From Madness to Melody

still life and photo by shf

December has been handed to us on a cracked platter, and just in time to fill it with cookies galore. In the West, the Port of Los Angeles is clearing after months of glut, so fears of not having enough stuff are starting to subside. Even though gasoline is over four dollars a gallon, recreational vehicles are selling like patty cakes. Add to that the COVID variants, bitter political divides, voting rights and women’s rights in peril, all manner of creatures in trouble in one way or another and in the worst kind of weather. Hallelujah chorus, where are you?

Closer to home, I just heard a podcast that reminded me that “magical” as Christmas can be, a “stress-free” Christmas doesn’t exist. The podcaster didn’t go into specifics, and for that, I am thankful. My year hasn’t been close to being the roughest that people have known. Try as I might to see life through the eyes of a health care worker or a grocery store clerk, I just can’t do it. Their fortitude over the past twenty-one months stuns me to humble silence.

Who am I to bemoan something as trivial as holiday stress? Especially considering the tragedies affecting so many others. Still, from the horizon of my mind, gift-wrapped zingers zoom toward me in flashy billboard fashion: Finish writing cards!— Plan a solstice ritual soon! — Need butter for baking! — Pick up boxes at P.O.! I haven’t yet asked myself, Why all the exclamation marks? Then there are the more charming to do’s that appear in a scatter of skywriting : holiday jazz— fireplace candles— chill.

I have to admit that the sleigh bells do get insistent at times. Even my most idyllic Christmases have required harried travel, harsh weather, managing unrealistic expectations or facing up, once again, to the patriarchy. The podcaster postulated that if we can accept stress as part of the holiday experience, we are less likely to feel it. I try on his premise and remind myself of pure common sense: I can let myself feel as much of the rising action as I want to feel, AND I can also put myself at ease. Baking AND music. Deadlines AND candlelight. Festivity AND calm.

In the flurry of my agreements for balance, which for me includes introspection, I go a little deeper and consider the archetypes of the season. I imagine, without the trappings of religion, The Source of All Being arriving in the form of a babe — not to save humankind, but to inhabit human consciousness, to grow into it, from the inside out: the needs and yearnings, the sensory bath, the limits of time, the bonds of friendship, the frustrations of borders, the depth of wanting and pain and loss, the breadth of mercy and healing and love.

I conceive of myself as an infant, one worthy of enacting divine intention, one born to experience the miracle of awareness and the spectacle of grace, one who comes from The Source of All Being, one who welcomes the risk of innocence, the witness to wonder. And I am not alone. And all of a sudden, hosts of others appear, celebrating their own holy incarnations. And creatures far and near and high and low join voices in a syncopated hallelujah!

“What could happen if we embraced the idea of God as relationship — with ourselves, each other, and the earth? Could salvation simply be the willingness to remain in loving relationship with all creation?” Richard Rohr

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