Robert’s Review: A wonderful story best read by the annoying glow of the Christmas lights from your neighbor’s house!
Some of you may be asking, “What the hell is this glow thing she’s talking about? How can I get it and actually do a bit of basking myself?” I’ve had to do a little conjuring, some fairy dust sprinkling and a smidge of imagining at the tail end of this momentous year to find it, but dear friends, it’s out there. I won’t give you the usual self-help clap-trap like “You deserve to bask in the glow,” because I really don’t know whether you deserve it or not. I’m not entirely sure if it’s an earned reward but I suspect one might need to do certain things to shift the cosmos into gear so as to move that glow-full dynamic forward. I want to tell you how it happened for me.
The first enchantment I discovered was to step outside at night. My guy and I haven’t been going out much in the evenings, the winter cold and dark just seem to foment an atmosphere that makes us want to curl up on the couch with a blanket, a warm beverage and a good tv show. But just after we eat dinner, we put on all the clothing we own and allow ourselves to be dragged around the neighborhood by a rambunctious pup. When they say the planets (or stars) are aligned, it usually means conditions are right for whatever glorious or notorious events that occur. In this case, the planets Jupiter, Saturn and Venus are clearly visible to the naked eye (the only part of my body not swathed in fleece and Gore-Tex), neatly lined up in the western sky in the early evening. I can’t explain why I find this sight so magical.
It helps to have an astronomer in the family as a guide to the astrological wonders. I might have merely given a quick nod to those brighter stars on a frigid night’s walk. Instead, they were pointed out to me as something special, to be appreciated and savored like a fine wine. I look for them every night. Their now familiar presence sparks a ray of joy as we start out on our brisk jaunt through the little collection of streets in our Asheville neighborhood. Soon we will be tracking the comet Leonard, named (as are all the comets) for the person who first discovered it, by the International Astronomical Union in Paris. I plan to be in touch with them about renaming it something a tad more mystical sounding like Aeëtes or Marilyn cause Leonard just doesn’t cut it for me. I’m creating my own comet glow situation in anticipation.
A worthy, glow-inducing thought is: IT’S CHRISTMAS! For some, it’s a holiday with deep spiritual significance. That alone should get the juices flowing. For others, the season is the reason for tarting up one’s domicile like Barbie’s Vegas Whorehouse! Okay, some of us are genuinely more tasteful in our decorations, but there are certain homes worth scouting out by jumping into the car and driving around the area in search of what looks like a tragic, holiday crime scene. More is more is a common theme with these particular revelers. The brilliant assault on the eyes often makes me wonder if they are borrowing the neighbor’s outdoor outlets or have a generator in the back yard. If I asked you right now, you could probably point me in the direction of the best of these extravaganzas close enough to drive to from your house without crossing any state lines. You know you are close when you see the traffic backed up on the street and you can spot the aurora of light from three blocks away. It seems there are other people intrigued with dazzling displays of tackiness to an extent that they are flashing their headlights behind you to get you to move your car an inch closer to that luminescent goal.
Just thinking about the sheer number of hours and dollars and enthusiasm committed to such a brazen and blazing level of decking the halls is enough to kindle a little warmth at my core. This makes me happy. Some say they’re overdoing it, forgetting the real meaning of Christmas, etc., but I am able to appreciate when someone wishes to share their happiness with neighbors, friends, gawkers, tourists, bears and extra-terrestrial visitors by tacking up a mess of lights and blowup Santas on the artistic canvas that is their house and yard. Advertised by word of mouth, these unnatural wonders of the world represent a beacon of hope (or maybe just a plain ol’ beacon) in this crazy mixed-up world, as an expression of either fanaticism or creativity on display for all to gape at, scratch heads over and enjoy.
While I have a chuckle over the antics of the human race, I realize how much I need them. Life is not boring with people around. I could choose to become a recluse and hide myself away because I can’t tolerate the level of crazy at which other people operate or I could examine how other people might be viewing my own quirky way of being. I’ve decided if someone wants to spend an excessive amount of their time tolerating humanity, they must be in line for sainthood or, at the very least, be working on some sort of dissertation on the inadequate coping skills of the human in its unnatural habitat. I enjoy the connection with my friends regardless of their motives. I don’t mind being a subject of investigative study or a stepping stone to the saintly realm as long as I can call these people on a Tuesday afternoon and ask if they want to wander over to the coffee shop and sit outdoors with me in the 40-degree weather for an hour and they do just that.
We decided to put one such relationship to the test when we invited our long-time friends from Atlanta to visit for Thanksgiving. I think I needed some extra people to cook for and fuss over. It’s a primal need, inherent in a certain breed of fidgety, foody beings, which can’t be satisfied in public places. Come to my home, stay the night, eat my food, drink my wine, stop washing the dishes! They showed up at our front door at the appointed hour with their own spirited pooch. It was a wonderful, glorious weekend of hiking and eating. Simple, yet soul satisfying as we laid down some new memories to accompany the existing history of our friendship, resulting in more glow than I could have requested via online form with complicated instructions and an impossible deadline for submission. Beams of sunshine, $49.95 ,on Amazon with priority shipping.
Long after our company has departed, as the days march inexorably toward Christmas, we walk the hoods in fun and funky West Asheville. We chat with people out decorating their homes for the holidays. “You’re putting the rest of us to shame,” I shout to one couple tangled up in strands of little white lights in their front yard. They laugh and tell us to come back later for the full effect. We will. We head out to our coffee meetup to guzzle copious paper cups of tea and munch on doughnuts and muffins while listening to stories about other Thanksgiving weekends with families and friends. We walk our dog with her doggie pals and chat with their amiable owners. We bring our telescope out in the evening so the neighborhood kids can marvel at the night sky. These activities are essential for the fostering of holiday cheer. Visiting and communing with people, known and unknown, makes our faces shine with pleasure as we comingle our own light with that of our fellow beings. Sainthood pending.
We will still cuddle up in the evening, after a walk through the neighborhood, looking for the most outlandish Christmas displays and giving a few sighs on seeing those far-away worlds up beyond our reach. We are in our place, be it ever so humble, basking in the radiance as we look upward at the stars, outward at the greater world and inward at our own contentedness at the end of a year that moved by so quickly we can’t be sure it wasn’t all a dream. That dream held some nightmare moments, fragmented days from which we are still recovering, so I choose to turn toward the light I’ve discovered this year for comfort and peace. Next year is approaching with its own mixture of darkness and light. May there be plenty of moments to conjure up some bask-worthy glowing.
I wish you spectacular dimensions of joy,
Ethel staff is taking some time off this holiday season to tinker around with other plots and exertions. We’ll be back in January with new complex, mind-bending, supersonic stories to stoke the imagination and evoke a giggle or two.
Guest Editor Robert is my primary associate of amusement, major sidekick in skylarking and frequent cohort of cavorting. His very presence adds to the glow of life. He is the best last-minute editor a quasi-consistent writer could want.