Thursday, December 28

Chapter 50:

In Which Josh Shares his Christmas Letter for 2006

Blue skies echo from between the somber gray clouds, whispering softly that the dead of winter approaches on thunderous feet. I slap my arms to keep them warm as my head turns heavenward watching for signs of snow. My breath comes in long trains of steam as I begin to dance a quick shuffle in order to keep limbs from freezing. It is December, and the frosts have turned to rain – dark clouds which pass west towards Redding in their futile effort to make it over the Sierra-Nevadas.

I walk into town, not a great feat in any weather, and make my way tot he Post Office where the mail is not yet out because the Mail lady has been talking with a local man about communal friends. I hear the words “treatment” and “doctor” as I stand there patiently waiting for my box to be filled. Familiar faces enter, and one stands next to me to pass the time:

“You know that the government is watching you?” He begins – the old story with a new twist. “They have all your information in a big database on the internet where they record your purchases... and if you leave your cell-phone on, they are tracking you. They call it Big Brothers.” He nods emphatically with eyes focused on the image conjured in his head. “Sears is in on it.” He says glowering a bit. “They ask you for your phone number so they can see exactly what you buy!”

“I suppose then,” I say, looking at the conversation of the postal employee with a bit of envy, “that should make you be careful what you buy then.”

“I just don’t give them my phone number.” He says.

But that’s life up here: conspiracy theorists and big-foot sightings by un-employed and the un-employable, welfare and soup kitchen, spending every cent on alcohol or drugs, or else in a store that is soon to go out of business. It’s a feeling of apathy and non-committal death throes of the souls of folks you pass on the street.

The Assembly of God church down the road is closing its doors because there are not enough people interested to attend it. The number of people attending in winter is always low anyhow: “it’s too cold in your church,” “it’s too hot in your church,” “I don’t like hymns,” “I only like hymns,” “the power is out,” “its hunting season.” Excuses. But what’s new? People have been making excuses to not get involved for thousands of years, ever since Cain killed his brother – “am I my brother’s keeper?”

The sky clears from time to time, and the snow melts off. The clouds roll in and by leaving cold, but no more than frozen ground-frost. I can go out and enjoy it if I desire, or stay inside, because I am on winter break now from my on-line Master’s courses until the second week of January. In the meanwhile I have to edit my story and add ten more pages to it. Other than that, I grow a year older, but not the wiser – I seem to have been in stasis in that department for many years; not that I am wise, but that I haven’t become any wiser recently.

They say you become wise through years of experience of loss, gain, success and failure, but I think it is more than that. Standing here beneath the frozen sky, watching my breath, I think that wisdom is how much you have done with what God gave you, and how willing you are to accept His ways and move on.

I hear the sound of laughter in the distance, and I smile.

It’s cold out here. I think I’ll go inside.

Merry Christmas.