Thinking about stopping

We are in New York City for Christmas this year….for a very good reason….a new baby granddaughter born on December 16th. What a delightful way to enjoy the season.

Yesterday I was out on the streets shopping for food and observing the panic-stricken faces of many of the shoppers. One woman at the flower stand was almost attacking the poor guy who was wrapping her flowers. “It is not even funny how much I have to do! Not even funny!!!”

Besides the frenzy of Christians, it is also the beginning of Hanukkah for Jewish families with special meals to prepare for friends and family during their holiday season.

Having finished most of our own Christmas hoopla before we left, it was fun and interesting just to observe others’ distress with a smile and a “been there, done that” feeling. I wondered why it is so hard to slow down and just enjoy the peace and good will that is intended for Christmas.

Just before bed last night I found this delightful holiday blog post from our daughter Saydi who lives in Boston. It includes one of my all time favorite poems and Saydi’s usual deep and clear thoughts about stopping to be still and enjoy the moments.

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening

By Robert Frost

Whose woods these are I think I know.

His house is in the village though;

He will not see me stopping here

To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer

To stop with out a farm house near

Between the woods and frozen lake

The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake

To ask if there is some mistake.

The only other sound’s the sweep

Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep.

But I have promises to keep,

And miles to go before I sleep,

And miles to go before I sleep.

I always think of this poem around this time of year. I love it. Reading it helps me feel the peace that really is the center of this season, but somehow gets so easily pushed to the edges. I’ve never really isolated why it helps me feel calm. I’ve assumed it’s the validation and empathy I feel reading that last line, “miles to go before I sleep” and then reading it again. But this morning while I was running in the crisp air and marveling at the beauty of the still grey sun rise and taking in the details of the trees silhouetted against the solstice sky the real meaning of this poem (to me at least) hit me.

There are miles to go before he sleeps, but he is stopping. Stopping in the woods and watching them fill with snow. He is quiet enough for a minute to listen to the wind and downy flake.

And in that stopped quiet moment he is reminded of the promises he has to keep. Promises.’ Isn’t that a nice way to think of all the things we are running around doing? In my mind, he stopped, drank in the beauty of a moment and then moved for ward laced with peace as he traveled all those miles before he could sleep.

This is what I’m trying to focus on this season. The moments (the good ones). Emmeline reading the Grinch to Peter on the couch. Charlie doing a secret service. Hazel leaving notes on my pillow. The glow of the lights as I read to the kids all snuggled into my ribs. Laying in bed at night with Jeff talking about how great we think our kids are.

I’m trying to stop and watch my woods fill up with snow. When I do I can see all the love and meaning behind all those miles and promises stretched long before I can sleep.

What is making you stop this season? Can you hear the easy wind and downy flake?

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