The daylight is short, and shorter yet when the clouds hang low and thick all day. The grey and oppressive weight of time has to be carried through the mechanics that mark this time of year – a scurrying, constant motion to get everything done that we are supposed to. Yet for all the obligations that keep us going there is still just one thing that makes sense of all the holidays and traditions of this season – a time to simply sit down and take it all in. A day to relax is all we really need.
This time of year the need to keep moving is especially strong. There are obligations to finish up work by the end of the year, a need to get presents for everyone, and a need to just keep it all going. People struggle to make it though airports to get home, often to a home that they isn’t quite theirs anymore.
All of these are met by an increasing difficulty that comes with the season. The City of Saint Paul has done a terrible job of plowing the streets this year, mostly due to budget cuts, so even driving is more difficult than it should be. Walking to the bus requires suiting up as if putting on armor against the cold and damp. And there is all this darkness that creeps up as a bad attitude, always ready to make everything just a bit harder.
The real holiday comes when all of it stops. No matter how hard we slog to get everything done, in a sense it’s just the set-up for a terrific punchline – one that is defined by a simple turn of time rather than a punful turn of a phrase. It doesn’t matter which tradition anyone uses to get there, either, because in the end they are all the same. It’s the big dose of nothing other than family and friends that makes it special.
The natives who lived here for a long time before we started all this scurrying knew how to do it right. To them, the bounty of the plains was scooped up all summer and fall to await a long, passing hibernation in camps and small cities that sprang up on the plains. Their winter was one big holiday. They knew what they were doing.
Not us. We like to keep scrambling long after it’s gotten very difficult, and then we run even faster. It’s all one big headlong crash into the day or two when we get to stop.
Whatever your tradition during this time of year, I hope that all of you have a chance to simple stop and do nothing. Let the snow fall and the dark clouds wrap around you like a blanket for one brief moment. That’s all that any of us need after all this motion.