I don’t really know how to take bokeh photographs of Christmas trees, or even how to wax profound about any of these things or what the season means to me. But I know that this Christmas has been lovely and hard at the same time, warm inside and cold outside, or vice versa. I need slippers inside my house and I clutch mugs of chai tea. The ornaments on the tree are mostly new. The older ones are only a couple of years old at the most, but each is precious because it bears the imprint of its giver. The new ones are beautiful, but I can’t help thinking of the ones that came before, the ones that aren’t there, the people who aren’t gathered or who meet around a different tree. I don’t know snow, we don’t do it here, but I’m told it’s bracing, and I take it on faith that if I were to wash my face with it I would feel clean and fresh but bone-clenchingly cold. Like this.
There are pine needles all over my floor. In some places they’re heaped up in little piles, and they smell like the sweetest, spiciest thing, but they can be sharp at the same time. They stick to my shoes and socks. They twist themselves into the fibers of the rug, at the same time that the rug fibers cling to everything. They follow me everywhere, and it is that way with life too. Things are sweet and spicy and sharp and clinging, and they follow me everywhere no matter how much I try to keep them in place. The world and history and the after-effects of the things I do, they are insistently messy like that. They don’t stay in place. Or their place is everywhere, tangled up with everything, on the bottom of my socks and pressed–too late!–between the wrapping paper and the tape on your Christmas present.
I moved house a week before Christmas and have had the greatest fun in finding things to make the space mine. I pore over Craigslist, comb sales, and everything I find that is Just the Right Thing happifies. But everything being new also makes me feel a little like I’m skating, slippery, with no edge to dig into things. I do not know when things will feel like mine, when I won’t feel so baby-new and grimly wrinkled at the same time. When will my heart stop thumping? When will it rest? But maybe somehow I need this heart-bounding, or want it, because something in me hangs back from finishing the unpacking even though I know the satisfaction it brings. Moving is both comforting and unsettling at the same time. It’s an act of unearthing as much as anything else, and I’ve had to face a lot as I sort and fill and then empty boxes. The old, tired ends of dreams. New dreams that are still grains of wheat in the ground, waiting to be cracked open with the violence of spring. It’s good to see these things for what they are, but it’s wearying too. And so I hang back a little. I pace myself. I can’t gallop always.
I can’t gallop at all, actually, literally speaking, these days. I sprained my ankle so badly the week of Thanksgiving that it brings a lump into my mouth even to remember it. I went from running 20 miles a week to near helplessness in a split second. I had to be carried, that first day. I only crutched for a week, but I’m still nowhere near back to normal six weeks after that. I miss it–not just the running and feeling young and strong, but the careless ease with which I used to walk, dance, turn around, choose shoes. I watch my muscles soften and sag and I grow restless and frustrated and want to rush what can’t be rushed. I want to rush. I can’t rush. This cycle repeats itself in my head, and I can only listen over and around it as best as I can. To my foot, surely, telling me what it can and can’t do. To my spirit, which asks me what I can use this time for, how I can refocus, why I might need to be still.
It’s been a shoulder-hunching, eye-squinching, breath-holding end of the year. If I’m not careful I find myself spinning round and round in my head, squeezing every muscle in my body. For what? I cannot resolve the world in all of its contradictions. But underneath this great big whirl, if I relax enough to hear it, is the rhythm that I heard as I started the year, a rhythm I have needed to feel lately more than ever. With every breath in, with every breath out.
Let go. Let go. Let go.