counting the days

counting the days

already, the little one knows the routine. he wakes up early, just to run to the room where the numbers now hang. where the numbers, each one a pocket, come tucked with a wee chocolate bear, or a nibble of peppermint bark.

not finished, he runs, yet, one more place. to the corner where the old german calendar waits by the cookie jar. there, he scans the numbers, counts one more than yesterday, folds back a door. and, lo and behold, more chocolate.

for him, then, these are the days of the wake-me-up chocolates. two a day, every day, for 24 days.

december, he says, licking the little brown dab off his lips, is a month that’s mostly delicious.

for me, the mama who birthed him, these days are the birthing of something wholly as melt-in-your-mouth.

these are the days when, for the very first time in a very long time, maybe ever, i am practicing advent. really practicing. paying attention. giving in to the season in ways that wash over me, seep into me, bring me back home to a place i may never have been.

like a child this year, i have a just-opened sense of these days.

i am, for the very first time, not counting down. not ticking off days, and errands to run, like a clock wound, really, too tightly.

instead, i am counting in a whole other way. i am counting, yes, but the thing that i’m doing is making count each one of the days.

i am counting the days in a way that takes time. that takes it and holds it. savors it. sucks out the marrow of each blessed hour.

i am, because i’m on my way home here. i’ve not ever before seen december in quite this way. not known, quite this way, that it holds a deep and winding road into my soul.

i am this year embracing the darkness. i am kindling lights. i am practicing quiet. i am shutting out noise, and filling my house with the sounds of the season that call me.

i am practicing no. no is the word that i’m saying to much of the madness. no, i cannot go there. no, i cannot race from one end of town to the other. no, i will not.

i am practicing yes.

yes, i will wake up early. will tiptoe alone, and in quiet, to down in the kitchen, and on out to the place where the moon shines. where the early bird isn’t yet risen. but i am. i am alone with the dark and the calm, and i am standing there watching the shadows, the lace of the moon. i am listening for words that fill up my heart. it’s a prayer and it comes to me, fills my lungs, as i breathe in cold air, the air of december, december’s most blessed breath.

yes, i am re-dressing my house. i am tucking pine cones and berries of red, in places that not long ago were spilling with pumpkins, and walnuts, and acorns.

i am waking up to the notion that to usher the season into my house is to awaken the sacred. it is to shake off the dust of the days just before. to grope for the glimmer amid all the darkness.

december, more than most any month, can go one of two ways at the fork in the woods.

one trail is all tangled, all covered with bramble. you can get lost, what with all of the noise and all of the bright colored lights.

or maybe not. or maybe that’s not how you’ll go.

december, if you choose, if you allow it, can be the trail through the woods that leads to the light, far off in the distance.

the darkness itself offers the gift. each day, the darkness comes sooner, comes deeper, comes blacker than ink. it draws us in, into our homes, yes, but more so, into our souls.

it invites us: light a light. wrap a blanket. sit by the fire. stare into the flames, and onto the last dying embers.

consider the coming of Christmas.

i am, in this month of preparing, in this month of a story told time and again, listening anew to the words. i am considering the story of the travelers, the virgin with child, the donkey, the man with the tools, the unlikely trio, knocking and knocking at door after door.

i am remembering how, long long ago, i winced when i heard how no one had room. open the door, i would shout deep inside. make room. make a room.

i didn’t know then, that i could change it. i could take hold of the story, make it be just as it should be.

but i do now. i know now.

i am taking hold of that story, the way that it’s told this december. i am, in the dark and the quiet, making the room that i longed for. for the three in the story, yes, but even for me.

i am preparing a room at the inn. the inn, of course, is my heart.

i am for the first time in a very long time, paying attention. paying attention to the coming of Christmas. i am seeing the beauty of advent. the season of lighting a candle in the thick of the darkness.

i am noticing the whole of the woods. keeping my eye on the light in the window. but taking my time. filling my lungs with the sweet scent of the pine. hearing the crunch of the woods under my feet. wholly breathing an air that’s divine.

the walk to the light in the window is, for the very first time in a very long time, one that is sacred and hushed. i see the light, see it grow closer and closer.

it’s a glow that really is something, really is radiant. framed, as it is, in the dark of december.

oh my goodness, the forces today conspired against me. alarms didn’t ring. children missed buses. i had places to be, and the meander wasn’t yet wholly meandered. oh well. here it is, then, at the end of the morning. have you stopped to consider the power of a month that invites us to choose a path through the woods that’s not quite so trampled? how do you practice the coming of Christmas? or simply pulling in to the quiet that comes as the darkness grows longer and deeper?
my whole advent journey was sparked because i was asked by a church that i love to please pencil some thoughts on the subject. it was recorded and made into a CD. soon as i can i will share it with you on the lazy susan. keep watch and i’ll tell you as soon as i have maybe a minute to do some decembering over there on the page that i love, but can’t get to hardly often enough.