The jagged bolt lights up the eastern sky, flashing white across the newly fallen snow and hail, highlighting the entire forest and its week-long accumulation of snow for a split second. The cats sleep soundly, oblivious to the light, until the long, heavy roll of thunder shakes the window, rumbling deep.
My fur creatures, huddled close to me this Christmas Eve night, now startled, cry out in fright, as the thunder rolls around the valley, pellets of hail still striking the roof, snare drums pounding after the bass drums of the thunder still echo against the hills.
The clock tells me it is now Christmas morning, and I am now wide awake, the yard once again white as these winter storms keep moving in, adding yet another foot to the mountain snows. Cats wanting yet another long pet, as they regroup around my legs, once again craving my warmth on this long winter night, hail now turning to sleet, the hills once again shrouded in icy veils, the lightning now moving east, the thunder now just an occasional growl of the winter bear. Soon, their soft purring subsides into noiseless sleep, as I pull the covers close around my neck.
Christmas morning starts slowly, with the special Christmas coffee brewing, stockings filled on the mantel with Santa’s gifts, and I trudge through the crusty frozen hail, seeking the newspaper and a quiet walk as the first dim light of dawn bravely outlines the whitened hills.
We share our stocking gifts and fine, rich coffee, savoring the lights on the tree, and this special quiet day. Everything is special this morning, including the fresh baked stollen, more Noel coffee, and the first light of the day, the deck’s layers of snow and hail backlighting the tree. Eagerly, the cats go out to explore this once-again whitened world, their paws making new trails across the white blankness of the snow.
Venturing out, we walk a mile down to the corner, looking with our camera eyes at the Japanese ink washes of fog against snowy hills, and the white and black tires marks on the road’s almost frozen surface. A great white heron flies low across the road, over a white pasture, to land beside a creek, some unknown treasure in its beak.
The beauty of a holly tree is garlanded with ivy, its berries highlighting the red clusters of the holly. The old medieval carol now sings in our heart, and a donkey, escaping from what must be a nearby manger, looks at us from his frozen pasture.
“Where is the babe in the manger?” we ask, but the donkey is silent, sworn to secrecy to us this Christmas morning.
A bit of sunshine peers through the clouds, and large drops of just melted snow glisten on bare branches, tiny buds, red and cold, promising spring several months away.
My wife picks some holly for the house, as I find an entire world of green beauty in the moss and lichen on top of an old cedar fence post, as more Japanese ink washes appear in the hills.
The road now almost bare from the night’s snow and hail, we slosh back to the house, but not too fast, as there is still some ice underneath the splashes of our boots. Tired now, we talk of having some Christmas tea, and I begin to savor the thought of a whistling kettle and the cinnamon smells of the tea, as a black cloud grows and moves above us, holding off on its load of “winter mix” until we barely make it inside.
Our wet boots and thick coats piled by the door, we begin to heat the kettle and I find our snowflake mugs, ready for the Christmas tea. Soon, the fresh cut holly brightens the room, as we sip our tea, and look out to yet another squall of snow and icy rain.
Christmas morning, a time when time nearly stands still, a place to quietly take in the wonder of the day, and the simple joys of the season.