Winter Light

In whirlwind of winter night,

a heart keeps warm and glowing bright.

Who holds this light, I ask of you?

That traveled on and greater grew,

in amber-white and silver-blue?

I ask of you: who holds this light,

in whirlwind of frosty night,

however dim, however bright.

Who holds this light, nobody knows…

only that it stronger grows.

Yet weak or strong, the smallest flame

can light the darkness just the same.



The dawn sky wore Maxfield Parrish blue.  Crescent moon and her north star companion faded clean out of sight like St. Nick in the old rhyming story.  A pair of crows cawed, shifting to the next fir treetop.  The cat and I observed this from the upper deck railing, as we also observed fresh buck tracks in the snow.  We waited for the sun, and when it came it was everything you imagine it to be.

At Yuletide, we want to give the whole world a plate of food and a mug of hot coffee, a homemade pastry and a gleaming new belt-buckle.  It’s the morning when wee ones wake in wee hours and scuttle from their beds.

Sing to me of hearts broken open, lighted windows and trimmed hearths.  Sing to me of high spirits and rare form, of hands made warm, bellies filled, thirst quenched, people lifted from cold back alleys and laid down in warm feather beds.  Sing of bright colored lights and pomander balls, old-fashioned postcards hanging on walls, voices ringing with bells and chimes, songs of peace from Christmas times, until another Christmas – come at last – becomes another Christmas past.



I came across the recipe in your old index card box, alphabetically misplaced between Fruitcake and Fritter Batter. “I miss you”, I said aloud as I measured out the sugar, butter, salt and evaporated milk. The cat looked at me expectantly, thinking – as he always does – that I was speaking to him. I combined the ingredients in a small pot, boiled and stirred them for five minutes. Outside, the sun tried its best to shine down on weeds turned brown from ice and frost.

I followed your handwriting with my eyes, blue ink letters across a 4 x 6 ruled index card. You had good penmanship, easy to read. The card must have been white when you wrote on it, but now it was a nameless color.

Remove from heat. Add marshmallows, semi-sweet chocolate, chopped walnuts, vanilla extract. “I wish I could hear your voice again” I thought, stirring vigorously for a full minute in compliance with your instructions. I loved you for exactly who you were. No labeling, no naming. Forget “woman”, forget “grandma”, forget “Ruth”.  Just the person you were, how you saw the world, how you expressed yourself, the light inside the bulb.

I thought about your losses while I poured the mixture into a pan lined with foil and set it in the refrigerator. You lost husbands, parents, your daughter, your brother. You lost them all and still you sang and danced, brewed coffee, fixed martinis, greeted everyone cheerfully, and followed this recipe just as I am doing now. All that loss, loss, loss, and still you stirred these ingredients every December, scraping them into an 8-inch square pan.

In a way, it is with your hands that I lift it from the pan once it’s chilled, because I do so in honor of your spirit. It is with your fingers that I cut the finished confection into little pieces. And it is with your heart of hearts that I display them on a platter, arrange them in a tin, or in little bags tied with ribbons, and give them away.


A Thought for the Holiday Season

“Small cheer and great welcome makes a merry feast.”  -Shakespeare, The Comedy of Errors

I love this line from the old master.  Clear and succinct, yet poetic and proverb-like.  A great reminder to focus on spirit and attitude rather than external materials.  I am reminded of the scene in A Christmas Carol when the Cratchit family gathers for Christmas dinner and Scrooge is deeply moved.  Beautiful.