Christmas Gifts and Glad Tidings at the Solstice

Oak King Winter SolsticeMy neighbor Amelia doesn’t make a big deal out of Christmas.  “Every day’s Christmas to me,” she says.  “I give and I get every day of the year.”

I call that attitude a marvel, now.  In fact, I’ve decided to adopt it myself.  So in the spirit of Amelia, I thought I’d chalk up just a handful of this year’s gifts.

Hummingbirds. Dozens of Anna’s hummingbirds landed in my willow tree this week.  They’ve been hanging around the garden, sipping nectar from the hummingbird sage, thinking their hummingbird thoughts.  It’s either early or late for migration, and they’re not saying why they’ve come.  But they like to sit in the tree and preen and stare at me through the window.  The glint in those little black eyes is even better than a visit from the magi.

My students aren’t hummingbirds, but they do bring me news from the foreign land of youth.  I’m especially enamored of my Literature and the Environment students this week, who just finished exams and turned in such extraordinary final projects I can hardly speak.  Which is what happens when you turn learners loose on topics they care about and ask them to teach someone else what they know.  They taught sauerkraut classes; hosted local food teaching dinners; created blogs about sustainable fashion, recycled art, music and nature, and community gardens.  They made sculptures, did public art installations, convened classes in their dorms, taught faculty about green roofs…. And they related it all to the works we had read.  Whew!  They’re a wonder.

The Biosphere. The sparkle of our technologies and the comfort of our lives make it easy to forget where we live.  Yet everything we buy, eat, wear, use and breathe comes from the earth.  We live inside its systems.  It’s our habitat.  Its health is ultimately ours.  May we honor the gift by doing all we can to restore it—and us—to wholeness.  If you want to join me, here’s a good place to begin, figuring out your environmental footprint.

Holly berries and leaves in snowSlowness. Slowness gives us time for neighbors and contemplation, asks us to ponder the wisdom of our choices before we leap.  It gives us reading and ideas and life close to home, a retreat from frenzy and waste.  At our tables, slowness means finding our food and food traditions close to home.  On this blog, it’s meant slow books and slow reading and digging in the garden.  Everywhere, it means knowing the place we live in the deepest sense, from its ecology to its human stories.  At Christmas, slowness means entering the darkness of winter with a quiet heart, seeking wisdom, celebrating the light.  So I’ll put a shiny bow on that one for sure.  Especially since this year, a full moon will shine on the winter solstice.

You. It’s been a great year on the blog, thanks to you.  Some of you arrived by way of the Slow Reading bit in the Guardian, some of you happened by out of chance, some of you were sent by friends, some of you came by because you’re my sisters or daughters or friends, some via Twitter or that Zuckerberg thing.  Some of you, for reasons unknown, arrived by way of a mad, global interest in spider monkeys.  Brave new world.

So, as the year draws to a close, I remain perched on the ambivalent edge of the tech revolution, knowing that embracing it means jumping into a sea of noise, and that without it, I would never have found all of you.  And that has been a gift.

Good Christmas, glad solstice wherever you are.  And peace.


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21 Responses to “Christmas Gifts and Glad Tidings at the Solstice”

  1. Tracy Seeley Says:

    So, what gifts have all of you received lately?

  2. sarah washburn Says:

    ahhh, tracy. you are a gift. i so enjoy reading your thoughts and learning about your interests and observations. you’re also gifted. your writing encourages me to slow down, to complete, to consider. thank you.

  3. Sue Diplock Says:

    Happy Christmas, Tracy. We need the dark to appreciate the light!

  4. Frederick Marx Says:

    Hey, that’s not Father Christmas! That’s that European pagan the Green Man!

    • Tracy Seeley Says:

      So true! It’s the Green Man. A good reminder of how many different traditions cluster around the solstice. Spiritual wisdom takes many forms, and all celebrate the coming of the light.

  5. doninmass Says:

    I was one those that found your excellent blog, via the Guardian. I wish you well, a happy Holiday Season, and may the New Year treat you with kindness.

  6. poetpeteet Says:

    The Guardian piece is nice,glad you mentioned it here as I had not read it.Slow is a fine thing to have the gift of;it came to me in many forms from many folks over the course of this past year-here’s a song(Walk to my funeral) Diana Hartel led me to you might like
    Happy everydaychristmas,hope you get some nice walks in between the waves of storms out there-Peter

    • Tracy Seeley Says:

      Good morning, Peter! Thanks for the song–such a pleasure having friends recommend music I don’t know. I will go out soon for a walk in the rain–it’s farmers’ market morning here, and I never let the farmers down. Here’s to a slow new year, and good cheer in the face of all that comes our way.

  7. DeAnna Tibbs Says:

    Thank you for your blog. I get a lot out of reading it, including more comprehensive ways of considering “slowness.” I haven’t tended toward “slowness’ my entire life, but as I get older, I see what the costs are for speed. As I move through my journey of parenthood, I also look to values that will support the best relationship with my kid and support the attitudes and behaviors and I want to model.

    I am so lucky to be one of your followers that is a friend and neighbor, too!! Cheers to North Oakland hummingbirds 🙂

    • Tracy Seeley Says:

      Thanks, Deanna–The real benefit of slowness for me is a deeper sort of attention to life and relationships, a less frenetic and distracted way of getting through the day. Not always easy to manage when the world around us is so much on overload. Finding that balance between participating in the culture and preserving a quiet mind and deep connection is the challenge. I’m happy to share that with you. Happy Day After Christmas~!

  8. Elisabeth Says:

    A blogger friend just sent me a link to your piece on privacy issues in memoir. That to me is a gift. She knows I’m interested in these ideas because I blog about them often.

    Your ideas in this piece to some extent challenge my thesis that the desire for revenge, can and often does play a part in motivating folks to write, but of course the desire needs to be processed,if it is to lead to creativity, to writing that is worth reading by others. If it’s just a bitter rant no one will want to read it, however much it might feel cathartic for the writer.

    I’m pleased to meet you Tracey and I look forward to reading your memoir, given my scholarly and personal interest in memoir.

    • Tracy Seeley Says:

      Hi Elisabeth– Thanks for your comments. I agree that revenge might fuel a desire to write about a person or event, but a memoir that doesn’t rise above that motive will, as you say, be little more than a rant. I also think it makes the writer miss a valuable opportunity to explore their response to misdeeds and to reflect on the effect on them. Playing the victim in memoir is never interesting or attractive–unless, of course, we explore our tendency to play the victim.

      The legal issues in taking written revenge are another can of worms–and I’m not inclined to open that one.

      Glad to connect here. Thanks.

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