For most of us holiday celebrations are over. Have you finally taken a deep breath and released it slowly?
Not yet? It’s past time.
Try this yoga breathing exercise popularized by Dr. Andrew Weil. Through your nose, breathe in to the count of four. Hold your breath and count to seven. Now breathe out slowly through your mouth to the count of eight. Repeat three more times, for a total of four.
Do you feel more relaxed? Is that possible yet? Or will relaxing and letting down take another week?
I zipped through my holiday celebrations, just the way you probably did.
I did a little baking, a little shopping, a little entertaining and partying, a little decorating. All those littles added up to a lot. Then the day before New Years Eve, Proman and I drove north to celebrate with his siblings and their families, plus two of our own sons and their families, who came down for the reunion. This first photo is of some of us after the festivities ended.
This was not a “normal” reunion.
No party halls or catered meals for this clan, unless you count my newest sister-in-law as caterer, who did a bang up job making sure everybody was fed and taken care of. I’m talking 100+ everybodies, because friends and acquaintances as well as family stream in, many camping on the property in everything from fancy RVs to backpacking tents.
The reunion/party centers around an annual ritual that my brother-in-law Pat created almost a decade ago. Once called the Burning Buzzard it’s now called the Flaming Phoenix, because hey, that’s classier, and because a phoenix always rises from the ashes.
Pat, a sculptor and artist, creates a two story “bird” from scrap wood, palmetto and palm fronds, studs it with fireworks, drenches it with fuel, and then precisely at 9 on New Years Eve, after the band–this year a Cajun band–has finished their set and massive amounts of food prepared by hosts and guests has been eaten, the phoenix is lit and the place explodes.
To this date nothing has been set on fire other than the phoenix.
I believe in miracles.
Pat’s house and lakeside property are a treasure trove. His sculptures are everywhere,and for the party, outlined in lights. My grandsons thought they were at Disney World–which is just down the road–and they had the time of their lives. Everyone did.
Did you celebrate exactly the same way?
Okay. Probably not. But your own celebrations may say a lot about you.
Years ago when I was writing Dragonslayer, I decided I needed to deepen the character of Garnet, a public health nurse who marries a minister, whom she hardly knows, in order to protect herself in a gang-infested neighborhood called The Corners. As I often do, I went straight to the Meyers-Briggs Type Analysis and figured out which of sixteen personality types Garnet fit into. Then I read the chapters devoted to that type and realized that people, like Garnet, love parties. Of course they do, and my book needed a party desperately. How perfect and how convenient. It’s still one of my favorite scenes in that book.
Since that time I’ve asked myself how every character I write views his/her social life.
Does any excuse generate a celebration? Do they routinely hang signs of congratulations, balloons, wreaths? Are they the first persons on the block to put up their Christmas tree and invite friends to see the lights? Do they begin planning next year’s Halloween costumes on November 1st?
Or like me, are they laid back? Do they prefer quiet celebrations with friends? Do they need time to plan and create a party, and as it draws nearer, do they simplify and then simplify again? No matter how successful their plans, are they exhausted when the party’s over, or are they so filled with energy they have to find another project right away?
Celebrations are just one of the ways an author can delve into the hidden thoughts and feelings of our characters and begin to understand them better. It’s part of the fun of creation.
So Halloween came and went. Thanksgiving and Christmas are gone, and New Year’s Eve and Day are also past. It’s time to breathe again. Deep, even breaths.
Until Mardi Gras! Laissez les bon temps rouler, ya’ll! In two days the Carnival season begins on Twelfth Night.
Better get ready.