I’ve been feeling the vibe of The Raven this week. We often think of December as a festive time, and it is, but one reason Christmas has so taken off as an event in the northern hemisphere is that we need a festival of warmth and light around the winter solstice.
The landscape in my part of Pennsylvania has turned bleak for sure in the past few weeks. The last of the leaves are gone from the trees. It is all gray and brown with evergreen accents thrown in. There is a certain fragile beauty to it all. This morning I went for a run as the sun rose over this bleak wintry landscape, and the new light looked lovely through the bare branches. But it is a more challenging beauty than a June rose garden. It takes more effort to see, and to see that in four months this will all be green and flowery again.
I went to my masked and socially distant choir rehearsal last night. The service music we recorded demanded a lot, in particular Howell’s Magnificat (the St. Paul’s one). As with the wintry landscape, though, it feels good to work hard to see the beauty in something where it is not immediately apparent. We also sang one of my favorite Christmas hymns, really an Advent one: People Look East. The French know how to do a bright carol melody, and the English text teems with thought-provoking images of hope in bleakness. “Furrows be glad, though earth is bare — one more seed is planted there! Give up your strength, the seed to nourish, that in course the flower may flourish.” I remember last Christmas, when I was counting down the days until my baby’s arrival, being intrigued with the third verse: “Birds, though you long have ceased to build, guard the nest that must be filled! Even the hour when wings are frozen, God for fledging time has chosen.” I had somewhat thought, rounding 40, and with four years since my last baby, that the fledging might be over. But here we are.
The baby is on the verge of his first steps. He can stand on his own, and then he teeters forward a little. I’m enjoying seeing him figure this out, and listening to his little babbles. He’s such a happy baby. I took him for his second flu shot the other day and he didn’t even cry.
As a birthday treat to myself (celebrating this weekend) I’m going over to our new house to play the piano for a while (we bought the piano from the previous owner, who was downsizing). I’ll probably bring along some Christmas carols, and I’ll probably sing too. I’m usually not in a house by myself these days, so I’m relishing the opportunity.
In other news: Do you read the Modern Mrs. Darcy blog? She’s got great book recommendations, including lots of round ups for the holidays and as we enter the new year. Anne also hosts the very popular What Should I Read Next? podcast. If you haven’t listened to it yet, please check it out!
Photo: Less bleak than many shots, but you get the idea…