One of my favorite quotes is by J.R.R. Tolkien: "All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us." Here I'm giving glimpses of all I am deciding in the time that is given to me. Enjoy! All pictures and posts are mine, thank you! Please ask permission for photo use.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

a thrill of hope

I'm usually siding with Andy Williams. To me, this is the happiest season of all, the most wonderful time of the year. My name means Christmas, and I'll celebrate that all December long!

Yesterday, however, made me feel like a Christmas tree whose every colorful light had all burned out. The news of the elementary school massacre in Connecticut ripped my heart out and left me in some distant black hole.

I rarely have Saturday mornings all to myself, and today was one lucky day where, before my day really begins, I have a morning free, just for me. I wanted to make a run to the quaint farmers' market in Del Ray, and so very early this morning, when the sun was just starting to come up and the morning had that beautiful soft glow that I love, I got up out of bed, bundled up, and headed out.

On the way, I noticed flags at half mast, and my heart sunk a little. Why didn't I just stay in bed and sleep? I thought to myself. As I ordered a maple spice almond milk latte at St. Elmo's Coffee Pub, I felt weary; okay, it was early in the morning and I was still waking up, but as I waited for the drink, listening to the milk being steamed and all of the people in the pub sharing laughs and cheerfully engaging in conversations, I looked down and noticed this morning's papers, the front pages covered with sorrowful pictures of victims' families, headlines that screamed tragedy.

I had arrived too early, and the market wasn't quite open. I left the coffee pub, hot drink steaming in hand, and sat outside by myself in the cold, and in the quiet. The Quakers sit in silence to listen; they listen for the Truth to speak to them and for the Light to be kindled in them. It is something that I admire so much in Quakers--that they have a "deep commitment to peace, simplicity, truth and equality."

My high school Humanities teacher once told me that I possess a strong sense of empathy and an urgent desire for justice. My therapist once told me that I have the heart of an activist. It could be the Latina blood in me, but it doesn't take much to get me fired up about something, and I definitely am a very passionate person. This isn't always a bad thing, and in fact I feel that it pushes me, in a good way, to try and do good in the world. Sadly, it also means that I take tragedies of the world far too personally, and it doesn't take much to break me down when I hold the sorrows of others too close to my own heart.

I once felt overwhelmed with empathy for a cockroach in a zoology lab in college. My fellow lab partners and I were measuring metabolism by injecting dye in cockroaches and then taking hemolymph samples. We sort of put the cockroaches to sleep by putting them in a jar and exposing them to carbon dioxide, and we would use the needles when they were "asleep." Some woke up too quickly and would panic, or some students were just so careless when taking samples, that the cockroaches were so badly injured from the needles that by the end of the lab, most of them were slowly dying. If I feel sorry for a cockroach (and that takes a lot, even for me!), imagine my devastation at seeing on television people jumping out of the burning World Trade Center towers, at seeing a rabbit whose back legs were smashed by a moving car slowly drag itself off the road, at hearing about elementary school children being gunned down.

The farmers' market opened, so I picked up my latte, still sipping it in silence, and headed towards the square where some vendors will still putting everything in place. And something changed in me. The warmth and friendliness of everyone at the market, even on this very cold morning so early that the sun wasn't properly up, started melting the icicles inside of me. A happy Golden retriever, who knows nothing of a gunman in Connecticut and only knows the world around him, was eagerly awaiting treats from a gourmet dog bakery vendor who was more than delighted to please the pleasant pooch. I bit into an apple cider doughnut, and then a raspberry chocolate scone, and I noticed the happiness, holiday cheer, and caring vibes that were radiating all around the Del Ray community.

On the drive home, I stopped my car to let a mother and her small child cross the street, laughing as the little boy was slowly making his way across the crosswalk in his tricycle and his mom was trying to get him to pedal faster so he wouldn't hold up traffic. I saw squirrels eagerly digging up their stored nuts in a schoolyard, trying to fatten up before their winter hibernation, only thinking of survival. And it hit me--we survive. We have to keep moving, because if we stop, we might never start again. Suddenly, I was so glad to have pulled myself out of the warm bed. I almost never get this time to myself, to really think, and reflect, and take note of the present. Isn't that what I'm trying to work towards? I reminded myself.

I drove down King Street in Old Town Alexandria, looking at all of the lights on the windows of stores, seeing holly and pine garlands draped over doorways, and remembered that it is Christmas. Mariah Carey's All I Want for Christmas started up on the radio (you may be sick of it, but it's never old to me!), and I thought to myself that this is the day I will watch Love Actually, one of my all-time favorite holiday movies that is all about hope, forgiveness, and possibility. Then Josh Groban started singing Oh Holy Night, and the verses resounded in my head with an everlasting truth:

A thrill of hope
The weary world rejoices
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn

I am not so naive to think that the families and friends of the victims in Connecticut feel hopeful right now, that their weariness is relieved by Christmas, or that they will ever fully enjoy a Christmas season in the near future. I can only pray that they find some sort of comfort and relief somehow, some way.

I do know, that for me, I've had my good cry, I've had my moment of silence, and I must, for my sake, look towards that new and glorious morn. I look for the grey rain-curtain of the world to roll back, I look for white shores, and a far green country under a swift sunrise (J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King).

This is one of my favorite parts of the Return of the King movie, below. Here's to hope.


  1. You're such a beautiful soul Natalie. xox

    1. Thank you so much, Caroline. The compliment is very easily and truthfully returned to you. :) xoxo