The ornaments are off the tree and the string of chili pepper lights that brightened our kitchen for the holidays is down. Everything looks a bit plain with the decorations packed away for another eleven months.
Life, now, is quieter, simpler. Hearty comfort food is what I crave and the urge to burrow in and hibernate beckons. It's the natural cycle of the year—the way it should be. I think our souls need this time for rest and introspection, our bodies need to slow down and self-restore. For urban dwellers, especially those of us on the West Coast, nature's cues are less apparent, but still there in the slant of light, low and pale, washing the buildings of Telegraph Hill. It’s apparent in the need for flannel sheets and layers if you happen to live in an old house without central heat, like I do!
After all of the bustle and push and celebration of the holidays, many in our midst often fall ill and those of us left standing are called to be caretakers. (All the more reason to rest up when you can!) When a loved one; a child, an elder, a spouse, a friend, is down, we rally to provide nourishment in all forms, plus a serene environment and quiet entertainment. We need to remind and encourage hibernation as part of the natural cycle. Sleep, routine, slowing down, letting go; these are the trail markers for this terrain.
Many of you, I know, have found yourself in this role in the first days of the new year; flying across the country to help tend a sick father; all but living at the hospital with a husband in crisis; meeting with care professionals to strategize the best way to care for an elderly loved one navigating end of life. Bless all of you caretakers; I know how taxing it can be when you, too, are in need of rest and restoration. Please remember to take care of yourselves, too.
I’ve been doing a bit of caretaking, myself. My youngest daughter, home from college for the break, had her tonsils out last week; I've been mashing lots of potatoes, pureeing soups, making smoothies and milk shakes, keeping my office (where she's recovering on the pull out couch) warmer than usual, keeping the music down, trying to keep the dog from making too much noise. The scrabble board's seen more action than it has for a long time. We're still looking for the checkerboard.
And because of it, I haven't been writing much. My focus is off and taken up by the issues at hand. But while I'm not writing, I've been worrying a lot about the characters in my WIP and have figured out a good many things about them—things I might not have noticed in the process of putting words on the page. It’s the big picture versus the details, what you see when you stand back and get some perspective.
My sixth grade mother-daughter book club met a few days ago to discuss Rebecca Stead's intriguing Liar and Spy. One of the things discussed was how the main character, Georges, named after the painter Georges Seurat, applied the theory of pointillism to the situations he had to deal with, which led to a discussion of the big picture versus the individual dots of color or isolated instances. This super smart group of girls and moms came to the conclusion that there's a time to consider each—sometimes it is the big picture we need to look at, other times, it’s the little dots that do need our attention.
I wish you all restoration and time to step back and consider the big picture in the next few weeks.
Take Good Care,