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OtterChristmas 1.1-Goeths

I suspect that life amounts to little more than coming and going, with almost no presence involved. I seem in transit, either in motion, recalling past excursions or plotting upcoming ones, eternally between here and there, and not solidly anywhere at all. I share my address knowing it's hardly more than a way-point along some not yet defined journey, which will most likely only be known, if ever understood, considerably after the fact, as if anyone would find more than an ounce of anything tangible in any odd ton of my experience.

I am more verb than noun, a streaking blur in the foreground, hardly distinguishable from my shifting surroundings. I goeth far more than I ever cometh. [Head penitently bowed, hands demurely folded on chaste lap, secretly drooling lisp slobber.]

Human nature might explain this urgent need to get out when The Otter visits. We have things to see. Clear Creek's almost completely frozen over, with only a meandering thread of current still showing above the ice. Downstream, a considerable ice dam completely encases the stream, though the flow regains itself in the ponds further downstream. The Otter, new camera in hand, wants pictures of everything. The Muse and I stroll through the landscape, hardly stopping, while The Otter crouches down every few feet to freeze some flow into more permanent form.

Hardly even arrived yet, and we're off to another destination. We browse through the world's best hardware store, constantly stopping to marvel over another clever gadget, even consenting to select a few to add to the more permanent collection, like so much punctuation pulled out of time. Those purchases will forever hold our momentary presence there together. When I wear those boot socks I bought, it will be as if The Otter and The Muse were woven into their fabric.

I might schlep a box or two, but The Muse takes charge of assembling and decorating the tree. This year, The Otter's assisting, holding ornament boxes while The Muse, poised atop a footstool, places these frozen bits of past comings and goings into their properly present places. She insists that her mom's spirit inhabits that ornament her mom gave her that first Christmas after Little Amy was grown and gone. The tree barely holds the accumulated wealth of memories now, each year adding a very special select few, summing now into an almost overwhelming whole.

This year, I might be finally figuring out this Christmas business. I understand the traditions and rituals well enough, but a deeper why has always haunted me. Why that same Johnny Mathis CD every freaking year? Why egg nog now and never in July? Why all the rushing around acquiring presence? Perhaps it's all an exercise in calibration. The rest of the year, we proceed, poking sticks into the dark. We understand in our deepest core that we have no idea what comes next and we go forth (Dare I say 'goeth forth'? Slobber. Lisp.) with trepidation and courage, usually a bit of both, suspended in a slurry of semi-unconsciousness; barely present. I noticed last night, while The Muse and The Otter puttered around that familiar tree, that I'd seen this movie many times before. I felt transported back through sixty-some similar seasons, each producing remarkably self-similar scenes, only spare details seemed any different. At root, at core, I caught myself anchored in a timeless place for an instant, which, in any timeless place, any instant equates almost perfectly with any eternity.

Here's a plot line I can follow because I've heard and seen the story repeated dozens of times. No need to poke sticks into any darkness here, even though, outside, it's almost the darkest danged night of the year. Between our almost ceaseless comings and goings, we were most definitively here, now; there, then. Further, this current ritual will now hold this moment, too, like another sacred ornament on an endlessly enduring tree.

The Grand Otter cometh this Christmas and will never really goeth away. This time of the year, unlike every other, time firms up enough to amount to something quite unlike the blurring verb it otherwise insists upon being. This hearth warms more than momentarily.

Of course, The Otter will head out in nine days, but mere distance will separate us then. Whatever thread streams out behind us now will retain this wonderful tangle where these three threads intersected at this moment in this most remarkable space. Next year, and every year thereafter, our spirits will conduct a reunion of sorts, a reconnection of the sacred space once shared and forever present in this season.

After epiphany, we can all return to poking sticks into darkness. Here, we goeth into the book of Christmas present, soon enough, Christmas future, and forever after, Christmas past, each one indistinguishable from any other.

Holy night, indeed!

©2016 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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