Because it is Christmas we've hung stars all over the place, in the streets, off the sides of buildings, at the top of trees. The stars twinkle over the long, dark evenings. As I fell asleep yesterday, the star off a nearby building cast a red glow over my hotel room, and I thought about how the shepherds followed the Bethlehem star to find the baby Jesus, born in the manger.

Stars lead the way. Stars emblazon paths through black skies. Our teachers are like stars, I thought, drifting off. We are in thrall to them because they show us a way forward. Teachers are about possibility; they are about fearlessness in the face of the unknown--and the unknowable. They teach us how to think through the dark nights of our souls. When we are young, and deeply impressionable, we search for those people who light the way forward. Their teaching is beneficent; we are blessed by their generous sharing of knowledge, and of courage.

My Christmas thoughts tonight are on the blessings I have, and have had. I am sharing the holiday with my two sons. We have been in San Francisco, and now we are renting a house on the coast, near Marshall; the house tips out over Tomales Bay. The Pacific is on the other side of the ridge. We cannot see it, but we can smell it. My children are stars in my firmament; the people I love more than I ever thought myself capable of loving. So are my friends, who, every day, teach me more about how to be a friend. They light a way forward.

I think, too, of those who are no longer with us, to enjoy the velvet skies, to twinkle their love into our lives. It is hard to lose our teachers--whether they were teachers, indeed, or friends, or family--they are the people who teach us that wonder is the beginning of a lifelong journey, and that ignorance can lead to bliss. A light is extinguished with the death of a teacher. And a light is kindled with the birth of every soul who will, hopefully, become a teacher. And every single one of us is, one way or another, given the possibility of being a teacher. It is up to us to seize that chance.

Tonight, I want to honor both the shuttering of light--and the grief that brings-- and the kindling of light--and the joy that brings. May our lives be rich in both, may we learn much from both, may we not fear the dark, and be always able to turn towards light.

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