It is the day before the day before Christmas, and all through the house, presents and wrapping paper are strewn about, kitchen dishes and baking pans unwashed, and a grocery list a half mile long is stuck to the frig. The tree is up, the wreath hangs neatly from the door, and we are nearly ready for Christmas, well, except for straightening up the mess.
I thought I felt the daylight staying around just a bit longer last night, now that the Solstice has passed, and the calendar says that the longest night is over again, for yet another year. The snow has melted in my yard, but still piling up in the nearby hills.
This December’s weather disaster hasn’t been the double typhoons of last year, but, instead, feet of snow piling up in the mountains, closing the highways, with the added spice of a bit of freezing rain. We had snow on the ground for five days, and enough to pile up on the lawn and create magical shapes in our flower beds and on the branches of the trees. It is hard to imagine that I mowed the lawn ten days ago, as the early December warmth had spurred on the grass for one final burst before the end of the year. As the snow melts, clumps of sodden green grass clippings cling to my shoes.
A deputy Sheriff shared his photographic efforts yesterday, a picture of the Coast Range summit looking like the top of the Cascades, and a highway littered with hundreds of fallen alders, their spotted trunks mixed in with icy crystallized branches and limbs -- silver toy jacks strewn on the sidewalk.
This weather has brought so many gifts in this season of giving. My almost ten year old neighbor came over Sunday afternoon, drenched by a shower of thick, almost snowy rain, hauling his guitar and asking me if I could play with him. We spent the next hour strumming Christmas songs, and he now knows a new guitar chord, for a total of 2 ½ .
Last night, my coffee buddies and our families gathered for a pot luck dinner, a session of Mah Jong, and a session of playing and singing all the songs in my Christmas guitar book. The neophytes for Mah Jong were led through the game by those of us experienced in this game of tiles and mysterious symbols, including the Red Dragon and the valued Flower tiles, and such exotic terms as the Dragon Wall and being able to shout out Pong or Kong, and doubling one’s points.
Miracles occurred there, as I watched one friend’s wife, home temporarily for a visit, her schizophrenia now subsiding, as she eagerly participated in the Mah Jong game, watching her grin as she won. Their daughter, a sullen fifteen, brightened up the room as she eagerly picked up her flute and led the rest of us, four guitars strong, through all the Christmas carols. And, when we were done, she picked up her saxophone and played a few solos. Her dad and mom looked on in stunned delight, wondering who she was becoming, and watching this flower blossom for their Christmas.
Yesterday, a recovering addict came to court to pay her fine, and I decided to forgive the fine, on the condition she pay that forward, and tears came to all of our eyes, as we all noted the gift of recovery that has been given to all of us.
I had breakfast with two young men, one finished with high school and the other a few credits shy. They, like so many of the young men I see in this town, are lost, adrift, no gleam in their eye with dreams for the future, and willing to settle for the minimum wage job at McDonald’s, or the exhausting toil of work in the woods, this winter when the loggers and the mills are idle for all of January.
We talked of their future, and the power of education, and the many gifts and achievements that some classes can make in a life. I shared my story, drawing on the evangelism of my parents, my aunt, my grandmothers, and Karen’s Aunt Benny. All my mentors were there, too. They didn’t drink any coffee with me, but I felt their nudges on my shoulder, their smiles as I made my pitch. Sensing these sleepy-eyed boys’ hunger for at least some direction in their life, I drove my points home, in between mouthfuls of eggs and hash browns, telling these fragile youths that I believed in them and that I cared for their well being and their future.
They seemed amazed that any one would care about their lives, but they grabbed onto my words nonetheless, needing some meaning and some concern in their lives. Fertile ground, indeed, for my seeds I had brought with me to plant at the breakfast table. And, I remembered that similar seeds were planted in my own garden, again and again, at breakfast tables many years ago.
The thermometer says its cold outside, as does the thin layer of ice on my car’s windshield. Our cats have cut short their morning outing, and instead nap on my desk as I write, content to catch up on their sleep. It is a time of quiet outside, a time of rest, the red twigs of the dogwood just now catching the first light of the dawn. Spring is a long way off, I feel, but so many seeds are ready to sprout, in the fertile soil we have all prepared.