Year’s End

12.28.20

The week between Christmas and New Year’s Eve is always an odd time–like you’ve just stalled out, hit the pause button. Back in the days when I was working, not much got done at the office, if anything, and it’s not time to take down the tree, and you’re getting tired of Christmas cookies, and you just feel like a layabout. At least that’s how it’s always been for me. I’m overwhelmed by the lists of the best books and movies and music of 2020. And, the photos of all the famous people who died this year just add to the over-arching sadness that 2020 has been. Field hospitals are popping up around the country again, and Trump still holds the power to completely blow us up.

And yet, it was a soft and gentle Christmas at our house. We had the loveliest morning walk on Christmas Eve along the river trail, in brilliant sunshine. Fellow walkers often just stopped and faced the sun, soaking up that heavenly light. Rita drove down with Christmas gifts, and she and her visiting son and girlfriend, stood on our dock at sunset and we all watched the rising moon in the clear eastern sky. It was maybe a 10 minute visit, in the cold, far apart, but I had not seen my friend since October, and it felt like a wonderful gift to me. Don had spent the day making his famous green chili, and over the week-end, we re-created some of Cafe Pasqual’s fabulous recipes and reminisced about all the times we’ve visited Santa Fe in the past 35 years together. We watched Christmas Vacation again, and there was a covering of snow when we awakened In the morning. Our German friends facetimed with us, looking merry and bright, as they showed off the duck confit they were preparing for dinner. After huevos rancheros, we went up to the Blacktail Nordic Trails, and I snowshoed while Don skied, and we looked out at the snow-covered Swan Range and Flathead Lake covered in wisps of fog, and stayed until the yellow glow of sunset began. Then, back home, in time for a family zoom meeting–the highlight of our celebration, to see all their faces, and hear their voices.

We were so tired at the end of it all. It takes a lot of energy to make this all work out–to just make the best of it. Now, the moon is nearly full, and it shines high in the sky all night long, illuminated by the snow-covered ground. I’ve been leaving my shutters open at bedtime so that when I am awake during the bewitching hours, I can look out at its glow, and find rest and comfort underneath the enormous sheltering roof over my head, and a life rich in family and friends and health and safety.

Years End, by Richard Wilbur

Now winter downs the dying of the year,
And night is all a settlement of snow;
From the soft street the rooms of houses show
A gathered light, a shapen atmosphere,
Like frozen-over lakes whose ice is thin
And still allows some stirring down within.

I’ve known the wind by water banks to shake
The late leaves down, which frozen where they fell
And held in ice as dancers in a spell
Fluttered all winter long into a lake;
Graved on the dark in gestures of descent,
They seemed their own most perfect monument.

There was perfection in the death of ferns
Which laid their fragile cheeks against the stone
A million years. Great mammoths overthrown
Composedly have made their long sojourns,
Like palaces of patience, in the gray
And changeless lands of ice. And at Pompeii

The little dog lay curled and did not rise
But slept the deeper as the ashes rose
And found the people incomplete, and froze
The random hands, the loose unready eyes
Of men expecting yet another sun
To do the shapely thing they had not done.

These sudden ends of time must give us pause.
We fray into the future, rarely wrought
Save in the tapestries of afterthought.
More time, more time. Barrages of applause
Come muffled from a buried radio.
The New-year bells are wrangling with the snow.

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