If you are to learn something of this day,
learn about magic:
how it is real,
and the explanation for everything
that matters most.
I’ve seen it,
and felt it,
and lived it in dreams too grand
to live out in a single life.
And I am all the better for it.
You too are like the star whose
entire reason for being is to
point the way
to the human heart.
~ Jamie K. Reaser
The Chinese lantern flowers at the entrance to the salon stopped me. Two trees chest high filled with the delicate, hanging blossoms. Coral veins on subtle yellow petals so beautiful, I lifted one with my fingertips, thought what a wonder to be so exquisite. My stylist stood inside watching. You walked across the parking lot, I thought an overcast day and she glows, he said.
The next day, Christmas Eve, the nearly empty market surprised me. I remembered crowded aisles, long lines at counters on Christmas Eves past. They must’ve expected it, too, because four staffed the deli. I was there for what I call my holiday leftovers – a pound of turkey + autumn kale salad with roasted pumpkin and apples. Then, wah. The order wasn’t right. No problem, the manager said. He sliced more turkey on his just-cleaned counter, arranged it so it looked as pretty as it could in a disposable aluminum box with a cardboard cover. His kindness an hour before his workday ended filled my heart, made my eyes well. I wanted to run into the street like Scrooge his awakened morning, sing Happy Christmas to everyone I saw. I went home, packed for our move New Year’s Day with a smile on my face.
Christmas Day I got the best gift ever. The longest conversation of relaxed connection with my son I’ve had all year. Could almost forget how far away he is, living in Taiwan.
Life and our minds can have their own ways with us, though. Two days past Christmas, longing seized my heart so tightly, entwined with my vulnerability. I despaired, couldn’t think how I’d get where I desire to be. The path between my here-now and there completely obscured, my plans seemed folly. All the wise words in the world wouldn’t help. Because it wasn’t about being stuck, but something like a tsunami of wrong stories swelling, overtaking me. I needed someone to listen, let me say my fears aloud, confess my inadequacy, tell me one (just one) right thing I could hold on to. I called Sandra in Asheville. And cried. Later, Lindy in Santa Fe called. She’s considering a network chiropractor I know well. It’s expensive, the doctor’s intense, she’s not sure about the process. Ask Heloise, they told her. Thank you, she said before she hung up. That evening Rachel in Albuquerque painted my portrait from the pic here, taken in Santa Fe. The one people who know me say captures my spirit. Monday morning I saw Celeste from Decatur. We met at a writer’s retreat, followed it up with our own writing weekend. It’s been three years, and she was in St. Pete, wanted to see the bay and birds I write about. She answered an hour when I asked how long a walk. I didn’t think I could do my usual 16 blocks + another hour, so I drove down for sunrise. Turns out an hour’s a short walk when you’re meeting a friend you love. It didn’t matter the sunrise was far less than the dazzling two days before, that the tide covered the sandbars where birds gather. She saw white pelicans bobbing like galleons. We had a reunion.
I read somewhere there’s an ancient tradition noting your observations each of the twelve days of Christmas as divination of the coming months. I’m not a devotee. I forgot the 11th day last year, already forgot 3rd day this year. But I’d like to think there’s something to it. That it’s part of the magic and web of connections in the Mystery. Because without stretching I see my October in Santa Fe held last season’s 10th day birds lined in a row, in sunshine. Know this past week holds 12th day’s promise of the golden dragon flying above. Because life feels giant and golden right now. I remember my work is loving this world filled with beauty, kindness, and horrible stories that overwhelm. That we’re all here for each other through it. Or can be, anyway. What do you say?
May your coming year be filled with magic and dreams and good madness.
I hope you read some fine books and kiss someone who thinks you’re wonderful,
and don’t forget to make some art. And I hope,
somewhere in the next year, you surprise yourself.
~ Neil Gaiman
A secret: I’ll watch January. 1st Day observation was hazy, then sunshine. With great family connection. And fifteen pelicans + four snake birds swimming in a pack, dipping faces again and agin into the water, feeding.
A favorite: Feeling the magic.
Flower photo: Pat Sullivan