Posts Tagged ‘Christmas’

This, too, is Christmas, the quiet
walk on the quiet road in the quiet air.
The only carol here—
unending verses of river.
The only gifts we brought—
our attention, our trust.
This feast is for the heart.
There is a generosity to the sunshine
no candle could equal.
It’s a deep sweetness
to be wrapped in blue sky,
a deep sweetness
to share heartache, exhaustion—
something I would never wish for anyone,
and yet, this Christmas day,
the sharing of it,
such a beautiful present.

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Every Christmas Eve


            for Diane
surrounded by bows
and ribbons, we sit on the floor
and wrap into the small hours—
all the while we unwrap our hearts
and give them again and again to each other  

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December 17, 2022

Mom makes the chocolates
while I chop nuts and make dough—
we listen to carols and sing along
as we have since before I remember.
The kitchen smells of mint and sugar
and I try to press the memory
between the pages of the day.
Perhaps it is a blessing
to know how fragile it is, this life.
I let myself fall all the way into the moment,
the sun long gone, but the house
still pulsing with love, still warm.

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It’s Christmas and the yard,
grassy again from unseasonal rain,
is abloom with dozens of robins—
robins flitting and bobbing
and weaving unpredictable paths
with their dark gray wings.
They seem harbingers
of an unexpected spring,
as if life is asking them to be more alive
just when it seems as if
everything is dead.
How could I be more alive?
I love that these birds know
how to survive—love that
come winter, they flock.
Because more eyes means
more chances to spot food.
Because more eyes means
fewer chances to become food themselves.
I, too, have been flocking
this winter—surrounding myself
with other eyes, other hearts,
other wings, other minds.
It feels good to be one of many,
to trust my kind. It feels good
to fly together for this
tenderest time. The truth is,
it isn’t easy. The truth is,
we were made for this.

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On Christmas Eve

On the doorsill,
left without a knock,
was a very small bag
with a big silver bow.
Inside was a jam jar
with a red gingham cap
filled with homemade confetti,
Its thin red label said:
Christmas magic,
just sprinkle.

And it’s that simple:
a bit of bright paper
cut into tiny squares
and the true love of a friend,
and I am awash with magic,
baptized by tears of devotion
and wonder, marvel
and memory, loss
and hope and gratitude.

Let the jars we are
be vessels for love.
May we be certain
that whatever we carry inside us,
we are capable of real magic—
the kind that flings open
the heart of another
and lets wild joy rush in.
The kind that turns words
into wine. The kind
that takes a gray rainy day
stained with grief and sickness
and turns it into

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Leaning in to Paradox

Tonight your sister and I
frosted the sugar cookies—
all the same shapes you’d remember:
stars and wreaths, angels and trees,
gingerbread men and sheep.
We made a rabbit into a Santa
and four gingerbread men
into Spiderman, complete
with red boots and large white eyes
and spiders on their chests.
And we laughed, deep muscled currents
of laughter. And I missed you.
Strange how even the happiest moments
are thirsty. Because of course
you are here in the red and green frosting,
here in the sweet mindless chatter,
here in the communion of sweet dough
and carols, and not here
in the chair beside me. There is
a calculus of thirst—the study
of continuous change in which
loving you is the constant.
This is the work of my life—
to love what is here, to love
what is not, and to learn how thirst,
too, is a tribute to the river.

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Meeting the Holidays

They mean well, of course,
the people who say things
such as, The holidays are hard.

And they’re right. Like not hanging
the blue stocking on the fireplace.
Like not needing to hide the red hots

because there is no one who will steal them.
But these moments are no more difficult
than a Tuesday. No more heartbreaking

than two weeks ago when
my son did not chastise me
for not clicking my heels

before I pulled my snowy feet into the car.
Firsts are hard, people say.
But, sometimes, I notice,

it’s the second that’s harder.
Or the third. Or it’s just all hard.
Or, miraculously, it’s not hard at all.

I am learning to translate
anything anyone says as,
I am holding your heart in mine.

I am learning to meet every day
as a holy day full of sacrifice,
grace and invitation. I am learning

grief is so different for each of us—
sometimes showing up as closed sign
at the door of the inn. Sometimes

showing up as an angel with a message
we can barely understand. Sometimes
showing up as a king with a strange

and fragrant gift reminiscent of sorrowing,
sighing—though it’s woody and warm,
and feels important, perhaps, even wondrous.

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Every step through the deep snow
of the field, I noticed your footprints
not there beside your dad’s, your sister’s
and mine. I noticed the silence
when no one argued about which tree
was best. I noticed the hands
that didn’t hold the saw, the arms
that didn’t carry the tree. I think
you’d like to know we laughed
as the snow sifted from the high branches
and down our necks. And we chose
the most beautiful spruce. Tall.
It would have been about as old
as you. I wore your coat—the blue
with the orange lining. It kept me
warm. Though the shade was deep.
Though the cold reached in. Though
I knew it wasn’t really you warming me.
But it was.

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The first year I won the Slush Mush contest
I was shocked as my grandfather read a long, official letter
to everyone else around the Christmas tree
about how my entry into the Slush Mush Breakfast Cereal contest
had been the best one received that year.
I didn’t remember entering.
In fact, I was sure I had not.
Yet I won a puzzle.
Another year my brother won.
Or my mother. Or my cousin.
And each Christmas morning, my grandfather read
the long official letter
which always ended “Eat more Slush Mush.”
It was many years before I understood
how the contest worked.
And for the last twenty years
since he’s been gone,
I carry on, buying puzzles, writing letters,
appointing unsuspecting winners.
Part of me thrills in this annual ruse
because it reminds me of him.
Part of me thrills in remembering
how strange and wonderful it felt
to be chosen not because of how hard
I had tried, but because I was part
of a circle of love. It’s a malnourished world,
he would write every year. Thank you, Papa,
for the Slush Mush.

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Tonight when we light
the third candle,
the candle of joy,
I remember
I am a girl
sitting beside
an evergreen wreath,
giddy with advent,
and I breathe in the scent
of spruce and wax
and fall in love
with the growing
of the light—
how each week
the tapers burn brighter—
and such a surprise
to find I am also
in love with the unlit candle,
in love with the wait,
in love with the part
of me that even
in darkness
knows itself
as flame.

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