Good morning friends.
There is a thunderstorm going on outside this morning, which I always find to be kind of cool, when that occurs in the winter. The rumble of thunder and flashes of light seem somehow to be appropriate right now. In the church season we’re in a time of anticipation, of course, of a certain birth, a certain kind of magic that has nothing to do with wrapping paper or peanut brittle or the mall.
Whether it happened the way we think it happened doesn’t really matter; it’s a terrific story, about hope and hardship, about a starry night being the only form of guidance, about a slow and plodding trek toward something new, about love and the birth of a baby.
I’m intrigued by all the different modes of celebration. How some fill their homes with lots of decorations, how the old ornaments might hold great meaning. For some it’s a lot of parties, drinking and eating. Some kind of bury their head and hope the whole thing will pass soon. I see many suffering this time of year, it’s all too much —an economic hardship, the expectations are too high.
The story of the Christmas baby is, I’d like to think, a good centering place, something to keep coming back to to remind ourselves what matters.
That and all the being together.
Coco and I went to Emma Willard School the other night to see their performance of Christmas Revels. The senior girls have been putting on this magnificent pageant for 104 years and it’s filled with mirth and magic, surprises, incredible costuming and timely messages. I ran into several of my old colleagues from when I was teaching at the Children’s School there in the early 90s. A couple of my former students who are now, cough cough, in their mid-30s were there, too. And let me tell you, there’s nothing more jarring than seeing someone you haven’t seen since they were about 8, now as an adult, married, with kids of their own and a job. That 25-year leap, especially accompanied by all the Revels excitement and drama, unmoored me for a short time.
But it was so much fun to return to a place from my past, a place I loved, the gorgeous campus and people I cared very much about and haven’t seen in decades. It was a nice portal to the season.
After the performance, a quick trip to the airport to collect our Nate and here we go: eating and more eating, who wants or needs what, who’s coming home when? Popcorn and Charlie Brown: “Gee — do they still make wooden Christmas trees?” Everything tastes better when the kids are home.
We’ve got a baby on the way here in our family—soon I will be a Great Aunt! Dad turns 80 just after Christmas and Kristin 51 a few days later. Impossible. And also very real, the sands of time …
I don’t wish any of it away, this week-long, church, eating, wrapping, will it snow? birthdays, unexpected surprises in the mail, lights, bells and tiny Santas. But there is a lot to look forward to in the new year, I must say. The continued building of our church, that has been steadily growing these past years, a journey to Israel in February, the beginning of my time as a photographer and writer in disaster response work, collaborating with some very talented folks at State14. I’ll be finishing up at Fordham in the spring and working with some incredibly dedicated people to continually move our beloved Charlotte News into the future.
Also … placing into the world my own writing and photography enterprise: please subscribe if you are so inclined. Because … why the heck not?
Travel and stories and photographs and love. A deep and abiding love of this world and a bottomless well of curiosity about the people in it: 2019 coming right up.
There is a great deal of gratitude I must convey: for those who have shown up and continue to show up in church each week; for those who support me in my adventures, for steady and sturdy friends. My folks, who take care of Daisy for me when I’m gone, which seems like all the time these days. Gratitude for people like Polly, who sent me a beautiful owl pendant the other day, made by Kate Taylor and all I could think was …. my gosh, James Taylor was my first musical crush and 40 years later I’m wearing a necklace made by his sister. Life’s a pretty funny thing.
I’m thankful for everyone who has supported the Faith on Foot mission of helping our neighbors with hospitality and basic supplies: “If you have two coats, give one away.” I was deeply grateful when I left our church board meeting the other night and found, outside the door, piles of food donated by a neighbor for the community food cupboard. “Someone helped me today,” he said, “so I thought I’d return the favor.”
I am grateful to those of you who have jumped with me, again, in support of my own publication, especially Caryn, who is a beacon of light, always. And Kimberly, whose humor, grace and realness inspire me to be a better writer (and person). I am grateful for all those who listen when I try to sort out all this madness, and for those who allow me into their sacred spaces when the world feels upside down with grief or worry or pain. I’m thankful for the people who walk with me through these days, the people who help me stay sober and present, on our way to whatever stable or version of home we are seeking, slowly, plodding, hand-in-hand, with love in our hearts and the light of the world to show us the way. Amen.
Please, my friends, take good care of each other. M.