A house is never silent. Not truly. They creak and settle their bones, the plumbing makes odd noises at strange times, and sometimes my fireplace carries the sound of the winds outdoors. It’s a hollow, lonely moan, and my cat raises his head to see if I’m alarmed. I’ll admit at times I love the quiet, and I feel blessed to barely catch the low rumbling of the trains that pass late only on certain nights. When crickets and tree frogs fill the night with music, I don’t feel slightly scared or alone. Those summer nights are a friend to me, and I lit my candles, drank tea and wrote or read long past midnight. Even a quiet windy night doesn’t usually unnerve me, except last night it did.
Last night felt different. This December night offered no snow flying peacefully through the dark. It told a story of tornado watches, and I had to turn off the fire as the room grew too warm. Alone in the house, I opened the back door rather tentatively and felt a rush of warmth, and my face felt kissed by the wet. The whole back porch had been soaked by the first round of storms, and I didn’t like the idea of falling asleep to a storm full of wind; so I stayed up long into the strange night and waited.
I lit two candles just in case the house plunged into darkness and listened. The winds rushed and moaned in the fireplace, occasionally rattling for good measure, while outside the leafless trees blew and shook, and the creek sounded close. We are perched on a cliff above the creek, but last night I couldn’t see how high it had risen, except for the sound. The water ran past the house, and I’ve never heard it do this. A neighbor on the other side of the creek stayed up long past their bedtime, too. Waiting. Watching as best we could.
Even now the wind is high, and I can finally see the water below. It looks like a wide river pouring itself over the rocks and falls, and daylight brings a reassurance that night fails to offer at times. I know about the terrible storms that hit south of here, and I wonder when this part of the world will lapse into winter’s stillness. Where are the snows with the puckering breezes that tug at our coats as we bravely shovel our sidewalks in unison with our neighbors?
Last night made me think of spring, but my Christmas tree is trimmed, finally, and a magnolia garland graces one of the mantles, so a fire looks perfect and feels good most evenings; and I think it’s time for snowmen, singing Christmas carols and indulging in the culinary delights my friends hand me. I’ve never thought of winter as my season, but I’m beginning to realize the beauty of the solitude of a cold, winter’s afternoon hike. Walking at night while gazing at the strings of lights draped across yards and houses seems magical, and I wonder when silent snows will finally fall here.
Isn’t this the time of the year when we truly recall our childhood? Christmases filled with grandparents, cousins and aunt and uncles who liked to kiss me hello, while all I wanted was to open the candy jar and escape their questions about school and my height. The house had a nativity scene under the tree, and cookies were made every afternoon; but the snows of long ago are etched in my mind forever. Christmas snows two feet deep that made us rush out into the world and create forts, houses and villages.
In the days preceding Christmas the aunties told us to get out of the house and outside, so we did. The whisper of smoke meant a fire had been kindled in the fireplace that promised warmth for later. We had serious sledding to enjoy, and the house felt crowded at times, so of course we were encouraged to head outside. Why is it that twenty people would stay in one house with just a single bathroom and three bedrooms? That house at Christmas was never silent. Someone was always getting up, and all of us sleeping on the floor often heard it or felt it.
Is that why my silent house feels luxurious to me? This one small pleasure of having a whole night spread out before me isn’t empty. It’s full of promise, and the joy is in knowing I can while away the evening doing whatever I choose. I’ll read, nibble on a mint brownie Jeannine made and gaze at my Christmas tree. So many days are full of cares and busyness that this night feels special and almost sacred. The threat of bad storms troubled me more than usual last night, and the lightning didn’t feel cozy like it did in August.
Today I’m back to normal, and my Kentucky-loving husband is almost home, which means football games on the television. I’m ready for music and laughter, and I’m in the middle of placing a village underneath one special tree upstairs. I haven’t used the village for years, and my mother is the one who gifted me with the lit up houses and buildings. I decided it’s time to enjoy all the Christmas my mother bestowed on me, knowingly or not. I listen to the songs we sang together, and I bake the same cookies we did long ago in her kitchen.
The time for silence is gone, and now night is stealing the day. I have to light the trees mom gave me, along with the huge nativity scene from my mother-in-law. I’m ready for the sound of people again, but I’m also ready for the stillness of a world cloaked in white. No storms, no high winds and no worries. Just a peaceful sky full of stars after a wonderful snow. Since we moved a bit further south, we don’t enjoy the deep snows of the north, but I like the way our city shuts down if two inches falls. The world is silent for a few precious hours as the snow falls, and the sounds of the neighbors going about the business of clearing their driveways hasn’t yet begun.
My wish is for a winter wonderland, but if I don’t receive that gift this year, then I hope to sit beside the fire, gazing at the lights on the tree and listen to this house. The storms are gone, the wind is dying, and I’m back to hearing just my house settle down for the night. Tonight will bring a measure of peace, and since the cold has decided to return, the back door is firmly shut. I only have to turn on the fire and decide on dinner. We’re almost at the darkest and longest night of the year, and I like the thought of the sun slowly adding minutes to our daylight. I’ll light a candle and wait as I listen for the sound of the garage door opening.
I’ve had enough silence for now, and I’m ready for meaningful noise. Happy conversations and hopefully a cozy Christmas movie.
I hope you have moments of beautiful silence in your days and nights. And I’m wishing you all the happiness your heart can hold.
Until next time,