After the frenetic last few weeks of wrapping up books for the farm, closing down the potato packing line, mounting snowblowers and plows and dealing with Christmas shopping, I find myself this morning with an hour to kill before going to a huge family breakfast. There is some mellow Christmas muzak floating through the air, and as I look outside it appears to be a perfect Christmas morning: grey, cold and a few flurries in the air. No guilt about sitting around with the relatives and doing nothing today….perfect.
As I was staring out the window I thought about Thanksgiving and about how that particular holiday is about assessing the good things in our lives. For me, Thanksgiving represents a huge meal with friends and family, and marks the transition to “winter mode” here on the farm with the first uncomfortably cold weather, some small messy snowstorms and the darker, shorter days. It is at Christmas, for me, that I reflect on the passage of time, remarkable events past and present, and condition of friends and family, present and absent.
Anne and I went to Belize in November, a surprise gift, courtesy of our children. A reward for mutually reaching our sixth decade alive, intact and still married. While we were there we experienced many different things but nothing as rewarding as making a connection (albeit fleeting) with some native locals. Most of them were connections through our guide, himself a Guatemalan Mayan. All these people were poor as dirt by any American standards. Belize is a poor Third World country. They had the equivalent of a 4th-grade education. Yet they were all extremely knowledgeable about local history, botany or marine zoology and agriculture, were self-taught and spoke English clearly. (Our guide had all the American phrases in his lexicon: “Back in the day….” “Totally!” and “We’re good to go…” ) Yet most grew up riding mules and horses as the main mode of transportation (other than walking), and most spent their childhood in mud huts with braided palm-leaf roofs. All learned and still use a machete fluently, as no one owns a lawnmower or weedwhacker. Yet they were all wonderful company, had great senses of humor, were intelligent and highly motivated individuals with the same aspirations as most of us: a better education for the kids, access to plenty of food, security from fear and maybe one day a motorcycle or used car. Anne and I both came away humbled by the fact that they are capable and hardworking and so intelligent. A couple of the subsistence farmers I talked to were easily capable of walking onto Edgewater Farm and within 2 years time being totally up to speed and capable of running it.
So this morning I am reflecting on the fact that we, (myself in particular) are-as my Dad used to say – “shot in the ass with luck.” As Americans, we really do have all the toys. We who live here on the river are lucky to have our families working close by to us. We are lucky to have good medical care, security from fear and harm and more food than we possibly need to eat (although I will desperately try my best today). So, with that in mind, may you and your family go forth today counting your blessings as well, and have yourselves a Merry Little Christmas.