This week between Christmas and New Year’s is like that moment between gears, when we’re coasting between one year and the next.
After hosting a truly satisfying Destination Thanksgiving just a few weeks ago, we felt no need to celebrate again – or at least not in the usual way. I didn’t even make a Christmas wreath; I bought one. And that was the sum total of decorating the house this year.
Nor did we exchange gifts, start projects or work. We cooked great food in our new kitchen, and we finished making our charitable contributions for the year; then we tromped through the woods on snowshoes.
Two days before Christmas, pelletized snow hit the ground, followed by freezing rain. The rain glazed the old snow into a hard crust and kept all but the snowplows off the roads, sealing us indoors except for chores.
The next day, we stomped through the crust on our snowshoes, waking up the woods with what sounded like a continuous cascade of broken glass as ice shards clattered around us.
Young neighbors joined us for dinner on Christmas Eve and departed into a brittle night studded with stars, but nature worked its overnight magic. Christmas Day dawned muffled in snow that amplified the quiet of winter.
We ventured out again, this time our snowshoes held us afloat as we tromped uphill, heating up despite the low temperatures and gusting wind. There’s nothing like the exertion of snowshoeing in deep powder to heat up a cold, winter day.
We filled the feeders before coming inside, and watched the juncos, jays, and goldfinch flock to them, while the mourning doves fed from the ground.
If this all sounds quiet, it is; if it sounds uneventful, it’s not.
The trees, encased in ice one day, and outlined in snow the next, dazzled us with their fairyland beauty.
Snow transforms the landscape to a clean sheet of paper on which is writ the drama of winter survival: the imprint of an owl’s wings where it plucked a rodent from below the snow; the chipped bits of a pine cone mined for its high-calorie seeds; and the tracks of deer partying the night away in our field. Christmas Day we came across an opening of what we suspect is a bear’s den. We were pleased to note the phenomenon – and move on.
I love the contradictions: winter’s cold is just getting stared as daylight lengthens. With sun in the sky and snow on the ground, even short days can be blinding. The world seems frozen and static, but it’s just hunkered down, holding seeds in the tight fist of winter, a season of gestation, the time when one year ends, and another begins.
To make an end is to make a beginning.
The end is where we start from.*
And so we turn the page of the calendar, from one year to the next: a time of new starts, of shifting into first gear, gaining momentum, and continuing on.
* from Little Gidding, by TS Elliot