That Christmas time of year


In every Islander’s life the wind is often in the northeast and blowing hard, the mist and rain moves horizontally for days on end, and the sun shines elsewhere. Today, even as we wish for the fluffy and decorative stuff that Bing Crosby sang about — and gobs of it, not flurries — what we will get is, well, not likely to be picturesque. That’s characteristic of this season, at least of the part of it which we struggle doggedly through on the way to Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

And, as if to remind us that despite all our travails, we don’t have the worst to worry about, there are the ghastly events of December 14, in Newtown, Connecticut. As distant as we are from Newtown, we are there. The unspeakable sadness is something we must speak about. The debates about gun control and the management of the nation’s mentally ill are fully engaged and quickly revealing their complicated taxonomy, although the deplorable event is less than a week behind us. We can’t do anything about the horrible weather, we may not be able to solve the nest of problems that contribute to behavior like that in Newtown, but we can, at least some of us believe, do something.

Unlike the deranged young man who left behind immeasurable heartache and was sure he was right each time he pulled the trigger, the wisest of us are not sure of much, except that everything seems a jumble since Friday, and comforting people who have lost so much and whose lives will forever be lived, without respite, at the edge of a gaping hole, is the kind of work that the Christmas time of year offers us. Sometimes it involves the right words. Sometimes speechless listening is the most comforting. We can do that.

The good and the bad, the wishes fulfilled and those dashed, the happy and the tragic, all are amplified by Christmas, all touch us somewhere, and the stunning tide of emotions carries us to the heart of Christmas.

Death has claimed some of the best of us, some of the cheeriest and most inspirational. Illness has flattened some of the good ones we depend on and sparked us to consider the head tides which sweep away so many, and the good fortune we enjoy.

This is the poignant moment of the year, especially so this year. Leave aside the glitter and the shopping and overworn imagery, Christmas still makes its ancient magic felt by descaling us and exposing our lives to life itself, even to the horrors that astonish us.

Although this season especially brings existence to the boil, newspapers by nature are carried along daily in the full flood of human events: births, deaths, tragedies, triumphs, fires, floods, politics, arguments, crabbiness, euphoria. We are exposed to it all. It’s the job, a terrific job to have.

This is a moment to reflect upon the good and bad of it all, the cheery and the heartbreaking, and to remember those for whom Christmas this year will not fulfill its annual promise.