Christmas 2003

a poinsettia

Katherine Phelps

I arise from my slumber and the sun is already out. My partner is deep in sleep beside me, and the cats are eager to know that I am awake. Preparing the cat food I look out the kitchen window and see that it's a glorious day. I remember Christmases wet with rain, and Christmases crisply cold with snow. These last years Christmas has become a celebration of sunlight, as I now live in the hemisphere where it's a summertime holiday.

I dress myself in a lacy white cotton top and a pair of tan chinos. Knowing it will be an hour or so before my partner wakes as well, I decide to take a walk in the nearby park. Outside I can hear someone playing a staccato rendition "Joy to the World" on their piano. I pass by a few houses before my feet begin to tread the paths made red with drying eucalyptus leaves. I take a deep breath and smell sap and leaves, pine and wattle, grass and jasmine.

I wander, clearing my mind of the clutter from previous days. A thought, a memory of some annoyance bubbles to my attention, then slips away as my attention is drawn to the bright red, blue, green, and yellow of a lorikeet flashing from tree to tree. The bird gossips to its friends about the sole human wandering beneath their homes. In the distance I can see a few children wandering onto the sports clearing and set up a game of cricket. I am not going that way. Rather my feet wend their way to a partially hidden marsh. A wooden bench grey with age sits beneath the shade of a lemon eucalypt.

I sit down on the bench and wait in anticipation. I must be quiet. I must be still. My gentle presence is soon rewarded with the "tok, tok" of little frogs singing to one another. I carefully join the song, clicking my tongue. No hymn could make me feel any more special than this. Pairs of white butterflies dance around each other. At one point two pairs join together and seem to form a pattern that could be the manifestation of an angel. I watch as the pattern becomes more intricate, more beautiful, until the little creatures can no longer hold this new beingness and fly apart.

One kookaburra whizzes by, then another. They may even be the couple that made raucous love in my backyard earlier this year. If only all lovemaking could be filled with such bright laughter. They seem to be feeding some chicks. They are carnivores, and I hope they are carrying fat, delicious, wiggly worms, and none of my frogs. I have only seen my frogs once or twice, and they are of a royal breed: green with flecks of gold as shiny as on any crown. I suppose feeding baby kookaburras would be an honourable death.

Eventually, I get up and head back home. I wake my partner with a kiss and we open our presents. We laugh hard as we watch the cats run around the living room with wrapping paper on their heads. I sense a presence of peace within my heart, and all the cells of my body seem to be made of sunshine. I don't care that today is Christmas. It could be any day of the year and it would still feel as sweet. I savour the moment, holding it close. I will remember, and I will create more such moments for myself and others. Love comes from so many places, including the little frogs in the marsh.