QUAIL MUTTERINGS #38. Gather, Jam and Dine (December 2015)

QUAIL MUTTERINGS #38.  Gather, Jam and Dine (December 2015)

Drum roll. Rum pum pum pum. The Winter Solstice approaches as the days become shorter and winter officially begins. Lights twinkle along roof lines and stores are crammed full of holiday merchandise for the hungry consumers. Jingle, jingle tinkle the bells signaling the Salvation Army’s donation buckets strategically placed in high foot traffic areas. In our canyon, the clear nights are already winter-time chilly beneath an explosion of twinkling stars which somehow seem brighter this time of year. I can see my breath during my early morning run and my ears feel like ice cubes fastened to the sides of my head.
My grandmother always got swept up in the holidays by baking a dozen or so varieties of Christmas cookies, each tucked into its own large tin stacked with the others on the dining room floor. Once winter break started and Bamoo would have the two weeks off from teaching school, she’d begin her frantic endeavor making coffee cakes for all the relatives. Sometimes I’d walk down the dirt road to her cabin and help. I loved kneading the aromatic, yeasty dough and then rolling out the stretchy plumpness on the bread board. Brown sugar, cinnamon and citron (which I couldn’t stand so I’d leave out on ours) would get sprinkled onto the flat, buttered surface and then rolled up and formed into a ring. This would then be allowed to rise for a second time in the toasty warm kitchen heated by the wood-burning stove. On Christmas Eve she’d deliver her savory beauties to a many family members speckled around the county. It was her own legacy and everyone looked forward to enjoying them on Christmas morning.
These days, we still heat our log cabin with a wood-burning stove. I feel some things from days gone by are better than the new, less simple, modern contraptions. I rather miss the days when we didn’t all seem to expect instant gratification. Being out here, nestled in the back of a rural canyon, away from pavement and shopping malls, is most likely what draws people to our unique homestead. We’re listed on the Airbnb website as a ‘nature lover’s paradise’. Most of our guests seem to come from Los Angeles or Orange County wanting to get away from it all for a little rest and relaxation. And perhaps a hike in the hills.
The week before Thanksgiving the clothing company, Tilly’s, booked our place for their ‘Spring Wear’ photo shoot. The models, organizers and photographers spent three days clamoring over boulders, balancing on stacks of firewood, petting the horses and examining the natural flora. All the while trying to look natural in a somewhat foreign, at least to them, rural environment. Most of them were completely out of their element and had never experienced any place like this before. Good for them, I thought. I hope some of the natural environment seeped into their beings and created a space for more of this. And a deeper appreciation of nature and a glimpse into a different way of life.
I think back to last December when The Dance Centre put on The Nutcracker. All the students assumed their roles well and enjoyed performing for the enthusiastic audiences. This is an every other year event, making this an ‘off year’. But that means we get to perform a new story ballet this spring so the discussion has begun regarding what it might be. A traditional story ballet? A fairy tale turned into a ballet? A new story or perhaps a twist on an old fable? We’ll see.
So, without The Nutcracker festivities, along with not having children at home anymore, I don’t seem to have the energy to put up a tree and decorate. And I am especially not inclined to want to take it all down and put it away. It feels like so much work for such a small amount of time to appreciate it.  But, I guess one could argue the same point against story ballets. I guess for me, though, the studio’s productions touch so many people in a variety of ways. Whether you’re a performer, a parent or a spectator the take aways are diverse. It’s visual, auditory, kinesthetic and a multitude of other experiences.
I believe I’ll take a simpler approach this year and host a drumming circle. What better way to celebrate the old and bring in the new year than to get together with friends, make music and share good food? Let’s gather, jam and dine!

Chi Varnado is a contributing writer for The San Diego Reader. Her memoir, A CANYON TRILOGY: Life Before, During and After the Cedar Fire and her children’s book, The Tale of Broken Tail are available on www.amazon.com. Chi directs the Ramona Dance Centre. Her collection of essays, Quail Mutterings, can be found on www.chivarnado.com.