Post-Christmas Reflections

So, Christmas Eve was hard. It was the hardest of all the days leading up to Christmas, as it was the day I turned from gleeful to moody, happy to despairing almost every half-hour, like a mood ring turning from green to blue to green again at any fantastic or ordinary moment. It was also the day I finally broke down and sobbed my eyes out. I even called my mom to let her know how hard things were going and had to repeat myself through sobs three times before she could figure out why I was calling and what was wrong. Nothing was wrong, really. I just missed home at Christmas.

Christmas day was much easier. It was fun, really. Kirk and I exchanged gifts on the sofa, and Solomon and Diva made quick to join us. Diva sat sweet and calm and pretty between us, amid our pile of gifts, while Solomon, in his penchant for all things paper or plastic, made a mess of the pile of wrap strewn about the floor. He dragged some of it to the bed. He also chewed through all the ribbon.

One thing cool to discover about our exchange of gifts was how zeroed in both of us were on the heart of the other person. For example, I got Kirk two gift subscriptions for the upcoming year: one for a great, relatively new journal my friend Sara told us about at Thanksgiving, called Conversations, which is a deep and fantastic exploration of the formative life of the heart and how spiritual transformation happens or doesn't happen in human beings, headed up by David Benner, Larry Crabb, and Gary Moon four years ago; and the other for Paste Magazine, which is a very engaging, with-it, yet tasteful pop culture mag we just discovered that is owned by a believer Kirk has known for years and deeply respects. In the span of two small gifts, Kirk got slices of manna for a year that will feed his inner life of the spirit and his outer journey toward impacting culture through creative media and the arts.

As for me, I told Kirk a few weeks ago that I want to master two things in 2007: the personal essay and the Italian language. (I took two semesters of the language in 2004 but still have a long way to g0.) What did he get me, then? First, a boxed set of resources for Italian, which includes 10 CDs, a common phrasebook, a workbook, and a few other things; plus a beautiful photo-box-sized striped box with a whole handful of tools inside for mastering the personal essay. These "tools" include two striped journals that match the box -- a small one for "thoughts on the go" and a larger one for "deeper musings" -- as well as a book of essays on the personal essay by people who've already mastered it, such as Eudora Welty and Annie Dillard. With that group of masters, plus the works of Anne Lamott and Donald Miller to "mentor" me through the process, I'm sure to get some full-length essays finished and out the door by the end of 2007. Maybe I'll even apply for the low-residency MFA at SPU I've been dreaming about for years, too, through the course of it.

Kirk also found me an amazing book of poems called The Wild Iris by a poet named Louise Gluck, who, among other recognitions, won the Pulitzer Prize for this one. These poems riveted me from my first glance at its pages, and the first thing I did once we finished exchanging presents was settle deeper into the couch and read the book from cover to cover. The poems in this book are so deep and profoundly, spiritually moving that it will take many, many reads to plumb the depths of them, and I can't wait to get started. Here's just one example for you to enjoy. Maybe you'll stagger under the weight of it, like I did.

The Red Poppy

The great thing
is not having
a mind. Feelings:
oh, I have those; they
govern me. I have
a lord in heaven
called the sun, and open
for him, showing him
the fire of my own heart, fire
like his presence.
What could such glory be
if not a heart? Oh my brothers and sisters,
were you like me once, long ago,
before you were human? Did you
permit yourselves
to open once, who would never
open again? Because in truth
I am speaking now
the way you do. I speak
because I am shattered.