It is so quiet I can hear the wind around the corners of the house.
This is a very unmerry thing to admit to, but I am so relieved that Christmas is over for this year. It's my usual response to Christmas, although this year was harder than most.
I almost want to take all the decorations down right now, just for the relief of seeing calm, bare surfaces.
Outside my window, the clouds are periwinkle blue, pale gold and grey. The grass is all tawny and tough looking, but hidden in little places, green weeds are already growing up in masses. The vivid green of these weeds is almost shocking against the dull lawn.
It's been raining for weeks. My two houseplants are bent out of shape; they all reach in desperation toward the windows and more light. I would move them somewhere else, but there's nowhere else to put them.
It was raining on Christmas Eve. We drove down to the mall in the downpour, and found a parking space some distance from the doors.
"Ready?" asked Keith, poised with car keys in hand, one hand on the door handle.
"Ready," I said and we burst out into the rain.
We went leaping down the parking lot, past all the gleaming bumpers and windshields, and dove, laughing under the overhang by the front door. Other women were standing there, torn between the polite impulse to ignore us and the desire to stare.
Keith noticed them and put two and two together. "What kind of husband doesn't drop his wife off at the entrance?" he cried, laughing.
My ancient sweater was spangled with rain; my face and feet were soaking wet. I laughed and gave him a bright glance through my rain splattered glasses. I took his hand and we went, still wet, into the mall.
After a half hour, we both had a headache. We wandered, unwisely, into a candle shop and were assailed by the scents. I felt dizzy with artificial fragrance and horrified by the price tags. I tried to imagine under what circumstances I would ever buy a ten dollar candle.
"Do people think we're cheap?" Keith asked, as we walked back to the car.
"Yes, I think so," I replied honestly. "I think we must be. But the only way not to be, would be to put everything on the credit card."
Having caught on to the system, Keith insisted that I wait by the doors while he fetched the car. Two well dressed women waited beside me; eventually they climbed into an SUV with a glossy chrome grill and tinted windshields.
At the same time, my battered, twelve year old Honda slid up to the curve. The contrast made me laugh, but I was glad to be getting into my own car with my own husband.
"Hello, kitten," my husband greeted me as I opened the door.
The sun came out for a few moments later on in the afternoon. I drifted over to the window and stood wedged between the copier and the treadmill, right square in the sunlight, so that I could feel it on my face, until the clouds closed again.
Christmas Day was dull and overcast. Rain poured thunderously down the chimney and went gushing off the roof.
We gave the girls their Christmas bones. Excited beyond belief, they went off in their separate directions to try and deal with this bounty.
Abby knew immediately what to do and settled down on the rug to tear hers into little bits with wet and ripping sounds that would have been more at home in a bear's cave than our living room.
Lynn was much more confused. She knew that the bone was hers and must always be hers, but what exactly she was supposed to do with it, she was not sure.
At first she simply carried it around with her, which was adorable because of the big, white knots of rawhide that bulged at either side of her slender muzzle. She slept with it in her mouth, carried it with her to the dog bowl and the water dish, and outside.
Eventually, her mouth must have gotten tired, because I discovered her standing with no bone at the foot of the bed beside a pile of suspiciously rumbled bedding.
"Lynn, what have you been doing?" I asked.
Everything on her drooped immediately in shame. She looked at me from liquid pools of chagrin.
"Were you burying your bone in the bed?" I asked in amazement, coming closer to inspect.
Indeed, she was. She had pulled the bedding free from the foot of the bed and there I found her bone, wedged between the foot board and the mattress.
I couldn't decide what was more adorable; the fact that she had mistaken the bed for ground or her abject expression. She watched with mute submission as I pulled the bone free.
I offered it to her but she clearly didn't feel she was worthy of the bone, after her gaffe. Without taking her eyes off mine, she reached forward and tentatively licked the bone, as though to acknowledge both its presence and its attraction.
Eventually, she regained her confidence and took the bone oh so gently from my hand and slipped off the bed. She went, head down still in shame, to find a new and more appropriate hiding place.
Hopefully, nowhere near where we sleep.
I never know quite what to do with these bits of December that remain after Christmas. I shall live in them, I suppose. I'll wait for the sunlight.
I suppose I'm being shaped in a similar way as my houseplants- by the tension of being rooted in the present moment, while reaching out in longing for the source of the light, and growing, mysteriously, all the while.
This morning, I read this from Richard Rohr. It was quite lovely, I thought:
"We are all
created for divine union. We are incapable of imagining such daring unity
between the human and the divine in ourselves unless we see it imaged as
possible in other places and people. Salvation is contagious, and passes around
in just that way.
"Our little self
on its seemingly insignificant journey is a microcosm of what God is doing
everywhere and what God did perfectly and visibly in Jesus. God is always
putting matter and spirit, human and divine, pain and victory together. It could
even be called God’s job description.
-Adapted from Near Occasions of Grace, p. 6
And the word
became flesh and dwelt among us.
~ John 1:14