The Season For Life

With Christmas merely a few days away, I have found this season to be a particular challenge for getting into the holiday spirit. Oh sure, social events with colleagues and family friends have been festive and enjoyable, but for me there remains a missing to the season.

Embrace life, even in tough times.

So I say, "What's up with that?”

Perhaps the lingering economic uncertainty being debated and endured is discouraging, or it is the combative political rhetoric that tires me. Maybe it is the recent unseasonable 75 degree temperatures of North Texas providing spring-like, chamber-of-commerce weather rather than an "over the hills and through the woods" feel to the season.

I is that temperamental string of Christmas lights that outline the eave of my house that illuminates on its own terms that pesters me. Or is it because the little gift shopping I've done this year is somewhere lost in its delivery between the online store and my front stoop?

Am I annoyed with all this? No, not really. But it is revealing how daily events like these might expose or compound a mentally troubled individual.

Last week's school shootings in Newtown, Connecticut may certainly bring that into a more clear light. Certainly, the nearness to the Christmas holiday has us prayerfully coping with the tragedy, each in our own way. We might all be struggling with the incredible heartfelt sadness of this happening. We ache, and cry, and mourn together for the senseless loss of life.

Because of this tragedy, a renewed discussion over gun control and mental health gets under way. Politicians and activists will most likely grandstand this debate in front of an eager, willing, and accommodating media. We professionals will most likely respond as well in a much less vocal, but more productive manner.

Historically, tragic events have given reason for architects, engineers, and landscape architects to re-evaluate conventional design practices. Natural disasters such as Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy have, or will lead to, different design solutions.

The man-imposed disasters perpetuated by humankind atrocities--911/WTC, hostile assaults on embassies, suicide attacks on military bases, Oklahoma City Federal Building bombing--have given cause to explore alternative project design solutions, as well.

In our haste to offer design alternatives as a reaction to such tragedies, we must be mindful that many of our practices today already offer safe, secure environments. We cannot always design for the determination of menace--human or natural--in today's society.

Design solutions that specifically address the present-day tragedies may very well be an overreaction, but they demand our evaluation nonetheless in addressing the immediate concerns of health, safety, and welfare of the public.

From the Newtown human tragedy will come site planning and architectural reactions that will increase the short- and long-term safety and security for places of people, that I am confident.

So it is that we have Christmas next week! Rest assured my Santa list is being checked twice, and I'm making note of those times of being naughty and nice. My "Christmas Favs" playlist on the iPod is in full use; there is song in my heart and tonal issues with my voice (and of all those around me, only my Scottish terrier seems not to care about which key I sing in).

Mostly, the season of spirit, joy, and goodwill is truly coming upon my family as we plan to gather as one. My wish is that you too can enjoy the holiday season in good health and spirit, and that your family moments together will be cherished.

Have a wonderful pre-Christmas weekend.

Tim May is a professional landscape architect and LEED AP for TNP in Fort Worth, Texas. He can be reached via email at or by twitter at @TMay82