December 2nd, 2002

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I like to read the book "Fishes of Arkansas". It's a giant reference tome, with pictures of all the different native species of fish in the Arkansas region. Virtually every creek in Arkansas seems to have its own native darter species. Darters, which are related to killifish, are incredibly colorful. Because many of these fish are endemic only to a stream or two, most are not preserved in aquaria or other places in which they may be readily seen. As industry evolves, sometimes an individual river or creek might be lost, along with the darter fish species in that river or creek.

Today I'm feeling as though I travel in a bit of a haze, populated only by dull colored bass and catfish, with a few pumpkin-seed and green sunfish swimming about. I want to keep an eye out, though, for the darter fish in my life--bright, elusive, and so very colorful. I suspect I do not see all the darters around me, as they occupy their own niches. In the wild, I do not believe I have ever seen a literal darter fish at a time when I knew that it was a darter fish. In my metaphor, though, I imagine that I can spot a darter once in a while, and watch the darter shimmer.
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The Endless Santa Season--a Low Tech Poll

I loved the old Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer specials, because when I was a kid, while its conventional "let's not commercialize Christmas" message played out, the commercial breaks were always filled with heart-warming advertisements for Norelco rotary head razors. In my mind, Burl Ives was a huge snowman who rode a rotary sleigh that gave a close shave. I'm sure I am not the only kid who wished to live on the island of misfit toys, nor the only adult who feels that my wish was somehow abundantly granted.

In the current generation, Hollywood made a mega-blockbuster film starring Jim Carrey, with extensive commercial tie-ins, out of Dr. Seuss'"How the Grinch Stole Christmas", a heart-warming tale of how even when every present was purloined, the Who villagers still found comfort in each other (not to mention a really hip song)--because it's not about the commerce, really. I'll bet I could have bought a Who Happy Meal or something similar.

I just don't have much original insight into this "commercialize the holidays" issue. Since the time I was 4, I've been hearing about the over-commercialization of the holidays, and yet at 43, I see the time from Thanksgiving to the twelfth day or so after Christmas as one long Santa Season. The only real change I've seen is a broadening and internationalization of the Holiday, as Yule, Hanukah, Solstice, Kwanzaa, and holidays of virtually every faith have been pulled into this omni-present Santa Season. I see the whole phenomenon as about things like macro-economic and consumer patterns which are beyond my simple ken.

I am beginning to ponder the holidays this year, though, and in particular to draw up a new form of holiday list for myself. I do not believe that I need very many things, but I wish to do a great deal more than I traditionally do. Here's my un-original idea for a list of "outgoing holiday cheer", and my low tech poll for more and better ideas:

I wish to do each of the following:

A. Send more holiday cards out to people than I have ever sent before. Life is so very short, and it is so easy to lose touch with everyone and everything. In this vein, I know a few of my LJ friends and acquaintances' mailing addresses, but if you would enjoy receiving a home-made photo-of-nature-on-construction-paper-or-corrugated-plastic holiday card or a personalized poem or some such, please drop me a comment or an e mail (, and I'll be happy to send you one.

B. Minimize my own holiday gift wish list for my family down to things that will be easy to find, and not particularly extravagant. In particular, I will actually provide ideas rather than the oh-so-precious "I don't need anything", to avoid placing those who normally give me gifts into the position of fretting. At the same time, my gift requests will be simple, easy, and non-extravagant.

C. Try to figure out a few small non-profits to which to donate small sums I might otherwise spend frivolously. Here, too, if someone knows of some that might be overlooked, my mind always runs in favor of small rather than large folks;

D. Try to make at least a few of the gifts I give, and try to select gifts for others which will delight with their thoughtfulness rather than impress in any more material way.

My "outgoing wish" list is not particularly clever--I know scads of people who do this more effectively than I do every year. But I realize as time moves on that we cannot "combat" the commercialization of the holidays. We can only confront the way we individually choose to live during the holidays.

We don't all share the same belief structures, and we don't all share the same values. I'm frankly as bored of the bashing of various faiths and skepticisms which seem to accompany the holiday season as I am of the absurdities of the hypocrisies that seem to arise in this time.

But my low tech poll is this: Who can tell me ways to make the holiday season more meaningful?