Sunday, November 17, 2013

'Tis the Season Already?

 Vancouver, Christmas Time
Gillian Cornwall, c. 2009.

 Christmas in Duncan
Gillian Cornwall, c. 2010

I'm grateful to the many cultures and religions involved in the creation of this season of festivity, when kindness and a spirit of generosity prevail, a time celebrating both nature and humanity. I've been trying to put my finger on what it is exactly I love about it and not being a member of any designated religion makes that all the more interesting to me. 

I'll admit, right off the bat, that many twinkly lights, both inside and outside, bring a smile to my face and warmth to my heart and I'm sure I would enjoy them all the year through if that were the tradition. There is something magical and comforting in seeing a tree sparkling with lights, regardless of the season.

That being said, my fondness for the season stretches beyond twinkle lights. It is the warmth, the spirit, the kindness and friendliness - spending time with people I love. Also, for some years now, I have chosen to slow the pace at this time of year. It is when I choose to take the majority of my vacation time. Lat year I went back to Lana'i, Hawaii for a couple of weeks within a month of vacation time. It was an entirely healing experience - not the least of which was swimming alone in a pod of wild dolphins, two of whom were mamas swimming with their babies directly beneath them, tucked between their flippers. I was here: 

Hulopo'e Beach on Lana'i, HI
Gillian Cornwall, c. 2012

 Hotel Lana'i, Lana'i, HI
Gillian Cornwall, c. 2012.

 If you knew the price of electricity on Lana'i,
this would be even more mind-boggling.
Gillian Cornwall, c. 2012.

 The beautiful, simple entrance of the plantation style hotel,
Hotel Lana'i
Gillian Cornwall, c. 2012

....I hope you enjoyed your mini-vacation by picture. Back in rainy Victoria, I still love to take time off during December. I feel very fortunate to be able to take a block of time off, having worked for the same organization for 18 years. I know this is a luxury not widely available and I am extremely appreciative of it.

December off in Victoria is a chance to sit down at my writing table and spend entire days devoted to progress on my novel. It's a time to take a restful stroll through a winter wood with my love, inhaling the scent of living cedar and pine. It is a time to practice love and the spirit of giving and to realize this is something we can embody all the year 'round. It means I can put a little more time into my volunteer work as well. These are the reasons I don't mind the early start, why my tree is up in November. I want people to behave, all year long, the way we do during the festive season. Love and caring, these are the gifts of the season I treasure the most.

 Gumby and Pokey, having fun no matter the weather. 
Gillian Cornwall, c. 2006.

My wee tree.
Gillian Cornwall, c. 2012.

When I think back on the season over the many years that have passed, I do not remember the gifts as much as the feeling of the season. Granted, I do remember the year my father made a functioning, camouflage jeep for me and my brother. It had a steering column and brakes and I believe we could peddle it too. It was great ...until my friend, James, and I crashed it in my driveway....oops. Anyway, I remember when I lay under the Christmas tree just staring up through the branches, enjoying the smell of the fresh pine or spruce, the warm glow of the coloured lights lulling me into a sense of safety and peace. Rest assured, this was a feeling I appreciated when I found it. 

I remember a Christmas on Salt Spring Island when I lived in a cabin on my girlfriend's mother's property. I had a great deal of time and autonomy because of Jay's generosity and kindness. It was a time to move slowly, to work on my arts and reflect upon the past in order to move forward with my life. These times are gems in our lives and the people who show kindness and generosity in order to aide us are angels among us. 

It was during this season that I taught myself how to make my first wreath. There is little more satisfying than creating something from nature with your own two hands. I walked through the woods, reclaiming cedar boughs that had fallen in the previous night's storm. I collected rosehips for a natural blast of red and wove them into the cedar circle. I used clusters of snowberries for their striking white. The only man-made item was the red, green or tartan ribbon I wound around the wreath. How happy this made me when I presented it to Jay for her door!

What I am getting to in all of this is that, yes, it is early to start celebrating the religious holidays associated with the time of year, but perhaps it is never too early to slow down, to breathe, to show kindness to a loved one or a stranger. If these are the tenets of the season, then may it last the whole year through!

-Gillian Cornwall, c. November 17, 2013.
This post is dedicated to Jay Birney - thank you for everything. 

Gillian Cornwall, c. 2005


Cathy (DustypupVI) said...

Just lovely, Gillian! Some great and timely reminders to slow the pace, appreciate the little things, and think of others. <3

Gillian said...

Thanks so much Cathy! I am so appreciative of you reading the story and posting your comments. It is the greatest compliment!

Rose Birney said...

Hey Gilly Bean. You've nicely put things into perspective there. Lovely sentiments, as Cathy said. I am going to visit mom (Jay) tomorrow and I will read her your post. I'm sure it will make her day!
I hope I am the first to wish you the best of the season.
Cheers, Rosie
PS. Let me know when the novel comes out!

Gillian said...

Thanks Rose. I hope your mom enjoys it. Plenty of time before the novel hits the bookshelves yet. :-)
Best wishes,

Anonymous said...

That's very sweet Gillian.
My Mom loved that wreath and kept it for a long time. I think it was there when she left Salt Spring actually.
-Trish B.

Gillian said...

Thanks very much Trish.

I look back on my time there with so much comfort and joy.