Where there is great ruin, there is hope for deep treasure. ~ Rumi
What has always been the happiest time of year for me is starkly bittersweet this autumn. Hope and despair have danced through this year in rather close embrace. We long ago stopped asking if things could get worse, because the answer has been reliably affirmative, and daily.
The crisp sparkling days still arrive; the fall house-cleaning beckons. Curtains and windows have been washed, surfaces dusted, rugs shaken and deep-cleaned, and the upholstery thoroughly vacuumed. Halloween decorations summon memories that are comforting and honor the reverence of this sacred thin time and place. All is ready…but for what, exactly?
What I love most about the arc of days between now and the New Year are the holidays that allow me to spend hours planning celebrations and anticipating the arrival of loved ones to share them. I enjoy the long hours spent cooking, baking, cleaning, and decorating, with music flowing merrily, and fires crackling in the kitchen and living room. I imagine family’s and friends’ arrivals, and all the ways the joy of our time together will please our bodies and spirits. And every year, we fool ourselves into thinking these lovely hours will stretch beyond imagining, but even so, we’re blessed with gratitude and memories as we send our guests homeward too soon.
My mother’s spirit is so strongly beside me in all of these preparations that I sometimes speak and laugh out loud with her. I remember so vividly how she loved the holidays and especially their build-up to our gatherings and reunions. She enjoyed the excitement of making plans to please her guests and, when we’d arrived, she tended us indulgently, delighting in sitting around the table visiting till long after my early-riser eyelids drooped…And how I long to return to those visits and make them last forever, cherishing every second we were gifted.
The loss of these meetings and partings is yet another in a year of deeper losses bound in anxiety and threatening peace at every turn, all of which challenge my feisty vow to retain my gratitude and hope, and to keep looking for new ways to celebrate the life and miracles all around us. If we believe that we and the Earth can be healthier and that we can co-create relationships with greater love, then here and now is the lab where we test those hypotheses. (It always is.) We can plainly see the ruin surrounding us; now is the season to excavate the treasure.
Sharing kindness and empathy with strangers and acquaintances is far easier than with those to whom we’re deeply accustomed, exposed, and unenchanting. We’ve been given the profound opportunity to recommit to one another as guest and gift, friend and lover, challenge and mystery.
We can anticipate sharing the holiday celebrations together and lavishing the care and attention on ourselves and each other that we have offered guests in all the years past. Some days, even most, it’s tempting to forgo it all, make a grilled cheese sandwich and fuggedaboudit, but I think we’re worth the effort to honor our own need for magic, traditions, treats, and lovely long visits. I know Phillip has stories I haven’t heard. I know there are patterns in the give and take I share with my beloveds that could withstand retooling. I can name our flaws; can I also name our blessings? This is the time for settling, unearthing our treasure, and cherishing the guests we are in each other’s lives.
We can still create memories that will allow us to look back at 2020 with more than sorrow and aversion. It can also be the year we learned far more about loving each other than any other year had taught us, the year when we began to truly be the treasure we came to be, and to honor the treasure in our beloveds.
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