Monday, December 26, 2011

A sanctuary

Christmas day has come and gone.  My father used to say that "it's as far away now as it will ever be." He was full of those kinds of sayings that would make the child Syd sad.  Now I realize that he was just being real.  And I remember a lot of those sayings now and smile.

It was a quiet Christmas day.  My wife went to her parents' house on Christmas Eve night and just got home this morning.  I went over there yesterday to have Christmas Day dinner with the parents.  We ate leftovers and watched them open Christmas cards.  It's interesting how they get a hundred cards every year.  Sending cards has become somewhat of a lost art.  I remember how carefully my mother would choose the cards and address them.  We haven't sent cards in years. Somehow, e-cards just don't quite have the same effect as getting a handwritten note from someone in a card.

I went over to visit some friends early last evening.  They had their family for Christmas dinner.  It was nice to enjoy their company and the lively conversation about politics, books, and movies.  My old girl, Stella, who died on November 27 was in a short movie that they filmed.  I'm going to be getting a copy of the movie and the raw footage of her.  I could feel the tears in my eyes when I saw her in the movie.  It was her first and last time on a couch.  Her part was to be on the couch and be called into the kitchen by one of the characters.  She had never been on a couch before so I had to coax her up on the couch.  She must have thought that I'd lost my mind--"A couch, really?? What is he doing??" She was such a trooper.

Later, I came home, turned on the Christmas lights, took the dogs for a walk in the rain, and read some more from Hemingway's Boat by Paul Hendrickson.  It's about his sport fishing boat "Pilar" that he had custom built, fished on through three wives, the Nobel Prize, and his ultimate ruin.  "Pilar" was his sanctuary which I can identify with in so many ways.  In Hendrickson's words, "Pilar" was:

"A place to weather the storms of professional criticism and escape the anxieties of broken marriages and ruined friendships. On her deck, he entertained celebrities, propositioned women, wielded his firearms, saved swimmers from sharks and relaxed with his children.  Pilar represented this little encapsulated existence where for a long weekend, or just an afternoon, he could get away from the pressures of the writing desk."

I think we all need something like "Pilar", whether it is a boat, the woods, exercise, meetings, rooms filled with people or just sitting in meditation.  A sanctuary.  Yes, we all need that.
It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.  ~Ernest Hemingway


  1. Your Christmas sounded so peaceful. I love the picture in my mind of sitting and opening Christmas cards with your parents. My mom said, more than once, "we didn't get very many cards this year. I guess when you don't send them, you don't get them." It hurt my heart. You know, now that you mention it, maybe it's not too late to remedy this situation. I think I'll but there mailing address on my fb page and ask friends to send cards. Hmmm.... hopefully not creepy people are out there. Sorry to hijack your blog for my thoughts. Merry Christmas. :)

  2. I like real cards too - I used to get quite a few. This year I got one real card and no e-cards. It is quite striking because I used to have to start working on my Christmas card list early.

    I do miss that tradition. I don't know what happened to it.

    I love videos when you catch unexpected treasures - the dog, the long-gone makes you want to stop the film and jump right back into the scene.

    Sounds like you had a good day, Syd.

  3. Glad to hear you had a nice Christmas. I still send Holiday cards. I like reaching out to people once a year with paper.
    Staying present during the Holidays was my gift to myself I was not always successful but had the intention.

  4. Syd,
    I love Hemingway. He was someone I concentrated on when I got my degree in English Lit years ago. Thank you for sharing the quote. The book sounds like a very fine one. Enjoy it.

    Your dad's quote was a gem. I know I would have liked him.

    I'm glad to hear C's parents are still getting along alright. I wish you and C. a peaceful and wonderful new year.

    I have missed reading you.

    Much love,


  5. nice...i feel you man...i so needed a bit of sanctuary this morning after the day was fun but way over load with all the cousins, family aunts uncles...was on the way to work when it was cancelled for the day so took some time to myself just to breath...

  6. Good point, we do all need Pilar!

    My new home has an upper room that we hope will grow into a wonderful Pilar.

    Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays and New Year Syd!

  7. I am on my Pilar right now. It is beautiful.

  8. The Hemingway quote is one of my favorites and I use it a lot. I agree a sanctuary is a must. Sending handwritten holiday cards is one of my favorite things to send and receive. Although, that last couple of years I've been sending Happy New Year versus the Merry Christmas cards, just to change it up a little :)

  9. Christmas... it's as far away as it will ever be. Nice. As we get older that does not sound so said, does it?

    Appreciate learning about Hemingway's, "Pilar." Which created just that space for him to weather the emotional tides of his life.

    I love your sentiment that we all need a "Pilar." A sanctuary. For me that sanctuary is in exercise, in time spent "on the mat", in yoga and in my meditation Sangha. Thanks for giving us so many choices...

  10. What a perfect word. Sanctuary. Your Christmas sounded wonderful.

  11. My bicycle is my Pilar

  12. sounds great syd.. very un-pressured to do 'stuff'
    I went to the xmas day meetings and had a great time catching up with loads of ppl I hadnt seen in AGES, plus met lots of new interesting ppl.. :) Getting there seems like an effort, but once I get there I can't leave :)

  13. I still send Christmas cards - but not as many as I used to. I like getting them in the mail.

  14. The first step of the journey is the most important part of the journey for without it we stagnate in our trepidation. Always take that step.

  15. The very best present we can get on Christmas is peace.

  16. This is my first Christmas as a member of Al-Anon. I found that it stirred up a lot of unrest in me, but that it resolved the unrest, too.

    Your note about Christmas cards caught my attention because this year I reined in my impulse/habit to send them to everyone I know :) . I don't think I managed to make of it an art form, with those I did send. But maybe I did, or maybe I got closer, because I do know that my effort became a conscientious and so-enjoyable and a 'felt' labor of love rather than a mass production effort.

    I love the idea of sanctuary. I know it's really inside me but find, too, that the highway or the river take me there effortlessly. As does the presence of love in someone's eye. Or when my higher power intervenes in whatever setting I'm in.

    A continued happy Christmas and merry New Year season to you and those you love.

  17. yes, I certainly need a sanctuary. Quiet time with my books or these blogs, or writing my thoughts with paper and pen. silently.

  18. A peaceful Christmas is a blessing.

    No, we don't send Christmas cards like we used to. E-mail is not as special but it's certainly a way to stay in touch with people. I think because we can so easily connect with people anywhere in the world through the internet that we don't send cards anymore. Add to that the cost of postage and the cost of greeting cards, and wow! That's a big chunk of the budget.

    Okay, so it's not as personal as a handwritten card, but Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, Syd.

  19. Sanctuary is a gift of grace from God. My sanctuary is a couple of places: the garden, meetings of AA, time with my sponsor.What an abundance! Glad you had a good Christmas. Caution: If you want to make God laugh, tell the world what you will do in the future. Bowel movements may indeed become your interest in later years!

  20. a lovely piece well written, makes my efforts look silly ha ha// am following Mrs Moon too.. have a great day.. Happy New Year to you and your wife..jeannine


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