Thursday, December 31, 2020

Snow and Renewal

            The 2020 holiday season is unlike any other. Christmas, yes, celebrates the birth of Jesus, but for many people it has more to do with family and gifts. But in 2020 the pandemic has meant adjustment and compromise.

            Families struggle to “get together.” We are warned not to travel to family gatherings, and we watch with disapproval the tv news images of crowded airports. We have tried to get together using Facetime, but our slowed internet speeds have made that impossible, so instead we hear voices on our phones’ speaker setting, and we watch a blur of text messages. Scott and Shariee drove up to celebrate with us the week before Christmas, and their gifts were generous and creative, but we miss the company of kids and grandkids. We have each other, and we have embraced frequently the last few days. On Christmas Eve we shared champagne and cookies in the afternoon, and in the evening we watched “Moonstruck” on Showtime, not a Christmas movie, and went to bed.

            Gifts? Kim outdid herself in making gifts for kids and grandkids, but we were denied the pleasure of watching them open them. She also gifted people with her Christmas cards, but we only got a dozen in return – including those from our insurance agent and a financial advisor. We gave cookies to the UPS and FedEx guys when they delivered packages – we have a lot of cookies in the house, as Kim baked all of our favorites. We took some cookies, peanut brittle and a casserole to two sets of neighbors in the adjoining subdivision, despite the Trump flag, and they returned the gesture with some gourmet Chex Mix. We made a small donation to the laid-off workers at the Torch Lake Cafe.

            We did not put up a tree this year, but we did find modest ways to mark the holiday. Kim made a wall sculpture depicting a stylized woods, and she put small red glass balls in it, at least for a few weeks. She created a holiday centerpiece for the dining room table and another for the outdoor table on the porch. I put lights on a tree in the yard. Alexa played Christmas music for us.

            This year our Christmas celebration seems focused on snow. Our December landscape had looked fairly barren for weeks, but on Christmas Eve it started to snow, and it’s been snowing off and on for the last several days. Snow means shoveling, which I enjoy for the exercise and for making our home approachable, even welcoming, despite our isolation. (In The Myth of Sisyphus, Camus tells us that the effort of pushing the boulder up the hill, over and over, becomes the reward.) But to us in December, snow also means renewal. What’s better than turning off the indoor lights, turning on the outdoor lights, and watching the slow fall of snow? Or watching the birds feeding in the snow? The world feels new.

Downy Woodpecker

Pileated Woodpecker

Bird Feeder

Red Squirrel Enjoying Snow

Mourning Dove Contemplating Snowflake

Red Squirrel Enjoying Spilled Birdseed

The Same Red Squirrel, Still Eating

Brown Creeper - hard to find and photograph


           Renewal is why we like to have the winter solstice included in the Holiday Season. As the sunrise begins to inch north, we inch toward renewal in the new year, confident that, despite the dire pandemic forecast for the next few months, 2021 will be better than 2020. But on the other hand, we had a great 2020. The horrors on the news, political and medical, only served to sharpen our appreciation of what we have close at hand: birds, cookies, a furnace that works, coffee, Amazon Prime, and each other.

Kim Getting Stoned


            At our age, we never know whether this will be our last Christmas. There’s the coronavirus, and Kim meets her oncologist today to learn what the scans and X-rays revealed. Pay attention to what you love. We already have what we need. Except for maybe a new coffee pot. And more babies in the family . . ..

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