Letting Go: The Christmas Edition

Earlier this week I wrote my version of “The Letter.”

Maybe you’ve been working on one, too. You know, the letter we send to our relatives explaining, pleading, guiding, reassuring, demanding, that they please just give one present, or a present that doesn’t make noise, or something homemade, or at least not made by a small Bangladeshi girl. We all have our particular conundrums to sort out, and are determined that once and for all we will do it. We will be brave and say our piece and save Christmas from turning into the atrocity we know is coming if we don’t act quickly.

If only everybody would listen to us!

I even sent my letter as far as my husband (it was destined for his family, after all) and he rolled his eyes. He said that maybe it needed a few revisions. We talked about it for a little while. I got sort of excited, threw the word “Crap” around a bit too freely. And then, just like that, it was out of my system. I didn’t want to send my letter anymore.

Here’s what I want to do instead: Control the things I can.

I want to make our advent season as blessed and rich a time as I can. I want to light candles each night and watch Mary make her way on the starry path. I want to celebrate the small, magical feast days of St. Nicholas and Santa Lucia with friends and songs and small treasures. I want to visit the mountains and make wreaths from pine and fir branches. I want creating small, useful gifts to be part of our daily routine, something that brings us joy in both the making and giving.

I realized, with the help of a few friends, that the mood we create in our home is what is most important, not the kinds of gifts our loved ones give us. If I want Christmas to be a time filled with reverence and simplicity, then the way we live, the things we do, the essence of our days will convey it.  No amount of gifts under the tree that I might want to use the C-word on can undo all that. (In fact, maybe, just maybe, that balance is actually exactly what we need.)

I don’t want Christmas to be about this tight knot in my belly worrying about how horrible things will be if I don’t take matters into my own hands. I want to let go of my need to control what isn’t my business. And you might argue that it is my business, and probably you’re right and I’ll regret this. I’m prepared for that and have made my peace. In the end, these are our relatives, our family. They know us and love us and are well aware of our feelings about plastic and clutter and consumerism and all the rest. I don’t need to tell them again. Let them find their own way to give.

And let me find my way to graciousness and gratitude.


Since writing this post, I have been filled with doubts: I should do something. Say something. I’ll regret this letting go business. I’m so going to regret this. It’s going to be terrible. I’ll definitely have to send a letter next year. Why don’t they just ask what we want? Why?

And then I find my way back to peace: Give them a chance, they will totally come through. Relax and let go. Every kid deserves a few toys their mother doesn’t approve of. That’s a good thing. How bad could it be? Seriously, is that really so bad? Really?

This is going to be okay.

I can always send the letter next year.

Postcards from High Summer

Summer, that season of such bounty, unfolds before us. And behind us. Maybe even within us.

It’s been a good run, so far.

We’ve been known to leave home, a handful of times. But always in our home away from home.

Slowly as a snail, we go to the good green places.

We’ve watched our mountains burn down and waited for rain.

We’ve been missing the frequent trips into said mountains (closed till rain comes), but getting occasional doses of green when we can.

Our meals are simple-simple. With the occasional pie.

Pulling the bedraggled weeds from the bedraggled vegetable patches (oh, it’s so dry!), making a feast from twenty two green beans and thirteen kale leaves. The bounty of less? Everything is precious!

Getting uber organized, but mostly on paper. Which is a pleasure in it’s own right.

Maida’s been learning to sit, and then to crawl, to delight us all endlessly.

Cora is her constant champion.

I’m saying no to too much of anything that calls me away from these empty-full days, from the gentle way life unfolds when there isn’t obligations or deadlines or ambition for more than a clean sink.

Thinking that there is one ambition I plan to fully indulge: learning to spin the rolls of fleece we carded these last few weeks.

Saying yes to the simple, nourishing, celebratory things that come along–knitting night with my compañeras is heaven. Live music on the plaza with all the locals is a constant pleasure.

Not to mention swinging in the hammock.

Or turning Thirty.

And especially not to mention swimming in the kiddy pool under the apple tree each afternoon, and gazing up into the green canopy and feeling kind of sad that there won’t be an apple harvest this year, and also strangely elated that I can continue this lazy streak well into autumn’s habitual canning season (okay, I’m mostly sad).

Happy that the Man of the Place is not so lazy. Happy for all the amazing things he’s accomplished on our humble city lot sized paradise.

Spending evenings writing in my journal, reading novels, knitting this and that. Only occasionally remembering to read blogs, and much less frequently to write a post here. I feel as if I’ve been freed at last from the World Wide Web. It is lovely.

In essence, this summer has been like a long retreat at a Vipassana meditation center where the refrain is nowhere to go, nothing to do, no-one to be.

We’re just here, in the backyard.

Thanks for dropping by!


These dark winter nights are rich, ripe, and blooming with symbolism.

