To poke a wood fire is more solid enjoyment than almost anything in the world. Dudley Warner
When you love someone, the best thing you can offer is your presence. How can you love if you are not there?
It is Sunday, the Sunday after Thanksgiving, and the airport this morning in Salt Lake City is in a post-turkey frenzy, humming and thrumming with life. There are throngs of us moving in crowds, bumping into each other in lines, trying to get to wherever we’re going. The poinsettias are stacked high in Christmas Tree-shaped designs, the holiday music is wafting through the airport air, and Starbucks is abuzz with caffeine-laced cheer. And yet, there are quiet spaces, too, and I find one, between the B and the C Terminals at a table by a window overlooking the mountains. And it is here, in this oasis away from the multitudes, that I haul out my computer and get to work on projects that I’ve put aside during the three days that my husband Cam and I spent playing in Moscow, Idaho with our son, daughter-in-law and sixteen-month-old grandson. I am googling quotes for this week’s Joy Center yoga classes and the theme that I am considering as I look out on a wide-sky-view is “simplicity”.
There is something about simplicity that appeals to me around the holidays, especially when I start getting overwhelmed, when the airport music is blaring in my not-quite-awake ears and the line to the bathroom juts out into the hallway and the glitter is seeming just a wee bit too glittery. And it is easy to contemplate simplicity when I think about what appeals to our toddler grandson, Viren. He doesn’t need the holiday sparkles to sparkle on the inside. He’s delighted with a plastic tube around his arm for a bracelet and a colander on his head for a hat and a puzzle piece car to push around the living room and a couple of grandparents who are more than willing to play along. And yet, he’s not adverse to sparkles either. It will be etched in my mind forever, the look of wide-eyed wonder and the “oh!” that he exclaimed when he saw the tinsel-and-glitter tree at the outdoor store that we browsed through on Black Friday. It certainly wasn’t a tree that I would call simple or natural, not a cranberry-strung balsam with handmade talismans. Its fake branches were laden with ornaments made in China and garlands made of plastic — and so what?!? It didn’t matter to Viren. I could tell that he thought it was the most beautiful tree in the world, and I did, too, when I looked at it with my own wide-eyed wonder.
So I’m not sure that it is simplicity that I am seeking for a theme this week in yoga, for a mantra as I step into this month of December and the whoosh of the holiday season. I love a neat and tidy house, a house where there is space to breathe, where there is room for the carefully-placed treasures to breathe as well, a Zen-inpired house, a house that I envision would describe itself, if it could talk, with a word like “simplicity.” And sometimes that describes Viren’s townhouse. His parents have comfortable classy furniture and an Asian rug and carefully-placed art on the walls. And the days start out neat and tidy in this sweet home of theirs — until the sun rises over the town and Viren winds himself up into full-throttle, and then, then it is chaos. It is toys being flung and blocks being stacked and stuffed monkeys being fed and songs being played. It is scampering and stomping and whispering and laughing. It is life-filled and joy-filled and sometimes tear-filled and then joy-filled again. And it fills the air with something that I crave as much as neat and tidy, as much as order and quiet, as much as simplicity, because, at times, yes, I indeed do crave simplicity.
So I need something bigger, something that can hold the simplicity, the sweet clear moments of calm where you might cuddle up on a couch with a sixteen-month-old grandson who is leaning back against you as you gently kiss the top of his head, the moments where you and your partner, the one who you have known since you were a teenager, hold this sixteen-month-olds’s hands and call each other “Grandma” and “Grandpa” as you skitter-walk on either side of him on a path in a field of wild western prairie grass, the moments where you and the toddler gaze up at the nighttime sky and together point to the first stars that poke their way through the darkness. I need something that can hold the other moments, too, the ones that are a bit rushed and muddled, the ones where you are cramming this same little toddler’s arms into his gray-fleece coat as he resists with all the fury he can muster because for some reason coats are just something that you must resist. The moments that are tacky and glitter-filled and food-flung-onto-the-floor and utter exhaustion at the end of a day of play. I need something that can hold all of the moments. I need a word, a mantra that can cheer me on as I wrap my arms around this big throbbing out-of-the-box life, as I dance my way into this holiday season on both my eager-to-dance feet — and I think I’ve got it. It’s a perfect word for a season filled with wrapped-up presents, a word where we gift each other with our presence. And that’s it. That’s my word. Presence.
I want to be present. I want to be present for all my moments. I want to unwrap them with the same eagerness that I unwrap the presents under the holiday tree. And with care too. To appreciate their ribbons and bows, to savor the treasures inside each one of them. And simplicity — I suspect if I am really present for my moments, it will make its presence known too.