Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Your Gift: "A Bag of Lemon Yellow"

Christmas is coming, and like the popular holiday song it seems "everybody's waiting for the man with the bag." Let's talk about bags and what's inside of them.

Recently, I read the haunting novel Little Bee by Chris Cleave. (The graceful Nicole Kidman will produce and star in the movie). It's a story about people seeking both literal and figurative refuge in a global economy. The characters are unforgettably visual, and the woven and intricate paths they explore are both tragic and ironic. But what does this have to do with Christmas?

There are few occasions where I read a novel and am moved by a particular phrase so much that it becomes part of my mantra. The novel Little Bee had that affect on me. Cleave's Nigerian character Little Bee has fled her native country for a new life after having endured evil acts of terror. She is held in an immigration detention center outside of London for two years. In anticipation of her release, officials place her and a few other refugees in a single file line and hand them a transparent plastic bag for their possessions. As she waits, Little Bee observes a fellow refugee. Author Cleave (in Little Bee's voice) writes,
"The second girl was thin and her skin was dark brown and her eyes were green like a jelly sweet when you suck the outside sugar off and hold it up against the moon. She was so pretty, I cannot even explain. She was wearing a yellow sari dress. She was holding a see-through plastic bag like mine, but there was nothing in it. At first I thought it was empty but then I thought, Why do you carry that bag, girl, if there is nothing in it? I could see her sari through it, so I decided she was holding a bag full of lemon yellow. That is everything she owned when they let us girls out."
This holiday, try not to focus on what Santa might have for you in his bag. My bloggy gift to you (inspired by Cleave's words, of course) is a bag bursting with lemon yellow.

Everyone Needs a Bag of Lemon Yellow
(Awesomely amateur photo credit: Carrie Keyes)
Do you see the bright hope glowing inside of it? Thanks to Cleave, we can appreciate how to capture optimism--hope--in an otherwise empty vessel. Cleave helps us learn to find value in stark emptiness.

Holidays can be hard for many people. What lies on the other side of your empty bag? Whatever it is, picture it inside your bag instead of beyond it.

I hope you like your bag of lemon yellow. Pass it on to your friends, and wish them a hopeful holiday from a sunlit cottage in paradise.

(Carrie Keyes is the author of the blog Pencil in Paradise at She is also a contributing blogger for and Find Paradise on Facebook (search Pencil in Paradise) and Twitter (@CarrieKeyes).

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