The One-Dollar, Five-Minute Christmas Wreath…and Other Small Takes on Joy

December 14, 2012

All I want to do this week is eat chocolate and go for walks. If I’m to be completely honest, I’d say both of these things have something to do with firing up the endorphins. Thankfully, I’ve always been a bit of a hedonist, so I know how to cheer myself up in small ways when the darkness seems a bit too ever-present.

The sun sets a little after 4 o’clock around here—at which point I feel compelled to curl up on the couch with a good book and not move for five hours. (Well, okay, maybe not five hours, but after we eat supper and put all the chickens to bed, we do seem to auger into the couch.) Fortunately, we did wander out and cut down a Christmas tree last Sunday, so the living room feels at least a little festive with sparkly lights and candles in the windows. We moved the old ship-board pine table out of the living room and into the mudroom, and Libby and I set up the nativity scene with hay from the barn and some dry fountain grass for palm trees. I arranged three Waterford crystal votive candle holders (left over from my old life!) around on the table to light the scene like twinkly stars. With the rest of the lights turned off in the mudroom, the effect is breathtaking and more than anything reminds me that Advent is about hope.

I have an old cloth Danish Advent calendar too, with little pockets for candy. Roy eats the candy every day, only he rarely takes it out of the right date pocket. That’s okay. Roy is in mourning. He lost a close family member last week, and we are just working our way through this with the grace of time. Processing sadness during the dimly lit days of early winter is hard, but somehow also allows for needed reflection.

Me, I am holding extra-tight to the gratitude I’ve got for my life. I’m feeling especially grateful for my sister, who’s helping my parents with a difficult move this Christmas. She is there for them in every way. I wish I could be more help, but I understand that right now my job is just to be supportive from a distance. And to be present for Roy.

My other job is to find (and make) small bits of joy wherever I can. Yesterday, I made shortbread cookies (very buttery!) and a cute little wreath. I bought a miniature vine wreath for $1 from the thrift shop. I came home, pulled my boots on, and hooked Farmer up to his leash. We trotted out to the far field where the bittersweet tangles up on the old cattle fence line. I snipped some bittersweet and on my way back stumbled across a Christmas miracle—a holly tree with red berries! Right there in the middle of a cluster of cedar trees. I’d never seen it before, but it was happy to lend me a few sprigs.

I took my greens back, finagled them into my wreath, and hung my little front porch decoration up on a rusty nail. Feeling festive, I took an extra piece of red ribbon and tied it around Sammy the Seagull’s neck. Having Sammy on your front step is only slightly more dignified than having a flamingo in your front yard, but what the heck. He makes me smile. Just like the little red hen who wandered by my window a minute ago (she takes herself out of the pen every day) and the sheep I can see grazing in our neighbor’s field. And the starkly beautiful frost on the garden greens this morning. And a spoonful of cocoa in my coffee. And a million other little sparkles of light in an otherwise dim December day.

11 thoughts on “The One-Dollar, Five-Minute Christmas Wreath…and Other Small Takes on Joy

  1. Susie Middleton Post author

    To my blog readers,

    I wrote and posted this before hearing the terrible news about the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary today. I cannot fathom what those parents must be going through, and I am just terribly saddened by this. I did work in Newtown for 11 years at the Taunton Press, so my first fears were for my colleagues, and perhaps that’s why I can’t shake the sadness. But I suspect it is more about the universal parental instinct we have–I just keep putting myself in the place of those parents racing to the school this morning, and my heart nearly stops just thinking about it. I wish now that I had something more than a silly wreath or a little red hen to offer as a spark of joy. All I can think of is the Lord’s Prayer and the 23rd Psalm…and hope that like all tragedies, something good will come of this. Susie

  2. Susie Middleton Post author

    Hi Sue, so nice to hear from you. Yes, I always forget how cathartic (sp?) a walk is!

  3. Joannie

    Hi Susie…Love your post and I too am so sad for Newtown Conn. …the whole town and all the people that this horrendous act affected…love you…

  4. Susan

    This was such a thoughtful post. It reminded me that it’s the small things that matter and bring comfort, particularly when the big things are so incomprehensible… and it’s one of the reasons I love stopping by your blog…

  5. Kathy

    Lovely post and a good reminder to savor the joy. All the best to you, the whole family and your friends in Newton. Hoping for more joy and less sorrow in 2013.

  6. Kathy Martin

    Susie, amazingly, your column, before you had heard about the tragedy, was making the most out of a “dark” winter. (How did you know…) Which, in a way can help us all get through. “Chocolate, going for walks, curling up on a couch, finding small bits of joy, processing sadness”. Wow. You hit them all.. Yes, I worked in Newtown for 13 years (same place, of course!) and although I am now in Boston, I am having a hard time reconciling thoughts of that beautiful town with the dark shroud that has fallen over it.

  7. Susie Middleton Post author

    Hi Kathy,
    Yes, it is hard to process all this with the picture we have of Newtown from our years there. Working on those small joys–and wishing you a joyous holiday.

  8. Susie Middleton Post author

    Kathy — Hope you and your family (say hello to all for me) have a wonderful Christmas, too. I remember those nice open houses your Mom used to have!

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