Christmas winds

We are having our first real day of snow; I was out at the market when I saw it start to fall, confusing the pigeons and twirling beneath the little tin stalls that happened to be crammed with second hand furs today where there are usually small potted plants and trees.
More and more often, kids throw crackers from the roofs, making that loud sound that, as the Chinese say, would be sure to scare all the evil spirits away.
It is time to find a hat that fits and cover one's ears from the local wind that brings icicles to even those days that are temperate.
Wine is mulled at all social events, and fairy lights can be found in some of the stores.
Winter has come, and at this time for the Christian world, thoughts go to the new beginning of beginnings: in the depth of the cold heart of winter, the brightest of rays of hope is planted that spreads its wings to take flight each spring. Who would think that the quietest, darkest time would bring such warmth and optimism.
And I play the old-time tunes of Bing Crosby, Perry Como, Frank Sinatra - all the carols I have known from childhood, and begin to honour those few traditions that I realise I can make a claim to...
There was a time I shunned personal tradition, firstly as expat traditions tend to be dispersed by the transient minorities, secondly lest what remained not be stripped away by circumstance, but now I view these little things as something precious - like those antique ornaments we used to have to wrap in swathes of tissue every year, and unwrap as the father wound the christmas tree bark with lights, and then artfully strung them on the branches at harmonious spacings.
The thought that came to mind as I mulled these traditions over, thinking, too, of national histories, is that change is part of the natural course of life; we will not be able to retain all we wish to. But this does not mean we need to prematurely let things go.
There is a moment in the multi-cultural childhood where one may no longer know who one is, having done so much listening to others. Perhaps listening is like flying up above; there is a moment when one has to come back down to one's little histories and little traditions; whatever warms the heart, whatever circumstance left as presents, like jeweled shells brought in by the waves, deposited upon the sandy shores. We do not choose those shells, but they are the ones that are given to us.
Sometimes I have felt like that Sydney Sheldon poem about not waving, but I think that the course we chart depends in part on those aspects of ourselves that require resolution. Some people go deep into adulthood without tying up loose ends; some never finish and unravel at the end of their days. We do not choose how complicated or simple our lives are. We do choose how we deal (and whether to deal) with what we are given.
I have always resented the "wow, you've lived an interesting life" comment because nothing could be more false. I have know people better-travelled than me, but not all of them could tell you about what they have seen. I have also met people who have hardly travelled at all, who seem to be receptors for all kinds of ideas and feelings; they may not have experienced certain things first hand, but they possess an intuitive understanding. And if we add to these equations emotional territory, it gets even more complicated. The inner in interaction with the outer.
Christmas songs enjoyed in childhood can be forgotten until one has the peace to put that puzzle back together: in my case, this peace has come through this very long trip I have taken to a place which to many people is very, very far away, though this concept is so odd to me today, because thanks to aviation, everything is close - but apparently (for some people when they think of certain places) not conceptually so. I think distance is a reflection of our humanity; when we are in touch with ourselves, all people feel close to us because we understand something of our common nature. Culture is but a wispy silk scarf in comparison with the stony sword of fear or the tight blindfold of confusion.
It may be quite harrowing for some to come face-to-face with their existence which is always more fragile than we imagine. That first moment of recognition is humbling, because until we have worked on ourselves for a long time, the image in the mirror is lacking. Maybe it is necessary to strip everything away, and only add back what is essential. Or maybe this emptying out is an extreme approach to a process that does not have to be that way. I would guess that the harder our lives, the more inclined we are to strip it all away in an attempt to make the final picture that much more beautiful and compelling. An exercise in hyperboles: if the beginning is larger than life, the symbolism will also be such. These are the workings of literature: the good story is one where objects are not their true size.
So in this story of Christmas, the song comes back, song as the face of courage; song as what we do to ward off the loneliness, to pass the time, to raise our spirits. The little things of humanity, that make memories, that are the only signs we have of a life well lived, whatever the culture, whatever the songs. But the song only gains meaning after the drought, after the long odyssey, and even then, only those who have travelled the way see the hidden layers of meaning. What is returned to after the change; these are the Christmas winds, and what may we return to always be the better wine.

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