White breath emerged from our masks. On the fifth morning of Christmas a friend stopped by to load a ton of hay for his horses and cattle. As sunlight filtered through the overcast sky we warmed to the work.
Backed to the haystack, the pickup’s tailgate left just enough space to load the lower bales when the time came. I pulled bales from the top of the stack while he restacked them in the trucks bed. The hay stack lowered and the truck stack rose. From atop the truck stack he pulled bales as I lifted them up. A breath cloud surrounded his face and shoulders as he heaved back.
We experience the world differently, him and I. Socially and theologically our frameworks wrangle and sometime clash. However, we agree maintaining conversation is important. One place we differ is in the use of masks. Though he thinks masks are a bit foolish in the country—a quarter mile from the next neighbor—he wears one because I wear one.
Over the years we’ve settled into dialogues once the truck is loaded. Some, turn into ongoing conversations. We’ve found than in our opposite ways of thinking, once in a while the other comes up with an idea, thought, or comment that would seem impossible to arrive at from our own way of experiencing the world. Certainly, there are times when we endure the others viewpoint, but, more often than not, our banter is amusingly thought provoking.
“How was your Christmas?” We’d finished loading and were catching our breath. Simple enough question. I answered. Then followed up with, “and yours?”
“Didn’t have one,” he said. “we’d [his wife and him] done some study and learned early Christians did not celebrate Christmas. So, we figured we shouldn’t.” I was surprised, but couldn’t argue the premise. “Got to think about that,” I said as I turned to tie down the haystack tarp. He turned and began tying down the truck’s hay.
Pulling the tarp ropes tight I wondered: Was the comment worth a conversation? Which might last months or years? Was there something lying behind the comment I should know before going further? Is there a compelling issue of justice within the comment? And what did I think anyway? As I pulled tight the last rope my fingers were cold inside lined gloves and I had no answers.
I made some pabulum comment as he finished up. Something to do with the insipid commercialization of Christmas. Then we turned to other thoughts.
On the eighth day of Christmas, another load. Once the truck was loaded I said, “I’ve been thinking about celebrating Christmas or not.” We talked about capitalist Christmas a little. Then about the need of ceremony and ritual—that which binds wonder to the mundane.
Today—on this last and twelfth day of Christmas—my friend drops by for another load. We both know Christmas is on the conversation agenda. Who knows where it might lead. I am thinking maybe something about how the natural world has a greater tendency of giving than taking. Perhaps a little something concerning natures gift of sunrise. Maybe a consideration that the Christ should invite us into Creation’s nature. Whatever the case might be, such a Christmas conversation has been worth the season.