If you are breathing a sigh of post-holiday relief, you are not alone. Before the shock and grinch-shaming ensue, know that I am just as much of a sucker for Christmas as the rest of us. There are very few things in this world I love more than sitting around the dinner table with family, taking a break to enjoy those I love, making pretty gift wrappings, and my cupboards filled with all things peppermint-flavored. However, with the beauty of community and Christmas cheer also comes a madness of unabated consumerism and pressure. Whether it’s the stresses of buying impressive and thoughtful gifts, filling our time with the right loved ones, or rushing around to beat traffic, visit Aunt Sally, and time the holiday sales right; there is something relieving about the post-holiday silence.
I experienced all of the things I listed and more, but I also had a beautiful opportunity to experience silence amidst the chaos. I grew up just outside one of the most beautiful national parks in the state, where I spent my holiday with family in a little mountain town named Three Rivers. It’s a quirky little town, complete with hand carved wooden bear statues and creaky yoga retreats, but there’s something else about it that draws people in. It’s the kind of place you can picture yourself waking up everyday, walking to the market to buy milk and bread, and knowing everyone’s names at the diner. Locals and tourists alike sit in every cafe, reading books by John Steinbeck and drinking the morning special, waiting for someone to pick up the chair next to them. I was greeted by a man named Jeoffrey who has been walking for 10 years (yes, walking, and yes, 10 years). He was 36, started his walk in east Utah, lives out of a blue backpack full of turkey jerky, and carries a rusty metal compass. He told me that solitude is the best teacher, not to drink water out of puddles no matter how thirsty you are, and that happiness really is only real when shared. We spoke until his coffee was gone, and then he continued his walk.
Three Rivers begs for encounters such as these. Its cafes, bakeries, and river trails beckon for community to happen and force you to slow down. There were no flashy billboards, 70% off, and free gift wrapping signs. Most establishments were closed all week, and people weren’t running around like the apocalypse was coming; they were reading poetry and learning from strangers. I don’t live in a town like Three Rivers and chances are you don’t either, but it taught me something very valuable. Life is short, community doesn’t need an invitation, and investing excessive energy into the details isn’t efficient or healthy. Slow down, have the courage to start a conversation that matters, and don’t get so caught up in life’s little details that you miss the morning special with the Jeoffrey’s of the world.