But that was not the same snow,” I say. “Our snow was not only shaken from white wash buckets down the sky, it came shawling out of the ground and swam and drifted out of the arms and hands and bodies of the trees; snow grew overnight on the roofs of the houses like a pure and grandfather moss, minutely -ivied the walls and settled on the postman, opening the gate, like a dumb, numb thunder-storm of white, torn Christmas cards.*
Christmas Eve, and the house is full of presents and cakes and cookies and quiet. When I was a kid this night was one of the best of the year: sugar-saturated and full of a kind of anticipatory pleasure that was almost (almost) better than the next morning when we ripped into our neatly wrapped packages. The Bike Year was my favorite, I think, though the year I slipped a little beribboned kitten under the tree for my mom comes in a close second. That morning I’d taken my dog out to Salmon Creek with my friends for a run; it was a cool, clear December — the day itself the only gift we wanted — and the mist burned off along the back roads as we drove out to the coast. I think I was home before 10a, kitten in tow, which means we must have left before 8; it was a true gift of a day, then, to have sun so early.
This year it is forecast to rain and rain, which may thwart my family’s traditional beach walk though as it’s my sister-in-law’s first visit at Christmas we have decided we must! go anyway. Custom demands it. Certainly there will be challah French toast for breakfast, with lots of maple syrup and equally as much coffee, and maybe a pot of homemade hot chocolate for sipping-on during the flurry of unwrapping. I will make my usual calls East — to upstate New York; to Washington, DC; to New Jersey; to Florida — and sit in front of a fire for awhile at some point. I hope there will be a glass of wine.
The holiday crept up on me this year — or rather, it leapt, and here it’s just a week before the new year. How on earth … ? The Solstice came and went quietly; I sadly missed the lunar eclipse due to San Francisco’s infernal fog layer (and rain). But there were new, lovely things this year despite the suddenness of December: lots of homemade candy, a party in a beautiful adobe house in Sonoma that was built in the 1800s, making eggnog (err — blech) from scratch, sending even more holiday cards than in the past, baking lemon cream pie instead of chocolate for holiday gatherings.
And so on the night before I cannot help but to be grateful for this last year, for as quickly as it passed me by, it gave me so many wonderful things, not least of all a wonderful sister-in-law who is like the sister I always wished for, and not most of all the knowledge that if I have to I can run 26.2 miles at once (though, please, let me not always have to). Not to mention I learned that I can cook a really fine turkey. Many, many other things, too, most too sweet and small to really detail. (Though of course: the Giants and that whole golden October thing. And Point Reyes, always. And my wonderful friends. And and and.)
Oh life. You continue to inspire and amaze.
I post bits of this every year and every year I can’t help but do so again because it is so beautiful, so sweet and true and perfect:
Looking through my bedroom window, out into the moonlight and the unending smoke-colored snow, I could see the lights in the windows of all the other houses on our hill and hear the music rising from them up the long, steady falling night. I turned the gas down, I got into bed. I said some words to the close and holy darkness, and then I slept.
*(Dylan Thomas, “A Child’s Christmas in Wales”)
May your holidays be as close, as holy, as warm and lovely.