Such times
Dancing with our stories

The shortest day


7:15am, more or less. On the way home.

On the last day before winter vacation, the school orchestras gather early and serenade their classmates in the lobby as everyone else is arriving at school. So we loaded my son's double bass into the car early this morning and I drove him to school, still in my pajamas and bathrobe. The early drive meant I was out of the house to see the sky pinking and growing lighter over the hills.

"We live in a beautiful place," I said, and my son agreed.

"This is what I get to see every morning on the school bus," he pointed out. "We live in one of the most beautiful places on earth."

I can think of more spectacular landscapes... but I didn't disagree. I'm glad he can see the beauty in where we are. And as he reminds me often, he doesn't struggle with winter darkness the way that I do. Maybe it's because I'm a transplant to this latitude, even if I've lived here far longer than I lived there. Or maybe it's because I'm older and better acquainted with sorrow. I hope it's the first one.

I've been counting down the days over the last few weeks, eager to make it over this threshold. What I think of as "real winter" lies ahead -- the coldest months, the snow and ice, the dangerous roads. But the days will start getting brighter, bit by bit. This is the nadir of the solar year. This is as far as we go in this direction. Like touching a far wall and turning around to begin the long slow return. 

My refrigerator's top shelf is full of leftovers, but I feel compelled to cook something new for dinner. As though I need to keep the hearth fire burning on this longest night. There's a Michael Twitty recipe for collard greens with coconut milk and peanuts and red pepper that is calling to me -- vibrant, bold flavors that I associate with luxuriant warmth. We made it. The days get lighter from here.