One by one I picked up the memories wrapped in each ornament and hung them on the tree. Pictures materialized in my mind of a beloved’s head bent while creating these ornaments in his shop, little fingers gingerly gluing a star on a felt Christmas tree, a friend’s offering of a token of nature, a sister’s foreboding of a life passing. These are my company in the dark days of December.
Gone are the days of large family gatherings, stacks of presents under the tree, a pantry bulging with holiday fare.
As a family, we’ve traded long airplane flights with video visits, cold, rainy days with sunny beach vacations or a ski resort, stacks of presents with donations to a favored charity, indigestion-producing holiday fare with a winter wellness soup and a sprinkling of chocolate delicacies.
I enjoy the dark days of winter. While holed up, I add cheer with lights and a spindly tree cut in the woods nearby. I decorate a bit, bake a bit and gather with a few friends to witness the darkest day and the return of the light.
The gifts are getting smaller, tokens of this year’s harvest, a jar of chutney or pickles, a savory bouquet of herbs, a healing salve for those pesky splits under the fingernails. Gifts are replaced by a hug, a sharing of a cup of holiday tea.
Everything is becoming less complicated as I’m aging into the holidays. I leave it up to the next generation to figure out how much holiday stress they want to take on.
My smart watch is set for low stress and warns me when I get too excited. It also tells me it’s time for my walk, and that I’ve had a good night’s sleep! Soon, it will do the moving and shaking for me and I can sit by and watch life unfold in front of me.
Silliness aside, isn’t that the whole point of getting older? Letting go and living lighter? Hanging the ornaments with their memories is a reminder that time passes. Those little gluing hands have become adult hands that guide new little ones in making decorations.
The beloved head bent over the next holiday project has gone on to other realms, leaving his kind spirit with me. Tokens of nature are reminders of changing cycles, friends coming and going.
The foreboding ornament, a glittery crab dangling its tentacles is a reminder that cancer happens, but my sister is beating all odds of succumbing.
Each healthy year after 60 is a gift worth celebrating, holidays or not. The holiday is a ritual for paying attention, for being in the light, for sitting in peace while the rest of the world does its crazy dance. We are the elders and we can be the beacons that stop others in their fast tracks.
And while you’re at it, “ohmmmm”-ing away in your home, dream about the year to come, because another cycle is about to start.
More light, warmer temperatures somewhere down the road of time, will call you out to make your contribution to this amazing thing called life. The barometer of energy will rise again, your nights will be shorter, your step quickened by a sunny day full of blooming flowers.
Here’s a short list of simple things you can enjoy next year:
Find something you’re passionate about and share it: lead a walk, teach someone to sew a dress, grow veggies for the homeless, read books to a child. The list of possibilities is endless.
Everyone needs a little lift, a little love. Say it, feel it, think it! Before you know it, you’ll be bathing in the love you’re pouring out. Your losses will get absorbed in your sea of love.
Joy is a survivor’s commodity. Experiencing it will give you buoyancy in old age. Become the person with the sparkle in her/his eye. Slow down, look, listen, or smell and you’ll find the abundance, the light, the forms that will make your heart leap.
Without your body, you can’t do the above, without your body you’re not going anywhere in life. Move it, love it, and nurture it with healthy, vibrant food. It’s a simple formula and we now have smart watches that will prompt us!
Pass on the things you don’t need, find a new home for the piano you don’t use, give the sleeping bag to a homeless person. Less is better as the years pass!
Wishing my 60-plus cohort a thoughtful and peaceful holiday transition.
What is on your short list for the next year? How do you fill your days before the holidays? What memories come up when you decorate your home? Please share in the comments below.