December 31 Reflections on the Ritual of Dawn and Christmas lights

I skipped a couple of mornings sitting out on the front porch. One morning I spent my dawn time shoveling snow. (Dawn time. I like that phrase. Sounds like “down time,” which it is.) One morning was just too cold and gray. One morning, I’d slept really fitfully, but fell back asleep in time to miss the sunrise.

I found myself missing the ritual.

The habit of sitting on the porch to sip my coffee and experience the morning is both an opportunity to start the day in a meditative way and mark a fresh start (to paraphrase Anne of Green Gables “a new day with no mistakes in it yet”) and also an opportunity for a daily vacation.

Looking back at some of my “before times” vacation photos, a common theme is capturing myself or my traveling companion(s) enjoying a beverage. Oftentimes, that beverage was a cup of coffee slowly sipped while looking out upon the morning.

A favorite memory of coffee on vacation, in western Sweden. The place we stayed had a small stone sitting area you could climb up to that looked out over the mouth of a fjord.

That’s one of the joys of vacation – having the time to sit and look around and contemplate life while sipping your coffee. My ritual of dawn has become a small daily vacation from the confinements and stresses of life in a pandemic.

I’ve tried a couple of times to sit out on the deck behind my house to witness the sunset and bid adieu to the day, but I found it unpleasant with the harshness of the winter sun angle as well as sort of false, since the day hadn’t really ended yet at 4:30 in the afternoon. Maybe as the year shifts to later sunsets I’ll sit on the deck with my spouse and toast the sunset with a glass of beer. For now, I’ll stick with the ritual of dawn.

December 31

The Christmas lights on half of my across-the-street neighbor’s bushes have gone wonky in their timing and are still glowing this morning, a near-match to the sky color at the horizon. This pleases me very much.

Similarly pleasing is the house around the corner from me, whose Christmas lights I can see from my back deck, and which I captured several evenings ago, similarly mirroring the light in the sky at sunset.

I’m really going to miss the Christmas lights when people start turning them off and taking them down. I turned mine on early this year because I needed that sparkle of nostalgia and whimsy. I wonder how long I can get away with keeping them on?

My spouse and I have been taking evening walks through the neighborhood when the sidewalks aren’t icy. Through a couple of windows we’ve glimpsed Christmas lights strung around people’s living rooms, up towards the ceiling, creating a lovely, cozy glow.

The idea of doing this in my living room half makes me want to go out in search of Christmas lights on clearance at local stores. It’d be easy enough to hang lights from the picture rail. But I don’t really want to buy more stuff, and I don’t really want to go traipsing around from store to store when virus transmission in my community is still high. Maybe if I get the opportunity to pick up some secondhand lights on Facebook marketplace . . .

There’s just something comforting about all those lights in a time of darkness.

My year-end wish for you is that you find all the light and comfort you need in 2021. When the sun comes up tomorrow, it will be a new year without any mistakes in it yet.

Copyright 2020 by Katie Bradshaw

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