On May 11, 2009 (in case you want to brush up) I blogged about "time-binding", the powerful experience of being linked with other people, places, and times through words, smells, sounds, rituals and experiences. The holidays provide us with countless examples of time-binding: decorating the tree, baking cookies, the music of the season. It is amazing how many opportunities there are to be surprised by the awareness of the past flooding into the present moment through even the smallest cracks in our day to day routine.
Sally made plum pudding again this year, which we associate not only with the season, but with Sally's dad, Joe, who made it each Christmas. When Sally popped the puddings out of the molds in which she'd steamed them, we each tasted just a crumb. As the spices mingled on my tongue I could just barely whisper, "It tastes like Christmas..." before emotion overwhelmed me.
Our desire for this powerful, mystical experience can lead us to a rigid view of holidays and other rituals. Not wanting to miss out on time-binding we try to do things the same, year after year, as if our rote observance will conjure the benevolent holiday spirits. Worse, like mistaken Grinches we think this treasure is best found at the mall or through our on-line shopping. All too often our grasping and desperation for recovering meaning obstructs the very experience we seek.
And then grace emerges in a crumb of pudding, the thin veil between worlds is parted, and we are reunited with times, places and beloved people long departed. Grace in a crumb of pudding, like a communion wafer, or the scent of pine boughs, or lights reflected in a child's eyes....