Silent Illumination, Darkness and LightPosted: December 18, 2014
“Silent and serene…
Inner illumination restores wonder.”
Crunch went our boots on the thin layer of snow as we searched for the right tree. Saying it was a thin layer of snow is stretching it. It had clearly snowed a bit the previous night but what remained late the following morning were small patches: thin in depth and crystalline in form. It was just enough to add some excitement and danger (due to slipping) to our purpose, finding a Christmas tree. Now I say “Christmas” but I don’t necessarily mean that in any sort of Christian or consumeristic way. I could easily, and perhaps more truthfully, call it a winter solstice tree. While words are an important indicator of our current thinking and influence our future outlook they are also just words and never the thing itself. They are approximations just as thoughts are. And so I call it a Christmas tree because of where and how I was raised and we will just leave it at that. We bring this potent symbol of life into our house to remind us of all that lives during this season of darkness and the slowing down of our life cycles.
We meandered along the ridge, weaving our way through a diverse assemblage of trees and shrubs: Douglas-fir, Shasta red fir, Jeffrey/ponderosa pine, western white/sugar pine, incense cedar and manzanita. Maddie giggled as a manzanita shrub grabbed ahold of her and wouldn’t let go, which became a running joke for us throughout the morning. With crispness to the air and the snow-capped Trinity Alps in the distance, it felt like winter and the right time to be out in the mountains picking out a tree. With Juniper crying in the background and our patience waning, we left the choice up to Maddie. She looked around and didn’t hesitate when she pointed and said, “That one”. It was a western white/sugar pine (the reason for the dash is because without cones or mature bark I can’t say with certainty which of these two species it is), the right size and a beautiful tree. I quickly sawed it down and we were soon on our way singing merrily until the two girls fell contentedly asleep.
Back home we got the tree up and were soon trimming the tree. This is a special time for us as we unwrap our eclectic family of ornaments, remembering who or where we got them from. An icecream cone that I made as a kid, the star that was on my parent’s tree and their parent’s tree before them, a sheep made in 1988, the gaudy fluffy pink ball from Kristin’s now deceased granny, and the Cazenovia ornaments that my (now deceased) mom gave me seemingly each year in my stocking (or was it Santa that did that?). We think about and remember those that are gone, those that are still with us but far away and those that are close at hand. We recollect the places we have lived and the people who shaped our lives during those times. We chatter, we laugh, we cry and sometimes we are silent. The lights and the ornaments silently illuminate our tree and our living room. I am reminded of the power of light, both literally and symbolically, at this time of year when darkness reigns.
And especially at this time of year, but not exclusively, we are deeply grateful for the power of light to keep the darkness at bay and the strength and love of those that continue to illuminate our lives.