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Time to Celebrate?


My family has lived in Yosemite National Park for a grand total of 16 months. Oddly enough for such a short sojourn, some things already loom large in my mind as established tradition. One of these is the divvying up of holidays among the tiny populace of Wawona, where we live. One family hosts Halloween, another Cinco de Mayo, and still another New Year’s Eve. Because my daughter is originally from China, I called dibs on Chinese New Year, and in homage to my own background, Hanukah . . . at least last year I did.

This year is different. We’re moving . . . again. And with our new home stacked up with boxes and bins, there was no chance to find our menorah and no time to drive to Fresno to buy the ritual foods. So Hanukah, at least the community celebration of it, was a no go for us.

For a while I was bummed. Along with my sanity, it seemed like one more casualty of our near constant moves. Then, amazingly enough for someone secular like myself; I began to reflect on the meaning of the holiday. From a   historical/religious point of view, Hanukah marks the defeat of a large, established army by the Maccabees, a tiny group of warriors. Once they won, they purified the Second Temple and, to mark the occasion, lit the eight-branched menorah. The only problem? They had enough oil to burn for 24 hours; they needed enough to burn for eight days. In what many consider a miracle, that tiny bit of oil burned for the whole week, hence Hanukah, the eight-day Celebration of Lights.

But that’s the historical, not the spiritual side of Hanukah, which rabbis explain something like this: The tiny army taking on a larger foe teaches that when we think we’re not enough, we are, while the lighting of the oil shows us that when we think there isn’t enough, there is. The rededication of the temple means the impure can be made pure again and the miracle of the oil is not that it lasted for eight days but that, knowing there wasn’t enough, someone had the faith to light it anyway.


All of which adds up to a Hanukah that this year had real meaning for me. With Yosemite’s none-too-inviting winter weather, all the moves and, quite frankly, the inconvenience of living in such a rural place, this last year has been hard for my husband and myself—but it’s been a blessing for our daughter. In the midst of our biggest move yet, I began to wonder if adult needs should trump our daughter’s.

But as person after person—from friends to neighbors to the entire staff of the local Seventh Day Adventist Camp—came forward to offer their help with cleaning and packing and painting, I realized my life had become the living embodiment of Hanukah. When I felt I didn’t have enough left inside to make this move, my neighbors proved that, with their help, I was stronger than I knew. Together they formed an army of goodness that pushed away the darkness—or, in our case, the cobwebs. And so, here we’ll stay, and sometime around mid-January, when I finally find that menorah tucked away in its box, we’ll pull it out. Then we’ll invite the friends who’ve helped make our new home a cause for celebration and have a rousing party that speaks to our own kind of miracle—living each day in the Range of Light.

-- In May 2009, while hiking in Yosemite National Park, long-time Los Angeles resident Jamie Simons turned to her husband and said, "I want to live here." Today she and her family have made the move to live for one year in Wawona, where her daughter attends the one-room schoolhouse, Jamie writes, and her husband longs for noise, fast food, people, and the city.(Though he's learning to appreciate mountain life.)


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