Sunday, December 14, 2008

What Makes Me Feel Safe

It's a measure of my wellbeing as an American that I don't think first of military protection, though God knows I'm grateful to the men and women who create the shield that's invisible to most of the rest of us. God bless them and keep them safe.

And it's a measure of my personal good fortune that I live in a well-lit house with a beloved partner of 25 years and three very cool dawgs.

It's another measure of my luck in life that I was born to a couple of wonderful parents who brought with them a whole passel of kin, most of them an asset to anybody's life.

I have way too many blessings.

After CJ, I count our friends chief among them, the long-timers and the newcomers, and all the laughs and warmth they've made for us these many years. Wherever you are, you're in my heart forever. You know who you are.

Tonight I try to count my blessings and give thanks from down deep in my heart. For me, this season is about shedding the failings and the woes of the year just passing, about cleaning out the closets and cupboards to give what I no longer use, and about opening my soul, praying that I will notice all the miracles yet to come. That's what a Christmas tree means to me. It stands for the gift of the Created Universe in all its simplicity, in all its splendor and complexity, in all its richness and fecundity and nourishment.

If I can just feel that, feel my organic connection to all that unutterable Wonder, I can't help but think myself richer than any Wall Street princeling ever thought about being.

Then I can't help but stop the whining that marks the days and nights of so many pampered Americans as we willfully fixate on all the wrong places--annoyances of download, overwhelm of shopping, tedium of life's marvelously automated chores, and fits of traffic. We're a marvel, aren't we, we simpering, spoiled sacks of arrogance. All it takes to see the truth in that is to glance for just a second at the world around us.

Music makes me feel safe--Wyndham Hill's first Winter Solstice album, for instance. Its minor key summons cold medieval cloisters with candles all alight and warmth somewhere inside. It conjures new, warm bread, a rabbit stew, a bit of story-telling, a smoky fire, a round of red wine, and a moment of peace.

Roasted potatoes make me feel safe. Actually, potatoes in any form make me feel safe.

A bead at the neck gives me joy, especially if I've made it with my own two hands.

The kindness and welcome in my beloved's face when she smiles at me, even now, after all these miles and all these years.

A very small Chihuahua who chooses to snug in the small of my naked back in night's darkest, stillest hour restores my aching, bedraggled soul.

Memories make me feel safe--gossamer thin though they may be, but oh, don't they circle and circle in the quiet of an evening to give reassurance that one's life perhaps has meant something important, albeit small and fleeting, to this or that one here and there?

My memories call up scents and colors, touches and sights and sounds and whole living moments. Resurrections, I call them, and they grow more precious the older I get.

That one frigid Taos evening, adorned with the last roasted chicken in the whole dark town, a six-pack nestled in the snow outside the low-hung window, and a couple of Santo Domingo turquoise necklaces draped on the mantel above a mesquite kiva fire in our bare, spare little adobe.

That green fiberglass and varnished timber Old Town canoe, and my father's scent of clean, sweaty male, marine motor oil, fishing tackle, cigarettes, and the Tennessee River. How could I have had any idea, at age ten, that I was in the presence of the Divine--whatever That is?

The twinkle in my late lovely mother's dark brown eyes as she tried in the worst way to sing a hymn with the best of them, or as she appeared around the kitchen corner to host us with dry roasted nuts, rocquefort cheese dip and crudite, and one Manhattan too many.

Just in case I ever needed to know the very living definition of Joy, seeing our Fury, the most beautiful Doberman who ever lived, racing full out across a snowy golf course that none of us was ever meant to be on, running like a gazelle, top speed, free for the first time in her two-year old life. (We had adopted her a few days before, and I knew from the look on her face that she'd so far spent most of her young life in a crate.)

The Milky Way spread across a velvet 1950s Tennessee sky.

My first sight of the red-rock West.

My first taste of real New Mexican carne adovada.

Water skiing on the Caney Fork--the clearest, blue-green river there was in Tennessee these many years ago.

Sneaking off when I was nine to get a fountain Coke, a pack of those waxy little yellow banana thingys, and a pack of Kools because I liked the penguin, at the long-gone corner cafe in Sewanee.

The smell of coffee in the morning. Always. Still.

A good country ham.


Pamela said...

What a beautiful tribute to the season and a great reminder to us all of the wonder that surrounds us every day. Thank you!