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And in Atlanta, Georgia

Posted Dec 16 2012 6:24am
And so, I put the oranges and the peace candles on the fireplace mantel again yesterday, as I do each year, and we went to get the Christmas tree. But this time, when we came home with our tree stuffed in the back of the Prius, my younger daughter asked, "Are those peas growing by the mailbox?" We've never had peas growing at Christmastime. It's never been warm enough. But this year is different. This year, somehow everything seems different.  

It was a hard year. It's ending on a very sad note for our nation. And yet . . . I have hope. I always have hope, that seeds of good planted in simple moments by humbled hands will somehow grow.

So, here it is again. The post I rerun every year when I silence this blog for a bit. Thank you for all you do. It matters. You matter.
(written December 24, 2007)
And so there was this family of nine children who, every year for Christmas, received an orange, because oranges weren't local and during the Depression, when this story took place, something not local was still such a very rare and special treat. And when the father returned home late, late, late, in the middle of a blizzard, with the Christmas oranges, the youngest child couldn't wait to get his hands on his orange.

But then, as stories like this tend to go, he lost his beloved orange. The other children found this out and knew what an incredible sadness this was, to wait all year for something sweet and special and then lose it because of being too anxious and careless.

But when they all woke up on Christmas morning, there were nine oranges on the fireplace mantel. All nine. How could that be? Well, one of the oranges was wrapped with a ribbon. Because that orange, Frankie's orange, was made up out of a slice from each of the other eight.

And so, now, after many years of reading this story, An Orange for Frankie, by my very favorite children's author and illustrator, Patricia Polacco, I cannot look at an orange without thinking of it.

Now, as a heavy, full moon hangs over my garden, pulling moisture up to fatten my Christmas salad, and I prepare to line my mantel with oranges as well, one always made up of slices from the others, the sweet and gentle words from a song by the band Alabama waft through my mind:

By now in New York City
There's snow on the ground
And out in California
The sunshine's falling down
And maybe down in Memphis
Graceland's all in lights
And in Atlanta, Georgia
There's peace on earth tonight
Click here to hear the song (and see snow!). It's a beauty. It has played at least 14 times while I've written and edited this post (mostly correcting my million typos).

And for those of you who may be struggling this week, I offer you this poem by Mary Oliver. It was shared with me by a dear friend who is undergoing serious medical issues.

Wild Geese
by Mary Oliver

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
Love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
Are moving across the landscapes,
Over the prairies and the deep trees,
The mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
Are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
The world offers itself to your imagination,

Calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting --
Over and over announcing your place
In the family of things.

And finally, as yet another example of the incredible cosmic energy swirling around the world, I sat down to read the Travel section of The New York Times last night and there was a story about Adelaide, Australia. I showed the map to my younger daughter, who had drawn that exact map as part of her Flat Stanley project for school (for those who don't know, my daughter sent Flat Stanley to Kate and Maggie in Australia, who then sent Stan the Man on to Beijing, China--the experience was truly life-changing in this household). My daughter shouted, "It's Adelaide!" And for some odd reason, I knew it was not a coincidence. You can read the Times' article about Adelaide here , and for what it's worth, Pliny's Italy has nothing on Adelaide, apparently!

Okay, I managed to get Patricia Polacco, Alabama, Mary Oliver, Adelaide, and even another Pliny mention all into this post. I can't call this post complete without telling you this little story
So I'm at a drug store getting a couple of little things and the clerk says, "A dollar eighty seven."

I gasp a little and ask, "Did you just say a dollar eighty seven?"

"Yes, ma'am, a dollar eighty seven," the poor, unsuspecting young man replies.

"The Gift of the Magi! The Gift of the Magi!" I squeal.

He looks at me blankly.

"You know, Della? Jim? The hair? The combs? The watch?"

Blank. Blank. Blank.

Awkward silence.

Finally, he starts to put my items in a plastic bag.

"Oh, no thank you, " I say, deflated. "I don't need a bag."

And off I go. 

(Here's the classic story by O. Henry, by the way.) 

What do all these random stories mean?  I'm not really sure, but they all connect somehow.  We all connect.

I'll be back January 6, 2013, to face the blank slate of a new year.  And to try, in some small way, to make a positive difference.

Wishing you, wishing all of us, peace . . . and peas.
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