After writing for a week alone in my old shack,
I guide the car through Ortonville around midnight.
The policeman talks intently in his swivel chair.
The light from above shines on his bald head.
Soon the car picks up speed again beside the quarries.
The moonspot on the steel tracks moves so fast!
Thirty or so Black Angus hold down their earth
Among silvery grasses blown back and forth in the wind.
My family is still away; no one is home.
How sweet it is to come back to an empty house—
The windows dark, no lamps lit, trees still,
The barn serious and mature in the moonlight.
~Robert Bly, “Living a Week Alone” from Like the New Moon, I Will Live My Life.
Being introverted, I would expect to enjoy time alone. But I don’t. A conversation with myself is uninspiring, leading me back into the inner circle of my thoughts when I would much rather explore the unknown of another’s view of the world. Alone, I feel exceptionally unexceptional and extraordinarily ordinary. Quite simply, without others around me, I’m empty.
At night, when I drive up to our farm and see both house and barn glowing with lights and life rather than still and dark, it is a warm blessing to return home. Someone left the lights on for me.
I’ll leave the lights on for you as well.
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~Ted Kooser “A Letter in October”
these autumn mornings,
longing for rainbow colors to fill in the lines
beyond a blackened window pane
and in our prayers.Some mornings we can only see our own reflection
mirrored by darkness, startled by time,
wondering what comes next.
as we wait.
When the song of the angels is stilled,
when the star in the sky is gone,
when the kings and princes are home,
when the shepherds are back with their flocks,
the work of Christmas begins:
to find the lost,
to heal the broken,
to feed the hungry,
to release the prisoner,
to rebuild the nations,
to bring peace among the people,
to make music in the heart.
~Howard Thurman from The Mood of Christmas & Other Celebrations
All the Advent anticipation is spent, Christmas and New Years are past and I find my energy waning just as the work of Christmas is beginning.
Instead of the Twelve Days of Christmas it should be the Twelve Weeks, or better yet, Twelve Months– maybe the lights should stay up until St. Patrick’s Day at least, just to keep us out of the shadows, inertia and doldrums of winter.
As I sweep up the last of the fir needles that dropped to the floor from this lovely tree that I watered faithfully in the house for over two weeks, I too have been drying up, parts of me left behind for others to sweep up. There has been the excitement of family brought together from far away, friends gathering for meals and games, special church services, but now, some quiet time is sorely needed. The party simply can’t be sustained. The lights have to go off and be pulled down, and the eyes have to close.
The real work of Christmas lasts year-long — often very hard intensive work, not always the fun stuff of the last month, but badly needed in this broken world with its homelessness, hunger, disease, conflict, addictions, depression and pain.
I walk into a winter replete with the startling splash of orange red that paints the skies in the evenings, the stark and gorgeous snow covered peaks surrounding us during the day, the grace of bald eagles and trumpeter swans flying overhead, the heavenly lights that twinkle every night, the shining globe that circles full above us, and the loving support of the Hand that rocks us to sleep when we are wailing loud and need it.
And I am readied to do the real work of Christmas, acknowledging the stark reality of the labor to salvage this world begun by an infant in a manger.
We don’t need full stockings on the hearth, Christmas villages on the side table, or a blinking star on the top of the tree to know the comfort of His care and the astounding beauty of His creation, available for us without batteries, electrical plug ins, or the need of a ladder.
As I take down lights and ornaments, the memory of Christmas pulls me up from the doldrums, alive to the possibility that even I can make a difference, in His name, all year.
Every day. Twelve months. Life long.
And I’m ready.