Housefly on fallen leaves

It’s a gray day that feels like snow: a gray day that almost needs snow. We’ve fallen hard, it seems, into December drab, that season of bleary gray transition that needs the mitigation of snow to brighten it.

Leaf shadows

There’s a reason why folks long for the cheer of a white Christmas. In addition to the nostalgia and romance inspired by countless songs and greeting-card landscapes, a white Christmas brings a touch of brightness to a world largely lacking color and light. After the leaf peepers and the glowing, multicolored objects of their peeping have gone, what remains are gray days when the sun is noticeably on its way toward setting by mid-afternoon. Snow isn’t simply pretty; it’s like a reflective safety vest the earth dons on her darkest days so we can still see her–and still find light for our souls–after the sun has sunk. In a season starved for light, snow helps reflect and thus preserve every last ray, an essential kind of recycling.

Reggie is hunkered down, sleeping deeply; he knows the proper response to darkening days is hibernation, a diligent curling into oneself to rekindle every last spark of inner warmth. We humans, on the other hand, eschew hibernation, turning busy as the sun stoops in seasonal decline and rushing to buy presents and prepare for holiday celebrations as if merely moving will be enough to stave off sluggishness.

My holiday listless?!?

Yesterday at the grocery store, I saw a terribly ill-conceived ad that offered shoppers the promise of “Your holiday list for less”…except the design and font made it look at first glance like it said “Your holiday listless.” During a season when listlessness threatens to dominate, this ad unwittingly communicates the entirely wrong message. What we need on gray days isn’t more listlessness; what we need during the depths of December drab is the verve of holiday merriment and energizing inspiration of seasonal scents–pine sap and cinnamon, hot chocolate and nutmeg–to stir us from our stupor and drag us from the toasty cocoon of quasi-hibernation.

What we need during the depths of December drab, I hate to say, is the sight of snow to brighten our palette.

I took these photos yesterday, when it was sunny. The first photo illustrates how unseasonably mild it’s been: warm enough for houseflies to bask on fallen leaves. Today, it’s cold and rainy…with a forecast of snow.