This book is beyond beautiful, and speaks to the mysteries of this sacred time in a way that transcends religion.

It is perfect for a small girl and her mother to read together as they anticipate the birth of a tiny baby in their own home.

How to bring these shining beings to life?

Well, start with some potato people.

Add velvet.

Place on the advent altar, amidst the stones and plants and animals.

I’m still working on the babies, mine and Mary’s. Both are expected soon.

Alas, the sweet, dreaming donkey shall have to wait until next year to interrupt my holiday crafting.


The Way Home

I can’t say why I love this land the way I do. Maybe it’s the years of walking the same paths, of watching the seasons cycle in and out, the droughts come and go. Perhaps it is simply that I have so long been held in the strong arms of this arid landscape.

In any case, I welcome the shifting seasons that return us to the arroyos and piñon-juniper hills that surround us. We leave behind the high mountains, with their lush green summers and brilliant fall colors. (Long gone are the days of our radical adventures skiing and winter camping.)

Now we just mosey. Up and down the same paths we’ve taken for years. The occasional coyote, a cawing raven. Sunlight shining through the lacy gramma grass. Onto our faces.

We know these well worn trails by heart.

We’re home.



Autumn on the land, Autumn in the home

On the land~

We’ve been wandering through the light,

treasure of treasures.

All seekers are rewarded.


Meanwhile, snug at home~

Our gnome family has adventures in the woods remarkably like ours.

Light comes pouring through the Southern windows,

and I can’t get close enough to these last, lovely blooms of the season.


Happy wandering.

Midsummer Days

Some things I’m loving these days:

:: Readying the old bus for a road trip with no destination save North.

:: Savoring the trickle of river that is pulling its annual disappearing act as I write. Time to head to the mountains, indeed.

::Taking naps like nobody’s business. Of course I feel shamefully unproductive, but it’s hot. And don’t we all know deep down what good things are born from fallow times?

::Watching this little one discover the joys of green food. Thank you snow peas!

:: Rescuing my garden harvest from the snails. Lot’s of salad (the French consider bitter summer greens positively healthful, I hear), a bunch of baby turnips, abundant kale, herbs, green onions. And lot’s more that will be ready for us in a fortnight.

:: The Man of the Place who spent a day hauling 250 ancient adobe bricks because it was the right thing to do. Even though half of them broke in transit. And now he says he’ll build a house with them. Or at least part of a wall.

::Sorry to lose my radical homemaker cred, but I’ve got to confess that we are positively loving storebought tortillas these days. That’s right, we are still looking for the balance between living with as little impact as possible and, well, sanity. I look forward to reporting back on our discoveries along these lines as we continue to discover what it means to live lightly and well.

Be well friends! Enjoy these days and all they bring. See you when the wind blows us home.

Water Place

Imagine a forest dry as can be. Pine needles carpet the floor. Your tongue sticks to the roof of your mouth. The path follows a stream so small that when crossing it, the tops of your shoes don’t get wet.

Imagine the path ends at a rock wall. That the ground is suddenly green and spongy. That a thin stream of water pours singing from a sheer and narrow canyon. That a pool of water reflects sun.

Oh, these wandering ways and what they reveal. This land that I will never fully know despite a life spent cradled in its arms.


I’ll be away from this space a bit more in the long summer days ahead. Time swinging in the hammock, writing poems for my own pleasure, nursing a mint tea and apple juice popsicle. I’ve still got plenty to say, sure. But somehow, it doesn’t seem to need saying quite so badly.

I hope you’ll come by and visit once a week or once a month–whenever your own hammock swinging and popsicle slurping can spare you. No doubt something profound will happen here soon. Though topping our discovery of this waterfall will be hard to do.

In the meantime, enjoy your days and the things they offer.

See you soon, friends. See you soon.

River Blessing

The River Blessing is my favorite community ritual.

It’s been happening for a couple hundred years in this same spot–San Isidro, the patron saint of farmers, is brought to the river in a procession. There’s lot’s of singing, and flowers.

Some years, there’s no water in the river. Some years, there is.

I can’t help but wonder if maybe it’s us who are blessed by the river, and not the other way around.

Thanks to the Turning Wheel

That wheel is turning, oh yes it is.

With thanks to warmth and sunshine,

kindness and friendship, and the open hearted joy of it all.

So sensual and lovely, it’s as if I’m the one thawing out!

Before the Blossoms

I think I might have discovered that happiest of mediums that March is all about.

Time enough to finish the sweaters and wraps while it’s still cold enough to want to.

(Come on spring storms, show me what you got — I need all the time I can get to finish that red one!)

With the blessed return of bees and birdsong and bursting little shoots in the garden saying,

fear not, woman, we’re almost there.

Which is good, because storms or not, I’m planting peas in just two more weeks.

And that’s the beauty of March.