oh! oy? christmas

I never feel ready for it. I am often baffled by it. I am uncomfortable with certain aspects of it. I am also fascinated by it. It? Christmas.

In Key West this year, Christmas manifests itself with over the top displays of lights, displayed on the unquestioned assumption that more is better, particularly if it’s a zany hodgepodge of Christmas clichés. Happy tourists walk the shopping streets wearing exaggerated Santa hats and necklaces of glowing Christmas lights Our neighbor’s holiday lights give our small street an aura of nostalgia and warmth. I briefly get caught up in the spirit and consider doing a few strings of white lights across our front porch, but then catch myself and decide it’s not at all necessary. The admonitions of childhood are hard to escape.

It’s a relief to see nary a crèche in sight on public land fought about and argued over. I no longer feel it necessary to explain to well-meaning strangers who wish me Merry Christmas that I don’t celebrate it, at least in their whole -hearted traditional way. Their shocked and saddened faces put an end to that little experiment years ago. It’s much easier and nicer to wish them Merry Christmas too, even if it sticks a bit in my throat on its way to being expresed.

The only piece of Christmas I missed the year was hearing my favorite carol sung by Johnny Mathis, Oh, Holy Night!. Of course, I can play it anytime I want with today’s technology, but that feels like cheating and doesn’t bring the thrill of hearing it suddenly come on the radio or of catching it on the sound system in a store.

And, whatever happened to shimmery tinsel and the magic of spray on artificial snow? I used to love that stuff, although it was always easier to find something to spray the snow on rather than drape in tinsel.

These days, I can go along for the Christmas ride more easily. I’m not sitting inside the car with the deliriously happy passengers, more like riding/clinging on the hood, observing and often enjoying it, but forever on the outside looking in.


What a difference a week makes. Last week I was revelling in the grandeur of the great outdoors. This week I’m sequestered from it, seldom venturing out-of-doors because of the proximity of a fire.

The streets of our city are now relatively deserted. Two weeks before Christmas. The people who are venturing out are wearing specific kinds of face masks to help filter the fouled air. We’ve been repeatedly warned to stay inside.  Many stores and most schools are closed. Neighboring towns have had to evacuate.

Some people leave at the first sign of trouble, others hold out. There’s always a certain amount of uncertainty around these events and unless the firemen order an evacuation, it’s a judgement call.  From my personal experience,  the women are the first to say, let’s get-the-hell-out-of-here! The precariousness of a slight wind change can change the future of a life in just moments.

The world starts feeling increasingly and uncomfortably surreal as a fire progresses because nothing looks as you would expect it to. This what has become of our picture postcard town over the last several days. I haven’t shown the fallen ash that coats our trees, sidewalks and cars.

air quality

There’s a fine line between laughing and crying they say, and there’s a fine line between reactions to the spectacular nature of a major fire. Fascination quickly turns into Alarm. At first, I note a subtle difference as sunlight is filtered through the smoke. It’s like looking at the world through rose-coloured glasses. Everything becomes tinged with pink. It doesn’t register immediately as a danger sign to me.  One glance at the sun, as a cherry red disk in the sky, lets me know otherwise. That triggers a small bit of excitement within me. You understand very quickly at a primal level that you might be in for a battle. The fight/flight response is activated. Continue reading “Fire!!”

December Gift

December, Santa Barbara, CA, late afternoon, low low tide.

I stand on the edge of North America gazing out at the vastness of the Pacific Ocean. Other creatures such as surfers, sea gulls, ibis, ecstatic dogs, photographers and ordinary strollers are there as well. We all meet just at the edge of the continent, where sand meets surf.
It is the time of day when an ocean can turn to a frosty baby blue, almost reflecting the color of the sky, but not quite.The breaking waves show just a tinge of pink as the sun drops lower on the horizon.

Just in from the immediate shoreline is another world of its own. This scene fascinates me. Before me lie dozens of miniature worlds that could have been designed by a master landscape architect. There are miniature rivers, plateaus, islands, peninsulas, streams, and mountains. Lonely stranded anemone await the return of the tide to lift them safely under cover again. Strands of waving sea grass paint swaths of brilliant green, draping over the earthy colors of the watery landscape. The waters in the “rivers” lie still briefly, they are stirred, as the power of a wave thrusts more water forward, soon reversing itself. It’s a land of sensuous curves, with a few straight lines. It changes by the second.  I am captivated. Continue reading “December Gift”