Friday, January 4, 2008

Gifts and Fog

It's time to shake off the holiday fog.

I had a really, really good holiday break. The family get-togethers were spaced out more this year, so I had a chance to catch my breath in between each one. I had quality time with my husband and daughter, too, even though I can think of many more things I wish we had done. We did manage to play a game of "Horseopoly" that spanned over the course of two evenings at our card table in front of the fireplace. I won, mostly due to the acquisition of "Thoroughbred" and "Saddlebred," the Horseopoly equivalent of Boardwalk and Park Place, then gradually developed them with "stables," (the Horseopoly equivalent of hotels). Olivia, our horse lover, was just happy to have the opportunity to buy horses, playing out out in fantasy what she has been asking us for ever since she began riding lessons in August.

On New Year's Eve, we attended the local professional theatre production of Oliver! which was truly wonderful. What a gift to see such a high-caliber production in the local, intimate setting of the Buskirk-Chumley theatre. We waited until the day before to buy our tickets, so we were in the back row on the bottom level. At first I grumbled about the seats, but they were unobstructed, and because the performers were miked, we could hear just fine. I have to admit I was losing my patience with a boy in front of us whose family allowed to leave his seat several times. He had lights on his shoes that flashed every time he ran past us to the door, which he opened noisily as he ran back and forth between the lobby and his seat. He also was allowed to talk and whine during the performance. Out of my frustration, I shot a "shhhhhh" in their direction a couple of times, but it didn't seem to help much. Then, during the climax of the show, he surprisingly called out, "run, Oliver!" which revealed he must have been paying attention after all, at least enough to cheer for the hero. Somehow it was sweet, and several of us chuckled as we cheered for Oliver along with him. He redeemed himself (and his caregivers).

My family and I also received a gift from nature this holiday season. Toward the end of one of our family gatherings at a retreat center in southern Indiana, we decided to take a walk before the sun completely set. As we made our way down the road, we heard an owl call. Olivia quickly identified it - a barred owl, with its distinctive "WHO COOKS FOR YOU?" sound. We looked at one another in amazement. This was no small deal. You see, we have been trying to hear owls for well over a year now, ever since Olivia became fascinated with them in third grade. We've attended State Park and local Parks and Recreation naturalist programs. We've listened each time we visit my parents in Brown County, but to no avail. Until this time. The practicing Olivia had done on her owl calls paid off, because she was able to call back and the owl responded to her call. I marveled at this brief, amazing conversation between my daughter and an owl. 

So the gifts came, some in packages, some in loved ones' responses to gifts given, some in community, some in private. Some with a human touch, others with no effort made. No effort other than being in the right place at the right time. And now, it's time to transition back into my life routine, the routine that involves packing lunch each morning, getting to the bus stop in time, working, securing work projects, making space for writing, school events and meetings, and yearning for the next vacation. It takes a vacation to make me appreciate my routine, and it takes my routine to make me appreciate a vacation. Most likely a universal thing on this human plane.  Happy New Year everyone!