A man parks his car at the beach, opens the door and two large fluffy dogs exit. Unleashed, they bound over the open sand, tasting their freedom.
I am here for the same reason.
It is an unseasonably warm, windless December morning. The Sakonnet is as calm as a mountain lake, not a ripple graces its surface.
As I adjust to the tranquility around me, I feel the strain of the past week lessen its hold, and I begin to ponder.
There are so many wonderful things to experience during the holiday season. But like the contents of Santa’s sack, the trappings of an American Christmas can be a mixed bag.
We feel overwhelmed as the stark realities of contemporary life brush against our unrealistic expectations to recreate the traditions of Christmases past.
Moreover, most revelers reach a state of exhaustion as they tick off their lists.
Buy a tree, carry it home, trim it and water it. Check. Decorate the front of the house, trees and bushes with hundreds of lights. Check. Put together a gift list and shop. Check. Visit church bazaars and craft fairs. Check. Locate the Christmas card list, update names, address the envelopes and write special handwritten messages inside. Check. Shop some more. Check. Write down a list of ingredients for Christmas baking and holiday meals. Check. Shop some more. Check. Bake breads, cookies, fruitcakes and plum puddings. Check. Shop some more. Check. Watch Christmas parades and movies. Check. Listen to Christmas music on CDs, on the computer and the car radio. Check. Shop some more. Check. Bring the children to see Santa at the local mall. Check. Shop some more. Check. View the Christmas displays of community trees, lighted shrines and neighbors’ front yards. Check. Shop some more. Check. Attend Christmas concerts, plays and parties. Check. Shop some more. Check. Visit nursing facilities and homes of elderly friends to spread Christmas cheer. Check. Finish shopping. Check. Wrap all the presents. Check. Prepare and serve Christmas dinner for twenty…
The owner whistles, and the dogs flee to their master. I must go as well. There are still a lot of unchecked items on my list.
Driving home, I notice a flock of geese skimming gracefully in a brook at the side of the road. It is a calming pastoral scene. But shortly, they will take flight on the long journey south.
Perhaps, the best way to celebrate Christmas is to seek a gentle balance. Like the ebb and flow of the salt marsh, we need the bustle and the breather, as well as the reality check.
Then in time, the flurry of the festival and its quiet aftermath will meld into another long cherished memory.