Thursday, December 22, 2022

Finding and Feeling the Christmas Spirit

Finding and Feeling the Christmas Spirit
Darrel L. Hammon
December 22, 2022

It’s three days before Christmas, and there is a chill in the air, snow on the ground with a potential of snow next week after Christmas, and our tree has been up and decorated since just after Thanksgiving.


 This past week I visited with someone who told me that they did not feel the Christmas spirit and asked how they could feel it. For me, the Christmas spirit has come in a variety of ways. I can say, though, that some years, it was more challenging to feel the Christmas spirit, but it came in some way.

Let me suggest five ways although there are so many, many more. Some of them may help you as you ponder Christmas to ultimately find and feel the Christmas spirit.


Think of others before you think of yourself.
Isn’t Christmas about giving and being with others? I have noticed that people like themselves a lot, spending time just being on the phones and in their rooms alone, not necessarily wanting to associate with other people. While I understand that feeling to some degree, I sincerely believe that to capture the Christmas spirit, we must climb out of our shells a bit, maybe more than a bit, and think of others, maybe take your family, friends, and/or neighbors something. Giving isn’t always about buying or making something, although that is a nice thing to do. It’s about the very act of going beyond and extending yourselves in ways that you do not normally do and then continuing that practice for the rest of the year.


Go out and play in the snow.
This is a challenging one for those of you who live in places where there is no snow. For me, I grew up in eastern Idaho, and, more often than not, we had lots of snow, usually new snow on Christmas morning. My Christmas spirit comes when I walk out to fresh snow in the yard or the field, plop down, and make a snow angel. As I get older, it becomes increasingly more challenging, trying to get up without ruining the angel, but if you do it right, you can look back at the perfect snow angel and remember the heavenly host singing songs of joy when Christ was born in Bethlehem. If you don’t have snow, you cannot look at pictures that have snow in them or even paint a snowy scene.


 Sit in front of the Christmas tree, contemplate each ornament, and think of what each one means to you.
I love doing this. We really do not have bulbs from the store on the tree. Joanne, my dear wife, has made many of the ornaments we have. We have a picture of children when they were young. As we have traveled, we have purchased ornaments from that particular country or place. Some of the ornaments were given to us as gifts through the years. Every one of them has a story, and we like to relive the sacred story every Christmas. Often, as we look at each ornament, reminisce where it came from, or who gave it to us, we shed tears of joy and happiness, remembering how some of them came to be.




Read the Christmas story through the eyes of Luke in the New Testament (see Luke 2:1-20).
Few things touch my heart more than reading about the babe in Bethlehem, the shepherds watching their flocks by night, the angel arriving with his good tidings, the heavenly host praising God and singing, the humble shepherds rushing to see the new-born babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. The moment they arrived, these humble shepherds knew it was their Lord, Jesus Christ, and they were more than willing to glorify and praise God for all that they had seen and heard. That Christmas story has such great power!


Watch Christmas Videos
When you think of this you may think of all the Hallmark movies. While those may inject a bit of the Christmas spirit, I am talking videos about the sacred Christmas story—how Mary talked to an angel who foretold of the birth of Jesus, how the shepherds came to the manger and witnessed this great event, and how the three wise men came with their gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. You can go here to see a couple of them:
 "The Christ Child" (My favorite) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yXWoKi5x3lw 
 “Angel foretells of Christ’s birth to Mary” https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/media/video/2011-10-0002-an-angel-foretells-christs-birth-to-mary?lang=eng
 

Write about your best Christmas memory.
I don’t know about you, but we have had some incredible Christmas memories. One I remember was when I was younger, we had to do chores before we could open presents. On our way outside, we detoured through the living room where the tree and all the presents were. Outside, we noticed sleigh tracks coming off the roof of our house, skidding across our yard on the fresh snow, and then disappearing. My brothers and I just looked at each other, much surprised. Even to this day, I do not know how they came to be. I can only imagine that Santa had come, flown to the top of our house, dropped down into our house through the chimney, and then raced off without a word. The key to remembering these memories and keeping them alive is reaching out to those who were in the memory and talking about the role they played in the memory and what it meant to you.


These five ways to spark the Christmas spirit in you may have helped you conjure up even more, so write them down, relive them, and let the Christmas spirit well up within you, especially now during this Christmas season but also for the rest of the year.



