December 4 – Wonder. How did you cultivate a sense of wonder in your life this year? (Author: Jeffrey Davis)
This morning I left the house with snow melting off the eaves. It was really just a little snow that fell in the night. The snowfall total was more impressive on my Gmail page (the theme called Tree changes with your local weather). I could hear dripping. The temperature was just above freezing, and as I drove out of Portland toward North Yarmouth, heading to our book group meeting, the sky was grey and the ground was brown, not frosty at all.
I set my iPod to shuffle through my Christmas playlist, which almost always leads to some amusing musical neighbors.
A Handel-singing soprano announces, "And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly Host praising God and saying:" "Christmas Is children who just can't go to sleep." And thus Lou Rawls completes her thought.
I pass through the center of Cumberland, where high school athletes wave Christmas wreaths to get my attention for their fundraiser. I hear a recognizable voice singing a familiar song in an unfamiliar arrangement. Oh, I think, it's James Taylor with Yo-Yo Ma, and that's a Beatles song. And just as I put all the pieces together, the sun comes out to match the refrain.
And it occurs to me that I cultivate wonder by paying attention to the details around me.
How can you experience awe or joy or love without paying attention? How can you know what's happening inside without also feeling what happens outside?
When Sam was sick, he developed a little cough, and of course it terrified me, and of course it happened over a weekend. By Monday morning I was talking to a vet and hearing it was probably unrelated to the cancer, or maybe only in the sense that chemo made him prone to picking up a little something viral. But on Sunday night, long after dinner, when he tucked himself under the dining room table, I spread out on the floor with my face next to his and petted his paws. And it happened that the house was full of women, friends who came to show support and love in a challenging time, friends who let my daughter and me know we would not go through this alone. I could hear their calming voices and feel a comforting touch, a hand on my back petting me as I petted Sam. The rough wool of the Oriental rug, the soft paw of the dog, the strong hand of the friend all fix themselves in my memory creating a tapestry of gratitude and wonder that people cared so much, enough to interrupt their lives and join in mine at a time others might have preferred caring from a safe distance.
I cultivate wonder by paying attention to other people, because the Spirit of Love and Goodness acts through them, surely.
(A friend who came from far away took this picture of Sam and me at the Farmer's Market on the weekend in question. You can see her shadow; it makes me think of the love that covered me then and continues to cover me now, truly a wonder.)
The first rule of Thanksgiving: when roasting chestnuts in the oven, set the timer, or you may have explosions.
The second rule of Thanksgiving: at 7:30 on Thanksgiving Eve, Trader Joe's has no more pie crusts, not even in the freezer. Don't wait for the guy who claims they have some.
The third rule of Thanksgiving: you cannot make a homemade crust if you don't seem to own a pie plate anymore; make the best of it with the graham cracker crust and the gluten-free crust you already bought earlier in the week, for heaven's sake.
The fourth rule of Thanksgiving: when it's a small family group eating at your house, and the turkey weighs only 13 pounds, it's okay to sleep until almost 8.
The fifth rule of Thanksgiving: if you have to give your assistant chefs advice on following a box mix for coffee cake, you may be in trouble.
The sixth rule of Thanksgiving: after the turkey is in the oven, introduce your younger children to the original "King Tut," because they just don't know enough yet about Steve Martin.
The seventh rule of Thanksgiving: stop opening the oven to baste the turkey!!! You lose heat!!! (#1 Son looked it up on the Internet. Leave the bird alone until about half an hour before it's due to be fully roasted.)
The eighth rule of Thanksgiving: any televised dog show that skips over the friendly Berner is no dog show at all.
The ninth rule of Thanksgiving: take a more careful look at the oven temperature before walking away from the turkey. Still hoping for the best.
The tenth rule of Thanksgiving: listen to Ella when she sings, "You're sublime; you're a turkey dinner."