Saturday, December 8, 2007

Unseasoned Wishes

We go toward Winter Solstice. Sun and moon are the
markers for any holy days I keep. These wishes use up
no trees, no fossil fuels, nothing but your time.
Life is gift enough. ms

"algorithim: A finite sequence of well-defined steps
for solving a problem.
Named by 9th century Persian astronomer and
mathematician Abu Jafar Muhammand ibn Musa, who
authored many texts on arithmetic and

"There is no mystery waiting for the asking.
No one can bring in the harvest alone.
The hour is late and it demands hard questions.
It's gonna take a fierce love
To get us home before the sun goes down."
---Fierce Love
song by Charlie Murphy

We tilt fiercely toward Winter Solstice. December 21 is the shortest day and longest night. It is not a
mystery. It is the late hour filled with hard questions.
We come into longest night of the year, while we humans hover on the edge of a night longer than any we
have known. A night marked not so much by darkness, as by absence. Bees, frogs, birds. Kansas without
sunflowers. Vermont without maple trees. Polar bears without ice.
Humans without a finite sequence of well-defined steps for solving the problem.
“What can we do?”
I hear that question at every reading I give, in the writing circles I teach. A woman in our class at the
Hassayampa Institute for Creative Writing in Prescott last July spoke for many of us:
“I tried to sit in the town square this afternoon and I had to leave. Even in the shade, the heat was unbearable. It wasn’t
this way five years ago.”
She looked at me. I stayed quiet. “I know, I know,” she said, “we can’t go on living the way we are. My friends and I talk about it all the time. But I don’t see all but a few of us making big changes in our consumer habits. What are
we going to do?”
The room was quiet. Our circle was made up of bright, passionate women and men who believe in the
power of the written word. Not one of us said, “We have to write to educate people.” Not one of us said,
“We need to write to break our own hearts.” Not one of us said, “Let’s all take an hour and write about this, then commit to giving up something we know we don’t need.” We didn’t rush into anything that would have briefly relieved the harshness of our hard questions. And we were together in the ten minutes of silence that seemed to last forever.
Finally, a young guy spoke. “I wanted to say something, fill the space, figure out something we could do NOW to help. But, while I was quiet with all of you, I realized I almost never slow down. Almost never.”

Algorithim: Clearly defined First Step: SLOW DOWN.

Light shrinks. Earth’s rhythm slows. Wise animals go to ground. And, everywhere you look, there are
messages to get busy, busier, busiest. The perfect X-mas tree. The perfect menorah. The perfect holiday
dinners, parties, snacks, cookiesboozeediblegifts---the perfect plan to not gain weight over the holidays.
The perfect gifts. The perfect decorations. $50,000 worth of X-mas lights on a Scottsdale real estate office;
six people taking five days to decorate the armory-sized building.

Slow down. Sit outside a mall and watch your neighbors race in to shop. Watch for laughter. Watch for
tenderness. Watch for joy.
Join the crowd, but walk slower than the others. Slow your breath. Wait in line and watch. When the
frazzled sales clerk apologizes for keeping you waiting, say, “It’s o.k.” Mean it.

Find the places where your local artists offer their gifts. As you watch light play on a delicate silver
bracelet or a porcelain bowl, know that you are in the presence of slow work, the gift that is indeed
perfect, the gift that is a cairn on the long way to our greater home.