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From:Kate Gilpin
Date:December '99


Kate Gilpin's Xmas
Observations & Wishes

I've been noticing something lately:  I get fatter in the winter.  It's not just the constant thrusting in my face of one sugar-and-fat goodie after another during the holiday season.  It's also some primitive, hibernatory urge to pack on extra sustenance (hah! like we need it!) to make it through the cold, bare season of hiber.  Probably most of us have some of this urge, buried deep in our genes, to store up all those nuts and roots, to drag them back to the cave to roast over a roaring fire while the snowdrifts pile up in the dark outside and our relatives gnaw noisily on the bones of an old buck.  Sort of a universal survival technique back there in the collective brainstem.

At the same time, we're all impelled to be especially cheery and optimistic in this month when the light is at its ebb, and our ancient families were afraid that the year was dying, and maybe not just temporarily.  We're busy reassuring everybody that this is not death but sleep.  So we present each other with nuts and roots, and extra skins, and we light up our corner of the cave.  My neighborhood is a blaze of decorations now, with sheaths of lightcicles hanging from the eaves, and magical reindeer scaling rooftops. I finally figured out how to get a power cord out the front of my house, so now, in addition to shiny strings outlining the windows, my skeleton-bare Japanese maple is covered with tiny lights, and holds a posture brave as a dancing mime.

Inside, everybody wants to huddle by the hearth.  It's like the food--we draw closer together at the darkest time of the year to be fortified with the warmth and nourishment of the tribe.  In my small wooden house I give a holiday party each December, and we all settle into chairs near the bright little Christmas tree, or we hang out in the kitchen, catching up on what's new, inhaling cookies and pies and savory winter treats.  

Steinway, my tender Bouvalo, joins in sweetly, wandering from group to group, saying hello and looking expectantly at pieces of cheese drooping from crackers.  Duncan-the-fairy-cat does a nervous scamper through, then retreats to a bush in the garden, where he watches folks who drift out there from time to time.  He'll be back in the house like a flash as soon as the front door closes on the last departing guest, giving a scratchy meow and demanding dinner. My house is filled with the perfume of spiced cider and the sounds of friendship.

The year is dying, along with the century, and the headlines aren't great, either.  Wars and famines still abound, and life on the planet is precarious, fragile, and very precious.   But in this season, together we become a little village glowing with light against the darkness, shining out and saying, yes, we are all still here, twinkling at each other, saying hello across the whole of the galaxy.

From my three bears cottage to your three bears cottage, Steinway, Duncan and I wish you all, my dear friends, a happy, warm, and peaceful holiday season.



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