It’s Not All Merry & Bright.

Via Stephanie Vessely
on Dec 14, 2012
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Photo: *christopher*

I’m starting to see the end of each year as a kind of travesty against nature.

This year, I’m feeling a little bit lost.

I realized it last weekend when my brother called me as he and his family were on their way to cut down a tree for Christmas. When I heard his plan, my heart sank. I felt sad for the tree. Its life was ending so it could stand in a house for about 30 days, and then be hauled off to the trash.

All I could think was, what a waste.

And for what? So there’s something to put a bunch of presents under? Presents that aren’t needed, that were made in China, and wrapped in paper that required the sacrifice of more trees?

I never thought I’d be this person—the one who brings the cloud of cynicism to the party.

As a child and teenager I loved Christmas. I especially loved real Christmas trees, and never understood how anyone could have a fake tree, or how they could live without that pine smell. To me, that smell was Christmas.

I never thought about the tree, or what it meant to the planet.

Now, I’m starting to see the end of each year as a kind of travesty against nature. We kill a bunch of birds in order to give thanks. Then we cut down a 31 million trees in order to have a showcase for more stuff.

Despite this, Christmas still means something to me. But what, I don’t know.

Erma Bombeck once said, “There’s nothing sadder in this world than to awake Christmas morning and not be a child.”

That might sum up my feelings.

What pulls me to Christmas is tied to my childhood and to the traditions that were born there: decorating sugar cookies with sprinkles until my fingers had turned red and green. Picking a Christmas tree. Pulling the same decorations out of the boxes, year after year. And the sweetness of Christmas morning, when my family was just together, when we could all just be.

I remember a Christmas morning when I was about 10 or 11. I had woken earlier than everyone and in the darkness crept downstairs to see what Santa had brought. By this time I had already realized that Santa had the same handwriting as my Dad, but it didn’t matter. There was still something magical in the silence as I lay under a blanket beside the tree and stared at the colored lights.

That’s the first moment I remember feeling something holy. It was just me and the tree, chillin’, and yet in that space there was nowhere else to be, and no one else to be. Maybe that’s the moment that defined how I would find solace in the future. These days, nothing sets me right more than sitting still and watching the branches of a tree sway.

And these days, I find I need to be set right quite often, especially this time of year. Despite the joy and merriment we are supposed to feel as set forth by advertising, some of us don’t feel it.

Instead, I find myself feeling sad. I think about the planet, and ache for her. I worry she won’t be able to sustain us, which makes me worry for my niece and nephew. I think about those who have lost someone this year, and how this season has a way of opening wounds that may have just begun to close. And I think of those who are alone, and those who just feel alone.

I also start to hate humanity just a little bit, as I watch us consume, consume, consume without thought to consequences. And as the solstice draws nearer, I find myself wanting to go inward more, while the whole world seems to want me at one gathering or another.

To me, it’s not all merry and bright.

So for now, I send thanks for my family and my dear friends. I appreciate the way the lights look with a fresh coat of snow, and the bursting excitement of my niece and nephew. They brighten as they tell me about their tree, and what they asked Santa for this year.

Their complete immersion in the present takes me back to that moment when I was 10 years old, and to the silence on Christmas morning, when the world stops to catch its breath, and everything slows down to a pace that seems manageable.

Maybe that silence is enough. Maybe that moment is what I believe in. When it was just me and the stillness next to a tree.





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About Stephanie Vessely

Stephanie Vessely lives in Denver, Colorado and is somewhere in the middle of a lifelong love affair with words. She feels a little out of place a lot of the time and thinks writing about herself in third person is awkward. She is regularly saved by yoga and is searching for Truth. These are a few places she’s found it: the swaying of tree branches, the ocean, the laughter of her niece and nephew and her own heart, when she can be still enough to hear it. She’s an aspiring vegan who loves travel, hates small talk and hopes to help save the animals. Someday, she’ll learn how to tap dance. In the meantime, she keeps scribbled secret notebooks and knows everything is as it should be, even if she has a hard time remembering it. Follow her on Facebook or visit her website.


5 Responses to “It’s Not All Merry & Bright.”

  1. Joel Bass says:

    Well said. I share a lot of these feelings, and I think part of my journey as an adult has been to remake some of my traditions in a way that makes sense. More and more, as you say, Nature gives me that thrill and awe that I used to get as a kid looking at the living room Xmas tree and its mountain of presents. I wonder if it would be different if I had a kid – would I want to give her all the joyful experiences I had as a kid? Or would I still want to make things more sustainable, more conscious, less wasteful, knowing she’d be awed either way?

  2. svessely says:

    Thanks for sharing Joel. My brother had similar thoughts this morning. He said, "As a parent, there is an overwhelming desire to do everything you can for your kids." Though I don't have children, I completely understand that. Hence, my internal conflict.

  3. Rudy Melena says:

    Stephanie, I feel exactly the same way. The other thing that irks me is Christmas lights. There's a vast property in Cherry Hills Village next to the road with all the trees strung with lights at night. Its pompous and an inexcusable consumption of precious energy. I turns me off the Christmas.

  4. Liz says:

    I appreciate your thoughts, Stephanie. Thanks for sharing, and for giving me a reason to be still, read and reflect for a minute. Much needed!

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