On Monday night our friends invited us to go for a walk in the freezing cold.
So, we bundled up the family in the car and sang Christmas carols - okay, dh and I sang, the children sat in sullen, or maybe pained silence – until we reached the walking trails next to the wide river that divides our town from the big city on the other side. As soon as we got out of the car the wind began to worm its way up our sleeves and through the buttonholes of our coats, causing no small murmuring among the munchkins.
The dark trail we followed by the water's edge was strangely surreal. The kids ran ahead, but I took the time to play voyeur (in a very G-rated way). Million dollar condos lined one side of the path, and, as far as I could tell, hardly any of the residents made use of curtains. Rooms were packed close and stacked three and four high, each spilling out little lighted vignettes for me to see. Elegant people toasted each other at holiday banquets, while more intimate gatherings looked out over the river toward the big city lights. A few rooms were empty, still lit, a few people ran on treadmills, plugged into iPods and oblivious to the world.
We and our friends laughed and talked and wrangled the kids, finally reaching a jetty stretching out into the river. Out in the open we pulled our coats tighter and talked louder to be heard over the wind. We were all growing a little numb by the time we caught sight of what we had come for - the Christmas ships parading down the river.
I imagine in daylight the fleet is a ragtag affair, old fishing boats, maybe a speedboat or two, or even a yacht. But at night - at Christmastime - the ships are transformed. Decked out with lights on masts and hulls, one ship became Santa in his sleigh and all eight reindeer, another a skier sliding down the slopes and crashing spectacularly before the light show reset and the skier began his plunge again. Trees and angels and toy fire trucks all floated by. We forgot about the cold for a little while.
When we did remember how frozen we were, we headed back to our friends' house, greeted by a warm fireplace and hot chocolate with a pinch of cinnamon.
What does this have to do with writing? Maybe not much. Except that I’ve been keeping my nose in a computer for so long that I think I forgot how wonderful full-throttle-all-five-senses living can be. I think we can let the wonder of the season (or any season) pass us by because we think something else is so much more important. Maybe we shouldn’t. Today is the gift we’ve been given for living. I hope you enjoy yours to the fullest!