Teri Orr: Not universally the most wonderful time of the year…
“It’s coming on Christmas. They’re cutting down trees. They’re putting up reindeer. And singing songs of joy and peace. I wish I had a river I could skate away on.”
Those haunting Joni Mitchell lyrics have been playing over and over in my head this week.
The truth is, the holidays aren’t merry and bright for everyone. They are a landmine of ghosts that show up from Christmases past, dragging their heavy chains and rattling painful baggage. What was, what never was, what should have been. … There are reminders of people who are no longer here, and we miss their laughter or maybe wisdom or innocence or even their predictable grumpiness.
I have never lived through a time when the world felt so unpredictable. When the future felt painfully uncertain. When each day increasingly feels like an inflection point. The climate crisis, the student shootings, the fentanyl-laced candy … democracy, theocracy, autocracy, how we govern one another and ourselves…
To be human right now isn’t like sleeping under the comfort of a weighted blanket. It is more like dragging one around. Cue the elves on the shelves, the stocking hung with care, the empty chair.
Waking to a monochromatic world blanketed in white invites more aberrations. As late as I can remember, the winter snow arrived this week — and not the powder that has been the staple stuff of this world-class ski resort community. It was heavy and wet and slushy. No taking a broom and brushing this snow away. It needs a shovel.
The illness that comes unwrapped for the season comes with no reason. There is an extended period of uncertainty — the diagnosis, the prognosis, the dread. The decisions to be made with others. Alone.
Cards laden with charges and goods stuck on barges. The gifts come burdened. If they arrive at all…
The mantle has boughs. The church has vows. The candle flickers and slowly burns. Low.
“The unsheltered” is the new language for the homeless. Regardless of the label, socks continue to be their most requested item. Socks. Do you have so many pair that they end up in their own drawer? Or more?
Lonely, wistful, desperate. … More. it is critical to see those unpacked emotions under the tree or when they walk in the door.
A warm fire, a cup of cheer. … Sit here, dear. Close.
To be a human who wants to be of service on the planet requires such encyclopedic knowledge. Who to trust? The shine? The rust?
Anger seems easier to handle than disappointment most days. The weight of disappointment bears down. The rage feels so easy to unpack. It’s back.
And the sadness for what could have been, might have been, and even for what actually happened…
This time of year can look lovely from the window of a luxury condo or hotel suite where the folks in bright colors make easy turns in the pristine powder. Back and forth and back and forth. And back and forth.
The same town looks so different when the snow is slushy by the curb, and you are waiting for the bus, and you are trying to figure out what to eat for dinner and how to stay warm and how many people will be sleeping in the same room as you this night. Oh Holy Night.
The times they are a changin’ because they always do. It has always been thus. Us vs. us.
After almost two years the rare hugs are tighter, more unexpected. More intentional. Less conventional. There are people in our world we have missed. Authentically missed seeing and hearing their voices. We make choices to seek them out now. We are surprised when they find us. A plus.
The bounty of sweets and treats and platters of food seem like old friends come back for a visit. Cookies in the oven, chocolates in the dish, candy canes on the tree. … Joy to the world! In surround sound not experienced in every home. … Nor the treats pound for pound. We are lost. We are found.
It is fierce — the contrasts, the midnight choir, the drunk, the liar. The heated seats and yet not enough to eat. Thread the needle, stick it in, perhaps consume a pint of gin. The dark, the light, the equal mix, the solstice. … Does the balance hang with us? Or maybe in it? Venus is a planet and not a bright star. Was it in the sky close and not far on a midnight clear? Some nights this week I have seen it. Here.
I want all those in every color of love’s spectrum and more to be warm and safe and dry on shore. “I wish had a river I could skate away on.”
Teri Orr is a former editor of The Park Record. She is the founder of the Park City Institute, which provides programming for the George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Center for the Performing Arts. She has been a member of the TED community since 2007 and founded TEDxParkCity in 2009.
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