Our home is set back from the county road and beside a state bike trail on the north, a river runs along the eastern border, a wooded area lines the south, and a shared driveway borders the west. We have neighbors, but all of us are well-cushioned by land, the river, and trees. The pandemic has kept us all a bit more secluded as well. We noticed a nearby home for sale last July, but lost track of whether it sold or went off the market. We knew the woman who lived there, but not well.
Yesterday afternoon, I took the pups Teagan and Gracie for a walk. Phillip and “the boys” headed out in the opposite direction. When the girls and I turned off the trail to the stretch of driveway we share with other neighbors, a stranger was walking towards us, also with a leashed dog. I felt a moment of unnerved panic, duly noted and quickly pushed aside by common sense. I asked if I could help her. Despite barking dogs, I learned it was she who had bought our neighbor’s home a few months ago. We exchanged names and I invited her to our home when she had a free moment. It would have been nice to speak longer, but my girls were unfortunately not on their best behavior.
The momentary anxiety I’d felt about a stranger with a dog on the driveway transmuted into the pleasure of meeting a new neighbor. An illuminating encounter, despite my ability to meet it with hope or trust.
The deep anticipation of the Christmas season and its many invitations to our spirits and choices make this my favorite time of year. This is the merry and bright, light in the darkness, hope and joy-filled season, and I can’t seem to get enough of it this year.
I have a minor knee surgery scheduled mid-month, so I’ve been decorating and crossing pleasurable holiday tasks off my list earlier this year. My darling husband has really entered the spirit, too, and kindly built benches, and boxes for greens and dogwoods, and helped add lights, to make the lower entrance to our home a bit more cheerful.
But it’s not just that I’ll be out of commission in a couple weeks. My delight in unpacking ornaments and finding just a bit more space to spread them around, add a few more lights, and risk making our home look like a Hallmark nightmare, is feeding a very deep hunger spiritually and emotionally.
When I paused to notice how deeply I’m falling into Christmas merry-making this year, I recognized my need for greater light at the center of my life, for joy and peace to fill our home in ways it really hasn’t since 2020. I want to be drenched in the hope and trust that Christmas always brings, the belief that when we love more, love wins.
Some days, I sense that the human race is sliding into its end times, as though we may be nearing the last few celebrations of holidays before the armed crazed-and-dangerous, the pandemic, the increasing climate change; the continuous racial tensions; the burden of economic inequality; the sins of our own inaction and pervasive human despair tip the balance and do us in. Omicron is not helping to ease the stress level.
I wonder if, on some level, my total holiday immersion is a way of sticking my fingers in my ears and singing carols, scattering tinsel, baking cookies, wrapping pretty packages, and ringing bells to keep from confronting yet again the perilous moment in which we seem to find ourselves, hanging on a bending branch, having overshot the cliff.
We’re weary of the noise and isolation and necessary damned adjustments to our schedules, expectations, and preferences at every turn. We’re angry that those spreading hatred and violence are not silenced until they can calm down, see reason, find peace somewhere, anywhere, just stop being cruel.
The number of responsible adults on the globe seems to be diminishing as quickly as the intelligence, maturity, and civility that are their distinguishing traits. If there were ever a need for heroines, heroes, leaders with vision, and positive change-agents, it’s now.
We need good people sharing good news and making good noise in the world.
I recognize that all of this encroaching darkness has made me a bit more leery of strangers walking towards me on the trail, and the news of the world coming at me daily. I think my response to this fear of what’s coming is certainly reflected in my Christmas joy this year. I have not been a fearful person in my life and I have not allowed despair to linger at my spirit’s door; becoming that person is not an option at this point in my life. But the daily news (and the way it’s presented) has been challenging. I want us to feel safe and be happy, and to do some of that rejoicing the season has always promised. I want to push back against the dark.
But while I’ve been happily looking forward to our celebrations here and in video calls with friends and family, I know my ability to hold space for incoming joy in every aspect of my life has become withered and weak. The gloom of the world has colored my spontaneous and usually joyful openness to what’s ahead. Dread and fear have crept in, a pervasive doubt that humanity is truly more well than ill-intentioned, more generous than selfish, more ready to love than quick to hate. Whatever is before me, heading down the pike, I think I’ve gradually come to anticipate it’s likely bad news, something that threatens our peace and welfare. There lies the death of hope. And trust.
Yesterday, I sat with the purpose of Advent, of anticipating the “coming encounter” with Love we call Christmas, and pondered how I could more authentically practice hopeful anticipation towards all that’s coming at me. Can I really believe anymore that Love is always arriving? That good people with good news will be making good noise?
Yesterday startled me into waking up to the gift of meeting what’s coming with hope and trust. The stranger I hesitated to meet is a new neighbor, a potential friend and welcome gift in our lives. This joy I’ve been feeling in decorating and preparing for our own little holiday has to infuse my thinking and actions about our present world and its future as well.
My anticipation has to focus on the surprising ways Love comes to meet us, always. It challenges us, it turns us on our heads, it asks us to be hopeful and to convert more and more deeply to its wide open brilliance and breadth. All are welcome; all are held; all belong. And Love teaches us, over and over, that we can choose to predicate our expectations and anticipation on carrying joy into every meeting. How we encounter the unknown has to be as loving and joyful, as trusting and hopeful as how we meet the known. How we move through our lives and anticipate what’s coming must be as buoyant as when we know we’re heading into Christmas, into the arms of someone we love. It’s always the season for radiant hope and the expectation of joy coming our way.
That will make us good people sharing good news and making good noise. People with deep hope and trust in a future that, despite its challenges, will hold constant encounters with Love. Loving more, loving wins.
© Copyright of all visual and written materials on The Daily Round belongs solely to Catherine M. O’Meara, 2011-Present. Unauthorized use is strictly prohibited, without the author’s written approval. No one is authorized to use Catherine O’Meara’s copyrighted material for material gain without the author’s engagement and written permission. All other visual, written, and linked materials are credited to their authors. Thank you, and gentle peace.
Another treat yesterday, at sunset: ice crystals swirling in the air formed an amazing rainbow/icebow…After I’d shut down the camera, we just watched and enjoyed the colored brilliance. As it was fading, its double formed beside it, and they drifted away together. An illuminating encounter.