Christmas. Just one week away.

How much a non-day event this becomes the older I get. Not a NON-day actually. Every 24-hour cycle is, technically, a day.

What I should have said is what an ANY day Christmas has turned into over the years. “Special” only because our society and our culture and our religious norms and the calendar itself say it’s so. The requisite time spent with family during the holidays – images of jolly laughter, yuletide carols, warmth and comradery – feels forced, somehow. Contrived. In reality, this time of year is often more stressful and chaotic than it is calming and cleansing. Expectations are high, emboldened by the trappings of social media, for a glitzy, candle-shrouded, Hallmark Cards experience to rival anything Hollywood could muster up on the big screen. We’re bombarded with photographs and images, tweets and postings positively dripping with hygge-inspired loveliness that render our drab, ordinary lives pathetic by comparison.

Here’s an idea. What say we treat every day as special, each day a Christmas? Loving one another, treasuring the earth, showing kindness, embracing gratitude every 24-hour cycle. And for good measure – and for sanity’s sake for ALL of us – let’s shrug off what we think and believe others are doing and how others are living their lives and just focus on what makes US happy for a change?

Now that would be cause for celebration.

No snow yet and temps continue their mild streak again this week. Perfect for taking long walks with puppy but snow – for Christmas – would be lovely. There’s still time of course, but a winter wonderland lends a seasonal framework for holiday cheer, snow lightly falling, Nat King Cole in the background singing of chestnuts and open fires, children sledding, their rosy cheeks and smiles as infectious as all get out, warm mugs of hot chocolate in hand and all that white beauty, well, it really does just do a body – and soul – a whole lot of good.

Precipitation is necessary, too, for Iowa crops next spring, for its rivers, streams and lakes, for trees and grasses, bushes and shrubs, tulips, crocuses, daffodils and luscious green hostas bordering April/May flower beds. The last several winters have produced little, and sometimes, NO snow. More and more, I’m hearing others echo my same concerns over this troubling lack of winter precipitation and warmer temperatures during the dormant months of December, January, February and March.

The climate here in central Iowa (and elsewhere) does appear to be shifting, changing, morphing into something other than what I’ve experienced – and loved – throughout my sixty-one years on this planet. Disclaimer: I adore each one of Iowa’s four seasons! However, extreme weather is another shared – and talked about – new phenomenon. This past year began most noticeably (following yet another above average warm, dry winter) with roller-coaster ups and downs of abnormal-for-the-time-of-year temperatures and precipitation.

April 2018 was frigid. May was HOT. Summer was a beast (delightful spring days skipped us entirely). Autumn, surely, would not disappoint. Oh, how I eagerly awaited those beautiful blue skies, colorful fall foliage and cool, crisp October afternoons.

Um, no.

It rained and rained and then rained some more. And it was COLD, not pleasantly, achingly refreshing cool and crisp but downright bitterly uncomfortable, windy, damp and miserable.

Who knows what the winter of 2018-2019 will bring? Right now – and at the moment I’m not really complaining, mind you – we’re enjoying some mid-December warmth and bright sunny days. I can’t help but wonder though if this isn’t a harbinger of what the next four months will be like. While I do like it now – today – it’s not what I want, like or expect of the most wonderful time of the year, let alone Old Man Winter.

Sigh.

Climate change? You really do have to wonder.

For years, I’ve wanted to own a dog – as an adult – in order to experience for myself the joys and rewards of canine companionship known to so many others. Bringing this little guy, our sweet, sweet Coco, into our lives has been a revelation. A challenge, yes. Great frustration at times? Most certainly. Regret? If I’m honest, yeah, once in awhile.

He, however, gives us so much in return for our trouble. Like a bucking bronco, he tears up the living room, his exhilaration palpable as, one by one, he trots out each of his growing collection of toys as Bill and I go about our morning preparations. We delight at his antics, his simple puppy gestures, his whimpers and growls, his wagging tail, his dark eyes and black button nose, his soft wavy coat, his cherubic countenance as he (at last!) curls up for a mid-morning nap and most of all, his love and devotion to us – his supremely lucky humans.

Puppyhood is likely not for everyone and I’ll be both grateful and sad when he sheds his youthful exuberance for a more stately and dignified – restful – manner. Every day brings new smiles and laughter and a deepening appreciation for the happiness and glee he provides. I can only hope he is as pleased to have us in his life as we are that he is a part of ours.

Life.

Sometimes it slows down, so much so that our days can feel stagnant but otherwise moving along at a leisurely pace – nice! – and at other times we find ourselves being pulled along and/or pushed into activities, events, changes that leave us gasping for air.

One thing is certain, however; life keeps moving on. How we react to what it brings is ours to decide. And that can make for quite the astonishing difference.

Daily Prompt: Astonish

Last night I read one of my poems for the first time, behind a microphone, at a poetry event in downtown Des Moines. There was a large gathering, more so than I’d expected. The crowd was diverse, eclectic and punctuated with young folk, some high school age, most in their twenties and thirties. A few oldsters such as myself were in attendance. At 60, I had to wonder if I wasn’t the oldest person in the room. No matter. It was exciting to see so many young people, ardent devotees of the written and spoken word: the beauty and angst of poetry.

The readings were, in large part, tributes to the cadence of hip hop and rap, speaking universal themes of love, discovery and acceptance with a few jabs at the current administration thrown in for good measure. And while there were some very good offerings, I cannot help but wonder how these young talents might translate to broader topics, interests beyond transgender discrimination, rape culture and lesbian love. An observation, mind you, not a critique…

As for my own experience, I was only a little shaky. I belong to three groups, two of which are devoted to the process of writing, the other to poetry. Each is unique in both their format and their focus. All are made up of wonderfully gifted and interesting individuals. Sharing my poems and writing is somewhat the same at these venues, sans the microphone and stage. At our group gatherings, we sit around a table, made up of known and friendly faces. Quite different from standing slightly elevated with dozens of pairs of eyes sitting around the room before you. But – doable, indeed.

It was an interesting evening, something quite different from the basketball game we’ll attend tonight, to be sure! I enjoyed myself and hope to engage in a repeat performance.