Santa Claus, North Pole H0H 0H0 (2014)

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Dear Santa,

I have made several attempts at this letter to you, which is rather unlike me, so I shall try to keep it simpler. I suppose I should tell you that I have been a good girl this year. I am happier in the mornings now that I eat breakfast, and more patient, mostly, and always, I try to be kind. True, there have been some naughty bits, best skipped over.

What I would like, Santa, is more. More of my new understandings of myself, my sense that life gets ever sweeter, and oh, my delight in living it. For this is how life is meant to be, is it not? Enough simple happiness to know deep in one’s bones that one can live through the trying times…I see very clearly that asking for something for myself is hard, so very hard, and I should like to change that. So yes, please, a little more.

Also you might sprinkle a little extra magic dust on the house of my love, for he is very special. Not only is he special to me, but to many others, and he makes the world a more magical place. Delight, wonder, joy, and visions of sugar plums for my love.

I love you, Santa, and there is cake here for you. I never tire of your magic, and I shall endeavour to hold it in my heart all year round.

Wishing you a splendid journey, kisses for the reindeer,

VivianLea

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Winter Solstice

*first published December, 2011

 

I love this day, perhaps in part for the romance of unbroken centuries of denizens of the northern hemisphere celebrating the return of the light. True, it is not as exhilarating as watching the sun rise over jagged mountain peaks on Midsummer Day, yet the summer solstice is tinged with the faint regret of being at the apex from which the days will slowly but surely become shorter. But now, in mere moments, the days here will begin to lengthen, and the promise of everything to come is very sweet.

I have observed and marked the solstices as long as I can remember in some fashion or another, and I confess to surprise at people who pass them by, unremarked. For thousands of years they have been important celebrations in a myriad of cultures, and I suspect that something is lost to modern life when they are unnoticed. One need not be a follower of paganism, or druidism, or some colourful new age ritualism to appreciate the beauty and symmetry of the solstice.

It would be cliché to say that many modern peoples have lost touch with nature: indeed we are earnestly advised of the ‘nature deficit’ we suffer from. For myself, the hills and valleys, forests and rivers, oceans and expanses of sky form such an integral part of me, of who I am and how my very self has come to be…I observed my fellow citizens out and about today, a gorgeously sunny day, a peach of a day in the rain forest climate that I live in, and they were enjoying the parks and walkways and trails. So maybe, I would say, at least here in this place, we do not suffer from deficit of nature, but from a deficit of wonder…Maybe.

The wonder of axial tilt, that the earth’s magical, invisible axis tilts at an angle to the perpendicular that gives us the seasons of the northern and southern hemispheres, this mysterious, cyclical round of birth, growth, flowering, decaying, and dying…this seems to me to be a source of endless wonder.

That me! I! should be a part of this great cosmic order – perhaps you call it God? I do not think it matters, although in writing that I run the risk of offending some, I suppose. But if I have offended you, I hope you will take a deep breath, and join me in a hymn of praise to axial tilt. To the beauty and sheer magic of being alive on this earth, both its measured order and its chaotic uncertainties, for in this hymn of praise shall we discover what it means to be fully human.

To be fully present to the wonder is to live as humans were meant to live, I think. And by our presence, to turn the wheel one more time to the promise of all that lies ahead. Axial tilt is a wondrous thing.

 

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A Christmas Carol

For some years I was privileged to play the part of Belle in a celebrity reading of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol”, and it remains an enduring and perfect memory. Put on by a group called Sumus Vincinae (We Are the Neighbours) to raise money for the local food bank and women’s shelter, it was a labour of love and volunteer effort in the staging, producing, and performing of the reading. In case you have forgotten, Belle is Scrooge’s former fiancée, and the scene in which she appears is Stave Two, and the Ghost of Christmas Past. Her immortal words follow.

 

It matters little,” she said, softly. “To you, very little. Another Idol has displaced me, and if it can cheer and comfort you in time to come, as I would have tried to do, I have no just cause to grieve.”

“What idol has displaced you?” he rejoined.

“A golden one.”

“This is the even-handed dealing of the world!” he said. “There is nothing on which it is so hard as poverty; and there is nothing it professes to condemn with such severity as the pursuit of wealth!”

“You fear the world too much,” she answered gently. “All your other hopes have merged into the hope of being beyond the chance of its sordid reproach. I have seen your nobler aspirations fall off one by one, until the master passion, Gain, engrosses you. Have I not?”

“What then?” he retorted. “Even if I have grown so much wiser, what then? I am not changed towards you.”

She shook her head.

