“Quiet. It is winter and the frost
Stretches away into the mist;
A circle of dark closes in
Under the predicated stars.
How, under them, can you be content
With the light, the fire and the Christmas tree?
Or the gesticulating screen
There by the bottles in the corner?
What spirits move? What memory
Stirs in the human race today?”
With the seasonal cusp approaching, the year takes on the feel of rotary motion, turning but remaining in place. By afternoon the sun is setting behind the cedars and firs. Twilight stretches, dimming into darkness, like autumn into winter. Bound Christmas trees lashed to car roofs. Houses and shrubs modestly decorated with lights, nothing excessive. The odd garish displays are reassuring, recalling less guilty times.
In the mall stands a six-foot menorah built of Starbucks coffee cups. I’ve heard “Feliz Navidad” twice. Christmas music, even the cheesiest, makes me think of Caliban’s “Sounds and sweet airs that give delight and hurt not.” We first saw Christmas trees and lights for sale in September, when leaves were green. Rain belies the season. Time to read Dickens and cherish the darkness.
“The dark season runs into sunshine
In which nothing more is illuminated,
The paradise of snow that the cold holds.
Do not turn that into imagination.
It is better to see the peace the New York brings,
The sky blue as it need be, sunlit branches
Motionless on the beech, waiting for green.
Spring will come, and after it the summer
Extending across the moors like a bow drawn,
Waiting to shoot its arrow into autumn,
The line of hills which always promise winter
And beyond that.”
[The quoted passages are the opening and closing lines of C.H. Sisson’s “Across the Winter” (Exactions, 1980).]