The rain is gently falling – and the sound reminds me of the permanence of all things. It is a gentle, steady sound that has accompanied humanity in all of its existence. It soothes my soul on this Christmas Eve morning.
Soon the sounds of my family will join in, and we will head downstairs and start preparations for our part of our Christmas dinner that I will take with me to my mom’s tonight where our entire family will gather. We will sing Christmas hymns and songs, my aunt will accompany us on the piano, we will dance around the Christmas Tree, eat lots of good food, tell silly jokes, laugh, marvel at candle lights lighting the tree, and hold hands. Glaringly obviously absent from our holiday celebration are the presents. We are not doing that this year. We all are the gifts.
This year we are not taking the togetherness for granted: Who we are with. The food we eat. The rituals we engage in. That is our presents. Being able to be here is a present. Being alive and loved is a present. If I think about it, it is a present that so far surpasses any man-made contraption that could fit under the tree or appear magically out of Santa’s overstuffed sack.
Walter is with us. Walter and I have been in Denmark since December11th, our kids joined us shortly thereafter as they could get away from their obligations at school. And we have just been together in the dunes by the West Coast of Denmark in a little cottage by the sea. We have visited with a few friends and been with my family. Family we didn’t know if Walter would ever see again. Visiting beloved sites again with Walter is better than anything – better than any present I can imagine.
Walter was cleared by the doctors to travel here; and with hand sanitizer, frequent hand washing, a careful screening of who Walter gets close to, he has done exceedingly well. He is gaining weight – he is enjoying eating, he is playing guitar with his sons. He is rested and happy. We all are. I delivered a first draft of my dissertation before I left and have now received feedback from committee members and major advisor. However, I am not touching that thing until after we get back to California for New Year’s Eve for my revisions! This is time to just be. I am doing exactly what I want when I want it. It is glorious!
Part of that has been working on getting Walter’s touring schedule ready for next year! He will start in July in the USA and do select shows and festivals, then go to Europe in November and do a tour there. We should be ready to announce a more full tour schedule early 2015. To work on Walter’s career feels like a gift too. He is looking forward to playing again. I know it is almost overwhelming for him to imagine getting back on stage again. He watches old videos of him playing with Mayall and with his own band; and he imagines what it will feel like to do it again. He practices and gets stronger.
The other night my mom had bought us all tickets to go see a boy’s choir perform Händel’s Messiah with a symphony orchestra and solo singers. It was glorious. Another day, a friend of mine took us on a three hour long tour of a geothermal, trash-to-energy and straw-burning power plant. We learned how this area of Denmark is completely able to provide for its own energy by inventive sources. They actually have an excess of electricity due to all the wind turbines. But other energy sources: Solar, wave technology, trash-burning (completely clean), and geo thermal also contribute greatly. To boot there are no landfills, and no pollution! And combined these sources provide an abundance of cheap and clean energy. So many things are possible when people led by visionary politicians just band together and make it happen by applying new technology and a willingness to invest initially for a huge pay-off down the line for both people and planet.
Other than that we are playing Trivial Pursuit, cooking, eating, visiting, and resting.
Life is such a gift. And we marvel at being alive. Each day we talk about how the love of our community – and the blues community – sustained us and held us during the worst crisis that any of us have ever experienced. How doctor Shafer and other staff at the hospital in Nebraska daily gave us the courage to traverse the crisis we faced. How the donor and his or her family gave Walter the ultimate gift. How we are still able to pay the bills due to the fundraiser that made it all possible.
And presents at Christmas look really silly in comparison. We have had a year of incredible gifts showered on us. A year of incredible torment, pain and hardship framed and put in perspective by the love of community.
From the entire Trout family at Christmas we want to wish you a beautiful holiday season, and a celebratory entry into the New Year. I stand comforted knowing that Walter and I faced many of our worst fears in the past years and managed to walk through them with the loving help of others. It makes me realize that living in fear is not necessary. My New Year’s resolution is:
Plan for the future, live in the moment, and adjust the plans for the future to the present reality as necessary. Appreciate the gifts of community, of love, and of family. Strive to be real. Above all always love excessively!