A chilly snow fell all day; we went out several times to replace the frozen chicken water. A few days ago I collected eggs so frozen they had cracked the shells. The birds are puffed up and probably not terribly comfortable, but they are fine. It's a dry snow, so different from the heavy wet doom that fell in my childhood in the Pacific Northwest. It makes me love the Rocky Mountains, love Denver, love winter.
We put up our Yule tree yesterday, purchased from Tiri's garden which offers sustainably harvested trees and supports children's charities. Christmas when I was little was about my dad, who died a year and a half ago. Putting up the tree and listening to carols reminds me of him. I miss him. When I was younger I always dreamed of the Christmas I would have one day, my mom cooking dinner with excitement for a new recipe, my dad watching from the couch with a twinkle in his pale blue eyes, my husband and I laughing, and my children playing by the tree. This dream Christmas took place in the Pacific Northwest, green and salty and damp. We never had that Christmas, and now we never will.
I remind myself that in reality Dad was unhappy and cranky near the end of his life. The little time he did spend with my daughter, he didn't interact with her much. We found visits awkward because he was so in his own little world. But I can't help but wonder what he would have thought of my son, who is already, at three months old, so like him. They share the eye twinkle, the interested brow wrinkle, the open smile. I can't help but wish that Dad had gotten the medical and psychological help he needed to grow into a healthy sage man so that he could have met my son and spent Christmas with us here in Colorado, or we with them in Washington.
Instead, this year we celebrate with my husband's sister and niece and their families, who have, in all but history, become my family as well. My husband and I have had to do the dance of whose family traditions we will follow, but since we both come from midwestern Germanic stock the traditions aren't so dissimilar. And then my husband and I have also included Yule in the winter celebrations, not formally a part of our childhoods. I feel both sad to let go of the past and filled with joyful gratitude for the present.
I had a dream a few nights ago that I was searching for my birth family. In real life I am not adopted, but in my dream I had been. I told someone that I had to know who I might have been so that I could let go of that person before I could really be my true self. I feel like reflecting on the fantasies I once had around family and the holidays is a lot like that dream. Who did I want to be? Who will I never become? Who am I now? Most importantly, what can I release that no longer serves me, and then whom can I step into as my present self? The truth is, while a part of me longs for the Pacific Northwest and childhood dreams and traditions, I hate heavy wet snow and love the dry mountain air. I love my chickens. I love that we bought a sustainable tree that supports charities. All of these yuletide gifts are tied to the present in Colorado. So the fantasy yuletide I once dreamed of back in Washington state in some ways will never come true, and yet is manifest in ways I never could have dreamed of.
I imagine my father standing in my snowy backyard, laughing at the chilly puffed-up chickens, a cigarette dangling from one hand. He would have loved it here. I believe in some ways he is here, in me, in my son, in the life I've created as a suburban homesteader, for it was he who planted those seeds of self-sustainability when I was a child. Now he is free to be his true self, unencumbered by the struggles of his mortal life. Just as I am free now to continue to seek my true self as well.
Sunday, December 6, 2009
Finding the True Self: Yuletide Dreams
Written by Clea Danaan
Clea Danaan grew up in the Pacific Northwest; she now lives in Colorado. she is the author of five books relating to nature-centered spirituality and natural family living. She writes about nature mysticism, chickens, homeschooling, permaculture, and more. Her books have been published in more than six countries and translated into several languages, including French and German.