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Scottie Hart: Let there be light

The Union reports that 40.7% of Nevada County voted for Trump. Again.

This means that despite my dismay, 40% of the people I share a grocery store with supported him. That includes the 40% of the folks who use the library with me, who fear wildfire with me, who use NID water with me. Who belong to the gym, love to thrift shop, support native plants, live on my cul-de-sac … in the deepest, finest sense, the people who are my neighbors. Yes, 40% disagree with me profoundly.

Troubling as our political differences are, I fear that as a county and as a country we are at far greater risk from our insistence on demonizing “them” than from any of the other crises that threaten us. The most urgent question is not, “How can I change their minds?” The most basic, serious, essential question for our joint future is, “How can I change my heart?” Where can I begin my retreat from fear and outrage? What small opening can I manage?



Oddly, my current “growth venue” is Christmas lights. Husband Bruce and I have enjoyed putting a significant number of seasonal white lights on our house for many years. We turn them on at 5 p.m. Thanksgiving Day and run them every evening until Candlemas (Feb. 2). Yes, our PG&E bills over the years have been enormous. This year, now in our 70s, there’s no way we can do the necessary ladder work. Our closest friends also have aging bodies and can’t be a resource. We are at a loss for who to ask/pay to help us. With enormous regret, we have considered letting that tradition go fallow.

“I can’t change the world or even the county … No, I can’t change the big picture. But I can open my heart just a little more. The seasonal display is a small way to express this intention.”

But — it’s not just about us. Our corner lot is a beacon of brightness for our neighbors. Maybe it’s not a big deal, but in addition to feeding our own souls, we get to contribute to everyone’s evening every night for two months. In the last few days, I’ve come to see it as a sort of civic duty to get the lights up. As a way of being warm and inclusive. As a gift to the community.



I hope you notice that I don’t check anyone’s party affiliation before I flip the switch for the Season of Joy. The light is for everyone. I do not care if you are gun-toting and mask-averse. I’m not measuring your support for any of the liberal causes I’m passionate about. In this context, I don’t even care if you hit your kids! The light is for all of us.

My world would not be improved if I had the power exclude you from enjoying our display, to throw you “off the island.” Even when your beliefs or behavior run counter to my strongly held principles, the gift of light affirms community. I need you; we are in this together. I still want you in the circle of light and love and warmth and hope.

I can’t change the world or even the county (aside: do not give me that power. For all my clear, virtuous grasp of truth, I’m not actually qualified). No, I can’t change the big picture. But I can open my heart just a little more. The seasonal display is a small way to express this intention.

As I write, I don’t yet know how “Husband” and I will get the lights up this year. But my promise to you, to the community we cherish: we will find a way.

So, please join me, and “Let there be light!”

Scottie Hart lives in Grass Valley.


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