The frenetic activity of the holidays has no place in the natural order here in the wintered west. The weak light is deeply slanted from the south. Most deciduous trees have shed their leaves and are resting. A range of migratory birds still find the occasional spider or a conifer bursting with seeds awaiting harvest or dispersal. And, the long nights and crisp days encourage a gentle sense of hibernation. The world around me is at rest, gathering silent strength for rejuvenation. Winter is not necessarily a time of endings. Like the conifer, it gives us seeds awaiting spring.
Sunday, December 22, 2013
I want to send warm and mirthful greetings to everyone for a Merry Christmas. So, I am using last year’s photo of the skinny Santa walking the streets of San Francisco in one of our many outrageous traditions….SantaCon….hundreds, literally hundreds of folks put on some version of a Santa suit and go from store to store, bar to bar, Union Square to the Mission, all the while bringing a light-hearted Christmas spirit to the City.
Nearly the end of the year. Christmas just a couple of days away. Weather unseasonable, desperately dry and not much change expected soon. A few Christmas cookies baked. A few cards sent. A few gifts selected. Not much in the way of traditional decorations. It seems like an un-traditional season for me. Not bad, just not quite the pace of many years, not quite the standard that was generally unmet anyway. And, it seems really fine. Merry Christmas and/or warmest wishes to everyone for whichever holiday you are celebrating at the Solstice!
Sunday, December 15, 2013
The sun was shining brightly. The street was wrapped in a beautiful winter-morning’s cloak. A young woman, actually a girl, ahead of me was dancing from side to side on the urban sidewalk as she moved toward the stoplight. She had a broad smile and seemed to be hearing a tune that I could only imagine. We stood together as the light changed from red to green, she started across
Mission Street. Only then did I realize
that her dance steps were actually her normal walking pattern. Her spine had
formed in such a painful way that she could only walk as a dancer. She crossed
the street dancing, with her continuing and lovely smile.
The photo is of beautiful wild flowers that I photographed at Jepson Prairie one Spring. I hope that it is an appropriate remembrance and tribute to the dancer.
Wednesday, December 4, 2013
American Thanksgiving. Most countries do not have a secular tradition of giving thanks for the bounteous gifts of the earth and community. As the day and weekend progressed, I began to question my own sense of gratitude. So much is taken for granted in my life. I never have a concern for clean water. The air in my city is almost always pristine. My food choices are phenomenal, safe and nearly always available ─ for a price. Frankly, most often my friends and I have the wherewithal to buy nourishing food. I live in a safe neighborhood, have dear friends and family, have never been displaced by war. And yet, I am not grateful every day for all of that. I don’t even notice much of the time. It seems simply normal, perhaps a birthright. One Facebook friend/colleague speculated that life is less worth living when we cease to have a sense of wonder about it all. That seems like a very good step to move toward gratitude. I so often turn to Rilke for an opening into the nether world. I remembered his advice the young poet to live the questions.
I beg you, to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.
Rilke, Letters To A Young Poet
(Note: the photo is of a sculpture in the gardens of the O’Hanlon Center for the Arts. The sun was shining through the leaves of an old Coastal Oak and reflected in the polished center of the stone work by Dick O’Hanlon)