silent nights…

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,

Deanna

Billow and blow…

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Tonight, I listen to the rushing sound of the creek just down the path from my back door. Soothing, I love the way the night winds stir up the curtains, making them billow and pucker in the breezes. Those breezes touch my hands, anoint my feet and I reflexively grab my throw blanket. Even with the world falling to pieces, in a way, spring arrives and reminds us to hope. Do not give up. Hope.

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Even while waiting in exile away from others, here in the middle, waiting, knowing it’s coming and will touch us all, we can enjoy beauty. The sighing of the evening wind that swoops and dips around our house, apartment, farm or condo. Open a window. Let in the freshness, even if the day is a mite chilly or cold. We can celebrate spring and dare to hope as the leaves thrust out their new shoots.

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We have the sweetest creek running down a huge hill from our backyard, and I’ve never had the pleasure of going down to see her. Today, I decided was the day. My husband said I would slip and fall, and what does he know? So I picked my way past honeysuckle bushes turned green, buttercups all yellow and waiting to be picked, down to the little tiny creek, and oh! was it steep. I did slip on moss and my foot fell into the creek, but I laughed in spite of myself and went as far as I dared.

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Isn’t that little waterfall gorgeous? I knew if I didn’t get down there and quick, the bushes would prevent my passage, and so I did. The creek talks to herself and I stood on old stones listening. Peace. No thoughts of how I have to stay in the house now. No thoughts of my loved ones so far from me. Will we be okay? Are we as ready as we can be here? And still the world goes on. The creek babbled along, talking about promises and of a new spring and then someday summer. It will still happen.

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I think of not seeing my parents. My grandson. And of my son, in his junior year of university, holed up here, studying until his brain feels like it cannot take another single fact, and not being able to blow off the steam in a bar full of friends and pretty girls and dancing. We all are sacrificing, but I think it’s for good. I choose to believe that. Can we try to find the good in the people out there? Some are rotten as a dying tree. But most are like us, waiting, hoping, praying. We want peace. Happiness. Is that too much?

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I have hope in us. We will emerge wanting to get away from computers and tv.s. We will put down our phones and we will connect. Today, when I ambled and partly tumbled down the hill, I heard the birds chattering, going about building their nests, preparing for life. I could hear the children farther up the creek laughing and playing. When I made my way carefully back uphill, the water gurgled and spoke. The breeze blew my hair about, and I listened. Just stopped and stayed. I had no where else to be. Why not linger and look at the trees, the beguiling sky that always mesmerizes me? Why not just be?

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I cannot make a great offering for the world. I only have my words. And tonight I hear my son laughing with friends, online upstairs. Harry Potter is on the tv, on mute though, which is my go-to default for coziness. And the back door opens to the most delightful porch, so I hear the wind and even the creek. When I sleep, I leave a window open, to hear, to not miss the thunder that arrives at night, to hear birds chattering long before a decent time, but sweet to hear nonetheless. No matter the cost, no matter our price, the world goes on. We can pause for now. And then move forward.

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Tonight or today, whoever you are, you can still feel the wind on your cheek. The breeze carries the freshness of a new night, or at daybreak we are offered the sun along with our coffee. Drink it in. Staying at home and learning to be by ourselves is maybe a thing we needed to learn all over again. I read and write. Yes, we binge watch some shows, but the true magic is in seeing my family on Zoom, watching the leaves unfurl, unafraid of tomorrow, and learning obscure Scrabble words. Wish. Hope. Learn. Cry. Then laugh.

I’m wishing you all the happiness you can find….

Thank you to all who are helping the sick. I pray for your strength. Your health. Thank you. We all will never be able to repay you. But I offer my silent thanks every day, in spite of the tears.

Until next time.

Deanna

lonely or beautifully alone…

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Last night when I went to bed, the crickets and cicadas sang so loudly, and the heat at eleven o’clock felt so intense that I thought summer would never leave. But today’s rain with temps that are thirty degrees cooler and tonight’s much quieter chorus of insects, has me believing autumn officially arrived. I feel a bit lonely at the thought. Do you? So many of us embrace sweater weather, with football games, ¬†pumpkin spice everything, flannel sheets, cozy blankets, woodsmoke curling out the chimney and chili with cornbread suppers that we’re utterly happy.

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It usually takes me a week to wrap my head around autumn. To me, it means more time alone since my husband hunts. But over time, I’ve learned how to be by myself and am happily alone. Most of the days. I wonder what people did before phones, radios, t.v.’s, and cars? Can you imagine the days of being alone on a farm or in the country? Even cities can be unfriendly. Were people more content back then?

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Do you find contentment in being alone? And what do we do with those days and nights and weeks where we feel lonely? Posting on Facebook, saying, “I’m lonely, will you please be my actual friend and do something with me?” comes across as too needy. Though I wish we could be that plain some days. I think that’s why we have to cultivate different friendships at the same time, depending upon how many friends we can seriously handle at once. Acquaintances are great, too, because we can meet them for a pumpkin spice latte and that’s enough. On some days.

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I admire the people who dine alone and don’t bring a book along for company. How do we get to the point where we are comfortable being with us? Alone? Just you and your thoughts. No phone, no social media and no Netflix. I think music is allowed in the happily-alone universe.

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I know someone who sits by a fire pit in his backyard on autumn nights by himself. And he’s happy. My dad can walk into a bar alone and either talk to a stranger or remain quiet and he’s happy. I have a friend who goes to a new movie every Friday night, with popcorn and a box of candy as her only companions and she’s happy. So what’s the secret? Not being afraid of being alone, I think. Being content with you and your thoughts. Confidence helps.

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This season, why don’t we try doing something by ourselves? Get to know you and like that person. Walk, pedal or drive alone down back roads and think. Try sticking your toe into the pool of introvertedness. Yes, I just made that word up. I believe most of us would feel happier in any season when we embrace us. Like yourself. My husband says that he made friends easily when he was going through times in his life where he felt confident and happy being alone, spending hours engrossed in drawing. When he felt desperately alone, it seemed as though friends were few and far between. The difference? Him. How he felt about himself. Be alone and soon people might join you.

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When we learn who we are, our gifts and talents, and are content with our direction in life, even though it might not be easy, we become beautifully alone. We can contribute to this world. Hey, there’s seven billion people outside our door. That’s a lot of distraction, if we let it happen. So don’t. I’m saying we need to be alone somedays. Learn lonely and you’ll have a new skill. Sure, you can do ten things before tomorrow night, but if you spend some time journaling or something with just you, then you are more… Beautiful. Appealing. Wonderful. This autumn make dates with you.

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By the way, how do you like my first hints of autumn decor in my Ohio home? Tomorrow, I’m going full-on-crazy autumn home with orange, crimson, bits of yellow and browns. I have to go now…my sweet iced tea is turning to just tea. Enjoy your pumpkin spice! Until next time…

deanna