“Am I? “

“Our contract is an old one. It was made when we were both poor and content to be so, until, in good season, we could improve our worldly fortune by our patient industry. You are changed. When it was made you were another man.”

“I was a boy,” he said impatiently.

“Your own feeling tells you that you were not what you are,” she returned. “I am. That which promised happiness when we were one in heart, is fraught with misery now that we are two. How often and how keenly I have thought of this, I will not say. It is enough that I have thought of it, and can release you.”

“Have I ever sought release?”

“In words. No. Never.”

“In what then?”

“In a changed nature; in an altered spirit; in another atmosphere of life; another Hope as its great end. In everything that made my love of any worth or value in your sight. If this had never been between us,” said the girl, looking mildly, but with steadiness, upon him; “tell me, would you seek me out and try to win me now? Ah, no!”

He seemed to yield to the justice of this supposition, in spite of himself. But he said with a struggle, “You think not.”

“I would gladly think otherwise if I could,” she answered, “Heaven knows! When I have learned a Truth like this, I know how strong and irresistible it must be. But if you were free today, tomorrow, yesterday, can even I believe that you would choose a dowerless girl – you who, in your very confidence with her, weigh everything by Gain: or, choosing her, if for a moment you were false enough to your one guiding principle to do so, so I not know that your repentance and regret would surely follow? I do; and I release you. With a full heart, for the love of him you once were.”

He was about to speak; but with her head turned from him, she resumed.

“You may – the memory of what is past half makes me hope you will – have pain in this. A very, very brief time, and you will dismiss the recollection of it, gladly, as an unprofitable dream, from which it happened well that you awoke. May you be happy in the life you have chosen!”

 

The words are Victorian, and seem an age away, perhaps…though if the fashion of the golden idol has changed, it remains with us. I can assure you that even reading this with a script required some practice, lest I damage the poetry of Dickens, but I was genuinely moved to speak this part aloud, on stage. For the words still mean something.

We were a disparate group of individuals from every variety of civic, public, and political perspective, who simply came together and accomplished a wonderful thing. Of course we raised significant money and charmed the audience, but the hallmark of the thing was that we enacted the meaning of community, of being neighbours together, which is the meaning of Christmas as Dickens would have us see it. It has been said enough times to be cliché that we need some spirit of Christmas year round, but some sense of this is true, nevertheless. This spirit may be many things for many people, but its heart is rooted in community. For it is when we are willing to put aside our disparity of opinions and ideas, seeking instead to build a better thing by using the power of this disparity, that we become a real community.

Wishing you the joy and love of the Christmas spirit, for whatever holiday you celebrate, and year round. May you be happy in the life you have chosen.

Their names are ignorance and want...

Their names are ignorance and want…

 

Words

Last week began with yet another project, this one to sort out the large box of letters, clippings, cards, keepsakes, and every manner of memorabilia I have stashed away over the years. I come from a family of letter writers, and also from a time of letter writing, which of course seems rather vintage from the vantage point of the end of 2014. Nevertheless, I wrote, my family wrote, and a myriad of friends and acquaintances gathered over the course of the years wrote to me, too. And every one of those missives – card, letter, informal note, or hasty scrawl – resides in this big, heavy box.

The box is nicely organized, I will admit: sorted according to date and year. But of course, there are problems with the concept of the ‘box’ – I have moved it many times into a new abode, cursing its weight and not trusting it to movers – though, mostly, it is that I don’t open it often enough. And there is a treasure trove of stuff in there, indeed.

Unlike my collection of CDs and pictures, which were long ago digitized and happily reside in my laptop and back up hard drive, this collection proves rather difficult to reduce to a nice, neat, portable file. I am making the effort, however, because even a very organized box, when it consists of thousands of items, defeats the purpose for which these things were saved: to cherish them by reading them again, or just by looking at the ticket stubs, postcards, and other marvelous icons of a rich history.

So this is a winter project which shall take several months, no doubt because everything must be read and looked upon and pondered over. Fortunately, I suppose, there are sizable chunks of things that can be relegated to the recycle bin – the reason why some picture or clipping caught my eye long since forgotten and no longer seeming important. Most of it, though, is endearing and remarkable and oh so infinitely precious…

To all of you who have written me over the years, my warmest thanks. Every day of this particular project is a joy – I am laughing, crying, commiserating, celebrating, sharing, and loving you all over again. Your words were important then, but now as golden nuggets highlighting my own personal journey. What a gift you all were, and are, and what better time to acknowledge the wonder of friends and family? Words matter and I feel incredibly grateful for this vast pile of them, from you. I shall share only one, which is one of my favourites, and here it is, from an imaginary friend.

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