Saturday, November 28, 2009

Approaching the holidays

So it's officially Christmas shopping season, and everyone is talking about how far along they are in their shopping and wrapping, what the kids want for Christmas, how this year's haul or celebration will size up to prior years, and the (choose one) moral repugnance or innocent thrill of the Black Friday greed stampede.

I'm feeling my inner humbug stir.

Joe and I have never celebrated Christmas in our shared home, though we appreciate the heartfelt presents that find their way to the kids, and we sometimes join our larger families when they're convened for the holidays. This year we'll be on our own through December.

I've tamed the inner humbug somewhat, and I'm planning to give a nod to the evergreen-and-eggnog days of winter (though we'll be in Florida). We might break out my foot-tall Christmas tree (complete with tiny gingerbread men!) and a wooden train. We might do some baking and crafts to invite in the warmth and celebrate the passing of midwinter. But the 25th won't be our holiday, and (as usual) we won't buy gifts.

Our kids don't salivate over annual goodie lists, and we prefer to avoid the prezzie frenzy of family celebrations. It's not just consumerism and its effect on society that bug me, it's much more the elevation of material goods to such importance in one's life, and the effect of that stuff-centricity on the self. There's something unsavory about the focus on quantity, on checklist motivation, on token presentation for the fulfillment of hollow expectation. We don't want our kids to experience any of that, or to see us modeling it.

We love nice things. But even nice things don't deserve their own holiday in our life, to be shared with the destructive pressure to buy, give, and be of good cheer even if the season puts you in debt. Or more deeply in debt.

We opted out of Christmas long before going on the road, but this new lifestyle certainly discourages the accumulation of stuff. If you got rid of almost everything and took your family on the road, what would change in your approach to the holidays? Would those changes be for the better?

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

South Carolina

The state parks in South Carolina have been a good value for the money. We started out at Sesquicentennial State Park in Columbia, where the campsites were laid deep with fragrant pinestraw, and there was a pretty lake with good trails. The rangers in this park were always about and were uniformly friendly.

Next we moved to Givhans Ferry State Park, which is on the Edisto River (the longest freeflowing blackwater river in North America). We had family join us there for some weekend camping and visiting. Givhans has nice trails, but Joe and the boys (and their uncles and cousins) spent more time just off trail collecting firewood than doing anything else.

Edisto Beach State Park is in a higher fee tier, but still only $25/night with standard hookups. The water has been warm enough for my polar bears, who enjoyed their first taste of ocean since February in Southern California. The beach is a short hike or ride from the inland (Live Oak) campground, through quickly changing live oak forest, palmetto hammock, and reedy salt marsh habitats. Joe was scouting for firewood when he surprised a venomous snake, so we stuck to the path after the first day.

Almost as good as the scenery in the park was the beauty of the drive to get there. Ancient live oaks reaching out across the road turned some bits of highway into romantic tunnels, with dramatic curtains of Spanish moss.

And now we're tucked in at my brother's for Thanksgiving week. The weather has gone from sunny and warm (shorts and sunblock) to grey and just chilly enough to enjoy a fire in the fireplace. It's a pleasant time of year to be here, and the South has its own special loveliness. Happy holidays, everyone!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

North Carolina

In North Carolina we stayed in the driveway at Donna and Stony's house and played lots of video games, table games, and Legos! Donna made spider shirts with the boys. Aunt Jean was also visiting, and we took daytrips to Hanging Rock State Park, Sciworks (with our ASTC passport), and Pilot Mountain State Park. Here are some photos:

Hanging Rock State Park -- see if you can spot the northern water snake we saw!

SciWorks: Karl with the Van de Graaf generator, Billy and Karl getting hands-on with an argon tube, Leo in the air chair, and me inside a Kaleidoscope.