A Snowy Day in Oregon: I Send You This

In Columns, Features, Pieces to Peter's Puzzling World by Peter Webster

Thanksgiving is over: thank you, God, Jesus, Great Spirit, all of you, for getting it over with. I have reached burn out.

The year is winding down. I’m wound down already, for the most part. There are a lot of missing persons out there: my son and some good friends. I’m trying to operate under the assumption I’ll see them again, on the other side.

The rational part of me says when people die their consciousness just stops. That’s all. But, there’s still the hopeful part of me. The two points of view always see-saw, never quite balance each other. At least I go back and forth—better that than blind pessimism.

My world has changed a lot in the last two or three years. I’m not sure it’s changed for the better. It’s so different, with people I’ve been close to no longer there; I don’t really have anything to compare it with.

The day after Thanksgiving I had a melt-down. We were over to Portland for dinner with friends, and we brought one friend back with us to stay for a couple of days.

We were busy all day Thursday. Friday I spent a lot of time hanging out until we left to come home. We listened to K.D. Lang and Kate Wolf on the car stereo. I think Kate Wolf was a great songwriter and a good singer.

The last song on the tape is one about a lost friend; the chorus is something about “like you just came through the kitchen door.” That was playing when we came into Bend. The words were a trigger, and tears and snot poured out.

When we got home I let Beth and our friend unload the car: I got in bed and cried.

I’m a curmudgeon about the holidays. I feel like they have become marketing events and not much more than that. The stores are now obstacle courses of Christmas merchandise; after that, there’ll be aisles of St Valentine’s Day presents; then Easter stuff; Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Fourth of July, Labor Day, Halloween, Thanksgiving… an endless cycle of merchandising.

I’m in no mood for it.

There are reasons for holidays, of course. A summer celebration, then a day to say good-by to summer, another day for remembering the people who have gone on, one to reflect on the gift of life and fruits of the earth, one for the end of the yearly cycle, when the days begin growing longer again, and one for spring and new growth.

These are the important facets of my life. I think they’re the same for most of us.
Material things I can buy and give others or what they can buy and give me isn’t important. That isn’t how to show love and concern.

Love and concern are daily: how we walk the talk. And that is very difficult. It requires paying attention—being “mindful,” the Buddhists call it. Staying in the center of the world around me.

I’m not very good at that (luckily, almost nobody else is, either—no reason to beat myself up for failure).

It’s the part of being human and of recognizing that others are human, too, that is so damned hard. We’re all in this together.

My life is no better than anyone else’s. Nobody has a “better life.” People may be more or less conscious than others—but I’m kind of unconscious more often than I like.

So, given that, the holidays can help me to pay attention more often. “Can” is the word.

Paying attention, isn’t easy, being present and not locked in the whirligig spinning of my brain. Not when I’m tired of standing in line at the grocery check-out, or when I’m looking for a specific item and there are five or six shopping carts in the way.

Nor is navigating the parking lot always fun—particularly when the handicapped spaces are filled and it’s snowy, icy, and windy. These are a few of my least favorite things…

On the other hand, there’s a nice frosting of powder snow on the ground, and the pine trees are vivid green against the blue sky and white snow. The sun is out. The colors are Technicolor brilliant.

A little while ago, a man walked by with a husky on a leash; the husky wore a plaid coat. Looked cute, but on a husky it was bizarre.

Three blue jays were in the bare ash tree out front, watching the man, the dog, and me.

In late fall and early spring we get dozens of jays; the crested ones, Stellar’s jays, are my favorites; the regular jays, though, are the ones that hustle food and will even take crackers from my hand.

There are fresh deer tracks out back; they come for the apples. The people across the street feed the local quail, and the little birds scurry back and forth, seeing who’s got the most seeds. There’s a lot of life around here, when I can slow down enough to notice it…

I’ll be glad when spring comes.

Here’s a quote I like:

Believe nothing just because a so-called wise person said it. Believe nothing just because a belief is generally held. Believe nothing just because it is said in ancient books. Believe nothing just because it is said to be of divine origin. Believe nothing just because someone else believes it. Believe only what you yourself test and judge to be true.