Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Community Language

In Boulder, we have the opportunity to do the most interesting and unusual things if you have the courage to venture beyond your comfort zone and because my goal since moving here is to go beyond the usual, we venture. Last night we joined the gather of the Men and the Women’s Councils to celebrate the solstice. It was held at the silo at the Red House Farm, formerly owned by my great-grandfather, John King so it always has meaning to be there beyond just a nice place to be. It was a small gathering. The topic was a focus on community and understanding that we all have gifts and wounds. There were many interesting thoughts around the topic but one part that got me thinking beyond the evening was a comment about how each group in a community has its own language. If you possess the language, you are accepted into the group, if you do not it may be more difficult to be a part of the group. I think few of us understand this idea because usually everyone speaks English but it may take having those that do not to help us understand that there is also the language of the group.

Being a part of a group called Educators, this is really evident. We have lists and lists of acronyms we use to talk about almost everything including the students. Then we wonder why parents don’t participate in their student’s educational process. It is a different language and one that can make those without that language feel stupid. Even in this small town there are several different groups who possess their own language. There are the Mormons. You can easily identify them by their language. I was watching a couple on the Today Show whose son had nearly drowned. I knew they were Mormons even before it was confirmed that their home was in Provo. I appreciate knowing how to speak Mormon even if I’m not actively participating. I can connect with members of my own family as well as certain people in the community. There are the Intellectuals here in Boulder. I can usually speak their language fairly well although it’s more work and I’m not as comfortable but I always love the challenge it provides. There are the Laborers. I love their directness, their humor, even their crudeness. It is honest and refreshing. I can speak this language as much as girls are allowed to speak it. I know there is a part of the language that is never open to women but I like hanging out on the edges. There are the New Agers, not sure that is the best label but they find spirit in everything. It is a language I love although I’m far from fluent. I listen more here. You might think there is a language of the Environmentalist in this town but when you live in this town, you love the land. You miss it when you are away or even if you drive it in the dark. You find ways to be outside, to walk across a stretch of sandstone or through a grove of aspen. In Boulder, everyone is an Environmentalist.

All of these many languages I have described are interesting and beautiful. However, the language can also create a barrier keeping everyone else out if you aren’t careful. If you are only comfortable with those that speak your language, life is going to be pretty much the same every single day. You will begin to believe that only people who speak your language are good or worthy. You’ll probably even start looking alike in ways that aren’t very attractive. You’ll never find out that you are very similar to these people who don’t speak your language. You’ll find the more you talk to them that even your language will change. You’ll learn things you never knew about building, sharing, breathing and life. I think the most interesting people in this town are those that speak many languages and travel in and out of the many groups of this town.

So be courageous. Move beyond your comfort zone. You never know what you might find on the other side of some place you've never been. And when you gather with your tribe, listen for that person who doesn’t speak your language and invite them in. Teach them your language or better yet, learn theirs.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Preparing for Christmas

Me going to the Christmas dance in Escalante

Geneya helped me make my blog more festive for Christmas. Since it has always been my favorite holiday, I figured I should get a new post on as well.

My earliest memories of Christmas were at my Grandma and Grandpa Roundy's house, waiting for Santa to arrive. Grandma always had a beautiful Christmas tree placed in front of the big picture window. It was most often a Ponderosa pine with heavy flocking, always full-limbed and balanced since my grandpa could insert limbs as easily as God did. My grandma created the traditions of wassel and sugar cookies. Christmas Eve included a Christmas program at the church and Santa handing out bags of candy. He always stopped at the house before taking off in his sleigh. Chrismas morning started early, usually because Grandpa couldn't wait any longer for us to wake up. After the presents were opened, we spent the morning visiting at Aunt Ruby's, then down to Aunt Fon's and finally, across the street to Evadean's. There was always a Christmas dance on Christmas night and it required a new Christmas dress for the occasion.

