A long, long time ago, someone, somewhere, created a man named Santa Claus. If I’d done more research, I could give you a better origin story for the current iteration, but you know who I mean. He’d existed before under various pseudonyms and with varying powers, but this go ‘round they made him old, gave him a red suit, a sleigh, and a herd of reindeer. They gave him a team of helpers, an address no one can find, and they eventually gave him a wife who makes cookies and helps him keep up with his schedule.
They also gave him a job. Every year he was to fill a sleigh with toys – enough to spread around the whole world – and hitch that sleigh to his reindeer and fly out into the night to deliver his packages. Delivery required coming down chimneys or other various means of breaking and entering, and depending on the family being visited, the gifts also had various levels of meaning and expense.
Every year he makes appearances on television, on radio, on stages and mall platforms to check in with children who promise they’ve earned their spot on the good list, while adults fall over themselves to make sure the meetings can happen. And as they pull one screaming, terrified child after another off the knee and past the elf with the tiny candy cane prizes, they smile and wink at each other for keeping up with the secret.
It’s that secret that I see as a miracle. Not just any small miracle either – this one is huge. For decades upon decades, people around the world have kept the secret of Santa. Even people like my little brother and his wife who were absolutely adamant they were not doing Santa at their house because they weren’t going to, and I’m quoting here, “Lie to their child” haven’t missed sitting my nephew on Santa’s knee for the past 8 years. Even during covid times my husband and I were with them when they trapsed through the snow downtown to a small hut where a man with a white beard and a red suit sat behind a plexiglass partition to listen patiently while my nephew outlined what he would like to see under the tree. And we all went along with his excitement afterward, agreeing with him that Santa liked him and would deliver.
It’s miraculous to me that as a people who globally disagree on so many important issues, who battle and belittle, and war with one another 364 days of the year, we keep up the secret of Santa. Each of us a willing participant in the “big lie” to avoid being the one to kill the magic of the fairy tale. Not one of us wanting to be the one who says “Sorry, Walter, there is no Santa Claus.”
A little something from a 2 minute excercise.
I can’t go on, I go on. What other choice do we have once we enter onto this Ferris Wheel called life? Round and round we go in the universe, collecting momentum to continue forward, bringing the other riders along with us as we spin to the carnival music never quite in time with the lights. It’s a crazy ride, for sure, and maybe it could use a few tweaks. Maybe some safety measures to protect the heart when the wheel spins to hard, but it spins as it always has and we stumble off at the close of it all with a haggard thank you, thank you for the ride.
I will not say another prayer for this world
I will not. I cannot.
No matter color, creed, or crown
I will not kneel with my head bowed
I will not. I cannot.
They say their preacher can speak in tongues
I say I will not hold mine
I will not. I cannot.
They say a prayer will heal us all
I say the time to pray has passed us by
The time to do is now.
When the cries of the suffering are still ringing in our ears
When the scorched trees of our forests are still crumbling at our feet
When hatred’s poison flowers are still blooming in the concrete
I cannot stop to pray
I will not. I cannot.
When I take my seat at your table it will be a show of action
It will be a sign of strength
When I bow my head with you, I will not be alone
The hurt of a million mothers will lead my heart
The wisdom of ancient scholars will carry my mind
And the howl of a warrior will be on my lips
The sacred spaces of a homebody…It’s a difficult task to describe places that are sacred to me, the person who jokes about home being the only sacred space. The girl who didn’t travel well as a kid, and preferred nights alone in her own room to sleepovers with friends, regretting it every time I accepted an invite. My childhood home hasn’t been home since I was fourteen and the house we moved to after that had nothing sacred to it. I still have no connection to that dwelling where my parents live. It’s just a house.
I’m happy in my forest house now, but still struggle to describe it as feeling sacred. I haven’t quite figured out how to make it mine yet, this space in the Puget Sound, though parts of it feel right. Parts of it feel real. When I’m here, I know I’m in the place that will be home for a long time to come. Other times, I sit on my deck and stare out at the trees, the grand stretch of the Olympic Mountains and mist from the Hood Canal behind us, and think it’s still just an almost.
In thinking about this class, I thought about one place I traveled to. The vacation, as we simply called it, where I finally felt like I’d come home. Our first anniversary trip to Ireland, and specifically Christ Church Cathedral in Dublin. We wandered through so many sacred places on our car ride from Dublin on the east coast to Shannon on the west, but Christ Church was the first to make me cry.
It wasn’t the holy-ness of the building, or the milling about of real-time worshipers that caught tears in my throat. It was the longevity of the building. It was the history in the stones and the pews and the tombs below that hit my heart. For hundreds of years longer than the country I’d been born in had existed as a country, this church had sat in the middle of a small but growing city, cared for and protected. Built up and torn down, rebuilt and redesigned with countless stories folded into every stone.
We wandered past the heart-shaped box (not yet stolen) and an ancient copy of the Magna Carta, into the basement there, reading names of those entombed, marveling at the gold artifacts that had been stolen and then stolen back. Candle sticks that once resided in a grave to protect them, and a cat who chased a mouse into an organ where both were mummified, all while a modern-day DVD outlining nearly 1,000 years of history played in the corner. The sight of it all together, the TV on the old-school rolling stand pushed into the stone corner along tombs of the long dead, and belonging there, nonetheless, was humbling.
Outside of the main doors was one of the original foundations that had been laid in this spot almost 1,000 years before as a Viking church. Of course, it was a Viking church that spoke to me. The Celtic and Norse stories always being the strongest in my heart. Silkenbeard – as the Viking King of Dublin was known because the Vikings loved their nicknames as much as their facial hair – could not have known then that I would come to stand silently weeping at his sacred foundation. My own newness and the newness of my roots exposed against his ancient, crumbling steps.
You did not need to be a Viking, or a Dubliner, or religious to feel the power of the grounds under your feet. You didn’t even need to step inside the doors of the church to feel the sanctity of the small, rectangular ruin. The sacredness is evident in the care and protection by lay people, continuing for centuries after a Viking King’s death, in the foreign city I felt was home. My sacred home came to me, the homebody who didn’t travel, in the cobbled streets and rolling hills of an island I spent too little time on and have spent countless hours trying to recreate.