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Pack Creek Ranch, San Juan County, Utah.
The Second week of December, 2016
Tranquility reigns – Clear skies, cold days and nights, no wind or snow,
except on the high peaks above the valley.
Old Man Winter seems to be moving slowly this year.

The Christmas process for me usually moves in a parabolic curve.
A parabola is a mathematical concept – a U-shaped curve – moving from
low to high and back or from high to low and back.
For me, the curve varies from year to year – moving from an up state of mind at Thanksgiving through a low trough on Christmas Eve – and up again at the
beginning of a New Year. . .
Or else moving from a downer at Turkey Day to a high on Christmas Eve and back down in the reality of January.
December is rarely an emotional straight line.
First I ignore the holiday season, then I start thinking about it rationally,
and somewhere along the way comes feelings that are inexpressible.
A journey from the ridiculous to the sublime and back is what I hope for.
And this year?
I’m writing this on Friday, December 9 – just before I go off to ring the Salvation Army bell at the kettle in front of City Market.
My mind is still working in advance of whatever comes next.


That’s a prefix for a lot of powerful words – it comes from the ancient Greek root meaning “beside – or next to – or contrary to.”
Here are some of the words – with my interpretive thoughts.

1. Parallax. A word most commonly used in Astronomy – meaning the effect
whereby an object or an idea appears to differ when viewed from different positions – for example, through a viewfinder and the lens of a camera.
Or Christmas viewed looking back, looking around, and looking ahead.

2. Paraclete. Another Greek-rooted word that refers to one who consoles or
comforts or uplifts or intercedes. In Christian theology, the Holy Spirit is an example. As are the comforters of Job. In personal values, one may fill the role of personal paraclete in the lives of those around you in this season of the year.
It’s an active choice to be one.

3. Paradigm. The standard model or point of reference – whatever comes to your mind when you consider Christmas. You may choose to change your paradigm if it doesn’t work for you.

4. Paradox. A word that refers to statements or stories that may be both true and false at the same time. Like all the details of the first Christmas Story. Factually not demonstrable. But simultaneously containing powerful emotional truth.

5. Paradise. A term for a place of timeless harmony that never was and always will be as an ideal o possibility – if not in this life, then the next.

6. Paragon. The model of excellence – the standard of human perfection.
Not me. But I know a few and count on their example.

7. Paranoia. A state of mind influenced by irrational anxiety – usually fear of the unknown. Unlike a phobia, which has an object such as spiders, mice, or falling.
Lots of paranoia around in this Christmas season. Trumpophobia is the term.

8. Paraphernalia. Word for the stuff you need to do your thing. Most of us have way too much paraphernalia and will get more in a couple of weeks.

9. Paraphrase. A way to express the meaning of an idea in other words – to
achieve great clarity. Merry Christmas paraphrased – I extend my good will and best wishes to you.

10. Parasite. One who exploits others – one who takes but does not give. Something not to be – not just at Christmas – but ever.

11. Paranormal. Events described in folklore and myth and dreams – beyond non-scientific proof, which may never the less seem very real. Angels, for example.

12. Parachute. A device used to slow the motion of an person through the atmosphere by creating drag.

There – that list of paras was blipping through my rational mind on my way to
Salvation Army kettle duty. A mind game.

Near the end of my shift I was standing in the cold darkness, shivering, stamping my feet – trying to smile and look merry, when in fact I was miserable and wanted to go home. I felt a little sorry for myself – doing good is not always a pleasure.

Just then a little kid comes out of the City Market and says to me,
“Here, Santa, it’s a cup of hot chocolate. My Dad said you must be getting cold.
Merry Christmas.”

I could hardly tell him “Thank you” through the tears rolling down my face.

The little boy gave me a parachute.
A device to slow the motion of a person falling through the atmosphere in his mind. Such a small gesture of simple kindness – containing so much power . . .

And that’s how the inexpressible feeling embedded in Christmas rose up in me again this year. An upward parabolic arc.

I don’t have the words to tell you how I felt going home.

But you can imagine. . . .