Sunday, December 25, 2011

True Gifts

My favorite Christmas gifts are not the ones that come wrapped in packages. Though wrapping packages is one of the meditative exercises I do with pleasure over the Christmas season. I love choosing the paper for each package, then the perfect accenting ribbons, or baubles, and finally just the right tags, which I select and clip from Christmas cards past.

From the start of the season, the very first sounds light a little spark inside of me. My favorite Christmas carols: the soundtrack from Charlie Brown's Christmas, the soundtrack from Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer, Andy Williams Greatest Christmas hits, especially "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year" and Ave Maria, sung by a choir. The former delivering the Christmas spirit directly into my heart, the latter sailing me through my earliest memories of sitting with my father while he explained to me that there would be a happy outcome with the abominable snowman, "Just wait and see," he would say, and other fond rememberances of a little boy with heart who refused to give into others and saw the beauty in the tiniest tree.

When the lights of Christmas begin to appear my heart leaps. I love all Christmas lights especially the old, large-bulbed, multicolored lights. I love how people take creative liberty to design their lightscape, wrapping them, twirling them, accentuating whatever their hearts desire. I have a tradition with my son, to get a warm cuppa and drive around listening to carols and taking in the lights, rating our favorites. Through the years it has become important talk time, that is a true Christmas gift.

The flavors of Christmas are amazing, cinnamon tea, and clove-flavored hard candy, sugar cookies, and cocoa with marshmallow fluff. Olives and onion dip and cheeses. Sparkling drinks with cherries. All of these things taste better at Christmas time. I still remember leaving Santa my favorite Christmas treat: chips and dip.

The scent of pine boughs and hollyberry candles, of warm things baking, of smoke sent through chimneys by fires crackling in fireplaces, fill me up, make childhood memories visceral.

I feel blessed to live in the north during the holiday season, to have crisp snow crunch under my feet on my walks, to feel cold air on cheeks, filling my lungs, is a blessing. Everywhere the trees and ground are decorated with crystals that shine.

These are the true gifts.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Reflecting on Empty

Funny things kept happening today. I would set out to do one thing and wind up doing another.

First, I was heading to my yoga class when I ran out of gas. I was only feet from my home, going up a hill; normally I would have taken a flat road but there was construction, being on the hill allowed me to turn around and coast back to my driveway. My coasting power ended right at my garage door.

My dog was pleased that I returned home, this meant he got his walk all the earlier. Yoga class would have lead to an appointment and then to a walk much later, if I even got one in.

Walking along my familiar path, I reflected on the word empty while admonishing myself for not filling my tank right away when the empty light came on. I kept meaning to, but would run one more errand, and then end up returning home and thinking I would do it 'tomorrow'. By not filling my tank, now I had missed yoga. But instead, I was taking this walk.

So what was the message here? I often tell my son when things don't work out the way he thinks they were meant to, "everything happens for a reason". I try to remind myself this, when I remember it, and I was remembering it now. I realized by allowing my tank to stay empty, I encountered things I might not have, had I been 'full', like coasting perfectly into my driveway.

Then later that day, I went to my appointment only to find out it was for the following week, and I again I found myself with time. This allowed me to go Christmas shopping, something I needed to do, but had not planned on since so much was scheduled into my day. It was luscious having this extra time. I wound up choosing some spontaneous gifts I might not have, had I been pressured for time.

Spontaneous gifts probably come more often than we realize, we just need to make sure our day isn't so full we don't notice them.