Thursday, December 20, 2007

Feeding our Roots

It's a truism to say that a lot of people find Christmas to be a very difficult season. I think particularly of my friend who lost her daughter this year; of another 12-year-old who lost her mother to cancer a year ago; and of a friend of my own daughter whose father won't live til next Christmas.

It's a hard season for those of us who are survivors: we find it difficult to be conscious of anything beyond the losses. Like the grapevines at the vineyard nearby, life seems barren: where are the leaves, so colorful in the fall? Where is the fruit, so juicy and sweet? But winter is often barren -- a fact we can sometimes forget in the Northwest, where winter is so often our greenest time of year.

I recieved a note today reminding me "that these very trees that appear dead and lifeless are growing and nourishing their roots so as to be able to spring forth with life when the light returns. Something an old gardener once told me has become a spiritual metaphor for my work; 'don't forget to feed your roots in the winter'."

How do we do that? At first I just thought it meant we must continue to nurture those deepest parts of ourselves, to curl up around the spark of light within us and blow it back into flame. But on a simpler level it's just another reason why Christmas traditions are so important to us -- they, too, reconnect us with our roots.

Last night my daughter (just home from college) and I put up and decorated the Christmas tree, and it was an evening full of memories. We played the traditional Bing Crosby CD; put the crumpled foil star that she made in pre-school on top of the tree; argued over which lights to use and where to put them; broke out the tacky little angel dolls my now-deceased mother-in-law made to represent us for our first Christmas; set up the painted plaster-of-paris creche figures my husband made in Sunday School at the ripe age of 6; and hung the stockings, including the very ratty-looking felt one that was made for me by my FIRST mother-in-law for my first Christmas with my FIRST husband.

And through it all we had my oldest daughter listening in on the speaker phone from Taiwan, laughing and teasing and crying a little because she couldn't be with us this year. Where, she wondered, was the wonderful book we used to read aloud every Christmas Eve, about the birth of the Baby Jesus? I'm sure it's in a box somewhere; we've moved a few times since the last time the girls were willing to sit still for that.

But someday, I promised, when she has children of her own, I'll find it and send it off to her. Because that story, and that book with its lovely soft brushed pictures, are a part of HER roots. And as we all sit here, steeped in darkness, watching the lights on the tree, that story, even unread, works its magic still, filling us with the promise of spring to come.

1 comment:

karengberger said...

I hope you have a wonderful time all together over the holidays. Sending much love to you,