Hurrah! It is Yuletide! Otherwise known as the season of light, at first blush, this may seem an ironic moniker, as these are the darkest days of the year for those of us living in the Northern Hemisphere.
By the time we enter December, it often seems the sun barely rises above the horizon before it lowers back down and the dark returns. While this can be a bit depressing, it also means December is the perfect time for twinkle lights and candles and gathering around hearths with loved ones. It’s a time of festivities and also happens to be my favorite time of year.
When I was younger, I waited through the high heat of summer for the piney scent of needles and sap, the buttery warmth of sugar cookies, and the sweet tang of peppermint. Oh, and twinkle lights, of course, dancing around frosted window panes and front gardens.
Instead of preparing for this week of festivities, however, we spent last week weathering a four-day blizzard, and then digging out just in time to hunker down for a week of intense cold. Tomorrow’s prediction calls for temps in the negative 20s — that’s real temperature, folks. It’ll be more with the windchill.
What better time to get struck down with influenza than when you are already snowed under? When it rains it pours, or in this case, when it snows, it blizzards — literally and figuratively.
So, we’ve been trying to deal with the storm, with the deep cold, all while battling fevers, coughing fits and all of the other nastiness this particular bug brought with it. Thankfully, my husband is descended from prairie stock and is as tough as they come.
We had a load of cattle delivered the day the storm finally subsided, and as there was no way to get the truck up the road through the drifts, he went out to lead the cattle home on horseback — in 10-degree weather, while coming down with the flu.
The kids are also built tough and bounced back quickly. It’s only me who is still dragging around the house coughing. To say some things are getting left off the holiday to-do list would be an understatement. And yet, I am surprised to be overwhelmed with gratitude by the gifts of this season.
Yesterday, my first time venturing out to do chores since I’d gotten sick, the air was frosty from the low clouds and snow, the light strangely bright. Past the yard, and yard fence, in the windbreak, the seed heads on the tall grass lay like a thousand upended pendulums, each encased in a perfect teardrop of ice. They were the golden brown of toasted bread, suspended between the milky swirls of earth and sky.
I stopped my work for a moment, suspended as well, caught between the world of my body in motion, still heavy and sleep-deprived from night spent coughing, and another world that contained bright coins of magic.
When my babies were still babies, I wrote a December column that included the following about my desire to find peace in the holiday season, which can often feel overwhelming:
“I know the solution is to stop, take a breath, and pay attention. My son does this now without any effort, but it won’t always be easy for him either. Which is why I am going to do my best to give us both the gift of simplicity this Christmas season, and the seasons to come. I want there to be plenty of room in our lives to cradle wonder in our hands like a small bird, nesting for just a moment before it flies up and away, a feathered speck against the bright blue heavens.”
Somehow, I have achieved this, at least for myself. I am awed and humbled by the beauty of the world, of the way darkness gathers and then lifts, of the way stars cut through the night sky like every prayer ever whispered in a time of need. By the tenderness of the prairie sleeping beneath the snow.
I wish this peace for you, too, dear reader, and I am thankful to share these words with you every week. Much love to you all.
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