It’s the sounds of the season. Yes, above the bickering
and braying of politicians and pundits, it’s the soft, sweet sounds that
reside inside our mind’s ear, gently yet insistently calling us home for the
Sights, smells and tastes can all magically summon
memories of people and places, moments and moods.
But the ear stores memories as well, memories summoned to
life during this festive season by songs, both sacred and secular. By the
steady crackle and startling pop of an awakening wood fire. By the crunch of
late autumn’s laggard leaves underfoot. And by the amalgam of animated
voices, rising and falling, as family and friends bustle breathlessly from
the chilled darkness into the warm light of a holiday home.
During this season, magical memories can also emerge in
quiet places. In the blessed silence of midnight’s approach, foggy breath
filling the night air, sparkling stars filling the night sky. In a dark
family room, the showy holiday tree now a shadowy prop, the lively wood fire
now a skeleton of scattered embers, dying on the hearth, as sleepy revelers,
exhausted, nod off in the warm darkness, the day’s, and year’s, work nearly
As the close of 2013 approaches,
Cooperative Living wish for you and your family
the very best holidays ever, from Thanksgiving through New Year’s Day, and
herewith offer our annual gift: a selection of some of our favorite passages
from much-loved works of the season.
Late November brings an end to full-fledged Autumn. The
lasting warmth, the balmy days, the hazy in-between time, seldom endure much
beyond Thanksgiving … The season changes so slowly that I must pause and
listen to hear the silence. Autumn creeps away in sandals woven of milkweed
floss; Winter makes no noise until it owns the land.
— Hal Borland, This Hill, This Valley, 1957.
A woman with shorn white hair is
standing at the kitchen window. She is wearing tennis shoes and a shapeless
gray sweater over a summery calico dress. She is small and sprightly, like a
bantam hen; but, due to a long youthful illness, her shoulders are pitifully
hunched. Her face is remarkable — not unlike Lincoln’s, craggy like that,
and tinted by sun and wind; but it is delicate, too, finely boned, and her
eyes are sherry-colored and timid. “Oh my,” she exclaims, her breath smoking
the windowpane, “it’s fruitcake weather!”
— Truman Capote, “A Christmas
Memory,” from Selected Writings of Truman Capote, 1956.
bobsled would move off, creaking over the frost-brittle snow ... As the
horses settled into a steady trot, the bells gently chiming in their
rhythmical beat, we would fall half asleep, the hiss of the runners
comforting. As we looked up at the night sky through half-closed eyelids,
the constant bounce and swerve of the runners would seem to shake the little
stars as if they would fall into our laps.
— Paul Engle, “An Iowa
Christmas,” from Prairie Christmas, 1960.
Christmas began when pecans started falling. The early
November rains loosened the nuts from their outer shells and sent them
plopping like machine gun bullets on the roof of the veranda … And so you
lay there, listening to the drip drip of rain and plop plop of nuts, feeling
something good is going to happen, something good and it won’t be long now.
— Lillian Smith, “Tree-Shaking Day,” from Memory of a
Large Christmas, 1961-’62.
To perceive Christmas through its wrapping becomes more
difficult with every year. There was a little device we noticed in one of
the sporting-goods stores — a trumpet that hunters hold to their ears so
that they can hear the distant music of the hounds. Something of the sort is
needed now to hear the incredibly distant sound of Christmas in these times,
through the dark, material woods that surround it.
E. B. White, “The Distant Music of the Hounds,” from The Second Tree From
the Corner, 1949.