I write this month’s column from the U-Bar-U retreat center near Ingram. This is the first time in many years where I’ve been in a t-shirt and shorts as the holidays draw near. I was a little sad about the absence of a snowy winter in my life until yesterday’s hike, which took me out to a large labyrinth at the top of a hilly overlook. As I walked the spirals and meditated on the slow movement inward toward the center, where two live oaks waited with their shade, I realized what a gift it is to live down here in the winter months, to have the freedom to go outside and enjoy the natural environment without the fear of freezing any of one’s extremities.
This sense of gratitude can be a challenge to hold during the holiday months. Every year in December I take a breath and keep holding it until January, or at least it feels that way. I love celebrating the holidays in my home and church — but do my best to stay clear of the malls!
I like to pretend that the materialism doesn’t exist, but it does, and that requires accepting the world as it is—not cling to an ideal of how it might be were we to have a magic wand, but to accept those things we love as well as those things with which we struggle. This requires compassion and forgiveness. Can we forgive a world gone crazy with consumption and consumerism? Can we have compassion for others whose view of the holidays challenges our own? Can we even forgive ourselves when we get sucked, just a little, into the madness? The answer is yes, yes, and again, yes. These are some of the lessons the season holds.