stories of lights

Posted by on December 5, 2013

Touring the brewery's Christmas lights on a rainy night © 2013 Julia Mason Wickes.

Touring the brewery’s Christmas lights on a rainy night © 2013 Julia Mason Wickes.


by Seamus Heaney

Always there would be stories of lights
hovering among the bushes or at the foot
of a meadow; maybe a goat with cold horns
pluming into the moon; a tingle of chains

on the midnight road. And then maybe
word would come round of that watery
art, the lamping of fishes, and I’d be
mooning my flashlamp on the licked black pelt

of the stream, my left arm splayed to take
a heavy pour and run of the current
occluding the net. Was that the beam
buckling over an eddy or a gleam

of the fabulous? Steady the light
and come to your sense, they’re saying good-night.

* * *

I am going to take the month of December off from blogging. I cannot claim to be the busiest person in the world, and I pride myself on that, just to stick it to the status quo of the badge of busy pride. But I can make an honest claim to being mentally preoccupied. I am trying to make a lot of gifts on our Christmas list this year rather than buy them, and I think it’s going to take a lot of thought and time. Often when I make something I think about it for many hours for every minute that I actually spend working on it. I wish that were not so but it seems to be.

I like the poem above because it seems to be about storytelling around a fire, and getting lost in the story, or possibly just the conversation, until you almost forget your time and place, and the late hour. I could be wrong; the poem might be about something completely different. But if that is what it is about, then it makes me long for that setting, and for that kind of lost feeling to happen to me more often, in the company of nice people.

In rebellion against the fast-paced world, I am aiming to be the worst kind of slow-poke surrounding Christmas this year. Today I printed out a free Nativity paper doll scene on card stock and sat coloring, cutting and gluing it together with my daughter, just because. It took a really long time; I was surprised how long it took. It was fun picking out the color scheme for the robes of the wise men, shepherds, etc., and staying in the lines with markers. I knew that my daughter’s markers were the scented kind, but I had never really experienced them fully, in a long stint of coloring, and I got to enter into her fruity, marker-scented world for a while. I know she appreciates it when I do this. Even though we are homeschooling, I can avoid that kind of fusion with my children’s world very easily without even realizing it for days on end. But when I emerge from that fusion, it feels as if everyone is more whole and healed, so I know that it is a good thing.

I want to do a lot of things like that this month. Or, more realistically, I want to do a small handful of things like that this month. The longer they take and the more pointless, the better. I will probably do a gingerbread house this year and take it really seriously.

I wish, as usual, that I had close friends living near me–as in down the street or next door. I need someone to knock on my door and shake me out of my lame preoccupations. I wish for conversations and a lot of times I think that the only difference between the happy, contented me and the sad or dull me is the total hours I have spent recently in–yes– meaningful conversation. Not to scare anyone, but I really need a certain quota of talking. For now I’ll just roll out another episode of British period drama on Amazon Instant Video (like they need the free advertising), something set in a small English village before the trains came through bringing scandal and displacement. And we need to buy a truckload of firewood from the industrious young fellow that lives a few blocks away from us and does odd jobs for money. We have a fireplace– it’s true!

So this is my Merry Christmas to all (or merry fill-in-the-blank-with-your holiday– we’ll be joined this year, after all, by the Jewish American Girl Doll, Rebecca Rubin, who my four year-old is head-over-heels in love with, and so now I love her too). And for weeks we’ve all been walking around with a Hanukkah song stuck in our head that my other daughter will sing in her holiday concert. And Happy New Year, too! I will definitely be back in January.

  1. Manuela
    December 5, 2013

    I love how you choose to do things with your kids that take a long time and seem pointless (which of course they are not). Life should be full of things that take as long as they need to, without rush, without getting out of the chair all the time, just because you want to do them. It seems like you have made this part of your reality and that is so, so good.
    Again, you are making me want to take Lukas out of school. I suggested it to him the other day (not too seriously) and he immediately yelled at me: "No". I guess I can be glad that he likes it so much. But the getting up, getting ready, getting out the house, picking up, doing homework, making dinner, going to bed etc. feels everything but slow to me and I really want to know how to bring slowness into my life despite all of the "must do it now" things. Sigh.
    By the way, you need for talking reminds we that we should probably talk on the phone soon. 🙂