06-18 Sarah Raplee – WHY PSYCHIC AGENTS?

Monday, November 23, 2015

My Go-to Holiday Book

By Courtney Pierce

Image: Dave Clegg
One of my greatest fears of getting older is that I’ll become a fuddy-duddy―a cynic, a com-plainer, a tiresome grump. Something happens to my psyche after eleven months of negative media: talking heads blathering about doom and gloom, celebrities sending career-ending tweets, kids bullying one another on Facebook, hackers stealing our souls, and politicians clawing for their nanosecond in the spotlight. People battle for parking spaces, get road rage in traffic, and cut in line. By the end of the year, I suffer from so much toxic buildup that I even bark back at the dog next door:

“Quiet! I’m trying to write over here! Geez.”

And another thing―all the big bills come in the fall: increases in health insurance, car registration, and property taxes. The relentless begging mail flows in to guilt me with pictures of abused animals and hungry children. After Black Friday, my faith in the human spirit has hardened like the pesky arthritic knot on my knuckle.

On the first of December, at sundown, my emotional alarm sounds. 

It’s time.

After washing my hands, I step to the den and run my finger over the spines of vintage books like a stick on a picket fence. I slide out only one and gaze at its olive-green cloth cover, the same book I’ve read every December for thirty-six years: an 1866 "Cheap Edition" of Charles Dickens’s Christmas Books, a collection of five holiday classics: A Christmas Carol, The Chimes, The Cricket on the Hearth, The Battle of Life, and The Haunted Man. I crack open the spine to savor the pulpy aroma of wisdom on the foxed pages.

Only one story will be read per day. And for that solitary hour or so, the world slows its spin as the sun crawls behind the Douglas firs. Golden sparkles peek through their branches and disappear, igniting those on the newly erected Christmas tree inside. An aroma of evergreen freshness fills the air. I turn on the lamp’s switch with a soft click. A gas fire flickers and warms the living room. I recite the tiny, two-columned prose aloud, making the cat curl upside down in my lap, her whiskers twitching when my speech takes on a melodic quality. The long-lost style of sentence rhythm and vivid descriptions allow me to taste the words. I save the best one for last: A Christmas Carol.

As I read―some paragraphs twice―my cynical thoughts shed like the last hangers-on from the maple tree outside. They, too, will fall and decompose to feed my garden. As with each passing year, I stand tall against Ebenezer Scrooge’s miserly declaration, refusing to “be boiled with my own pudding” and “buried with a stake of holly through my heart” should I deign to utter the words, Merry Christmas.

After closing the book, I gaze out the window, astonished at how a simple short story can restore me to a place of inspiration and charity. My dial is reset. I’m able to take stock in the good and catch all those quiet acts of kindness that people do, acts that no one talks about on the news. 

For the next six months, I’ll be a courteous driver and let the guy with a lonely can of soup go ahead of me in line. The free turkey, a reward for having spent so much, will be donated to one who has none. In spring, tulips will pop like a Monet with the unfurling of new maple leaves. Then, the dog days of summer will be too hot to wave at the neighbors. The ban on watering my lawn will make me thirsty, and some recall of tainted food might ruin the Labor Day barbecue. By Halloween, I’ll have shut off the porch light to protect my pumpkin from vandals. Woe be to the critters who dare ring the doorbell―they’ll release the fuddy-duddies inside.

Again, it'll be time for my detox of Dickens.

And this, my last post before Christmas, I deign to wish you all a Merry Christmas and the best of every culture's benevolent holidays. Seven days from now, you'll find me reading by the fire. See you all on the other side on December 28th, newly inspired and getting ready to release my new book, Indigo Lake, into the world. 

Courtney Pierce is a fiction writer living in Oregon with her husband of thirty-six years and bossy cat. She writes for baby boomers. Her novels are filled with heart, humor, and mystery. Courtney has studied craft and storytelling at the Attic Institute and has completed the Hawthorne Fellows Program for writing and publishing. She is also a board member of the Northwest Independent Writers Association and is active with Willamette Writers, Pacific Northwest Writers Association, and Sisters in Crime.

Colorful characters come alive in Courtney's latest novel, The Executrix. When three middle-age sisters find a manuscript for a murder mystery in their mother's safe after her death, the book gives them a whole new view of their mother. Is it fiction? . . . or truth? Sibling blood becomes thicker than baggage when Mom becomes larger in death than she was in life.

The second book of The Dushane Sisters Trilogy will be released in early 2016. The cover will be an original painting. Indigo Lake continues the three sisters' middle-age orphan journey of life, love, and laughs. Protecting Mom's reputation might get them all killedor give them the story they've been dying to live.

Visit Courtney's website at www.courtney-pierce.com. Her books can be purchased at Windtree PressAmazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo Books, and at several independent bookstores in the Portland area.


Judith Ashley said...

Love your tradition! It may not be Dickens, but last year I got out and reread a couple of my favorite Christmas romance novels on my Keeper shelves.

Looking forward to reading Indigo Lake!

Paty Jager said...

Great post, Courtney! When my kids were small, I found a book by Nora Roberts, A MacGregor Christmas, I think was the name. I read that romance every December for several years. And my kids watched the Muppet Christmas Carol every year. It's good to have traditions that put you in the spirit of Christmas.

Courtney Pierce said...

There's something so comforting about a tradition you can count on. After 36 years, my husband and I spend hours picking out the tree and decorating it. We relive the decades with each ornament and listen to Christmas music. In our hurry-up world of convenience, it's nice to slow down and invest in what's important.

Thanks so much for the great comments!