Doing December Differently

One year, probably about 10 years ago, I made my own Christmas chutney, mincemeat and the pies, Christmas cake, Christmas pudding –  you get the drift, I was “into” preparing for the festivities big time. I didn’t stop cooking, decorating, planning, preparing for the whole of December and, exhausted to a very short fuse, fell out with my brother a few hours after he arrived for Christmas….


December colour along the river

I vowed that year to do things differently in future (and yes, my brother & I are friends again).

With the help of a friend   (who just says “bah humbug” to the season), and my own determination not to get caught up into the commercial pressure, however well meaning (yes, I know Jamie Oliver does the THE best Christmas ever) year by year I’ve done less. I even give some credit to the sneaky tick that gave me Lyme Disease. Not knowing quite how my energy levels will be from week to week, or day to day, it’s been easier to decide not to do things than to do them. So this year a couple of weeks ago I sent some cards, bought a few presents and that’s it. I even forgot to buy an advent candle which I “always” do.


Colourful December day @ Start Point looking back to Start Bay

But rather than sit back and eat too many mince pies, slurp the sloe gin now perfect for drinking, or try and make up for lost time in the kitchen, I began to notice that there is something else going on underground as it were. I was aided and abetted by a strong urge to delay my travels North by another week  and a website called “Abbey of the Arts” which I subscribe to but don’t always read. As is often the case, the travel delay was an intuition that had no logical basis, but it made sense at a feeling level –  I positively wanted to be at home for longer.


One of my favourite views of the Dart @ Sharpham, grey December day!

So in one of my many “spare” moments over the past few days – (and they are getting more frequent as even my “bah humbug” friend tells me she’s busy!)  I opened an email on Sunday from Abbey of the Arts entitled, intriguingly, “Give me a Word 2017″.  Our “online abbess” (Christine Valters Painter) writes “In ancient times, wise men and women fled out into the desert to find a place where they could be fully present to God and to their own inner struggles at work within them…The desert was a threshold place where you emerged different than when you entered. Many people followed these ammas and abbas, seeking their wisdom and guidance for a meaningful life. One tradition was to ask for a word – something on which to ponder for days, weeks, months…She asks “what is your word for the year ahead? A word which contains within it a seed of invitation to cross a new threshold in your life?”


Spiders web delicately decorating an outside decoration

Well I am a sucker for these sort of activities, which she offers as a 12 day mini-retreat, and I’m well stuck into it, drawing, walking, reflecting on the past year and current dreams. And having discovered a word that keeps cropping up no matter what I do, I’m wondering is that the word, or is there another layer to go? This is so truly much more fun than online shopping, cooking up a Christmas storm, drinking vats of wine with people I only see once a year, or going to the most dreadful nativity play ever as I gamely did last year. I don’t feel “bah humbug” about Christmas: I honour the charitable giving, the honest attempts to give the commercial season a deeper meaning, and above all the mystical meaning of the return of the Light.

But I’m enjoying this mini-retreat, taking as much or as little time as I want or can find each day, to listen in a different way to the word that wants to be discovered. I already have an idea what the word might be, but that’s for another blog. If you like the idea, you can sign up here: .

We can do December differently!


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