There is magic and mystery to a predawn winter’s day. I rediscovered that last week, waking up to a full moon as gold and round as a freshly baked soda biscuit. A mantle of fresh snow responded in glistening blue-white. Sparkles of color twinkled skyward, subtly enhanced by the steady glow of crystallized fireflies. They had frozen to death with their lights on.
There had been an eclipse of some sort in the far west, but that didn’t have bearing on my reverie. The grandeur of illusion transformed commonality into perfection and imperfection into exaltation. Blue white roofs made every house a glowing mansion, evoking reverence. Even the snow clad cinder block, left over from a building project, radiated glory, and the blacktopped streets, their cracks and potholes shrouded in darkness, formed bold and perfect borders between the scenes.
This must be the kind of scene that inspired such songs as “Moonlight in Vermont” and “White Christmas,” which captivated us in the days of our youth. It is a deceptive presentation, alluring from the comfort of a warm living room but fraught with bitter cold reality if you wander into it unprepared. It is the season of tradition when we long for the old country church with its tall, narrow windows and even taller steeple. In reverie it beckons us inward to the discomfort of hard wooden benches and pelvic bones pushing through our buttocks. It was cold in winter, hot in summer, and noisy because of bare wooden floors and hard, echo prone walls. Visiting today, we wouldn’t stay long. As C. S. Lewis wrote about romance, “Five minutes’ genuine toothache will reveal romantic suffering for the nonsense that it was.” “The way things were” is not the way things were.
Nevertheless, we are well into the season of good will when the realities of life are covered with syrup and we pretend that we are not going head over heels into debt. It takes a bit more effort in our day. I have already heard people talking about the onslaught of Christmas and the debilitating pressure it brings. Thanksgiving ends in “Black Friday” on Thursday afternoon, when shoppers not only suspend belief but take leave of their senses. We seem to have absorbed the turkey’s intelligence as well as his drumsticks.
How different things are from old time childhood when we really experienced the carols we sang and really believed that peace and good tidings were imminent. I remember innocently praying for our wartime enemies when our “pillars of example” spoke quite differently. Judgment was coming, and it would be levied against “them.” I hadn’t meant to share this illustration, but it’s daylight and the reverie is wearing off. It’s back to the banging of garbage cans and the babbling of newscasters.
The Earth has tilted even further on its axis, they say, and I wonder, “In whose favor?” Worse yet, we’re about to go nose down into the worst winter solstice on record. The days are shorter because the tilt is 10 inches steeper, so there will likely be no daylight at all on Dec. 21. One of the early reports had the earth tilting by an additional 26 degrees, which would leave the poles virtually sideways to the Sun. “Lo de do de do” wailed the grief stricken King Lear. Relax. Cooler heads have prevailed. The nightly weather report will tell you the amount of axis shift since yesterday. If the weather guy isn’t stressed, you need not be.
I know I’ve drifted into silliness, but I was born this time of year and the magnetic fields are shifting, too. Catastrophe is not upon us, though. That’s just what the fear mongers would have us believe. They gain followers and wealth that way, draining us of joy and assets until their predictions fail and they are exposed. There is a Christmas Day on the other side of solstice, even if some people don’t call it that. It is the kind of day and the kind of season we declare it to be. Hope and good will still command the vessel of life. They grow best in a childlike spirit of acceptance, especially in a state of reverie.
Jim Stockton is a retired bookkeeper who lives in Belding.