Holding on to the light

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It is the eve,

not of the approaching holiday,

but of the shortest day of the year.

Darkness will swallow this landscape tomorrow,

giving us the fewest number of hours

to enjoy this beautiful sky

and create a seemingly everlasting night.

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 But through that darkness,

the light will grow strong once again.

The days will battle the nights

and the warmth will conquer the cold.

The blue of the sky will be deep

and the setting sun will linger,

allowing us to once again hold onto the light.

Under the night sky

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Dusk descends.  The deep blue of the night sky edges its way into darkness and evening begins to fall.  Stars mottle the nightscape and any heat the earth consumed during the day is slowly released back into that vast open space.  The long spindly finger of Old Man Winter begins to caress the world and the cold enters everything it touches. Trees snap and groan in their defiance of the stinging night air and animals have long since retired to the protection of their dens.

winter sunset

The smallest portion of exposed skin is ambushed by the cold and is threatened with the repeated gnawing jaws of frost bite.  It hurts to breathe, but the beauty of that cold winter night is unparalleled.  The sky seems anxious to introduce every star in the milky way without the intrusion of clouds and the silence is deafening.

This is my winter.  These are the nights that I am drawn into the cold for the sole purpose of watching the stars put the sun to bed for another night.  I tilt my head back to take in the constellations and wait for a shooting star.  This is life in my Northern town.  This is the pastel portrait that saturates my brain before I go to sleep.

The perception of time

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“Time you enjoy wasting, was not wasted.” ~ John Lennon

Time is a less of a constant than it is an illusion.  Although it seems linear, it can deviate from its path if  you are not keeping track of it at every turn.  Time can occasionally seem like it is a figment of your imagination.

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Yesterday, I experienced time on a whole new level.  My hour-long drive seemed to take a week and the four hours I spent catching up with an old friend was gone in the blink of an eye.  And although twenty-five years have passed since we last saw each other, the ease of the conversation made that twenty-five years feel like only one year.

Time has a unique way of showing us what really matters.  The faster those seconds tick by, the more you want to make that clock stop and hang onto those moments.  Because time really is measured by those moments and not by a clock.  You will never remember the counting of those seconds, but you will remember the company you shared and the laughs you had as those seconds unknowingly ticked by.

I can only hope that the time that passes between now and our next visit doesn’t feel like another twenty-five years.

 

It’s all fun and games until you run into the Minister

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Lately, I’ve been happily ensconced in a world of avoidance.  The less I think about Christmas, the fewer the number of tears that threaten to roll down my cheeks.  I have only managed to put up one Christmas decoration in my house so far.   It didn’t come with shiny lights or reminders of Christmases gone by.  It stands alone,  in a spot that has never adorned a decoration and really looks as sad as I had been feeling.  But it gives me hope that I can find some of the joy the holidays are meant to bring.  If Charlie Brown can do it, so can I.

CB the tree

But recently I’ve felt much more like Peter Pan than a forlorn Charlie Brown.  My mind has been filled with happy thoughts.  Although none of them have been about the holidays, they have been happy nonetheless.  I have been blissfully distracted by work, by the return of my writing muse and by reacquainting with a dear old friend.  The big phantom red X’s on the calendar to indicate the counting down to the big day have gone unnoticed.  Until today.

It was during an innocent trip to the Post Office when I saw him.  Stealthily, he crossed the street like an apparition.  His white hair and white beard made me recognize him immediately.  Had he been wearing red suit, I would have thought he was Santa Claus but the all-black ensemble with a hint of white on the collar to match his beard was a glowing reminder of his true identity.  He was the minister at my mom and dad’s church, a dear friend of my mom and dad’s and a good friend to our family.  I knew as soon as I saw him that I would end up in tears before getting back into my car.

It’s always tough putting on a brave face when the person you are facing knows that you are struggling.  I like to think I walk around in a suit of armor but on the bad days that suit is filled with nothing but a puddle.  Today, seeing the sorrow and understanding in Steven’s eyes converted me from brave face to wet face in mere seconds.  I knew the happy bubble could only float for so long but I certainly have been enjoying the ride.

I know my mom is around.  She is the positive force making the good things pop out of nowhere when the sadness comes calling again.  I can feel her energy and that makes me happy.  And though this Christmas is going to be filled with some sadness and many changes, it will still be filled with a family who loves each other and cherishes the memories of the people they will be missing, especially during the coming holidays.

 

 

Oprah has a name for this…….

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Not everyone has the opportunity to experience a full-circle moment in their lifetime – that epic twist of fate when something you had spent so much time dwelling on in your past creeps up on you in your present.  I had one of those moments today.

I am a product of the 80’s.  I was never a slave to the hair and poorly-chosen fashion (most days) but the movies of the 80’s live on in my current reality.  I can recite those movies verbatim and I recognize a bit of myself in each one of those iconic movie roles that I watched as an impressionable teenager.  And though there were fleeting moments of seeing similarities between the starring roles and my teenage psyche, I always felt a deeper connection with the weirdos, the poets, the dreamers.

It was this truth that bonded me to Andrew McCarthy’s character, Kevin,  in St. Elmo’s Fire in 1985.  Though his role was meant to be a bit of an outcast, Kevin was the definition of how I saw myself in those days.  He was a creative soul, misunderstood on many occasions but he held true to himself.  Unlike me at the time, Kevin knew who he was and, although he struggled, in the end he wasn’t afraid to be that person.  He wanted to describe what he saw in a myriad of ways.  He wanted to describe life by every little detail and not just watch it go by.  He wanted to write.  And he was going to see his way to his future on his battered Underwood typewriter.

