Sunday, December 27, 2009

The Tender of a Smile

As you know, many people from different cultures on various continents chose to celebrate the Christmas holiday on Christmas Eve. My first experience of that occurred in Paris '76 at the home of Carol LaBrie (whose birthday is today) and Uli Rose. After a wonderful dinner prepared by these master chefs, their babies, at the time, were allowed into the closed off living room, which was festooned with decorations, gifts and toys, and soon after the gleeful expressions of little David and Ruby. My next experience of the Christmas Eve celebration began in the home of our friend Paulo Mattos' parents in Rio de Janeiro, and continued for many years. There the tradition of a sumptuous Brazilian holiday meal, served to family and close friends, that lasted until the wee hours of the morning, became a way for Joe Steele and I to observe the holiday whenever there.

Accompanied by the ever beautiful, Deborah Thomas, we experienced the celebration on both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, with the double commemoration of the holiday at the homes of our friends/family in Easthampton. Appropriately blanketed with mountains of snow, the settings could not have been more storybook-like, these beautifully designed homes had every tasteful interpretation of the season imaginable, all enhanced by meals that satiated ones eyes, as well as, stomachs.

John Rivers and Gavin Morrow had transformed their space to accommodate sixteen of us, who were already dear friends and family, into the warmest appreciation of the holiday that we have had in many years. The cocktails flowed as the delicious assortment of delectable foods tickled our souls, all amidst meeting and reconnecting with friends in the high spirit of the season. The only one missing was the lovely Genita Ingram, who stayed home with a cold.

The following evening was just as breath-taking in the beautiful home of Walter Allen and Brian Leister, where just the decorations were an inspiration, with a coordination of ornaments that had to have taken years to acquire. The delicious and festive meal was coordinated by the great cook Walter with the help of another chef, Julia Hotton, the noted artistic maven from the New York art scene, and her daughter, Tanya Hotton. With Barbara Lawrence on hand, the smiles abounded throughout the evening, as we shared a love for one another and the hopeful prospects for 2010.

It was nice to have had this time with our friends, without the usual pressures of the holidays, that entail gift exchanges that oftentimes miss the mark, and leave one feeling unsatisfied or unappreciated. All we gave one another were our smiles. We are so often consumed by the desire for and acquisition of the material things in life that we overlook the true currency of the soul, which are smiles given and smiles received. This form of currency cannot be taken to the bank, however, it is the only wealth that we can take with us when our time with these bodies are over. As we go forward into the new year, let's plan to make as large an investment into this spiritual fund as we do in our other pursuits.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

An Individual Flight to Unity

I awoke this morning thinking about one of the many arresting natural phenomena I get to witness here, from time to time. In part the thought of it came to me because of my dream that woke me up.

We are fortunate to be surrounded by large expanses of nature and hence, the natural life that convenes within it. On any given day, I have seen these roving flocks of birds settling in and around our grounds. They flow in perfect harmony with one another, as if psychically linked and prodded to move from section to section in an aerial swirl that sweeps you up in its magnitude. They rise and settle like the components of a giant entity, moving one part and then another, perambulating along with it's different segments, as they ostensibly forage for food and then quickly move on. This unified dance of sweeping motion is a fascinating joy to behold, one that symbolizes for me, the interdependency of these creatures and their psychic link to one another, which is evident of man himself.

We go about in an individualized state of mind, with our various wills deciding where and when we will do anything. The overall appearance is random and chaotic at best, yet the results for us are all but homogeneous. In my opinion, our individual efforts are driven by vast unconscious promptings that lead us toward common goals. We sweep toward one goal or another, propelled by our own desires, yet falling into the step of general mentalities that influence us. The simple need of providing shelter has led us to acquire larger and larger homes, replete with every amenity conceivable, in a nationalistic desire to represent or exceed our station in life. We easily feel these efforts individualizes us, when in fact, it homogenizes us, in a way that separates us from other cultures. There is nothing wrong with being confluent, yet, the overwhelming effect in our country is our over usage of materials that weigh heavily on the environmental resources available.

Like many of you, we have a new granite counter-top, prompted by what we believe is a good investment move for our shelter. We needed to improve the kitchen, yet was it necessary to engage in this design fashion of the times? It looks great but was it the most environmentally sensitive thing to do? As we move forward, we will need to ask ourselves how does the things we want affect us as a group, nation, species? It seems that our unity has more to do with how we as individuals fair amongst others, as opposed to how we fair working for the benefit of one another. Our current health care debate highlights some of those differences.

Back to my unsettling dream, which was about my belonging to a large group of people that transitioned from life voluntarily, for the symbolic good of one another. Understandably, in my nature, it's the last thing I would consider, so when it came to my turn, I balked. The people in my dream reverentially moved toward their demise, like that flock of birds, seemingly voluntarily, yet driven by the promptings of their masses. I guess the question in all of this is, how do we tell the difference between what we actually want and need versus what we are told we need? When do our efforts for the whole jeopardize us individually and vice versa?

As we venture forth into the holiday season and the settling culmination of an unsettling year, that included the contentious health care debate, we can ask ourselves these types of questions, to begin our lives anew with new perspective. Happiest of Holidays to you all....