Summer, as it does each year, dropped off a cliff, bypassing Autumn, and crashed unswervingly into Winter.
The date on my calendar doesn’t yet agree, but climate pays no heed to the small square, dated, boxes hanging underneath “December” with a cute picture of a furry otter that adorns my office wall.
Winter is a state of mind, not a date.
Not too long ago, I walked my neighborhood wearing shorts and a short-sleeve shirt. Today, not only am I in heavy jeans, turtleneck, and fleece vest, but my feet are warmed by “heat holder” wool socks, and there’s a space heater glowing orange by my toes. Winter has made itself recognized; I prefer the blues, greens, yellows, and warmth of Summer. Gray, ashen, pewter, and cold don’t do much to boost my disposition.
Realizing I’m now closer to 90 than I am to 40, I’m in a place in my life where I am attempting (not always successfully) to not let that which I cannot control, control me – especially my attitude. In my oh-so-much-younger days, I would go all cranky over the inclement chill of mid-December. Today, I’m as much into “acceptance” as I can be. Beyond giving up grousing, I actively look for the beauty that envelopes me, even if painted in a drab, drizzly, dark sullenness.
To that end, I’ve noticed how many perfect moments in which my life is wrapped; should I just be open to experience them. They’re omnipresent; in any instant, everywhere. I simply open my eyes and soak them in.
My dog, 20 pounds of curls and ears, is a wind-up toy of joy and love. Adorned in his holiday finery – a red, blue, white doggy sweater decorated with a pattern of snowflakes and trees – he bounds through our house, full-steam, back and forth down the hardwood hallway, nails clicking, stubby tail wagging, an oversized doggie-bone proudly transported in his jaws. All feet and ears as he slides along the floor, attempting to find traction, the excitement knows no restraint. Dog: uncontrollable joyfulness. Watching him, the love inside me explodes and I cannot help but laugh. The cold swathed around my bones dissolves. I ask for nothing more; this is perfect.
Although I now bundle up to take my morning walk and the nippy dampness pierces the puffy jacket dedicated to keeping me warm, one of the countless things I like about living here is that people smile and wave as we pass each other.
“Happy holidays!” shouts a chap about my age, wearing an obviously well-loved, slightly frayed, Santa cap. He waves with gloved hands from across the street.
“You too,” I call back. “Have a joyous season.”
I smile – as does he, and accents it with a pretend salute as he passes into my memories. I don’t know him; probably never will. It doesn’t matter; at that moment he improved my life, making a perfect instant better than I could wish for.
Like so many, we decorated our home.
I dislike that process. I get grumpy climbing into the attic where I always, without fail, no matter how much I try to avoid it, bang my head against the rafters, swearing profusely afterward, as if that lessens the pain. Yet, due to my wife’s urging; I oblige. Once finished, as the sun silently slips softly below the horizon, its work done for today, my wife and I stand arm-in-arm and admire our work. Colorful twinkles, decorative illuminated houses, special lighting, and hanging ornaments produce a fantasy land in our house. The sound of the forced air heater adds a soft white noise, pushing the decorations hung on the ceiling into a slow rhythmic waltz, generating star points of light leaping along the walls. Cold outside, but here, in my soul lives warmth. Perfection abounds. Tis that season.
We all say, “All that matters is our health.” For so many during these two years of pandemic lockdowns, that cannot be said. For those, I feel compassion and I roll up my sleeves to get shots. I celebrate my health, even as I am a man of “this age.” It is all so unflawed. Each breath that exhales with a foggy frost, every glimpse of flickering lights I am fortunate enough to witness through living room windows, the embracing warmth of a heater on a bitingly-cold night are all perfection — and I get to experience them. If I will only accept them as gifts.
This year, more than ever, let us enjoy these fleeting perfect moments. Let them flow unhurriedly over us, in no haste to vanish. Let us breathe deep the Now and be faithfully, entirely, unabashedly, full of life in this instant and love deeply the lives we have been blessed to receive.