Many kindly creatures will wish you Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Peace on Earth, and/or Happy Honda Days this month.

But only the awakened will shout that most feline December greeting: “Zeitgebers!”

Wait, you mean to tell me that it’s already mid-December, nearly the shortest day of the year, and no one has wished you “Zeitgebers!” yet.

Make haste to Tabby’s Place, o weary elf child.

Get thyself to our island of misfit toys, where one-eyed teddy bears picnic and paraplegic paratroopers fly like ragged reindeer.

We’re known for our zealots, zest-beasts missing pieces and missing peaceful beginnings, but rich in love and lunacy. (It is safe to let loose one’s lunacy, like one’s experimental casseroles, when one is sturdily loved.)

We’re known for our zeitgeist, the preferential option for the pickled and pocked and peculiar. The last are first. The mourners become comforters. Our cats have known hopeless situations as dense as the beady green “fruit” in Aunt Mafalda’s pannetone, but we have plucked them all out, leaving only the cinnamon dough of devotion.

We’re even known for our zambonis, cats who cannot walk but cannot help but dance, glide, glisten the lobby with their symphonic shuffle.

But we are tragically underappreciated for our “ZEITGEBERS!”

This is no fault of Shaggy, who has been shouting that word since the day his citron eyes first peeped the sky. He was an impatient newborn, willing the world into view, and no one can produce evidence that he has slept since that moment. (“O eyes! We praise thee for thy seeing of sparrows and trees and turkeys plural!”)

He has not slept through the holiday season, which began long before Advent and shows no sign of slowing come January. Shaggy is festivity with feet, breathless celebration as vocation. (“O feet! We praise thee for thy feely toes, empowered to know soil and linoleum and fragments of Temptation!”)

Christmas morning sounds swell and all, especially those rumors of international bacons (“O Canada! we praise thee for thy humble meat discus!”). But why stay up on just one thrilling Eve when you can stay up, up, up and away from the coma that most creatures inhabit?

Why sleep when you can peep the sky and peep the power and peep the glory of being a living creature, here in a world with stars and sausage and songs, cream cheese and compassion and meaning and meteors and volunteers who will hug you as though you are the first and last gift the angels ever delivered?

Why sleep when you see angels in the drop ceilings and the dropped food trays (“O human butterfingers! we praise thee for thy meaty mistakes!”), angels in the answers and the embraces, skies of angels as thick as some sacred queue to some mystic mall?

Why sleep when you’ve woken up from dust and found yourself covered in glitter, risen from the prison of your past and found yourself as free as flight?

Why sleep when you can be a living thank-you card, a zingle-brained grati-dude who forgets that he once almost died, and remembers forward, upward, blissward, loveward?

Why sleep when you adore your existence?

And, having thoroughly enjoyed his existence, Shaggy wishes the same for his favorite people. This is a population including Santa, Liam Neeson, the Rockettes, Guy Fieri (“O spiked man! we praise thee for thy flavors!”), and you.

Ergo his victory cry, come December and all his other favorite months: “ZEITGEBERS!”

He shouts it as he banks off your shoulder. “ZEITGEBERS!”

He shouts it as he gavottes with gravity until gravity has to lie down. “ZEITGEBERS!”

He shouts it at dawn (“O sunrise! we praise thee for thy glowing sky meatball!”) and he shouts it as dusk and he shouts it when all the other shouts have gone out like tired stars. “ZEITGEBERS!”

He shouts the stars back into the sky. He shouts the laughs back into our lungs. And in mid-December, dithering towards the darkest day of the year, he shouts the holidays back into our nights.

At this point, Shaggy is getting antsy and insisting that I properly define zeitgebers. (Shaggy is as proper as he is punchy.) A zeitgeber, strictly speaking, is any environmental trigger that synchronizes an organism’s biological rhythm, generally jiving it with the 24-hour light/dark and 12-month cycles.

In other words, it’s something that helps you wake when you “should.”

Which, as Shaggy knows, is always.

“ZEITGEBERS!” Don’t you dare doze off while Shaggy is clowning, while hopeless situations are drowning, while the year is crowning with quiet kindness no sleepwalker sees.

“ZEITGEBERS!” Don’t you dare drift away while Shaggy is here, while you and I are here, while the baffled generous hungry hopeful world is here, aching to offer its cake to those who are awake.

“ZEITGEBERS!” Don’t you plunge into darkness when you, as much as Shaggy, as much as Liam Neeson and Aunt Mafalda, are a holiday of light, festivity with feet.

“ZEITGEBERS!” Don’t you put this year to bed one moment too soon, when Shaggy knows that December has angels and astonishments yet to come.

There are always angels and astonishments yet to come.

O Shaggy! We praise thee, for thou art alive to being alive, awake to being awake, in love with imperfect life, in love at all times.


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