Exactly at Midnight

Descent of the Frost Birds

Exactly at Midnight, the frost birds descend
to deliver the dream-seeds of the New Year.
They travel from afar, their wings made of songs
that sing of the glistening possibilities their gifts
hold. One goes to every being on the Earth—
to the curled, sleeping flower-forms, to all
creatures who fly or swim, who walk or crawl,
who stand rooted in the earth, or lay motionless.
There are no limitations. Those who are taking
their first breath receive them, and those
who are taking their last. And for one glittering
moment, everything in the world feels hope.
Everything is bathed in the light of the Yes.
Everything hears the song of the unlimited
possibilities, and every heart is quickened
by the touch of Infinite Love.

Inside the Winter Dreams of Trees

Except for the barking of a dog somewhere
on the other side of the valley and the cracking
of twigs beneath my boots, there is no sound.
Pillows of snow plop from trees. Powdery puffs
of it ride the slight breeze, billowing down. The sky,
white as the snow, is so low that only the trees
are holding it aloft. In my bright turquoise jacket
I feel out of place in this monochrome world
and wonder if I’m a clown wandering through
the trees’ dreams. As if to affirm it, above
my head, a bough of brittle oak leaves laughs.

The Colors of Cold

The day doesn’t invite. The thermometer
mandates mittens, heavy socks and boots,
your warmest jacket, thickest hat. I comply
and set out for the creek. Before the cold
clears my head, I judge it all as dreary,
a monotone of gray, nearly as featureless
as the low, heavy sky. I’m not even
half way to the creek when, as if
I’ve walked through some invisible
door, it all comes into focus, stunning
me with its textures and subtle hues.
This is the palette of cold, this icy blue,
these dancing rusts, the swaths
of dazzling white, the deep green boughs
of the pine. Now I have no body
at all, only the seeing of this
incomparable splendor.

To Receive a Gift of Apples

Cameo Apples

A couple weeks ago, my neighbor
brought me Cameo apples,
a new species, he said, that he got
at the farmer’s market. He was pleased
when I told him they were especially good.
So this week, he got in his rickety old truck
that has no heater and drove 20 miles
through the snow to get me the last
half- bushel that the farmer had left.
“Merry Christmas!” he beamed,
handing me the heavy bag of them.
It reminded me of a Laura Ingalls Wilder
story about a man who nearly froze to death
in a blizzard, trekking two miles to bring her
the gift of an orange, a rare item
out on the prairies a hundred years ago.
The things we do to show our love!
I’m baking apple dumplings with vanilla sauce
to serve him as dessert on Christmas Day.

 

 

Chapter 22 – Festival Day

The forest dwellers and their guests woke to the morning song that the Angel of the Dawn brought to Holly and the grass and meadow choirs.  As it came to a close, the golden grasses lifted their voices in a salute that sounded like trumpets blowing.

For a moment, complete silence reigned.  Then, suddenly, a hundred woodpeckers began a lively ratta-tat-tat and the sound of a thousand fairies dancing atop the decorated tree stumps erupted from every direction.

At the campsite, all the guests were on their feet, listening to the sound in astonishment when a ribbon of cardinals began streaming through the pines from the top of the forest’s farthest hill.  The birds in every tree they passed burst into song and it seemed as if their music was flowing down the hills with the cardinals.

Following the cardinals, the grand parade began.  All the animals of the forest were lined up behind the great buck who had served as the guests’ master of ceremonies.  And behind the animals came all the elves.  And as the birds sang and the fairies danced, they wove their way down the hill.

When they reached the campsite they formed a large circle around it, enclosing both the campsite and Grandfather Pine.   Finally, the smallest of the animals arrived, and then the elves came tumbling into the center of circle, leaping and turning somersaults and laughing in joy.  From every direction, the birds came and filled the surrounding trees.  Then all at once, as if in response to some hidden signal, everyone stopped and silence fell.  The great buck strode to the center of the circle and pawed the ground three times with his hoof, and then all together the forest dwellers began a mighty chant: ”Welcome to the Light!  Welcome to the Light!”  The elves motioned to all the guests to join in, and soon the forest thundered with the glad, tumultuous song.

When everyone settled down to enjoy a hot breakfast together, Grandfather Pine spoke, telling the ancient story of the meaning of the Light.  Then the grass choir sang, and one troupe after another of animals danced, and told stories, and put on little plays.  And the gathered dwellers and guests clapped and laughed in delight.

The afternoon was filled with merriment and song.  The elves passed out gifts to all, giving special mementos and bags of food and treats to the guests for their travels home.   Friends old and new laughed together, and danced and hugged, promising to remember each other through all the days to come.

After the day’s great feast, Holly and the choirs began a concert that would last until early evening.  One by one, the guests began to say their farewells and begin their journeys to their homes, the music from the forest following them on their way.

The sun turned golden as it sank beneath the western edge of the forest and Holly began to sing her evening songs.  At the edge of the campsite, Grandfather Pine glowed in the sunset’s light, his heart full of gratitude for the wonder of the Light’s return and with pride in his forest for the beauty of its celebration.

And from his special place in the Home World, Little Pine looked down at the forest and smiled.