Midnight Clear

This Christmas season has been a little somber in tone. Every once in awhile, the stillness is driven out by cookie-batter and jivy Andrews Sisters tunes, but in general it’s been more “brightly shone the moon that night,” than “Fa la la la la la la la la.”

I will tell you the old place to which my heart keeps returning. It’s a surprising place, a little scrap of memory, because I was never there but once, probably ten years ago, during a winter confirmation retreat.

And we were returning from some function late at night–wandering from one cabin to another in the nipping-cold midnight air, through the forest and through the snow. –Childhood in midwinter! Being chided into snow-pants and scarves and clumsy mittens; preparing to go outside into the cold is like preparing to go out into an entirely different and vaguely hostile world–And bundled up, we set out in a group through the woods; clouds of steam billowed and hung in the air around our heads; disembodied shards of laughter fractured the still night.

There came a point in the forest where we were beyond the warm, golden light that followed us through the trees from the cabin we had left, and before we came into the light from the cabin we were going to, and in that in-between time. . .Dark and cold and lawlessness, wandering through the snowy woods in the middle of the night. And look up through the trees–where do the dark trees end and the dark sky begin?–but somewhere beyond it all. . .The stars. . . .