This time of year it’s so busy busy busy that I just get caught up in it like a branch in a river. There I go, past deadened raspberry brambles and soft sweet pines and peeling white birches. Over leaden brown rocks and sifting sand. Through nameless towns, crusted grey with salt, under bridges bearing the weight of countless souls. I flow on. Buying stuff, wrapping, baking, working, cleaning, working more, writing checks, calling relatives for gift ideas, dodging or not dodging party invitations, sitting through holiday concerts, driving kids over hill and dale, December birthdays, piles of catalogues, trash, more trash, stuff, more stuff.
If I get a moment to stop, to cling to the river bank for a quiet moment, I feel hollow. I am pressing my nose against a steamy glass window where lovely powdery rolls are piled like snow banks and there is a gentle ancient longing. I feel close but out of reach, there but not there. I am untethered and yet entwined in a complex and fractured life. I miss my mother, and realize I have always missed my mother, even when she was alive and in the same room with me.
And so this year, instead of presents, I ask for presence. Let me be in the room with the people I love in a way the says, I am here. I am connected. To you. I picture roots, twisted and strong growing down from my heart to my feet. Eyes open and clear, ready for the throw down where the heavens open up and hurl whatever they’ve got, and I in return, stay. Remain rooted to the earth, to my children and family and friends.
If you, like me, are caught in the holiday pitch and fervor, I hope you find presence. And if you are not there, if Hanukah during Thanksgiving already had its way with you, and you are coming up for a little air and watching us gentiles running around like chickens, I wish you presence too. Something we could all use, no doubt, as the river continues to unfurl.