared the gift of music with us. A guest performance by a brilliant young concert pianist from Peru, a student at the local music conservatory, brought on the first standing ovation. The concert closed with the audience and the chorale joining together, singing “Let There Be Peace on Earth”. Tears rolled down my cheeks.
Peter reminded me what Thich Nhat Hanh teaches, “Many of us are so caught up in our plans, fears, agitations, and dreams that we are not living in our bodies any more… We can’t see all the miraculous beauty and magnificence that Mother Earth ceaselessly offers to us.”
So, we keep breathing in and out; we light the candles; we practice looking up at the night sky and spot the moon under clear Florida skies; we see and name and express gratitude for the web of great beauty that surrounds us. We practice sharing kindness toward the edgy clerk at the laundromat, or the guy who passes us on the right on busy US41 just before we want to turn. And maybe this is what Christmas is about, after all. May your holiday time be one full of light.
Liz and Peter continue their pilgrimage to here, noticing the lights of Christmas here in Bonita Springs, on their travels across the U.S. in their Airstream.