Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Silent night

Two aspects of living in the rural north give special poignancy to the winter holidays.

(1) Silence.
On the rare occasions when we have big snow -- just snow, no wind or sleet or any other variations of winter storm -- the world is embraced in a white velvet silence. It's a true silence, an utter silence; the only sounds come from your own clothes when you move. The surface of the world is smoothed into innocent beauty while life sleeps beneath. We get the silence for a few minutes or hours a year, maybe once every several years; two years ago, it came as a gift on the winter solstice.

(2) Darkness.
No streetlights. No neighbor's porch lights. Mostly, no headlights except your own, winding along the roads back from town. Then, suddenly, a star of Bethlehem floating in the blackness! Oh, it's somebody's holiday lights on a barn across the valley. Around a curve, a perfect Christmas tree illuminated in red, green, and white. Or perhaps a blue one. Then darkness. Around another bend, a deciduous tree's bare branches outlined in gold. Another mile of darkness, until the world leaps into blinding, blinking glow from an extravaganza of Santas and reindeers and trees and stars and snowmen and sleighs, all packed into somebody's tiny yard and so fully lit that you can almost hear the electric meter spinning. Then, back into darkness -- the opposite of snowfall, a rich, deep, inky blue that showcases every star in the heavens.

With this combination, it's hard to resist singing, "Silent night, holy night / All is calm, all is bright . . ."

Happy holidays!

Carolyn Haley

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