I was given a rare gift today: the gift of solitude. I was completely alone for an hour as Sadie and John slept in. I made myself a cup of tea, snuggled into a chair, and looked out at the winter landscape. The chapparal continues to be dark green, but the surrounding hills are dotted with dried grass, and deciduous trees are clinging to their last dry leaves. The weather forecast is for Santa Ana wind, but it is dead calm now, and the sky is covered with high gray clouds. It is a somber view.
What did I do with this time? I thought about how strange life was in a prayerful way, and even as I used the word “strange,” it was like a voice said, “What do you mean by strange?”
That gave me pause, and my glib thought was, Well, the weather is really strange, with absolutely no rain, and I don’t remember Santa Ana winds with a cloud cover. About then, the dried leaves started to rustle, the pool began to ripple, and the scalloped edge of the awning flapped back and forth as the wind—really little more than a breeze—began to blow.
But “strange” was more than weather, and the voice urged me to go deeper. And there it was, sitting in the middle of my consciousness. Politics are crazy like the weather, but that’s not what this was about. It was about the season of love, generosity, and new beginnings . . . with no outside friends or family to bring into our home and share it with.
My mind balked at that and veered to an item I saw on my iPad that was supposed to make my life easier. I contemplated the three-barrel, wave-making curling iron. I have always longed to have just a little curl in my hair, and this looked great. I clicked on the item and saw that it came with a protective glove for your hand. Frankly, I’m not that great with regular curling irons, but into the checkout basket it went. Then I thought, I should ask John about this. After all, he was a hairstylist by trade. And then the voice said, “What are you doing?”
I pushed the iPad away, got up, and strolled through my house, looking at all the cherished decorations, remembering the joy and laughter, the energy, and the magic of this season. And sadness wrapped its chilly arms around me as tears gathered in my eyes. Our house is decorated inside and out. There are gifts under the tree and more to be wrapped—but there are no people, and it’s unlikely there will be.
I sat down on the couch, and on the table in front of me was the creche. As Christians, this holiday holds a deep spiritual meaning, but then I realized the gift of the birth of Jesus resonates throughout the planet. The coming of the babe in Jerusalem symbolizes going from a cold and harsh world mired in death, to a world filled with hope and new beginnings . . .
The wind is howling now, and the landscape is dreary. For this moment in time, all the trimmings of Christmas are on pause, but the memories are crystal clear and the future holds the promise of a return to easy fellowship where there will be parties, communal eating, gift exchanges, and lots of good cheer. But I don’t ever want to forget this moment, at this time, when I realized one of the best Christmas presents of all is being with those you cherish. And the voice said, “Amen.”