The first few appearances of snow and the myriad forms of light that mark this time of year effect me deeply. I suspect it’s partly because of childhood memories and partly the need to “step away” and find moments of sanity during the craziness of this holiday season…
I’m not a lover of snowstorms. In fact, my preferred method of riding out a storm is staying inside my house all warm and cozy, watching it through the window. However, when the storm is over and the sun shines down, picking out all the sparkling facets and everything has been coated in pure white? Oh, I love it! I get this big grin on my face and a feeling of contentment. And sometimes, the urge to run out and make snowangels.
Years ago, my husband and I visited his family in Canada. This was about an hour north of Montreal, in the foothills of the Laurentian Mountains. Winter is different up there. They don’t have the humidity that makes winter so bone-chilling in New York. Anyway, one of my favorite winter memories is an after-dinner walk with my husband. (Which we desperately needed after the series of huge meals his family lovingly forced on us!)
This is a rural, wooded area and we walked up the lane to the top of a small rise and looked back. Stands of pine trees loomed near on one side and a slight distance away on the other side, the snow on their branches appearing blue in the dark. Below us, the lights of the tiny community promised warmth and hospitality. It really didn’t seem all that cold, though the temperature was well below freezing. Except for the sounds of our breathing and whispered conversation, everything around us was still, a moment frozen in the quiet cold. I get goosebumps remembering.
There is something primeval in a single light illuminating the dark. I almost feel a kinship to the early pagans and their winter solstice rituals. A bonfire lighting the night sky. Warmth and light before us and the cold dark at our backs. We can imagine a simpler, harsher time when it was believed the light repelled evil and death.
When I was a child, my favorite part of the Christmas Eve Candlelight Service at church was at the very end. We each held a small, unlit candle and got up from our seats and formed a circle around the edge of the sanctuary and even up the stairs to the second floor balcony. As we began to sing “Silent Night,” the minister used his lit candle to light the one of the person next to him. This continued on, each person lighting their neighbor’s candle, until all were alight. During the last stanza of the song we lifted up the candles above our heads, singing. And as the last note echoed around the open space, there was always a brief hush.
The brightly lit Christmas tree is another icon of wintry magic to me. When I was young, I wore glasses (I’m very nearsighted) and I loved to lay down on the floor, look up at the Christmas tree, and take off my glasses. All I could see were the bright colors melting together and flashes from the light reflecting off the ornaments. Funny what will capture a child’s attention. Even now, in the bright light of day, I have to have the tree lights turned on. A Christmas tree just doesn’t seem alive to me until it is lit.
Where ever you may be, whether you have snow or not, may there be light to guide your way and fill your soul.