Forgoing the $50 tree from the lot in town this holiday, we’re doing what we’ve said we’ll do for years: chain-sawing a non-native pine tree (well, bush, really) and taking it back down the hill to our living room. Christmas really begins with decorating the tree. Breaking into the box of last year’s goodies stored on a shelf, unwinding the strings of lights, seeing which of the ornaments have broken, or are just too terribly corny to use again.
The beautiful ones emerge to our delight from tissue and we remember, Oh yes, this is the tiny crystal globe that Margaret painted, with our dogs Kip and Mina looking at the Big Sur stars. Oh, here’s the blown glass Amanita mushroom! And the vermeil oak leaf from our trip to Yosemite a decade ago.
It’s our wild kitten Cricket's first Christmas, so the crinkly paper and shiny, sparkly, dangly things emerging from the holiday box are pounced on and purred over. The leaves are falling outside like snowflakes, and suddenly I see in my mind’s eye a 12 point buck walk past my bedroom window, but no, that was a winter day in the Oakland hills, almost 20 years ago.
The tide of the end of the year (and this time, of the first decade of our 21st century) draws us to contemplation, and a bittersweet sense of Time. The current we want to flow with, not getting stuck (for too long!) in the swirling eddies of life.
This morning I wrapped stocking gifts while listening to bluesy Christmas songs. Funny how so many of them are about Santa bringing “my baby” down the chimney, of rewarding good girls, of all I want is L-O-V-E for the holidays. As Ray Charles sings Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer I wonder, where did that red nose come from, again?
Since our home is more Pagan than Christian, we celebrate the ending of the year with deep breaths, kindness, winter naps, and the baking of many mincemeat pies. Then, a theme party with friends on the 25th—Champagne at sunset, good food, warm fires, dancing and laughter.
One year we wore 70’s outfits and danced to disco music late into the night, hanging mirrored balls on the tree. Another season was Spanish Christmas, with shawls, mantillas and our neighbor Jay in his running of the bulls costume from Pamplona. There was the Mad Hatter party, when we wore silly hats, drank lots of tea from mis-matched cups and changed places around the table during our feast. This time, it’s YO HO HO, a Pirate Christmas, with buckets of flaming rum punch…
After this year, and the end of a somewhat disastrous decade for the world, we all deserve a little Joy. While we’re at it, let’s hope and work for Peace on Earth—which, as Santa will tell you, begins at home, in our hearts.
Photos from Rowland-Jones' family archive