Sunday, December 2, 2007

Stark Winter Beauty

I just read that I can either spend 10.4 minutes deleting spam this week or I can spend the same time contacting all my old high school crushes.

I think I'll take the spam. I did everything I wanted to do with my high school crushes when I was in high school. I like my life now, and, even if I didn't, I don't think I'd want to go back to high school to find my future. My future is the other direction.

Driving into town last week, I was savoring the stark beauty of the winter night. The stars were bright and clear as only winter stars can be, and there was a comet cavorting in the sky. The maples have lost their leaves, and only the evergreens stand against the sky.

Turning onto the main road, I was assaulted by a new display of Christmas lights. A house that has been blessedly dark in previous years had its eaves outlined in colored lights. And not just small, twinkly colored lights, but big, heavy outdoor colored lights.

I thought of my father, stringing big, heavy outdoor colored lights along the eaves of our house when I was a child. I think he did it because he was supposed to, and not because he enjoyed making a show at Christmastime. I imagined the owner of this house on a stepladder, stringing his lights. I could see him: tense, badgered, joyless. No cheerful humming of Christmas carols as he artfully arranged lights around a scraggly bush in his front yard. Just a few mild expletives as he hung his lights, workman-like, from his eaves. Job done, he could retire to his armchair in the living room and watch tv.

I drove on into more stark winter beauty interspersed with holiday light displays.

"In January," I thought, "all of this will be gone and I'll be better able to enjoy the winter nights."

This struck me as odd. Most years, I have enjoyed Christmas light displays. They have cheered and warmed me and made me feel festive. I've enjoyed coming through the stark winter beauty into these oases of human care and comfort. This year, however, all the light displays seem tawdry and overdone, interfering with my enjoyment of the season.

I love winter. I love the cold and the rain, the wind and the bare trees. I love making soups and stoking the wood fire. I love the crisp, clear air and the winter skies. I especially love the winter stars, so clear and bright and cold in the deep darkness. The restraint in the winter landscape highlights everything I see. Every pool of light or splash of color seems more precious in the stark winter light.

Maybe this antipathy to holiday lights is telling me I need to get out more. Out into the winter forest to feel the cold, the damp, the resting heart of nature. Out into the winter night to see the dark trees and bright stars. Far enough into the cold and the darkness that the Christmas lights seem warm and welcoming.


Elizabeth said...

I am so not ready for Christmas yet. I don't even want to hear about it yet. I think I will keep things very, very simple this year.

HeavyHorses said...

Where did you go?!