I believe the Christmas spirit can be within us always—if we allow it and remember it’s a wonderful and refreshing feeling.

Merry Christmas to all!



 





Wednesday, November 30, 2022

The Story of November

November Poem Day #30--Last Day


The Story of November

Only one November exists
each year and only 30 days,
each individualized, overscheduled
with more than we ever imagined:
a typical gorgeous fall
with golden leaves everywhere,
in the valley and in the mountains,

weddings, our first snow,
Thanksgiving (salmon this year),
setting up the Christmas tree
and decorations at the end,
gathering chestnuts off the ground,
digging about in the garden,
fall finally ending with colder weather

and snow, freezing the leaves
on most of the trees.
Then a thaw dripped through
with the wind and blue skies,
only for a day or two
but enough to be mesmerized
by the thoughts of an elongated fall.


The sunsets were magnificent,
each unique with their orange,
yellow, blue, and purple hues.
We did celebrate my birthday,
Black Friday, and Cyber Monday,
nothing too spectacular unless
you looked for it or needed something.

Now, November is abruptly coming
to an end, with anticipation
of more snow, colder temperatures,
more crazy drivers on the roads
without any knowledge of how
to drive in the snow.
We can still reminisce about fall

and November, immersing ourselves
in such eclectic thinking,
perhaps enough to create
another November just like this one
or wrap up in one of Grandma’s quilts
and hibernate until next November.
Truly, it’s all a matter of choice.

November 30, 2022




Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Writing Your Stories

November Poem Month #29


Writing Your Stories

If you are not careful,
someone may write
a story about you.
Before they do, though, it
may be better for you to write
your own story, full of your truths,

experiences, and challenges.
They may not be what others want
to read or share or get emotional about.
But they are your stories, good, bad,
challenging, engaging, and wonderful!
Perhaps, it is now time to write

about your life’s transformations.
For me, it’s about milking cows,
working in the garden,
spending time with my grandparents
at their little grocery store,
going to so many different schools,

learning about history and literature
and bullies, learning to write poetry,
spending time moving sprinkler pipe
or in your room alone, listening
to Chicago and Bread,
roasting Marshmallows and hotdogs

haphazardly stuck on willows
cut from the clump from down by the slough,
learning to play marbles,
riding motorcycles up around Rainey Creek,
selling nightcrawlers to fishermen,
climbing mountains, swimming

in cold Idaho streams and lakes,
catching my first fish in Birch Creek,
experiencing the Hammon chicken harvest
in early fall, going to college
and learning a different way to think,
spending time in foreign countries,

marrying my sweetheart, waiting
for such a long time for children to come,
seeing miracles, moving from place to place,
settling each time—these are all stories,
and there are so many more
that you can conjure up

from memory, once you begin
to reminisce and think about your life.
Just dig deep and often and plop
your life out onto the page
where you see it and feel it again
as if for the very first time.

November 29, 2022


Monday, November 28, 2022

Art Classes

November Poem Day #28


Art Classes

I have discovered lately most acutely
the effervescent talent of artists.
I took a couple of art classes,
drawing and watercolor, and learned
my hands and fingers do not align
with the right side of my brain.

In fact, I had to wonder if my neurons
are actually even functioning.
They try really hard, probably enough
to receive a certificate of participation.

To be real, the blue sky with tinges
of oranges and yellows looked pretty good,
so did a couple of the trees and stems
of grass but the far-off mountains seemed
a little bleak and drab as if they were conjured up
out of forced necessity, not fluidity.


Surely, the brushes and pencils have minds
of their own, yet fail to share with me
what they are doing or thinking, keeping me
in the dark like some type of overshading.

The teacher affirms with just a nod
of her head, propelling us forward.
We struggle on, heads bent,
trying to focus while soft music plays
in the background, our brushes and pencils
dancing and creating havoc across the page.

I have to admit, a bit reluctantly,
that my personal inner canvas exposed
a bit of humility revealing that some things
do not come as easily as other things in my life.
What appeared in my mind’s eye so beautifully
just wouldn’t emerge as such on the page.
I could see it there, lounging so cavalierly, so boldly.
Something within wanted to escape, create,
magnify, be something grand, maybe even whimsical.


