The corners heap up with poetry


The days tumble with meanings. The corners heap up with poetry.

I’ve been reading a lot of Annie Dillard lately.  And this line keeps running through my head (from Teaching A Stone to Talk).  A few years ago I wrote about how our family marks this holy season, this time that is simultaneously so sacred and so hectic for many.

I enumerated the traditions that mark this month for me: the large boxwood wreath on the door with the celadon satin ribbon, the advent calendars, the early, and glorious sunset through the bare branches of the tree outside my office window, the Christmas carols that I have on repeat these days.  I also described my effort to simplify this season which has now moved from new focus to established pattern.  Most people find December crazy.  Yes, I’m aware of more tasks than usual (cards, and gifts, and wrapping) but I don’t feel that much socially busier.  I think people just don’t ask us, maybe.  It’s okay.

This pulling back on craziness makes me more able to see that every day is crammed with holiness.  And this is especially true right now in these days limned with tradition, carols, and cookies.  I’m ever more grateful that I’ve resisted the mayhem that can pull like a tide in December. Every night I sit and gaze at our tree and feel the quiet around me I’m glad that I said no to something.  Equally, the celebrations I attend and the rituals I do participate in all mean so much to me now.  It feels different to attend an event out of deliberate choice than out of obligation, don’t you think?

Last night we trimmed our tree (see Matt hanging an early ornament, above – somehow the blur feels appropriate).  My mother joined us, which was lovely because I have such vivid memories of our childhood Tree Trimming parties.  Everybody was tired and cranky, though, and Grace and Whit were bickering, and my patience felt frayed.  It was not our most peaceful or most joyful evening, to be honest.  Yet there was still Grace and Whit singing Silent Night for us, their little voices quavering and mis-pronouncing “yon virgin” as “young virgin.”  There was still the coffee table piled with ornaments, each one carrying a memory.  There was still our crooked tree and imperfect lights, that I could see over the flickering candles on the dinner table.

It feels like a broken record, maybe, my assertion that there is so much glory and meaning in this ordinary life.  I’m sorry if so.  Every day it seems like there is cloud, and majesty, and awe (my favorite line from Oh Come, Oh Come, Emmanuel).  By stripping away at so many of the extra busy-ness this time of year, I can hear the glorious song of old (It Came Upon a Midnight Clear).  And I never, ever want to stop seeing, and hearing all this beauty.  The poetry and meaning in every corner of my life.

How do you mark this season?


15 thoughts on “The corners heap up with poetry”

  1. I love how you see the world and choose to keep things simple.

    Our kids are involved in a lot of sports so our weekends tend to be busy running from game to game. I wouldn’t have it any other way but during this season, we slow down and reflect a lot more as well. We usually put up our tree right after Thanksgiving and we let the kids decorate the tree now. I don’t touch a thing and love how “different” it looks each year.

    I also love attending church during the holiday season and love the peace that washes over me with every hymn. It’s weird but I cry at almost every church service because of the awe I experience at how special our lives are.

    Simple is good and I think you are living the right kind of life, Linds. Thank you for being a guiding light for me and I’m sure for so many others. I’m blessed to know you.

  2. I love that line! We do slow here as well… and it works beautifully, as it gives way for us to say yes to unexpected last minute gifts of time with loved ones (when we want to say yes!)
    Also… why are there always squabbles around the decorating of trees? Seriously! I must have raised my voice a few times yesterday… saying we could have grumps trimming the tree 😉

  3. I think this is the perfect time for a reminder that saying “no” to something means saying “yes” to something else. As I get older, and more secure in who I am and what my priorities are, I’m finding it easier to say “no” to obligations that will drain me so that I can say “yes” to things that will nourish me – even if those “yes” things are as simple as sitting at home and doing a puzzle with my kids (or, okay, watching an episode of “Scandal” with a glass of wine). I’m thankful to you for being one of my teachers in the art of choosing a simpler path. xo

  4. Lovely post. Reminds me of that Dostoevsky quote – something like: “we humans seek not so much the holy as the miraculous.” I could have used such wisdom yesterday. I was cranky after battling our new crooked tree. We scrambled to host a 13 person dinner. I barked at the kids to help clean – their toys and books were everywhere. The negativity flowed into their dynamic, and they argued with each other. They are only 5 and 7. I felt guilty. I ate a little chili, steadied myself, and apologized to them. The guests arrived and a magical evening ensued.

  5. I think the key word for me this year is “slow.” We put up the tree yesterday, but there are no ornaments on it yet. (I sorta like it with lights only, to tell the truth.) I’ve put candles on the mantel, but nothing else. Tonight I met get out the collection of Christmas books I accumulated when my children were younger, but that’s probably it for today. We’ll get the tree trimmed this weekend.

    Slow is helping me see each part of what we do distinctly. You can’t see clearly when things move so quickly they blur. Sinking deeply into a few things feels better that skimming across the top of many.

  6. I honestly think that being able to say I’m sorry and clear the slate is one of the few keys to a happy life. Seriously. xo

  7. You’re right, but it’s not about saying no to invitations, really – I’m not saying no to very much right now. It’s more resisting a ton of present buying, the frenzy that I see all around me, doing things early so they’re not consuming my life right now.

  8. I’m so glad you wrote that the evening you decorated the tree wasn’t the most joyful or peaceful, and yet the holiness was still there. Isn’t that always the truth? I have not yet read Teaching A Stone to Talk. Adding it to my list! xoxo

  9. Beautiful post. I find myself so crazy this time of year. Two family birthdays don’t help, and I always have to remind myself to slow down and enjoy!

  10. I was brutally aware of the only 21 days between our return from Thanksgiving and departure to spend Christmas with family and friends elsewhere this year. So I insisted that we buy our tree Dec 1st, not 4 hours after landing from a cross country travel with the kids. The older kids ran through the rows of trees, measuring heights and girths with their arms, shouting “I found the perfect tree” then discussing it and moving on to the next perfect tree. Little Katie chased after them, repeating their phrases no doubt wondering why they were running in a forest when it was dark out, but unphased since her older siblings seemed completely confident in the task. The older kids strung the lights this year reveling in the new responsibility and placed most of the ornaments. We have yet to bake a single cookie (on the schedule for this weekend!) but having our tree lit every day and night has created a lovely focal point in our house of the season. Another highlight? Katelyn singing Jingle Bells all by herself (and mostly perfect). How do I never have a camera ready for those moments?!

    We can’t wait to spend some of the holidays with you guys. XO

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