The other day Ziya told my mother she wants an iPhone for Christmas so that she can check her emails from her friends, despite the fact that neither she nor they yet read or write. She’s also been quarreling that she’s asked me to take her to the North Pole and I haven’t yet.
Every time she brings it up, I think about hauling her tail across the world to Alaska in winter and giving her the thirty seconds in minus forty degree weather that she needs to realize that no one is sashaying in dresses in magical winter castles or dancing with red nosed reindeer. She also likes to have long discussions with me about her love for snow, which she’s never encountered.
While she associates this month with Christmas carols, houses ‘lighting up’ and getting a slew of new, battery-powered everything, I find myself looking forward to the tall Immortelle blooming, across from my window, as it does every December. Its deep orange flowers cost nothing, are not made of plastic, were not imported from the US or China, don’t require electricity, and could never be wrapped in the paper from a felled forest, typically only briefly used and then discarded. It’s a quiet gift that makes me happy simply being here.
I’m grateful for what that brash coppery red abundance does to my tired spirit at the end of a year, just as I’m grateful that there are still rivers clean enough for me to swim with my daughter, leaving us both baptized from a Christmas eve high mas of water, sky, sun, green leaves of all shapes and fresh, clear air. I think about this a lot while watching Santa Cruz change around me, seeing the bamboo that once lined the road lying cut on the ground, wondering why my garden is so empty of butterflies and bees, and hoping that many species of bats and birds still can find a home in these not yet fully concretized hills.
As we buy and buy, I wonder, who from among us will see beyond our man-made ways of celebrating, and give back to the trees and the rivers, and to the lives that inhabit them? For surely, this living planet is the most sacred of gifts we will ever receive.
Indeed, what if we didn’t only give to each other, and didn’t only give what we could make or buy, instead giving more of what we all need; peace, love and sustainability. I think about this every year as giving makes us also throw away so much, wrapping, boxes, plastic containers, Styrofoam and more. I think about this as Old Year’s night approaches and, increasingly, piercing fireworks dominate the dark, making me feel desperately sorry for the baby manicous and agoutis, and the nests of birds, whose precious wild space we in Santa Cruz, like so many other encroaching neighbhourhoods, have come to dominate and now thoughtlessly, thoroughly disturb.
What if Christmas included showing love and care beyond ourselves, would we think about our spending and consumption differently? Would we be more likely to look beyond what comes from a store to all that this time of year offers, including the blossoming Immortelle? Right now, she’s all about the loot, but I hope one day Ziya will appreciate more than the material, and also value tropical, island-rainforest gifts that are wild and free.
For now, it’s baby steps as I figure out how to appreciate and share peace, family and sustainability, and as I engage with her understanding of gift-giving, lighting up and North Pole cold realities.