Wednesday, December 12, 2012


Every year around this time, something within me that I must have inherited from long ago ancestors stirs, awakens. It's the ancient part of my consciousness that rouses with the darkening days... the part of me that feels anchored to house and home when the fire is alive and well, the food on the table is simple and (at least partially) from home-grown and homemade caches, and the ones I love are gathered around me. The holidays seem to bring out a longing in me- not to seek sales and deals and more, more, more- a longing for simple, for endurance, for preciousness, for meaning in the things around me and the traditions I follow.

I find that maintaining a link to the origins of the things that surround us (as best we can) seems to foster a connectedness from which sprouts a sense of respect, satisfaction, and gratitude. Things as simple as making your own bread and choosing a real evergreen for your holiday tree can go so far in opening eyes (grown-up and child alike) to the process that brings the raw elements of sunlight, fresh air, water, and earth into the home. There are so many beautiful opportunities for someone to feel true appreciation for what they have and where it came from; the feeling of a scarf made from real wool wrapped close to the face, the sound of hardwood popping in the fireplace and the smell of the wood smoke mixed with frosty air, the feel of a wooden toy to a small child's hands, or getting to watch bread rise.

It's easy to trace these things back to their origins- wool from sheep, wood from trees, flour from grain, bread from the work of your hands and the heat of the oven- and to feel the gratitude that comes from being so close to the source of what sustains you.

There are, of course, some things that we may not have the ability or desire to possess in its natural, raw, or homemade state... however, there are opportunities every day to make a choice in favor of something closer to a more unrefined product... especially around the holidays.

In leaning away from the disposable, meaningless, place-holding 'I-have-no-idea-what-is-expected-so-I'll-just-grab-this-thing' mindset, we could decrease quantity, increase quality, and make our holidays more simple and more special... and who doesn't want that?

So, mid-prep in the holiday whirlwind, I find myself (as frequently as possible) asking these three questions: Is it useful? Is it special? Is it going to last? If I can say 'yes' to two out of three, I know I'm on the right track.

Of course, I'm not anywhere close to being able to apply this to every area of my life, and it would be pompous of me to think I was. However, as I think about the life I want to build for my family, I can't escape this philosophy, and I think the fact that I circle back around to it time and time again means there is a truth in it for me, for us. If, in following this path, I can find a way to teach my children that life is more than what you own, how much you spend, how easily it can be disposed of, and how much more you can acquire, I believe they will not just learn but know respect, contentment, and gratitude, and that is a lesson worth seeking.

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