Christmas Card Letter 2015 (42)

red Christmas ornament in snow

Yesterday, the tenth day after my cat Sable died, I woke up happy for the first time in a long while. Today I wake up in the almost dark, Venus still vibrant in the southern sky and the solar Christmas lights glowing on the guayaba tree outside my window. It’s the first morning I don’t cry. The shock has lessened, though in moments I still reel. Sofia died in September. It’s hard to believe it’s only me here now, our little family of three gone. I glimpse things I’ll be able to do now without them, visits to friends, to Wilbur, to Mami, even just here in town, gone long hours, nothing tugging me home. Small snatches of excitement spark in me, mixed with a kind of guilt it’s easy to brush aside. I know I would gladly have stayed put to care for them forever. I miss those gentle tethers. Now it’s just me and the birds and the field mouse I met the other day in the shed. The house finch are loud and cheerful through the open kitchen window as I write. It makes a difference. My best truth today is knowing how much I cherished them, knowing I didn’t take them for granted. Sitting under the umbrella in the courtyard, the two of them napping on their pillows nearby, their furry forms relaxed in boneless cat abandon, and me knowing life didn’t get better than this. The sound of Sable clomping down the hallway, a galloping horse, the only way to run on this laminate flooring, and my heart lifting for his mad cat glee. And waking on a cold night warm beneath the down blankets, their small weights pressed against me making me feel like the luckiest woman in the world. I feel it still. And I know sweet things lie ahead. I cradle my big loss low in my arms, soft against my belly, grateful and alive. May the year ahead lie easy and dear to each of us.

[written on December 19th]

May 2014 Be Sweet (13)


I came close to not writing a piece for my Christmas cards this year, to just sending them out with my love. But writing an annual greeting reminds me of the new year or birthdays, a chance to step back, to scan the year before, the hawk gliding on the thermals, the big picture spread below her. I want to not be too lazy to look. And I want very much to return to being a writer, to immerse myself in writing long enough for it to seep out my pores, thoughts rising through my days, steam drifting up from wet pavement after a summer rain.

On February 2nd I agreed to buy our new old trailer home. After I said the words on the phone, I fell over, banged my knee hard on the tile floor of our old apartment. I was gone already, I think. But a voice had whispered to me to walk by that day in the rain when I saw the for sale sign, and the trailer sat on that stretch of road I’d studied for years, easing myself closer and closer to making the leap to living in a tin can. Then the fence, the A/C fiascos left me gun shy at this home ownership stuff, rocked my faith in myself, disturbed my demons. Summer was brutal, and they began building across that stretch of road. The cottontails and roadrunners and I were displaced, desperate. I made false starts again and again. There were times I didn’t know if I’d ever make it all the way back.

But I did. Thanks to the kindness of the gods, I scrabbled all the way back to joy. My writing is the last to return. I want that richness, that extra layer woven through my days and nights. So today I make another effort in that direction. I sit in our courtyard, notebook propped against my knees. In the lull from the construction site, I hear birds. I count six house finch, two goldfinch and one hummingbird perched on the bare branches of my neighbor’s tree. Yesterday at dusk the moon was rising. The solar Christmas lights spread glowing reds and greens and blues along the fence. And birds have begun to sit in our palo verde. Today I bought a headband with aqua feathers to wear to the new year’s eve party here in the park. I plan to dance, to laugh, to sing. I look at the leafless branches of the neighbor’s tree again, and now there’s one lone mourning dove, his small form still against the late afternoon sky. I watch him for a long time. My cats are both napping nearby. I feel grateful and quiet and full.

I hope this finds you equally at home—in your skin, your life, your year. May 2014 be sweet and gentle and glad in its unfolding.

The Waxing Light (41)

I am lying on my back on my yoga mat. I’ve come late to my practice today, so I’m on the living room floor, chased inside by the cold air. I move my head, and I can see the last light in the sky through the window, still visible in contrast against the darkness of the bougainvillea leaves in the late dusk. The white of the sky is a soft glow, like muted neon or dimmed florescence. I turn my head back, and my eyes sweep the little row of snow globes on the windowsill. There is something peculiar about them this evening, something caught in their curved glass. I check the sky again. Are there clouds up there, still lit by the sun long lost to our edge of the valley here beside the mountains? Sometimes the clouds are lit golden. But there are no clouds, and it’s too late really for them to still catch and hold the sun’s light from their heights. And then I realize what I’m seeing. It’s the Christmas lights I have woven around the bougainvillea trunk and branches. The green and blue and red and amber lights are showing up in my snow globes, five strands glowing there in miniature. I’ve always loved them, I think, in part because they’re little worlds, and they’ve never felt more like that than this moment with these tiny strings of lights alive in them.

Five colored lights against the stepping stones

Glass bird in window with white feathers

I think of the lights I laced along the curtain rod in my Ajijic apartment, looping down into the windows so people would see them from the street below. I remember the white glass bird hanging there, a photograph somewhere, the white tail feathers floating against the window screen. I think of the rounded yellow bird so like that white one, that hung on my shower rod with three glass hummingbirds in Santa Rosa, and the shock of the crash when the rod gave way that afternoon, nothing but glorious shards left in the bathtub. I think of the new glass rooster on my patio table, sunlight through the red glass of his comb, his tail, his wattles. It is my love of color and light that leaves me always reluctant to take down my Christmas lights. I left them up late in Ajijic, too, though I felt self-conscious about it there. Would this be another mark of my crazy estadounidense self? Here I don’t seem to care what my neighbors think of me, the solar lights still sharp and vivid in the hedge beside the gate at night.

two tall palm streets strung with white lights

But I was glad all out of proportion to see two people in my neighborhood who still have their lights turned on, too. I asked Ana about it once, if people in Ajijic ever left their Christmas lights up despues del año nuevo, after the new year. She told me some people wait until after Candlemas to take them down. Candlemas is the Christianized name for one of the main pagan holidays on February 2nd. The Catholics call it the Feast of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary. But as I understand it, we celebrate the waxing of the light. I told Ana I liked that idea, a kind of sanctioned extension of my pleasure in the lights. What better way to honor the growing light than with these bright colors in the dark? When I finish my yoga, I move on hands and knees to the windowsill, stare deep into the small glass globes. It is a wonder, I think, these tiny strands of light that stretch within them, sharp and clear and luminous. I bow to the light in each and every one of us. Namaste, indeed.