Sunday, December 20, 2009
On the Cusp of Solstice, Christmas, and Incarnation
Snowshoeing in Rocky Mountain National Park, mid-afternoon, Green Mountain Trail. This is no longer a workout. A downhill rhythmic meditation- pole clack, snowshoe smooch-crunch, deep, frozen inhale... exhale steam... repeat. The mind clears, the senses engage and awareness intensifies. The sun stretches to reach us from its southern arc in glinting bursts through a pine forest kaleidoscope. We stop to enjoy the light show and are bathed in deep silence. Along either side of the trail are deep depressions in the snow where a dozen elk had slept the night before. Immersion in such natural beauty expands into an awareness of how much I love and appreciate Deb, which leads to pure, sweet joy.
Light, beauty, love, and joy even on the shortest of days. Deb and I are fortunate people.
In two days we'll head to Iowa for our traditional Christmas rounds; visiting family and friends in Marshalltown, Des Moines, and Cedar Rapids. The Kennedys have secular, Santa-style Christmases, which is not a bad thing. We all bring some amount of the spirit of hope and renewal of the Baby Jesus to our gatherings. But year after year, more than any other single person, it was Uncle Charles (our ‘atheist uncle’) who embodied and encouraged the spirit that swirled around the assembled: a warm mix of- what else?- light, beauty, love, and joy. Everyone, from oldest to youngest, looked forward to some special time with Charles.
I believe that the Christmas concept of ‘incarnation’ is a call to each human to be or reflect as much love and light as possible, as opposed to simply preaching, studying, or wagging a finger at others about either. Our quite human Uncle Charles brought incarnation right into our midst, simply by how he lived his life and how he treated each of us. Even his mode of gift-giving was special. During his jewelry-making years, Charles brought boxes and bags of his fine work and allowed any and all to take their favorite pieces as gifts. In his nature photography years, we likewise selected from generously offered enlargements and montages of his exquisite work. For the children, there were spectacular stuffed animals from which to choose. He shared his love of great literature and nature writing by setting out piles of books from which we could take whatever pleased us. For every gift chosen, Charles had a story that focused in some small way on the uniqueness of the item, but emphasized even more the 'rightness' of the match between the gift and its chooser. As in every encounter with Charles, this was an invitation and gentle encouragement to seek, appreciate, share- and yes, create- beauty, love, and delight.