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Back by Popular Demand

December 19, 2005

Because of popular demand, I’m resurrecting last year’s (and the previous year’s) Christmas column:

Did the world have irony before it had people?

While driving down the canyon one morning, heading for “Pyeblo,” I tried to watch the horizontal light of sunrise touching the tops of the canyon walls — in between negotiating curves, of course. The light made for hyper-real detail along the lines of an Ansel Adams photograph.

At the same time, I had an audiobook playing, one by a Buddhist monk talking about mindfulness. Chuckle.

I remained sufficiently mindful to make it safely there and back. Upon my return, I noticed there were six shopping days left until Christmas; time to start thinking about it.

This year, I’ve come to understand that an issue of mindfulness attaches to the celebration of Christmas.

Those who are mindful in their approach to the holiday enjoy it. I reach this state of mind only at the eleventh hour. Until then, I am too busy suffering to be mindful.

It’s probably a matter of personal style, as well. But each person finds his or her own comfort with the holiday. Some have a religious bent, others focus on family, or friends, or community.

Many are caught in the vortex of materialism that has infected the holiday. They are mindful enough of it to be unhappy but not enough to control it. I think that’s what weighs on me — a certain feeling of helplessness about it. But not everyone is this way. I know plenty of people who do fine, and in particular who remain impressively free of the burdensome responsibility placed on modern American citizens to be consumers.

They buy gifts, of course, but they control the season and its celebration, whatever the spirit — religious or secular. I like this; I’m glad they’re around.

Come Halloween, you’d never guess that my wife could love a holiday more, yet I think Christmas wins out. She loves every aspect of it, from gift shopping to decorating to baking. Colors, scents, flavors, shapes, sounds — everything becomes peculiarly Christmas around the house from Thanksgiving on.

For years, I merely tried not to get in the way, not to drag her down with me. Now, I’m grateful for her enthusiasm … and her expertise. Celebrating Christmas is also a technical accomplishment.

As well, I feel a certain relief at being a step deeper into the shadows now that our granddaughter stands in the Christmas limelight.

Christmas is a powerful time in our country. Not everyone will be happy and warm, but that is the hope. As a solstice celebration, we know it signals the brightening of days.

As a Christian celebration, the story of Christmas is retold and reflected upon, and accumulated traditions of song and prayer are enjoyed.

In America, most of us enjoy bountiful lives, and the bounty of the Christmas season is often followed by New Year’s resolutions about weight and health. How lucky to struggle so.

In a few days, I’ll marvel again at the thoughtfulness of my wife’s gifts. I’ll have relaxed and given in to the inexorable tide of Christmas and the holiday season in general.

I’ll carefully watch my over-chocolated staff for signs of chocolation. Fortunately, they’ll have plenty of time off and away from the stash. Half of all the library’s annual closures happen during Christmas and New Year’s.

The library is closed the eve and the day of each holiday. We’ll miss you those days, but we’ll look forward to hearing about them. May they be happy holidays.

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