Monday, January 2, 2012

Reflections on Christmas 2011: Number Three--And a Happy New Year

Here it is, the second day of 2012. Already.

It’s happening. I’m beginning to brush up against the downside of the aging process. The everyday aches and pains; the capacity for the mere sight of a bowl of pasta to instantaneously expand my waistline; getting on a train of thought only to have it de-rail, mid-ride. Still, I’ve earned my stripes. I don’t believe I would trade these badges of honor for the opportunity to go back twenty years. Except for one thing: Let’s call it the “Time-Compression(ish) Phenomenon.” That quality of advancing age that makes days, weeks, months, years fly by ever faster. What I wouldn’t give to have two weeks seem like more than the wink of an eye; to have a month be long enough to plan, anticipate, execute and savor. ANYTHING.

I’ve figured out that this is why I start shaking out my Christmas spirit in October. Forty years ago…hell, even twenty years ago, the four weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas seemed long enough to do justice to the season. I could clean, decorate, shop, cook, entertain—and work for a living. There was plenty of time! Time to get all these things done and enjoy the process. While these days, it seems we’re carving pumpkins one day, roasting turkey the next, and popping open the New Year’s bubbly a couple days later. Then we’re filling out tax forms and planning how to spend the refund.

And we squeeze a Christmas in there…somewhere. Somehow. For one who craves the season as much as I do, it just isn’t enough.

So Christmas 2011 has gone from Christmas Present to Christmas Past. And I can’t say it was horrible. Too short, maybe. It was a satisfactory “transitional” Christmas—one for which the circumstances of my life differed sharply from last year’s. The Holidays of 2010 were a series of “lasts” which cast a pall over the entire season. In fact, last Christmas was so bleak that I don’t remember much about it at all.

This year, there was a welcoming of new ideas combined with the resurrection of some good old things that had been in stasis during five years of business ownership craziness. I could have allowed myself to wallow endlessly in what was, what could have been and what will never be, now, in respect to my entrepreneurial enterprise. But I didn’t go there; and for that, I give myself major brownie points. The season has been fun, and I’m ready to take down the decorations and march off into the rest of the year without whining, “Is that all there is?”

Now, on to 2012… What do I expect? What am I going to go after? What am I going to wait to come to me? Do I have a focus? Should I have a focus? What am I going to do?

The short answer: I have no idea.

I do know that after five years of having directions, desires and expectations thrust upon me by my position in a very competitive business, I’m not inclined to “go after” anything. The word “pro-active” (one of those pop-culture buzz words I have never liked in any case) has completely lost its appeal. I spent too many months pro-activating myself into situations that consistently stretched me too far and spread me too thin. I proved myself to be a terrible judge of my personal abilities, and it got me into some awful messes.

No doubt there will come a time—maybe soon, even—when the sting of these past few years will recede enough for me to once again want to go out there and get…something. But right now, I’m inclined to implore the Universe to leave whatever It wants me to do right on my doorstep…or at least at the end of the driveway.

And if my New Years Eve experience is any indication, the Universe is inclined to indulge me, at least for the time being. I was shown places of magic and transcendence not much further away than the end of my driveway.

I’ve lived almost literally a stone’s throw away from Sauvie Island for more than ten years; yet before Saturday I had not fully experienced the “refuge” aspect of it. I have stood on the dike, a hundred yards of water between me and that wild place, and listened to the island countless times. But for whatever reason, I had not gone there—a five minute drive (to get to the bridge; if I had a boat, it would be less than a minute away)—to intentionally seek out the life. The wildlife. Specifically, the birds.

Saturday afternoon, The Universe generously rewarded a timid stretch across the channel by showering me with birds.

Eagles. In fact, by the end of the day, I had seen so many eagles, I was NOT snapping off six shots of every one I came across.

Cranes, swans, ducks, hawks. And snow geese.

I’ve coveted the snow geese ever since I found a video on youtube of waves and waves of them rising up out of a marsh to be photographed by a guy in a duck blind (whose camera I totally covet.) Of all the swarms of birds I’ve personally witnessed coming and going from the island, I had never seen a flock of snow geese. If it hadn’t been for that video, I would have doubted they even wintered here. But once I saw the evidence, I had to have them.

And have them I did. We found a gravel drive that ran up to the side of an old corn field. We parked; I got out and started walking as stealthily as I could toward the crowd of birds feeding among the grasses and tattered old corn stalks. I knew what was going to happen, but I had to try to get close enough to get a decent shot.

And then it happened. The geese gave their alarm call, the ground seemed to rise up in a cloud of wings, long necks, beaks and webbed feet. The sound was incredible--a melee of splashing and wingbeats underscoring a symphony of trumpeting, honking, whistling and quacking. Hundreds of birds swirled up and over my head, and my soul rose to meet them.

I was so geeked out by the experience; I could have happily disappeared into that cloud of birds and never returned. It was glorious.

My New Years gift from the Universe. Which I consider to be a promise of more to come.


  1. What a gift. Totally, blessedly, awesome.

  2. Wow. Just wow.
    Okay, not just wow. I'm insanely green with envy that you got your snow geese. Very happy for you too!

  3. OMG what a fantastic shot! What a wonderful post. I find that life is a blur.