On the Edge of the Holidays: Everyday Magic, Day 1043

Last night with Venus rising (to the left)

There’s something both stark and magical about the time right before the holiday season opens wide and emcompasses us in a whole lot of baking, cooking, driving to the airport to pick up or being the ones picked up. Last year, we were encased in our pods, bubbles, and virus-avoidant clans, and although this year the door is more ajar with many of us vaccinated and welcomed into each other’s homes, we’re still not out of the pandemic woods.

It’s unclear whether this is the new normal for years to come or another transition phase of masking up to buy turkeys after recovering from being wiped out by a booster shot. Yet whatever it is, I have the distinct sense that we’re not going back to the old normal, and while I’m hoping for more safety and better health for all, there’s also something almost sweet about taking it slow, having smaller gatherings, taking care to protect one another’s health, and hopefully dwelling in more quiet time to just be.

For so many years, I rocked an inherent tension between wanting more solitude and quiet time to read, write, and consider life on the gravel road and also wanting so much to see family and connect more deeply with many cherished friends at one gathering after another. In my journal from 2019, I actually made a list of all the dozen-plus holiday gatherings — small parties, big-ass meals, large gatherings, many a restaurant rendezvous, and the like — and wrote underneath this list how tired I was and how much I wanted to just sit in a chair next to a pile of books in between micro naps. Last year,my wish came true with a vengeance.

Now those colder nights are slowly landing (after a much longer and warmer fall than usual), and tomorrow is Thanksgiving when a small group of close ones come over to eat and visit, socially-distanced but also together. Yet I don’t feel that slipping-into-sugar-and-crowds immersion I used to feel this time of the year. There’s something about a pandemic that sobers us the holidays but also makes times to connect even more lit from within.

At the same time, I’m more cognizant of those of us who might feel lonely, isolated, sad, or afraid. That’s also something that gets clearer through a pandemic. So while I can’t even pretend to dream up what next year will be, I can wish for you that the coming season is a time when you feel at home in the world and on the inside of belonging to yourself and to all of us. Happy Thanksgiving.

A Small Thanksgiving With Too Many Cranberries: Everyday Magic, Day 1021

Like most of us living in the ever-expansive pandemic lands, I’m looking toward a pocket-size gathering of just our household and our sister-in-law (part of our posse and pod) with the windows cracked open, chairs set far apart, and masks on when not eating. Two out of our three kiddos will be Zooming in, and we’ll likely call other family, including my sisters having a bigger outside gathering because they don’t live in a place that hosts winter.

It’s an odd sensation to be planning a meal for so few. While my sister-in-law is doing the heavy lifting of heavy carbs (stuffing, mashed potatoes, dessert, and oh yeah, the turkey and gravy), and my son is baking the rolls, we’re all about the fruit and vegetables here. We seem to be mainly about cranberries though. I bought four bags of them, figuring we might as well have twice what we need for Mama Stamberg’s cranberry relish (oh, the wonders of mixing sour cream, onions, horseradish, and cranberries). Then Ken, thinking we had forgotten the cranberries, bought a whole bunch more. In the end, we probably have 32 ounces of cranberries per person, so they’ll likely be cranberries in the carrot salad, cranberry muffins, cranberry stir-fries, and other ways to use these tart little bursts.

Then again, when I think about it, the cranberry might be the perfect fruit for the resilience and adaptability we need for 2020. They usually need to be sweetened to taste good, but they fare well frozen, fresh, dried, or tossed into an infinite amount of recipes. They also call on us to be more imaginative and adventurous while tending the home fires (or stovetop or oven). They also bring together, in one small bite, the sweet, tart, tangy, bitter, and surprising taste of time.

Which leads me back to this time when all these holidays and traditions we do alone or with our laptops at the table, will next year (I hope and pray) seem so outrageously rare. What will it be like to look back on 2020 Passovers, Easters, July Fourths, Thanksgivings, and all those fabled December holidays as the great exception to the rule, the big rock in the river of our lives that we paddled around, the deviation to the norm? At the same time, like biting into an unexpected cranberry, this time is the strange episode that makes us see the story behind and ahead of us with new eyes that can take in a wider vista of gratitude.

Thanksgiving for the Obvious Beyond the Obvious: Everyday Magic, Day 447

Thanksgiving, Forgiving, Thanks for Giving: It all comes together this time of the year, just on the cusp of the shortening of days and lengthening of nights, and to remind myself of this, I offer up my thanks for the obvious beyond the obvious (family, friends, home, work, etc.):

  • The weather which continually keeps me on my toes, knocks me over in surprise, dazzles me with light, confuses me with fast-dropping cold fronts, wears me out in the summers, points me inward in the winters, and never fails to change.
  • The sun. For everything.
  • The moon, especially when I remember to watch it rise, an orange ball above the treeline catalyzing howling through the valley that makes audible what’s usually invisible.
  • Sleep, particularly when I sink into it with such joyful exhaustion but even when it comes in slips of light between dark bouts of insomnia.
  • Waking even if it’s hard (which it usually needs) and needs the hindsight of 10 minutes out (and coffee) to see its glories.
  • Pencils, which feel great to use on the page. Pens too. Computers. Crayons. Watercolors. All other cialis for sale online in canada things I can put my hands to, and with their help, make something.
  • Shelves, counters, table tops and surfaces around the house that hold beloved stones, small vases, wooden altars with small glass owls, baskets of herbal supplements and vitamins, empty blue glass vases, tablecloths, the yoga clothes from yesterday, a new scarf for Natalie, magazines and books, toothpaste, hugging bear salt and pepper shakers, a square vase of four calla lilies that keep on going, and a large basket of bananas, apples and oranges.
  • All the floors: the Pergo ones we snapped together between running outside to use the table saw to make pieces that would fit, the carpeting installed, the linoleum I unrolled when six months’ pregnant with Forest, the wood floor made from stacks of planks in someone’s basement who salvaged them from the Osawatomie Mental Hospital.
  • Steps going to the basement, up to the porch, down from the deck to the yard.
  • The expanse of sky and land, lights in the distance and migrating plants and animals that fill all the windows.