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X-miss : Or what I miss about solstice 

In the US recycling is a cool thing & communities brag about 40-50 % involvement. Here nothing makes it to the dump (if there is one) exceptstuff that can be composted. Forget things like metal, glass or wood, even plastic is picked up before the city trash collectors get to it. The city trash collectors don't even realize that they have a shitty job (in American minds),

- Eddie H. writing from Viet Nam

X-miss in America is bi-polar. On one hand, there are tens of thousands of articles on the perfect gifts, the perfect decorations, the perfect tree, the perfect turkey and punch and cookies and antacid. On the other hand, there are pious calls to give to others, to cut back, make gifts, give green, buy a live tree, teach the kids not to be greedy, to not grow into adults who wander the streets of "charming" towns with that vapid and irritated look of "Done it, seen it all, how tedious" on their faces.

Once upon a time, long before organized religion, a savvy watcher figured out that the days got shorter and, if his/her people were lucky, they got longer. It was always a close call. There'd be a few days it would seem that the sun was dying. But then - and who knew why, maybe the old lady who lived in the forest had warbled her special song as the days grew shorter; maybe a baby was born with one blue eye and one brown; maybe the crazy guy who sat for hours thinking about things had pleased the Sun with his devotion - a day would be a little longer. And then, no less a miracle one year than the year before, the light would grow.

Eventually, the great-great-great-grandkids of the first watcher decided to put aside food during the autumn months and then, on that shortest day and long long night, throw a big old party. Rations would have been in short supply. Imagine the happy brains of people on the edge of starvation eating their one good winter meal.

Winter Solstice became a holy day. Sometime after that a church decided their holy man's birthday was around the same time as that shortest day and Christmas began. All of these earthly and divine miracles occurred light-years ago on a planet very different from ours. It was a planet on which most people - except the obscenely wealthy - were desperate for shelter, food, warmth and a day free from worrying about the future. Wait, maybe that planet was just like ours.

The Industrial Revolution kicked in and the obscenely wealthy got even more obscene. Most people's lives were still consumed by not having enough to consume. Our species scrabbled for more - in some cases, millions of dollars, pounds and francs: in others, for what was left of the last potato of an all-you-can-eat three-potato dinner.

This morning I cut up green beans at the Bend Community Center and listened. I learned that some months there isn't enough money; some months there's barely enough food. I learned that the folks who would eat the green beans on Sunday would come from every segment of the population who are anything but obscenely wealthy. They would be families, old folks, homeless people and street kids. The more I learned, the more fiercely I snapped those green beans. I thought about gated golf compounds and X-miss ads for ten thousand dollar diamond necklaces and the people with "Done it, seen it all, how tedious" on their faces.

I thought about the holy man who stomped into the temple and whupped the stuffing out of the moneylenders. I thought about you. I thought about me. I knew that yet again, I'll email friends and family to tell them there will be no presents or cards this X-miss. Instead, I'll give a few bucks where it will be desperately needed.

And, if my stony heart softens a little, I'll buy a few books - at local bookstores like Camalli's, Dudley's, Between the Covers, Paulina Springs. That will be my medicine for the holiday malaise. And the perfect gift? Our January 2010 six-week writing circle at Dudley's. It uses no resources but your heart and mind. Contact me at for info.


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