That line stuck with me.  It haunted me, actually, and I have seen that written line in a loop in my head for many years.  Like a headlining banner at a movie theatre,  the words “battered Underwood typewriter” scrolled incessantly around my brain.  The image of that machine, the clacking of the keys, kept me bonded to that dream of writing.  And now that image has become a reality.

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In a moment of complete serendipity, I have been gifted an Underwood typewriter.   I have been given a battered, plunking, beautiful, historic typewriter that could write chapters of its own given the chance.  Its stories are burned into the keys.  Its ribbon holds a wealth of ideas and the rest is not history, but my story.  It is up to me to cajole the remainder of the tales from this relic.  This battered Underwood typewriter could be the one thing that reminds me that I can write and, just maybe, will help me get to the next stage of my writing success.

 

Is an omission of truth really like telling a lie to your parents?

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It’s interesting to see how life has evolved over the last twenty-five years.  I’m certainly not going to tout that I walked uphill to school both ways in the snow in bare feet but there are some long-forgotten truths about things that happened when we were surviving our impressionable years, some that our parents were oblivious to…..and for good reason.  Back in the days when having no seat-belts and driving under the influence were acceptable, there were some essential unwritten rules shared by siblings and friends.  The most important being – “Things that happen in your teenage years, stay in your teenage years”.

But, after the Earth had orbited the sun a sufficient number of times, I felt a little more comfortable regaling my parents with a few of the stories that happened in the good ol’ days since I had a nice cushion of “time gone by” and didn’t think I was eligible to be grounded anymore.  The sealed records had been expunged, the statute of limitations had expired and I was ready to open the locked vault that contained evidence of our teenage shenanigans.

Running with scissors would have been a much more acceptable behavior and a much easier tale to share over a cocktail or two but my folks took everything in stride, just like I knew they would.  All things considered, after leaving a 19 and 15-year-old home alone while they went to Florida, they were not as shocked as I thought they would be to find out why the kitchen linoleum had tiny burn holes directly in front of the stove (it wasn’t the bacon) and why the giant satellite dish was perched at a precarious angle at the top of the steep hill behind our house.

My brother and I, for all intents and purposes, were respectful human beings and responsible kids.  My parents knew our friends well and we were trusted to roam about town in our pimpin’ ride – the Pontiac Acadian.  If I had to guess, I would say my brother had a Rum and Coke held firmly between his legs (maybe not so responsible) when the little blue car crested the hill.  It was winter and the steep decline was more than treacherous.  All of the defensive driving techniques my dad taught us could not have prevented the outcome of this evening.  The momentum carried them down the hill and my brother strategically maneuvered the tiny car as it tipped on its side and wedged itself between a tree and a telephone pole at the bottom of the hill.  My brother “stuck the landing”.  All of the occupants were completely unharmed and the car, that only weighed about 100 pounds, was pushed out, righted and driven away with minimal damage.

acadian

(ours was a 4-door, but you get the idea)

After spilling the goods to my parents, a little bit at a time, they seemed unnerved.  I always wondered if they had known these things all along and were just waiting for us to come clean.  Was the omission of truth a lie?  Were we terrible children for wanting to shield our parents from the world?  Was it wrong to want to keep them in their safe little bubble?  Only time will tell.

Now that they have both passed and have access to all of the details of our lives, my brother and I may eventually be in for a long overdue time-out when we are all together again!

And how does that make you feel?

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Lately, the internet has been laden with posts and strong feelings about the Elf on the Shelf phenomenon.  What seemingly started as an innocent way to get children to behave during the month of December has morphed into an epic competition to see which parent can get more creative with the benign holiday character.

Many blog posts and articles have been written with very strong emotion regarding this cherubic creature.  Parents either love him or their contempt is so strong that they hold ill feelings towards those parents who embrace his presence.  Some argue that he is the Elf on the Shelf simply for that reason.  He may stealthily maneuver his way around the house in the darkness to take refuge on another shelf but that is his only purpose.  Others, holding tightly to their innovative genes, have created a list of 101 ways the Elf can get into mischief during the night.  Spoiler alert – most of those creative ideas require extensive clean-up the following morning although I’m sure the children would be thrilled to see what a mess the Elf made while they slept.

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Had my life been different and I had kids of my own, my children undoubtedly would have been in therapy either during or shortly after the Christmas holidays.  I blame my choice of reading material but my sense of entertainment tends to lean towards the macabre.  Picture Dean Koontz or Stephen King finding indecent ways of displaying the Elf and you have entered the world that my Elf would have had to endure.  There would have been crime scenes, possible Elf DNA and an abundant amount of Police tape.  This is the stuff that my dreams are made of, the stuff that helps me write my book.  But this is also the stuff that would have a child sitting in the waiting room of an analyst’s office at least once a week.

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For those of you able to remember to innocently and creatively display your Elf each evening after your children have fallen asleep, I applaud you.  You are creating memories that your child will inevitably pass on to their children.

As for me….perhaps I will get an Elf next year and track his bizarre habits in a journal.  CSI – Elf on the Shelf.  Hmmmm…..I may be on to something……stay tuned.