So, I let it out, hesitantly, knowing what
was really going to happen, resigning myself
to the inevitable or a surprise, a releasing a sense
of therapeutic wonderfulness, a luminosity,
allowing me to coax out some semblance
of beauty holed up inside that flopped onto the page.

Art is a marvelous way to cajole one’s inner self
to push paint around, do a little shading here and there,
let the paint soak into the page, perhaps even drizzling
it in such a way as to make something look more or less real.

I am okay with all that and will try again and again
until the brushes and pencils grudgingly heed
my plea while the paint strays into real shapes
and images, at least real enough for me.

November 28, 2022










Sunday, November 27, 2022

Milestones in Our Lives

November Poem Day #27


Milestones in Our Lives

Each of us has reached milestones
in our lives, some huge, some small,
some significant, some simple,
but we reach them—

climbing a high mountain peak,
climbing the stairs after surgery;

a weekly date with our loved one;
a night celebrating by ourselves;

a huge promotion at work,
learning a new job that is waiting for us;

a festive feast with so many family and friends,
eating solids after a long illness and hospital stay;

a new color and style of our hair,
our hair finally growing back after chemo;

buying your first home in a new city,
moving into your first apartment;

running a half-marathon as a personal best,
walking your first step after a hip replacement;

going to a concert of your favorite rock band,
listening to our grandchildren sing
happy birthday to you in a video;

the publication of your first novel,
a scribbled message of I love you!
from your little four-year-old;

a nine-day cruise to the Caribbean,
your first carriage stroll with a new baby—

Milestones come at opportune times,
sometimes knowingly, sometimes surprisingly,
yet they come and warm us no matter when,
and we celebrate each one.

November 27, 2022




Saturday, November 26, 2022

Reflections

November Poem Day #26

End of Parley Street, Nauvoo, IL

Reflections

I rather like reflections
as I look at the mountain
across the deep, dark blue lake
that sees itself,
sometimes a bit fuzzy
when the gentle breeze
blows across the water,
distorting the true image.

I see similar reflections
of the setting sun
as its deep oranges reflect
and bounce across the choppy waves
or even more perfectly
when turmoil does not exist.

Much clearer are the reflections
of ourselves in mirrors,
big or small, rectangle or square.

Often, just like the reflection
of the mountain or sun,
our view of ourselves
in the mirror is a bit blurry
unless we look more closely,
stand still, and look straight into it.

What do we see?
What do we want to see?
What should we see?

Can we see ourselves reflected
in the pictures of our parents,
grandparents, or other family members?

Do we see our smiles and positivity
reflected in others when we pass them
on the street or talk to them
in the office or at some event?

Often, what others do
or say reflects what
we have done or said
when they follow our lead.

In another room, bathed
in white in a sacred place,
we look into a mirror
in front of us and one behind us,
and we see the reflection
of ourselves forever and ever.

We should not look into the mirror
or within ourselves only to see
what others think of us
or what we think momentarily
of ourselves today.

True reflections allow us to see
with lucidity, no blurriness, no fog,
and help us understand and grasp
what we really can become,
now and beyond today,
perhaps even for eternity!

November 26, 2022



Friday, November 25, 2022

Reading Directions

November Poetry Month #25


Reading Directions

Reading directions has always been
a challenge for me.
I tend to bypass them,
just launch into doing
what needs to be done,
believe I can do it—
or so I think.
Invariably, before too long,
I am frustrated,
making the simple
more complicated.
If I had just read the directions,
it would be done,
finished, perfectly done,
my persona calm and together,
but my overlooking—
yes, ignoring—
directions throws me down
the erroneous path,
causing me to shove
the wrong part
in the wrong place,
causing such exasperation
so perplexing, so disturbing,
that I have to stop,
take five or six deep breaths,
perhaps even ten more
even deeper breaths,
in and out, even walking away
for some time
to avoid the situation.
But, eventually, I run out of steam,
succumb to the more compelling voice
of someone I love
more than life itself,
someone more pragmatic than I,
to calm me down
and think it through.
It is only then
that I finally understand,
once again for the umpteenth time,
that reading and following directions
is the only way to keep
within the bounds
of sanity, sensibility, and mindfulness.

November 25, 2022