December is here. It’s three degrees outside this morning, and we are in that brief moment of time when ice skaters can find clear, solid ice, with no snow, on small lakes. The neighbor’s pond looks good, but it could easily be gone tomorrow. In between checking on the ice, Don spent the Thanksgiving holiday removing a big tree which fell on the guest cabin roof, after the East Wind roared down the slope. With our road blocked by another fallen tree, and the highway open only to local traffic, I’ve had quiet days at home. It was just the two of us this holiday–we were grateful none of our family members were here, asleep in the guest cabin, when the enormous Douglas Fir came crashing down! Don came in regularly to warm up in the house which was filling up with the smell of roasted turkey, and I put Christmas decorations on the dining room chandelier, and centered the stained glass fairy light window in the kitchen pantry. By the time the cork was popped on the champagne, Venus and Jupiter were shining brightly in the sky, and there was a beautiful fingernail moon. It was a slow and peaceful day at our house, filled with much love and gratitude.
Now, we get ready for the Solstice and Christmas, on a cold, gray day. The tree is decorated, the wreath is made, and we settle into the darkness, with sparkling fairy lights and candles to cheer things up. After taking a break from the news over Thanksgiving, I’m back to reading how all is not right with the world. It’s going to take some vigilance, some intention, to keep spirits bright in these December days with dim light and long dark nights. In the past few months, I’ve been alternating my serious-read books with classic children’s literature. The Little Prince and Charlotte’s Web are guaranteed to soothe one’s heart and soul, in the midst of the despair we feel for this blue planet we are destroying. And, reading The Wind in the Willows, with a cup of tea next to the fire, is a lovely escape, a tiny moment of enchantment, as Rat and Mole, in the rapid nightfall of December, wistfully look into the windows of a cozy cottage. They have a way of looking at the world with such kindness, and whole-heartedness, one can’t help but feel softer around the edges. In twenty days, we will have reached another Winter Solstice, and the light will oh so slowly, slowly, begin to return. It’s quite astonishing, really, that in the midst of our losses, changes, our fears and sadness, we are guaranteed that on December 21st, the sun comes back to us.
“The rapid nightfall of mid-December had quite beset the little village as they approached it on soft feet over a first thin fall of powdery snow. Little was visible but squares of a dusky orange-red on either side of the street, where the firelight or lamplight of each cottage overflowed through the casements into the dark world without. Most of the low latticed windows were innocent of blinds, and to the lookers-in from outside, the inmates, gathered round the tea-table, absorbed in handiwork, or talking with laughter and gesture, had each that happy grace which is the last thing the skilled actor shall capture–the natural grace which goes with perfect unconsciousness of observation. Moving at will from one theatre to another, the two spectators, so far from home themselves, had something of wistfulness in their eyes as they watched a cat being stroked, a sleepy child picked up and huddled off to bed, or a tired man stretch and knock out his pipe on the end of a smoldering log.”