Christmas eve morn 2020

Dear great, great, grandchild of mine,

It is early morning, Christmas eve day. The light has not yet brightened the windows, which surround me with their dark, sheltering eyes, this rain-soaked dawn. Their panes are as black as night, though just above me, in the bedroom they were already brightening as I rose from the bed. In some ways, this space, then, feels like a burrow, tucked beneath the wrap around porch on 3 sides, the thick legs of sheltering trees beyond that, layer upon layer between me and that brightening, yet still heavy, world.

For now I am content to be within this shelter, though I must admit there are times when I need to crawl out, into the bright world beyond these walls, where, by day, that white light is now reflected by snow. Last evening, as we walked to the post office to check for a last-minute arrival, the moon, though just a drop fuller than half, was brilliant overhead, and I relished in the way that we can spy Her here in the winter season, with the lush, sheltering, summer canopy shed of its leaves.

On this Christmas eve, 2020, we are again, as we have throughout this long year, being asked to (re)consider what Love looks like. Some of us are noticing that, like 2000 years ago, Love does not necessarily look extravertedly lavish by the standards of a culture that has taught us a contorted version of Love’s extravagance. Love is both simpler and more outrageous than that– in the subtle and bold ways that it stretches the human heart– to give of itself, to be big by being small, to sacrifice for the sake of another.

These sacrifices that are being asked of us are really so small, though you would think we were being asked to choose which child to place upon the altar. ( Sadly, in many ways, we are doing just that, placing others on the altar of our collective foolishness, deciding that certain lives will be sacrificed, or are not worthy of concern. But this is not a true sacrifice, this selfishness, twisted somehow by some people into a perverse sort of expression of self-sacrifice, one that says ‘I’m willing to take my chances’).

We are not being asked to give so much really (There are people hungry, cold, and sick who are losing so much more). We are simply being asked to stay in place, with those immediate to us, to be still, like rabbits in our burrow, beneath the roots of the tree, beneath the snow. To not rush out a moment too soon, before it is time, attracting the predator to our communities. Still, many are struggling with this human urge, mightily.

Perhaps they long for the light. Perhaps they long for the open sky, for spaciousness, for fresh air in which to breathe. Perhaps their need (real or imagined) keeps them from seeing the ‘danger’ out there. Or their dens have been unaffected so they don’t believe the predator is real.

Perhaps they long for Love.

Perhaps, for some, the need for human contact is urgent, vital for their survival. ( of course, it is) We have been asked to isolate in varying ways for 9 long months now, a gestation some feel is urging them to push the limits of their confinement.

Perhaps it is the meaning of Love itself, so overlaid with the good feelings of the holiday season, that nudges them with longing. I understand that. Perhaps for some this is the only time that they feel it– this connection to their fellow human beings, this generosity of giving at one’s own expense (too often financial, in our current culture), this alleviation of loneliness.

Grandchild, there will be other stories told of this year, from different perspectives than mine. I am just one and can see only through the small lens of my own life and experiences. My own heart. My own mind. My own capacities. My own advantage. My own wounds. It is dangerous, in ways, to even tell the story, for one individual’s perspective, in its innate narrowness, risks being blind to the reality of others. Risks judgment. And there is never one way of seeing.

Love may look different on the surface to each of us, though deep within we know what it feels like. This year, with all of these shadows coming into the light, has been one of exposing that question, asking each one of us what Love is, what it looks like, how Love acts, How it feels.

In some ways, we are all at different places, seeing differently, yes, but also in our personal journeys, no matter our chronological age. An infant receives and gives and needs Love differently than the old woman sitting in her chair next to the fire, writing to a future grandchild. So it is in our collective life.

Some love is selfish. It needs so much. It is so hungry to be fed and does not yet have the capability or the know-how to feed itself. Some love requires human connection – body to body . Like lovers entwined beneath those white sheets, some cannot feel the ecstasy of being alive and connected without physical touch.

