I had every intention of getting this post written at least by yesterday, but the rush of company, outings, etc., got in the way. It’s Christmas morning. I’m up early because I couldn’t sleep, so here are the thoughts I wanted to get down, and I plan to get the newsletter out later today in between the biscotti-baking, the green-bean casserole making, and the last-minute gift-wrapping flurry.
I don’t know how much attention people will be paying to their inboxes today, but whenever you read this I want to pass on my best wishes for a blessed holiday time. It has been very gratifying for me to see the number of subscribers to this newsletter grow; if you enjoy my posts I hope you will take advantage of the “forward to a friend” feature provided at the bottom of your e-mail.
Last year I wrote about my sadness over missing out on a trip to the Denver Botanic Gardens’ “Blossoms of Light” exhibition, for which the gardens are fabulously decorated with thousands of lights. We waited until the very last evening and then didn’t peel ourselves off the couch and go. This year I was determined to make it, and since we now live over on the west side of town it made sense to go to the Chatfield Farms location. My sister- and brother-in-law were getting in that evening and so we needed to leave early in order for Jim to have plenty of time to get to the airport. When I looked up the times I found out that the gates open at 4:30. ‘Wow,’ I thought. ‘That will really be lovely to see the lights on against the twilight sky and then watch the scene gradually darken as the sun sets.’ And so it was. We managed to get ourselves there by about 4:40; there was already a surprisingly large crowd, mostly with small children. And it was, indeed, as lovely as I had thought it would be. That hour right after sunset, “l’heure bleue,” as the French all it, and isn’t that a lovely term–”the blue hour”–is so lovely, as is that hour right at dawn. One reason they’re so beautiful is that they’re so fleeting; they’re “liminal,” or “threshold,” states, marking the passage from one major division to another. The main picture and a couple below are shots Jim took of this time, with a few night shots thrown in for contrast. Yes, once the darkness fell the lights were all the brighter, but the magic of those few minutes was gone. I felt a little sorry for the hordes of people pouring in later; they had missed out on the contrast.
So today will be fleeting, the only Christmas Day of 2017 that the world will ever experience. There’s a lot of sadness out there, to be sure. I was listening to an episode of “The Federalist Radio Hour” a couple of evenings ago while I was down here working in the kitchen. The host is usually Ben Domenech, the publisher of The Federalist blog, and he devoted an hour or so to reading a variety of selections about Christmas. There were times when his voice got a little unsteady, and all I could think of was that his father-in-law is John McCain. (Ben and Meghan McCain were married right before Thanksgiving; I was pleased to see that they had the ceremony “just before sunset,” which I guess means that they also appreciate the liminal state.) This will in all likelihood be John McCain’s last Christmas. I’m sure everyone gathered at the McCain ranch is going to try to make this day as happy as possible, but the shadow of great grief is inevitably looming over the celebrations.
So I hope to enjoy today as fully as possible, savoring even the inevitable last-minute flurry as Jan and I get dinner on the table for 16 people. (I think that’s the count, but there may be more—the number keeps increasing.) I can be unspeakably grateful that my son Gideon is here for the holidays and that he’s healthy and happy. We could so easily have lost him three years ago. I can savor our first Christmas here in our new living situation, with no need to drive all the way back across town every night and no plane trip marking the end of our time here. And I can be at peace about the New Year. As I wrote these lines I was reminded of some words from “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear”:
For lo! the days are hastening on
By prophet bards foretold,
When, with the ever circling years
Shall come the age of gold;
When Peace shall over all the earth,
Its ancient splendors fling,
And the whole world give back the song,
Which now the angels sing.