The Power of Sitting Still

And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.”

—Roald Dahl


Winter has surely hit here. It’s no Chicago winter, which is what I grew up with. But compared to sunny, year-round mild temps at our old home in the Northern California ‘burbs, it’s cold! A cold front last week put us down to 20 degrees at night. It’s taken the kids a while to get used to the idea of wearing a coat. And for Giovanni, wearing shoes.


Our pond froze for a few days, though to the kids’ disappointment, not enough to ice skate on it. We noticed little air bubbles under the ice, assuring us that our turtles and fish are probably doing just fine hibernating in there.

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Mauricio has been off work, so we’ve been designing and building our shouthouse—our combo outhouse and shower for housing our composting toilet—so that we can finally get rid of this RV and live in the dome. More on that very soon. I must say, it’s a work of art. Here’s a sneak preview of work in progress. And no, that’s not the Unabomber building that frame.

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In the mean time, it’s a week and a half before Christmas. Normally by this time, I would have done some gift shopping, attended the Nutcracker and various other performances with the kids, made cookies, cut down and decorated our tree, put up decorations, hung lights, and otherwise been engaged in that flurry of holiday busy-ness that simultaneously made me joyful and utterly stressed out.

This year, while we’re fully experiencing winter, we haven’t quite noticed that it’s almost Christmas. We’re pretty preoccupied with building, so that’s one excuse. But I’m also really enjoying not participating in the consumer side of Christmas. I’ve already prepared the kids for getting one gift from Santa each, which I did buy online. Mauricio and I are giving each other a woodburning stove, which we’ll also need before we can move into the dome. And we’ll probably get a tree next weekend, because it’s one of our favorite family holiday traditions. We’ll put it up in the empty dome (without lights, of course, because we’d have to turn on the generator just to fire them up).

But other than that, we’re doing just fine celebrating the season in our quiet way. Here’s another of our Director of Recreational Activities’ design-build projects made from scrap EMT pipe.

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One of the things we’re doing regularly is hiking around the perimeter of our property to observe the amazing life taking place around us. Two days of rain followed by the freeze has given us a sharper focus on our deer neighbors and the game trails they follow. And we found a recently used latrine that, with our expanding knowledge of animal scat, we think belongs to a fox who’s finding winter sustenance from our manzanita berries. And one particular oak tree seems to be home to an array of the most gorgeous cranberry-colored wasp gall.

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At the top of the hill, the kids and I each have our own sit spot, where we stop and sit in silence for at least 15 minutes. Such a stark contrast to what we’re usually doing this time of year. If you asked any one of us at our old house what was the trajectory of the sun in December, where the moon rose this time of year, where the shadows fall during the day (so you can choose a warm spot for your shouthouse), where Venus is, or which way the wind usually comes from, we couldn’t tell you. We can here. Every one of us. It’s stunning what you notice when you sit still long enough.

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I think that’s what my holidays have been missing all along. Though I’ve always enjoyed the season, that underlying awareness of all the stuff I still had to do got in the way of really breathing it in.

Of sitting still long enough to find the magic.

This year, instead of Christmas lights, we’re seeing more with glittering eyes.

2 thoughts on “The Power of Sitting Still

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