If there’s one picture of Christmas that we have all seen over time, it’s that Thomas Kinkade Christmas Cottage — a movie was even made about it. You know, the “painter of light” whose cottages, lighthouses, gardens and gazebos always had an almost too saccharine an air about them in their portrayal of the idealistic, picture-perfect settings? Does anybody really have that perfect harmony and goodness inside their warmly lit Christmas houses?
Sadly, I learned that Thomas Kinkade did not. When I saw that he had passed away in 2012, I wondered why he died so young (age 54). Answer: accidental overdose of alcohol and Valium. He was battling the demons that never appeared in his paintings.
I believe that there are many warmly lit homes at Christmastime that do hold the peace, love and understanding that the season embodies.
More than the gifts, the parties and the entire flurry that goes with the holidays, it’s a time for reflection about what is important inside the four walls we call home. It’s about family, friends, health, peace and appreciation for the beautiful natural world in which we live.
My stepdaughter told a story about being frustrated in line at a grocery store and what appeared to be a problem with the customer two or three people ahead of her. When she listened and watched, she realized that the person was trying to figure out what to put back because she had gone over her food stamp limit. Stepping ahead, my thoughtful stepdaughter asked how much was the overage: $10. She pulled out a $20 bill, paid for the groceries, and gave the woman the rest. Her point in telling the story is that we should remember those who are not so fortunate as we may be. That’s a Christmas story.
I heard a Christmas song on the radio that I don’t think I’ve ever heard before. It’s not one of the mainstream “Silent Night” or “Jingle Bells” variety; in fact, Christmas is not even mentioned (sort of like “My Favorite Things”). It’s a very sugary view of a Christmastime winter wonderland. I was struck by some of the lyrics because of the world of snow we live in up here in Mazama.
“It’s a marshmallow world in the winter
When the snow comes to cover the ground
It’s time for play, it’s a whipped cream day
I wait for it the whole year round.”
The line in the song that really resonated with me was this:
“Oh, the world is your snowball, see how it grows
That’s how it goes, whenever it snows
The World is your snowball just for a song
Get out and roll it along.”
Happy holidays and pause to give the gift that keeps on giving — a smile.
Update: A whole lot of Methow chickadees have been going around with big heads after a recent column. “Aren’t we cool?”
Well, a savvy reader clarified that it’s not really the whole brain that grows, making their heads bigger, it’s the part of the brain responsible for remembering where things are that expands in volume by 30%: the hippocampus. While the size of the brain might grow a little, the real change is in the number of neurons, or brain cells. According to Diane Lee at Cal State University, Long Beach, “If you count the cells in the chickadee brain before the fall, and then count them after, the number of neurons definitely goes up in the hippocampus and a number of us have confirmed that (including my lab).” Still, we humans don’t seem to have that capacity!