Sunday, December 1, 2013

The Quiet Darkness

It was colder yesterday than predicted, but the sun appeared along with cotton ball clouds, and so Max, the dog, and I walked. He has put on a bit of fat since I sprained my ankle, and so we walked longer than usual. He was frightened last night, so he got a bit of extra cuddle. He will get an even longer walk today, I will take him to the Hollins campus. I'm an alumnae there, and I take advantage of the beautiful, marked walking paths to get some exercise, sometimes. It was THE walk for my service animal, Eddie, and I.

It is December, the month to remember. I pull out all the old Christmas tree ornaments, the same small red, ceramic boot to hold candy canes that my mother had. I put up the last wreath I bought her for her birthday, December 12th, with the angel doll on it, the one with the dark green velvet dress, and the gold tissue bows. I know, it sounds hideous, doesn't it? But it has majesty in its Victorian air, and it is a good memory. I remember her delight at receiving it.

There are the 'oyster shell' ornaments, made of real oyster shells, bleached and dried, with a picture from a long ago Christmas card glued to the shallow bowl that used to hold pearls. She made those when I was 7, and my brother and I 'helped' her.

They are a memory similar to what you share, perhaps, of some holiday vision, whatever your religious persuasion. Some memory of someone who raised you, or befriended you, that explained the holiday with some sort of tradition attached to it.

For me, this special holiday means the colors of burgundy and dark, dark forest green. It means old stories of supernatural events happening because of the sacred nature of the day: miracles. It smells like citrus, and raisins, and rustles like dried fruit and nuts. It will end with one small, quiet morning. It should be a cool morning in the house, to preserve the tree. It will jingle with the 'cat' ornaments hanging from the lowest boughs of the tree. 'Ave Maria' will play softly, and there should be a fire. Candles will do this year, in a pinch, as they say.

Quiet whispers of talk will drift over the room with the tree, and we will bask in the miracle of its lights, and the scent of white pine. We will connect with each other, absorbed in the miracle of being, and the special event of being together.

There will be time later, after coffee, to hand out the gifts under the tree. Time to eat eggs, and bacon, sausage, breads made for the occasion. Time to spill out into the cold and to enjoy the sun, and the beautiful world made clear by the winter.

But, above all will hang the quiet of the fire, and the silence of the tree. The presence will come in from the forest, and cross the field, and rest in a room, for a small space of time. It will rest on the branches of the tree, among the lights. It will center in the air between us, as we casually talk about the rest we enjoyed or didn't, the night before.

Now this is all a dream and delight, but I have had Christmases like this and it's a plan. For the past 17 years, since the onset of severe mental disability, I have usually woken about 2 o'clock in the morning, fired by the white heat I generate at the onset of the season. By 9 o'clock in the morning, I am exhausted, mentally and physically. So, for this one year, I would like to sleep decently for Christmas.

My goal will be remain emotionally and mentally well for the holidays. No extra caffeine in the afternoon, my medications taken on time, and food when time for food comes. No mania or depression, no drinking or cutting, less white heat.

Not very romantic for Christmas, is it? Not particularly traditional; and adding candied cherries will not pretty it up. It will not fit into any stocking, hung with care. But it's the best gift I can give myself, and those who love me. To be as spiritually clean as a winter swept forest. To be rested, and taken care of enough that I can hear the presence in the room, echoed in the whispers and the old, Catholic hymn. To be still enough to enjoy the small lights that represent so much, and acknowledge the existence of the quiet dark.

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