Twenty-two years ago this Christmas, I was bundled up at 2 am trudging through waist deep snow in Alaska. I remember the Aurora Borealis roasting the boundries of the Arctic sky with dramatic hues of green and blue. It was night watch in the US Coast Guard, and I had the plodding task of making sure all of our equipment was running throughout the evening despite the sub-zero temperatures and potential for freezing pipes.
My trek was in a perfect kind of silence. This is the type of silence that one may find in the deepest reaches of space. A silence that amplified the smallest noises warping them into spiraling soundscapes that seemed to last for several minutes. My canvas green coat looked like something left over from the Korean War. It smelled like unreasonably strong coffee and leather seats. Winter blasts had been hemorrhaging white on us for months and people lost their cars, sheds, and pets to such storms. I was homesick for Pennsylvania and wondering why I didn’t just stick with college the first time around.
My journey around Valdez harbor took me past rows of sleepy sailboats and sturdy fishing vessels with adventurous names. I remember gazing into their ghostly interiors and wondering when their owners would return to crack the crystal mirrored sea for the first days of spring. No birds sang. No tiny mammals followed my footsteps with weary features. I was alone in otherworldly exile. Another spent Christmas.
When you are twenty years old you believe you have a thousand Christmas days left. Now that I am forty-two and facing the very real medical possibility that this is my last Christmas on Earth, I can’t help but look back. Some part of me wants to go back and spread my arms wide to gather all Christmas days that I took so lightly and re-spend them. I want to re-possess those fragile moments and bottle them for the months ahead. I long to store them up in some silent warehouse for cautious expenditure. To account now for every tree and for every party I ever attended.
But I can’t do that. I can’t control time. I can only ask my readers do me a favor. I would ask that you enjoy this and future Christmas days remembering how few we get. Say the things you need to say to loved ones. Allow yourself to be swept away with spirit. Be foolish. Be a fool. Embrace every moment. Don’t focus on controlling things or overthinking.
I hope none of you face what I face now. But if that day ever came for you, I hope you will look back and be grateful that you allowed Christmas to pierce any jaded boundaries you may have established. You will be glad you let your heart melt and that you shed a tear when hearing silent night wash over a chilly street.
Merry Christmas Everyone!
With Fierce Hope,
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