The holidays are upon us again. Seems like only yesterday that I was cleaning the Christmas dishes at a cozy home in the woods above Leadville and nearly had my right eye pecked out by the angry beak of an exotic parrot. That’s now a distant memory.
Besides the garish displays of tempting trinkets, the elevated emotions of almost everyone and the dark days and darker nights, the holidays can be more than a time to spiral into the depths of depression and shabby behavior.
A lot of people I know use this melancholy time to reflect on their own lives and the year that has just flashed by. If you look back closely you often find that so much has changed… some good and some bad. Can’t get stuck on one or the other.
Friends and family have died, moved, been busted or broken down. Friends and family have “unfriended” or offended. Maybe the people you thought you knew you didn’t know after all and the ones you want to know don’t want to know you back, after all. Life’s hard. The blues can lurk right outside the warmth of the Christmas lights and there are so many ways to hurt. But staying focused on that would be wrong.
There are the wondrous gifts that we owe it to ourselves to open and acknowledge, if not linger upon. It’s the little things: the purr of the cat, the eyes of a love, the air, the view, the river, the neighbor dropping off cookies, the friend coming to your opening or cheering at your kid’s soccer game.
Sometimes, when I’m at my best, say walking a senior’s groceries home or helping someone else in need, I look around and am warmed by others around me. They are often doing the same. We share this place, and when it all boils down we are often downright neighborly.
Sharing hope and humanity is sometimes all that’s left. We all breathe, eat, sleep, soar and suffer. Through our very humanity, we richly deserve each other’s empathy but we don’t always offer or receive it. Sometimes we have to be pushed.
My favorite part of going to church was always when the minister asked the congregation to turn and shake hands with the person next to you, something most of us would never do unless encouraged.
“Peace be with you,” is what most people say. Shaking hands or hugging always pulled me outside my bubble and it felt good to make contact. Then of course the congregants went outside and got right back to their sinful and shabby ways, but for a moment everyone was wishing everyone else well.
Times change and towns change. It’s hard to look back and not be nostalgic about the good old days in Aspen, Basalt, Carbondale, Snowmass and Glenwood Springs. Until recently, our supercharged economy influenced everything, firing on all 12 cylinders fueled by a 2.4 billion annual real estate market in Aspen. The money flowed downhill, and bedroom communities like Basalt, El Jebel and Carbondale flourished under the gravy spilling from the high hills.
It is different now. We still have plenty of foreclosure and for-sale signs around the valley. Back in the boom days, experts were predicting massive population growth and prosperity for all. But a lot of us overreached and the recoil has knocked more than a few people out of the picture.
Now we’ve rounded the corner. The days are getting longer, which is really good news for a day timer like me. It’s easier to look forward to the promise of a new day in the light. It might even be time to look hopefully toward a new year. College graduation… river trips… challenges and opportunities at work. I resolve to savor the flavor of all of it.
Today I will stuff a couple of extra happy bucks in the Salvation Army piggy bank… thank my lucky stars for the good fortunes that have come my way. Maybe those bucks will ease a little suffering of someone I don’t even know. If I had the good fortune of having a good fortune, I’d cram that red bucket full of hundreds and slip one or two to the bell ringer —really make someone’s day. Maybe next year, when my ship comes in.
This week we round a corner together, crashing into 2013, spiraling off fiscal cliffs and worldwide uncertainty. At least it has finally snowed and as far as I’m concerned, that is balm to the collective soul. So let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.
Steve Skinner wishes you well this holiday. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org . To donate to the Red Cross fund, call 948-6532.