Well, here we are, about to shut the door on yet another year. When the curtain falls, when the shouts, applause, laments and music of the year-end fade into a distant echo, what’s left? You’ll find it lying there, scattered on the floor of yesterdays, the bits and pieces of it all.
Christmas is unlike other seasons. It begins months in advance, stoking the fires of preparation. We do the obligatory things, following the family traditions and sometimes creating some new ones.
We rummage through the closets and unbox Christmas for another year. We wonder if the song’s lines are true, that God and sinners have reconciled in their boxed storage throughout the year. Then we assemble the decorative trappings and symbols of the mysterious advent—angels, stars, lights, music, wreaths, candles and a tree and put it into some household order as best we can.
And then, before we know it, it’s all over. We look around wondering what remains after being smothered by another year of record online acquisitions. We have again filled the coffers of colossal consumerism and shared a collective spirit of secular celebration mixed with enough religious infusions to justify it all.
We bid the mythical Santa goodbye amid the lingering leftovers of pagan bonfires of the Winter Solstice at Stonehenge and tally up the toll on our credit cards. The bits and pieces add up. Budgets? Really? It’s Christmas.
Like the failed Starliner rocket last week, we see Santa’s jet trails backtracking to the North Pole where Russia and China grapple for geopolitical dominance on the frigid ice wasteland atop our nuclear submarines. Santa’s igloo is atop a time bomb. He’d do well to relocate to a better address.
In the DMZ of time between Christmas and New Year’s Eve celebrations a strange quiet descends about us. Why hurry now? No deadlines, just waiting for the midnight hour to arrive and flip the calendars to 2020 and enjoy the reality show of political intrigue that will resume unabated with new vigor and vitriol. Congress has dug a deep hole for itself. Maybe it will crawl in it.
But it’s nice, this waiting period of a few days. After the cleanup of the clutter we have created in the preceding 360 days past, it’s nice to relax, sipping on the remains of some Evan Williams eggnog, sufficiently infused to promote the surety of a nap.
And when we nap, will we dream? And if so, will our dreams synthesize the bits and pieces of the fading year into something articulate? How will it compartmentalize our hopes, our fears, our heartbreaks, our joys; the realizations, the over-reaches, the under-reaches, the blotched plans, the successful ones? What mosaic will emerge?
In these intervening mornings, I find the coffee early before the household is awake. I like to sit and gaze at the Christmas tree, its limbs now bowing from the weight of decorations and its needles, like the hairs of our hound dog, falling profusely to the floor. I feel a twinge of its burden. Its beauty is past, its duty is done. Recycling awaits.
Sitting there in the quiet of the pre-dawn hour, something dawns on me that I can only sense, something I cannot know in any other way. It’s not the end of something old, but the continuum of all things new. It is the mysterious essence of Christmas that lingers long after the celebrations are past. Like a new-born baby, it’s a new moment, a new year full of surprises to enjoy.
Longfellow’s lines sum it up well:
“When I compare
What I have lost with what I have gained,
What I have missed with what I have attained,
Little room do I find for pride.
I am aware
How many days have been idly spent;
How like an arrow the good intent
Has fallen short or been turned aside.
But who shall dare
To measure loss and gain in this wise?
Defeat may be victory in disguise;
The lowest ebb is the turn of the tide.”
Bits and pieces of life…what glorious and beautiful mosaics we are creating.
Happy New Year
December 27, 2019