December in New England is a somber time, with long nights and dark days. Yesterday we had our first (sludgy) snow, and today the sidewalks were treacherous underfoot: a small reminder of last winter’s travails.
For years I spent so much energy focused on my then-husband’s seasonal affective disorder, I didn’t notice how my own moods track with the season’s sun. Fall semester begins in a riot of light and color and ends in gloom, and Spring semester operates in reverse: what begins in snow eventually blossoms into spring.
Late December offers a welcome chance to rest, reflect, and recharge: during these waning days of a late year we curl inward, marshaling our energy and holding out hope for brighter times. It’s ironic that the New Year and its new resolve comes right when the days are darkest and our hopes are (perhaps) at their nadir. Only when a seed has been crushed and buried can it send forth a feeble stalk of light-seeking green.
Apparently I love this photo of the Quincy Market Christmas tree so much, I included it as the December image for both my 2015 and 2016 calendar. Every December, I pick 13 images from the previous year–12 months plus a cover–for a wall calendar I give to friends and family for Christmas, and this year I was so short of festive December images, I inadvertently recycled this one, which I shot on Black Friday, 2014.
As the days of December wane, I’ve been scrambling to cross things off my to-do list. December is the busiest time of the semester: I spent the first two weeks of the month commenting on essay drafts so my students could revise and submit their final portfolios, and now I’m in a mad dash to finish grading those portfolios before Christmas. Forget about my two front teeth: all I want for Christmas this year is to be done with grading so the real relaxation and recovery of winter break can begin.
But before that, there have been other obligations: vet visits, routine car maintenance, and the holy trinity of Christmas shopping, Christmas wrapping, and Christmas cards. Family and friends know our so-called Christmas cards usually arrive around New Year’s, and those aforementioned wall calendars typically arrive sometime in January. As the days of December wane, my personal philosophy leans heavily toward “Better late than never.”