The adult Christmas can never match up, so luckily you have kids and grandkids to make it better. I love the Christmas tree, so I have to put one up even if no one will see it but Steve and I, after all I am related to Ott Roundy. I think a lot about the right present for those I love. Being in Boulder makes the shopping a little more challenging but I am learning how to get almost anything off the Internet. It's interesting to see what your adult kids take from the traditions you tried to build about Christmas, what matters to them as well. They both have their trees up already so that Roundy Christmas gene seems to be strong. I need to make a batch of wassel. Steve is trying to get the red lights up on the house. Hopefully we'll get that Christmas cookie contest in sometime over the holidays. We have Steve's Chinese Christmas dinner planned but not on Christmas so we can accommodate all of us. Tomorrow night will bring the yearly Palmer Christmas Party complete with Silly Santa. Colby, Taylee, and I are planning to make it to that party and see what Taylee thinks of that Santa, especially without her mother. Another great holiday season wishing each of you a Happy Holiday as well.
Here's a Christmas poem from a few years ago.

Each Christmas
Christmas 2005

I work harder and harder to make it the same,
the same as last year, the same as when I was seven.
Each Christmas I make gallons of wassel,
just like my Grandma made and her mother.
We sip it with friends, give it as gifts,
wrap fingers warm around those old Santa cups
filled golden with wassel and the reflection
of lights from the Christmas tree.
The tree we searched for once again
on the mountain tops or in pinion forests
depending on the weather and depth of snow.
We walk hillsides, assessing trees; the right size and shape,
Finish the trip with hot chocolate,
heated on the green stove in the back of our truck.

The one time each year I will climb to the top rung of the ladder
to string lights and place those same special ornaments;
“first Christmas” daughter, first son, first grandson,
placed on draping branches with the other special treasures
gathered over a marriage.
Hang stockings on the fireplace, wait empty for the movie, the music, the candy
just the same as last year and the year before.
Bake sugar cookies that never taste as good as Grandma’s
so we spend our time with decorating contests.
Cook Mom’s fudge from the recipe
still on the back of the marshmallow jar,
lasting so many years after she is gone.
Watching another generation open pajamas on Christmas Eve
as his Mother begins her own set of the same traditions.

Each tradition allows us to pretend
this year is the same as the last and the one before that
even though this year we are nursing Raymond back to walking.
Knowing we can never healing his heart
forever damaged in his loss.
Plan the next place we’ll look for Uncle Dean, giving up one day
filled with hope on the next.
Always trying to understand his loss of mind,
how we will deal with the fading of his life
as well as that of our only remaining Mother.

Last year was not the same either or the one before
when we spent our first Christmas with an unexpected grandson.
Never imagining how he would turn our hearts and lives around,
making us all soft and amazed.

No Christmas has ever been the same as the year we spent in the hospital, transfixed by the blue of Grandma’s eyes,
knowing she was leaving us soon and so aware we were not ready.
Or the year after Mom died, leaving Colette and I
broken and extremely gifted, two green boxes of jewelry,
mine the elephant symbolizing her journey to another side.

It’s not the same as my first year as a wife.
Christmas so small and lonely, missing my Grandpa,
who would not have been home that year anyway,
his life lasting only enough years to see me marry this handsome man.
Or the Christmas no one wore new dresses to the dance
and I did. It was maroon velvet with a sparkling empire waist.
I went home early, too beautiful for girls without dresses.

It’s not the same as the first Christmas without my Mother.
Dad bringing a new wife to Grandpa’s that year,
my Mother declining the invitation to still come home for Christmas.
Or that first Christmas after my sister was born
I don’t remember that one because even with two years alone,
I don’t remember anything without her.
Or my first Christmas, when my Grandparents
became changed, their hearts soft and amazed because I was there.

It's not the same as the very first Christmas, Jesus nestled
in the crook of Mary’s arm and Joseph standing watch.
The star lighting the sky so angels could look down and see
all the Christmases to come.