Ah, the lovely winter holidays: finally, the much-needed opportunity to relax, reflect on life and become reinvigorated for times ahead. A time to be with family, to remember that giving and sharing are essential parts of being a good person, not to mention the chance to acknowledge the importance of the return of that all-important fireball, the sun. But somehow the coming holiday season seems for too many to have become associated with pressures and stresses all its own, a time when commercialization of sentiment reaches its peak, and when the boundaries between what is important and what is expected become inextricably blurred. Just ask the grocery check-out girl, who told me last year that she couldn’t wait to get back to work: the holidays were just too stressful!
Regaining a sense of peace during a time of year that has for so long and for so many peoples been of great significance can prove a surprisingly difficult task. My solution? I always find that words of the wise can be invaluable for getting me on to a different wavelength, for bringing me back to reality and giving me a chance to think about the basics of life and of different ways of living and seeing the world.
Few people offer such words as well as two authors that, in my mind, everyone should have the chance to read. One, a real gem and the author of countless publications, is Nancy Turner. Her new book, The Earth’s Blanket: Traditional Teachings for Sustainable Living, provides inspiration for the world-weary reader. When the ring-ding-a-ling-a-lings and flashing lights start getting you down, open the pages of this lovely work and be reminded of what has real value in life: family, a feeling of home and place, and a meaningful connection to the natural world. In this book, Turner brings together ideas and understandings gained from years of learning from First Nations people in Northwestern Canada. With an underlying message of living lightly and respectfully on the earth, and remembering that real wealth comes from real relationships to people and nature, The Earth’s Blanket provides an especially refreshing antidote to the acquisitive pressures of the coming season.
The second author, connected to the first by his ethnobotanical passions, writes works that bring the mind to new, unexplored places in a similarly inspirational way but in quite a different format. Wade Davis, dubbed “the real Indiana Jones”, is an unparalleled adventure storyteller. Each of his books, including One River and Serpent and the Rainbow (yes, the book that inspired the creepy movie) takes the reader on a rollercoaster ride through different cultures’ ways of seeing and interacting with the world. His literary style can almost make you forget that you’re reading real-life accounts, making Davis’ books a good choice if you’re in the mood for a novel over the holidays.
If the thought of reading a full-blown book is too much at this all-too-often busy time of year, it is worth checking out Davis’ latest publication, Light at the Edge of the World: A Journey Through the Realm of Vanishing Cultures. Filled with photos from his time spent with indigenous cultures around the world, as well as prose to contextualize the visuals, Davis’ book is another inspiring testament to the fact that humans can and have lived in step with nature.
So, if the jingles and never-ending demands on you to shop ’til you drop start to take their toll on your sense of meaning at this time of year, take a break and enjoy the grounding messages these authors have to offer.