A few weeks back, my daughter and I came across a troup of tree-trimmers working their autumnal trade on the stately elms that line our street. I took it as an opportunity to explain, as best I could, how the tree's lifeblood retreats to the trunk in the autumn, making this a safe time to prune some branches without doing undo damage to the tree. As a new convert to the joy of fall foliage, I hoped she might get the connection. Or at least enjoy hearing Mommy talk.
Listening to myself, I was struck by the wisdom of the trees. How they abandon their frills for the sake of the heart, choosing preservation over beauty during these cold months of want. I followed that concept of slowing down for winter survival to the animal kingdom: those who do not vacate or hibernate at least take a leisurely pace in the coldest extent of the year - the conservation of calories is crucial to all. It's quite the juxtaposition from the hustle and bustle into which we humans throw ourselves in preparation of the holidays; as nature slows to a hush, stores are open extended hours, advertisers do their utmost to crank our anxieties into high gear, and a whirl of parties and shopping and concerts takes hold. It is any wonder we're all ready collapse by the time we've rung in the New Year?
I wasn't left long to muse about the prospect of taking this season at a slower pace. Once my church commitments were added to those of my choir, I was left looking at the busiest early December I've encountered since I was student. And while (I hope) I've gained some insight into time management since then, I also have small children to throw in the mix. And small children don't do well with concepts like "Mommy's busy", let alone "Mommy's getting really stressed out". I may have to reintroduce my daughter to the concept of television. In the very least, I can focus on the boost of being a hero just by opening a can kidney beans (what is it with my kids and beans?).
The thing is, there isn't one appointment on my calendar that I wish I could erase; it's a pleasure to hear all the music we've been hammering out these past few weeks finally come together, and while working with the Symphony means potentially learning a large amount of music very quickly, it ends in a bird's eye view of the orchestra from the choir loft - can't get better seats than that! As for my church commitments, this year's a unique case: a chance to meet our Metropolitan, celebrations for our 35th parish anniversary, and the honour of witnessing the ordination of two very worthy, and very dear, friends. I wouldn't miss it for the world. But if I could get a hold of a time-turner, I'd rejig things so that not everything was happening all.at.once. I wonder if Hermione ever used hers to catch a nap? I bet Rowling would have loved to.
There are a few things I'm doing to try to keep from flying off the handle. For the first time in my - somewhat - short holiday shopping history, I'm starting in on Christmas gifts now. It's been surprisingly rewarding to keep my eyes peeled for things I think my family might like while I shop around for everyday items like eggs and milk. I feel more involved in the process than if I'd rushed out on the twentieth of December on the intent of doing all my Christmas shopping in the course of an afternoon, detailed lists in hand. I've nixed the Christmas cards (if I see you, I'll give you a seasonal greeting and a hug), and family photos, though neither of those activities have become exactly traditional for my small crew. I intend to cut back on the amount of baking that I usually put on my roster - or at least leave the bulk of it until January. I have been coming around to the sorry conclusion that the number of sweets we like to have around at Christmas far exceeds our ability to eat them. It's a real shame to dump a tin's worth of once treasured treats due to mid-January staleness. If I find myself coping through kitchen therapy, however, I may have to indulge in some random acts of baking. There's a comfort in knowing that even if my schedule is skewed, I can still make shortbread. Mmmmm, shortbread.
The one get-ahead item that hasn't happened, unfortunately, is storing up a back-log of blog posts, ready for slow-release publishing until the insanity subsides. In all honesty, I've been suffering from a bought of performance anxiety; while all your lovely compliments have left me randomly grinning for days (thank you all, really - it means a lot), they have the unfortunate side-effect of reminding me that people actually read my blog. And not just faceless people out there on the internet, but people I know, people whose opinions I value (which, paradoxically, is what makes the compliments so meaningful), people with whom I interact on a regular basis. It's hardly a newsflash, but it's enough to make this girl a little gun-shy. As my unused supply of pre-blog ideas dwindles, doubts creep in. It's silly, I know - it isn't like anyone paying to read this, and yet I write myself into corners, or decide that naptime would be better used to make muffins (in my defense, they're really good muffins). The less said about time dithered away on facebook, the better.
So if space gets quiet here for the next few weeks, that's what's going on: a lack of confidence meeting a lack of time. Even as real life continues to run off-kilter, it looks like my blog may get a chance to hibernate, or at least a chance to slow down. But who knows, 'fessing up might be enough to open the floodgates, turning a stress-point into stress-relief once again.