Earthworms’ Castings

With Jean Ponzi

Selective Perception (Holiday Style)

A mental Mute button automatically controls my attention this time of year. When activated, it completely blocks my ability to perceive anything Christmas! This can kick on anywhere, anytime – but it happens most in retail environments.

I’ll be walking through unlikely aisles – in the drug store or supermarket – and suddenly, next to the lipstick or bananas, there’ll be a big black hole in the merchandise view. I can see beyond these sensory no-zones, perfectly normal and plain as day, the next row of vitamins or cheese or whatever. But not into the anomaly. Though I’ve noticed these spaces often glow faintly, red and green.

My brain blockade assembles earlier every year. This time I experienced it before Labor Day! That was disorienting, let me tell you. In the last week my fashion ethics let me go about in tie-dye and white shoes I’m jaunting along on a visit to a favorite local cultural institution and I glance into the gift shop and ho-HO! The Muzak mutes and everything before my eyes pixellates like a TV news shot of naughty body parts.

You’d think such selectivity would have some loopholes, some chinks through which a snatch of Fa-la-la or an ornament’s glitter or an EVERYONE ON YOUR LIST advertising message might merrily seep. Especially in a middle-aged brain grown drafty enough that… now what was I just going to say?

Nope. Can’t see, can’t hear, can’t smell or any other way can’t comprehend so much as a whiff of wassail before the dawn of — Turkey Day! Despite the variable onset of my holly-jolly filtering phenomenon, I can set my clock for the day it dissolves, revealing a world of festive splendor: on Thanksgiving morning, when I go downtown for the St. Louis Holiday Parade.

That day I carol with the marching bands, holler “THANKS for serving” at police and firefighter honor guards and waving mayors, and urge Miss Tall Missouri to stand up in her convertible car and show us just how winsome-willowy she is.

Starting that day and not one instant before, I can revel in the sights and sounds of a season I have not been bugged by, through consumer culture’s crush. The month or so between Thanksgiving and actual calendar Yuletide provides plenty of magical moments to steep my spirit in both trappings and traditions of The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year.

More than that, thankfully, is lost on me.

Jean Ponzi’s perceptions are Green year-round, as host of the environmental talk show “Earthworms,” heard Mondays 7-8 p.m. on FM-88 KDHX St. Louis Community Radio, or as a podcast anytime at www.kdhx.org/ondemand.