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In fifteen days it will be Christmas. Here on my ridge in Big Sur, California, it is hard to imagine cold weather and snow. It is hard to believe that the time for Christmas Carols and Holiday music is upon us. On my ridge over-looking the ocean I am immune today from holiday jingles, shops filled with Christmas presents, cards with snowy scenes and snowmen, wrapping paper and piped music. Such a relief! Yesterday we had a little rain between the sunny spells. We had a superb double rainbow. I didn’t have my good camera so hardly caught it.

One small section of the double rainbow

Chainsaws are singing songs of destruction today, and I have chainsaw envy. I really really want a chainsaw for Christmas and my family refuses to allow me to have one. They say I am accident prone enough without adding a chainsaw to my tool-cupboard of weapons of mass destruction. Instead of joining the shopping frenzy I’ve spent the last couple of sun-filled, calm and warm days cleaning broken tree limbs, remnants of the roof, and shrubbery cast aside in the horrendous winds of a week ago. All of this wearing a pink skirt, blue tee-shirt and sneakers covered in mud. (Do you think they make pink chainsaws?) I’ve dug holes and planted six new trees too. The storms here tear through the landscape, wreak havoc with our lives and property and then dissipate and disappear leaving the teasing sun and breezes behind to lull us all back into healing, and that ever so false sense of security. Until the next time, the last shudder of wind seems to say as it bounces the house back down on its foundations.

To say I am totally immune to this Christmas and Holiday atmosphere would be wrong. There is a part of us all anchored in the holiday spirit, be it the good spirit or the not so good spirit of the season. I can tell you there is a part of me that wants to celebrate and think of this time of year as joyous and trouble-free. But it isn’t joyous and trouble-free. Just read the news. As a child I grew up feeling rotten with guilt for all I had, for all the toys I was given for Christmas. I used to lie awake and worry about starving children who had nothing. I used to worry about other things too, like arguments my parents had. Arguments that seemed to get worse and worse over the years until the parents finally split up and went their separate ways. Sadly, I grew up hating Christmas. When I became a mother I strived to make Christmas happy and special for my daughter. The effort would inevitably see me exhausted come Christmas Day.

I suffered with depression from a very young age. I’m telling you this now because it is the season when people with a tendency toward depression have the toughest time. I am very fortunate. I have close family and friends who know about my depression and my moods. They know what to look out for in me as I shut down. They know how to help and encourage me. They know if they haven’t heard from me for a while it is time to worry. And there is modern medicine.  Depression is nothing to feel ashamed about. There are so many different causes and reasons for depression. I want to encourage any of you who get more than a little down to go and ask for help. Winter is notorious for depression and mood disorders coming to the fore. Tell your family and friends if you feel excessively sad, or you start to wonder about the point to life. The lack of sunlight alone is enough to cause severe depression. Sitting with a particular kind of light for a specific amount of time each day can help. Lack of light related depression is commonly known as Seasonal Affective Disorder. (Sad) Here is a link to a Seasonal Affective Disorder Association. You might find some helpful information here. http://www.sada.org.uk/

At this time of year I find it helpful to make a list each night before I go to bed of what I need to do and what I would like to do the next day. Getting up with a purpose helps. Another thing you can do is embrace the season in a fun way. Think to hell with it and find something you enjoy doing about this time of the year. This year I got it into my head that I was going to make a Gingerbread Lighthouse. Not happening! I’m giving you the link to the Coastal Living website, just in case you feel the urge. http://www.coastalliving.com/food/entertaining/build-gingerbread-lighthouse-00400000002077/

Coastal Living Gingerbread Lighthouse

I decided to have a go at making Gingerbread Sailors and Mermaids first. From the attached photos you will see I don’t have an artistic twirl of a pen or an icing wand to my name. When one of my daughters’ friends told me my sailors were like zombies and hatchet men, my mermaids like prostitutes, I had to agree. They might all look ugly, but they taste pretty good, and I got a laugh out of making them.

A very happy mermaid with her sailors

Finally for us writers and artists, we are in good company with our mood disorders and general weirdness. If only I really could write like Virginia Woolf! If you want to read a good book about Manic-Depressive Illness and Artists, go on…. You know you’d love a good read like this at Christmas, try the superb book by Kay Redfield Jamison, Touched with Fire. Manic-Depressive Illness and the Artistic Temperament.

A couple more words of advice: Don’t put that Christmas tree up too soon. If the needles won’t drive you crazy, extending the season unnecessarily will. Finally, if you decide to make the gingerbread mermaids and sailors, my advice is to eat their heads first so they can’t see what’s coming!

A jumble of gingerbread

Wishing you all peace and stability.

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