Association of State Wetland Managers - Protecting the Nation's Wetlands.

The Compleat Wetlander: Hiding in Plain Sight

And the sage Oloffe dreamed a dream, — and lo,    the good St. Nicholas came riding over the tops of the trees, in that self-same wagon wherein he brings his yearly presents to children, and he descended hard by where the heroes of Communipaw had made their late   repast. And he lit his pipe by the fire, and sat himself down and smoked; and as he smoked, the smoke from his pipe ascended into the air and spread like a cloud overhead. And Oloffe bethought him, and he hastened and climbed up to the top of one of the tallest trees, and saw that the smoke spread over a great extent of  country; and as he considered it more attentively, he fancied that the great volume of smoke assumed a variety of marvellous forms, where in dim obscurity he saw shadowed out palaces and domes and lofty spires, all of which lasted but a moment, and then faded away, until the whole rolled off, and nothing but the green woods were left. And when St. Nicholas had smoked his pipe, he twisted it in his hatband, and laying his finger beside his nose, gave the astonished Van Kortlandt a very significant look; then, mounting his wagon, he returned over the tree-tops and disappeared.

                                   = Washington Irving, A History of New York

When we moved to Maine a few years ago we realized that our 1865 farmhouse was the perfect house for a holiday celebration—an enormous fireplace, holiday colors and the large windows that revealed a winter landscape of snow, fir and pine—it was like living in the middle of a Christmas carol.   We started holding an annual holiday open house.

This past Saturday the house was filled to bursting with our extended family, co-workers and friends.  Each year the festivities have grown a little and this year we had children among the guests for the first time.

In recognition of our younger guests we added games designed for their entertainment including one that required keen powers of observation.  Eight small nutcrackers were hidden among the holiday decorations.  Each child was instructed to search and write down where the nutcrackers were hidden in return for a gift-wrapped prize.  The game was an instant success which they later revised and morphed into a new game.  They called it ‘Hiding in Plain Sight’.

We have always instructed our guests ‘not to bring anything,’ but this year several of our friends ignored the rule.  As I watched them come in from the cold with arms filled with gifts of good cheer I realized how much they enjoyed the simple act of giving.

Late that night, happy and tired with the success of this year’s open house we talked about how grateful we were to be so rich in friends and family that they could fill a whole house. We are very, very lucky.  We also know that many people are having a very hard time this year.

Gratitude and giving are central to the celebration of Christmas.  They are also values prized by other religions as part of their own celebrations—Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist and many more both large and small.  The freedom to pursue these and other religious ideals led people to seek the New World from the 1600s to the present. 

I like to imagine that the dream sent to sage Oloff in the pipe smoke of St. Nicholas was about gratitude and giving because the ‘jolly old elf’ knew the best things in life are ‘Hiding in Plain Sight.’

I would like to wish all our readers a joyful holiday season.
Jeanne Christie

Research:  Giving Thanks Brings Health and Happiness

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