Human loneliness is so real. We strive in so many ways to alleviate that. We really do need one another. Please don’t imagine that I am saying otherwise, my child. Our relationships and communities of belonging here on this earth hold us and form us and grow us and keep us alive from the moment we are conceived in the womb. Some say, then, that they are willing to sacrifice others safety for the sake of alleviating/feeding that loneliness in themselves, for the sake of that longing to touch, for the sake being together.

Mostly, what i have heard though, is the unwillingness to sacrifice, encapsulated by the statement ‘I’m willing to take the risk’, a devil may care attitude that puts others at risk, likely persons they will never see or know, if this surge of deaths that is anticipated occurs. That is a hard concept for humans to grasp, the abstract. As sensate beings, we are so very concrete and immediate in our awarness and our understandings.

In so many ways, we are being asked to open our hearts and our minds beyond ourselves, to see how our choices affect the whole. From an earth in crisis- from mass extinctions to ecological collapse-, to a culture (and a self within that culture) that has benefited on the backs of an oppressed race and the poverty of masses, to a hidden virus that spreads according to our whims, our willingness to sacrifice for the sake of others is being called forth.

It is not easy for us to give up what we believe we deserve, have a right to, or need. Many cannot see how giving up looks like Love, how having less feels like Love, how there is freedom and deep joy in that. Some are noticing it, however. They are glimpsing, for instance, what sabbath looks like, how it feels to let go of the fullness of our days, to simply be present to whomever and whatever they are with. They are experiencing the enoughness of simplicity .They are glimpsing the intimacy that can come with less spreading out of oneself– of one’s energy and attention and time– an intimacy that fulfills the need for human connection. Some are glimpsing how connection can be nurtured in the heart, beyond the need even for human-to-human touch, how deepening can occur when walls are erected, which keep us from spreading too wide, unsupported by roots. (I think here also of a cup vs a tabletop, or a well that is dug too shallow )

But not all have noticed this. Some have not opened the gift of letting go. Letting go of control. They rail– on both sides— not understanding that the railing is poisoning their own wells, making them sick. We are just humans, wanting our own way, unable to see how that doesn’t enrich us, but makes of us tyrants.

Some have not noticed because they are in real human strife. They are hungry, or cold, or sick, or poor, or lonely, or experiencing the grief of loss, or frightened of being so. For these I have deep compassion.

Mary’s maginificat keeps swelling up within me these weeks. Many of us need to be brought low, many of us need to be lifted, by a Love that says not ‘me first’, but ‘yes, if that is your will’. This Love that is asking us to say ‘yes’ to being humbled, to risk bearing the shame of a culture that finds us inconsequential, or foolish, or delusional to believe that this is a message of Love, to which we are being asked to submit.

Oh child, I have digressed, as so often I do when writing to you. As you can probably tell, my heart, too, is heavy this morning with longing- to be with those whom I love– and I find myself feeling particularly sad this morning, and if i am honest, (which i find it possible to be here with you) angry too. When i see so many others unwilling to sacrifice, i notice my own longing increase, the loss feels more potent perhaps when you feel you are bearing it alone. I feel left out. That’s an aspect of community belonging too, the bearing of burdens feels lighter when shared, then when placed on the backs of a few.

And I digress again. Just as in life, i suppose, there are no straight lines. All is circular it seems… even what is right and what is wrong looks like a snake swallowing its tail…. the coyote who kills the rabbit to feed its young pups. Is our species so very different then in our actions? I wonder though. Our hunger feels so very out of proportion to our need. Why do we act as if we are starving? That, i suspect, is where the work must begin, to somehow feed this hidden hunger that drives us, so that we stop consuming each other, consuming too much of the wrong things— things that never reach that deep ache for Love anyway.

I hope that in this letter you hear grace and not righteousness. That you hear my own humanity. For, as I wrote near the beginning of this winding tail (spelling intended), i am but one small human with one small perspective. While I believe I have gleaned some wisdom from life, I am just as certain that i am as blind as my neighbor.

The windows are now bright. Through the west facing panes, I see the snow upon my neighbor’s roof.

Love, Gaga

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