Tuesday, December 23, 2014
On the last two nights before the winter solstice, I stood in the backyard and watched the mountain. It was cold, and I wasn't feeling well, so I was bundled up in a heavy fleece jacket. When I photograph the mountain, I tend to stand on top of the little brick stairs outside our bedroom for a better view over the garden wall at the other end of the yard. I need to duck underneath an apple-tree branch and lean my right shoulder hard on the rickety screen door, but otherwise it's a fantastic place for a mountain shot.
The first night was clear, the cold air sharp in my tender nose, my aching lungs. The mountain put on its show, turning pink for just a few minutes as the sun set. Then it darkened from the top down, gray to black. Soon, there were stars and stars. That night, it snowed a little and we woke up to a whitened mountain. Clouds lingered, foaming over the peaks all day. By sunset, bits of blue sky showed through. No watermelon glow that night, though. I watched the clouds until they were all I could see: pale, pearly wisps in a darkening sky.
Inside my house, lights were on. There was food in the oven and a candle burned on the stove. The Christmas tree, that symbol of pagan celebration, glowed brightly in the living room. My children were under afghans, reading books. My husband was on his way home from work, in his old car that refuses to die. I was tired and I felt poorly and I was panicking a little about being sick during the week before Christmas, but I mostly felt calm. It would all get done (and it did). I thought: I am so, so rich, in all the ways that really matter. I have a comfortable home, healthy children, a happy marriage. I have an ever-changing mountain and an endless sky. At Solstice, and always, I am astonished by the bounty overflowing in one little life.