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.