The solstice passed the other day, surrounded by days of darkness…the darkest days there will be all year. The night sky was marked, at least in this hemisphere, with nights where the trio of sister stars who make up Orion’s belt all align with the great Northern Star, and together, they remarkably point at the place on the horizon where the sun will rise in the morning – if you can see it though the snow, which I bet a lot of us can’t.
I learned to look for it in Girl Guides, and I remember Brown Owl shining a flashlight into the frigid winter sky, showing us the starmap. I went back home that night and lay in my bed and thought about what an incredible thing that must have been, back in the times when you didn’t know that the there is always a return of the light, that regardless of human effort or failures, the longest night always ends. I imagine hundreds of years of humans, camped coldly in the dark, watching the spot the starts showed them, hoping for sunrise and the return of the light.
This season has been like that for me. I feel like I have to “do something” to ensure the return of the light in my extended family. Some rite, some ritual, maybe a knitted hat or socks for everyone, maybe a sheet of cookies. I have even borrowed a technique from my friend Denny, who reaches out hardest and gives the most to those that she feels no love for- erasing hurt feelings and harm with generosity and kindness. Rising above. Being the Change. (I’m sure you all know that one. If you can’t get what you want, you can at least be the more noble being.) I feel somehow, that if I do all of this right, then happiness will be assured for all. It turns out, and I feel bad saying it out loud, but it’s just not true. You can do everything right, and even make the best meringues you ever had (which I did. They’re totally awesome) and things can still be unsure, scary or sad. This has bothered me. I’m a pretty effective go-getter of a person, and I do not care for things that are out of my control at all. I am also pretty alarmed by turns of events that can’t be repaired with excellent baked goods.
The other night, during the solstice, I went to this annual show that Joe and I always go to. It’s the Skydiggers Christmas concert and somehow if I didn’t spend that evening every year with my friend Andy, then it wouldn’t be Christmas. We took Rachel H. with us, and we went down there in the cold and the snow and stood at the sold out show with everybody else, and I found my Christmas. I found a little of it when they played “Hello Beautiful Life” (anybody at the Toronto Launch last year will remember that one – the rest of you can listen here. Right sidebar.) I found a lot of it when Andy played the trumpet, but most of it I found in a one liner that Andy tossed out into the audience. It was just a few words, but it changed everything. Everything I felt about the uncertainty of the next year, about money and jobs and family and lost souls and jobs all melted the minute he said it, and it has stayed with me for days and days – my new mantra for this season and the coming year.
Andy said “As we head off into a year of uncertainty, there is one thing I know is true. Things will be better if we all take care of each other than they will be if we don’t take care of each other.”
My house is warm. This morning, my lucky kids have presents. I have presents, and we’re having a great big breakfast. (To be followed later by more presents and a great big dinner.) No matter how bad things get here, we will not be competing with 98% of the world for misery. Having trouble finding the money for car or washing machine repairs is a luxury. Having loved ones to miss speaks to the great gift of loving and having been loved. My children did not miss a single meal this year. We didn’t flee from a war, we didn’t need medical help and not get it. We have a computer and an internet connection, for crying out loud. The fact that I bought any yarn at all, even if it had been a single ball (which it so wasn’t. I cop to that.) means I had extra money. I have people to take care of, and people who take care of me.
Tonight, when my knitting is done and my family is all together, I’ll look up at the winter sky… find the North Star and check our money again. I’m sure that as we celebrate with an abundance of food, shelter, love and gifts, that I can extend Andy’s thought to all the people on the earth, not just continue to give more to the ones who are already wealthy by comparison. This time next year I probably won’t even remember the pinch I feel as I give it now – which is pretty stunning, because even one dollar can save someone else’s child if I give it to MSF – and I bet that this time next year, they’ll remember that.
In the spirit of taking care of each other…on the day of a wonderful time for many of us – when we will celebrate with an excess of food and gifts that is unimaginable to much of the rest of our human family, I have decided to do something that people have been urging me to do for months. I’m setting a new goal for Knitters Without Borders.
I’m making it One Million Dollars… which seems not just impossible to me, but barking mad. Insane. Crazy talk from the crazy people. (I remember when knitters had raised ten thousand dollars, and everyone was beside themselves with joy. Us…. MSF… everyone. I can’t believe I’m even opening the door to this possibility. If we do it… well. I have no response for if we do it. I don’t even know what I would do to celebrate.)
I know that this is a lot of money. I’m not completely nuts naive… but to me Andy’s statement has become like the constellations pointing toward the place where the sun will rise after the longest night. Taking care of each other is simple. It’s easy. It’s sharing, and we all learned to do that as toddlers. I think we can do it if we all just take care of each other so things will be better. There are 50 million of us in North America alone. Surely that’s enough.
I really think we can do it.
Happy Holidays. Merry Christmas. Blessed be. Namaste. Happy Chanukkah. As-Salāmu `Alaykum.