Twelve shopping days left! Like you, each day, I find my email inbox is chock full of new offers from every online vendor I’ve ever bought anything from in my life, and my real, snail mailbox is bursting with catalogs–a million trees and counting–that keep telling me where all the must-have holiday gifts can be found and, hey, the shipping is free! I just have to spend… how much? Pop-up ads are in my face every time I visit one of my favorite web sites… why on earth do they think I’m in the market for diamonds? Even the online recipe sites I belong to have joined in… just this morning I received three separate emails, each with a full page of rich, decadent meals I can make, all of which will require special, expensive ingredients and lots of time in the kitchen with preparation. You know, I just spent $400 on new brakes for my car and I kind of feel like I don’t need anything. You know what else? All this holiday music makes me a little edgy. Seems like every band in the world has recorded a holiday song. Even Coldplay has one.
This weekend I finished up the last two days of my own push to sell stuff before the holidays. Each year artists all over the world spend weeks frantically trying to make a bunch of their stuff in an effort to capitalize on the folks who prefer a more handmade holiday. I just finished many late, late nights painting and matting in an end-of-the year marathon of creativity. I haven’t done much in the way of my family’s own holiday celebrations, but that will probably start this afternoon after I package and send out all the last of the mail orders my customers need before it’s too late. At the moment, I’m more than a little exhausted and slightly stressed. There are a million online articles to help with stress, though, and suggestions include everything from screaming to deep breathing.
So, shop we must, I guess, right? Good thing there are also a million articles that can help you figure out what the perfect gift is. I’ll tell you, I have a hard time buying the right thing for people, even those I know really well. Like I said, personally, I feel like I don’t really need anything and, if I think back to all the completely dumb holiday gifts I bought for friends or family members over the years, I get to wondering why we buy anything at all. So, today, I’m going back to nature. I’m going to give you one link and one link only because I think there is one thing that should be on everyone’s holiday list this year (well, aside from handmade things made by artists and craftspeople, of course). It is beautiful, educational, relaxing, doesn’t have a single calorie and it gives you lots of things to think about and lots of things to talk about with others for years to come. This item was something we bought as a family gift last year and have enjoyed many times since. After my long weekend, I popped it into the DVD player last night and it is still on my mind this morning: The ‘Planet Earth’ series by Discovery Channel.
I like movies but I don’t watch much TV and couldn’t begin to tell you what the Kardashians did or are doing, who is dancing with which stars or what those kids on Glee are rehearsing. I never saw Sex in the City or The Sopranos, and I know everyone is talking about Mad Men and Boardwalk Empire, but I don’t even know what channel they are on. I do, however, love shows on nature, science or history and, when Discovery aired a few of the episodes of ‘Planet Earth’ last year, I was riveted. The series took five years to make and began airing in the US in 2007. Every episode was filmed in high definition and the camera crews went to every corner of our planet to find its most beautiful, spectacular and breathtaking parts. There are more animals than I could begin to name here, many of whom have never been filmed in the wild before, as well as time lapse photography of plants, water, seasons and decay that will blow your mind.
I know it seems a little out of the ordinary to hear me recommending a little couch-potato-ness, but if you must sit and zone out at the big, black box this winter, you have to discover this amazing nature video series. This 52 Mondays project, at its start, began as a way to honor a little piece of the planet that has given me so much. I can’t think of a better way to honor this season of giving and gratitude than to bear witness to all the glorious beauty and bounty our planet has given to us all. I have also found that these episodes have made me and my family more aware of the natural world around us.
Last winter, in the earliest hours of the morning, I stood looking out my kitchen window with a cup of coffee. No one was awake in the house yet and I was getting ready to make the lunches and start cracking the you’re-gonna-miss-the-bus whip but I took a little moment to stand still and quiet. It wasn’t all the way light outside yet, but it was light enough to see that there was an animal walking down my front walkway. I thought it was a cat. It got all the way to the very point where I stood, just a window between us, and turned its head to actually look at me. It was a red fox. Foxes are actually pretty common here in NJ, but I’d never seen one this close to me and certainly never had one stop and look me in the eye. It was one of those magical nature moments that I’ll never forget and I sometimes wonder if that fox is still living around my house, still strolling down my front walk on early, half-lit mornings. I hope so. And, I’m pretty sure that if I asked her how to relax and de-stress during the holidays, she’d tell me to drop everything, take a nice walk and look at the world for a little while.
TRY THIS WEEK: Notice the nature right outside your window.