“A Reason for the Season”

Christmas Eve, early. The magnolia leaves and glossy red nandina berries  are spread….finally… over these old mantels.

Southern traditions are different.  I come from  the North and realize  now how decorating differs in both regions.  People used what they had.  Magnolia leaves are broad and glossy, and look lovely spread over overmantels, tucked behind paintings, and on mantels with these nandina berries I have only seen in the South.  The glossy leaves and berries come into their best in this early winter.  Nandina bushes are rather frothy, with orange, grape-clustered berries that turn to a bright red at Xmas.  Perfect.  Some pine cones, which down here tend to be all sizes…from tiny, perfect ‘buds’ to huge cones you can put an eye out with.

There are 4 fireplaces in this old house and all of them drafty.  This spring I am going to paint ‘firescreens’ to place over the andirons and close off the drafts.  But by the time they are finished it will probably be summer.

I am making mimosas this afternoon, and oyster stew for the evening meal, and then to bed.  It’s just Husband and House this year, as our son has left for Navy deployment Dec. 8th.  It is a tenuous and bittersweet Christmas this year; the first in 22 years sans enfant.

(We just received our first letter from our son:  a whole page and a half of closely written letter on Navy stationary saying it’s cold up there and the food is good (but not as good as mom’s) he has a cold or flu that showed up after all his shots, and  bemoans his Navy haircut.  Sounds like he’s doing fine.  Hope he has Kleenex.)

But the cats have his old room and they are very happy.  The dogs keep looking for their buddy….he has disappeared into the ether. He has a favorite cat, Hana, who is a nutcase.  She is a beautiful tortoise shell calico and  gets beaten up by another two females.  So she has ‘special needs’ emotionally as our son proclaims.  She must have because she sleeps in his sleeping bag…at the bottom.

It is gloomy outside, a cold rain  probably  perferable to the snow up North.  But I don’t know.  Each year I pray for some snow and this year we got 6″ March 1st.  Very unusual.

So hope springs eternal for some of that ‘stuff’.  This morning I noticed cardinals and bluejays squabbling outside in trees.  They divebombed each other but I think this will settle down because Winter looks like a long one this year.

This short essay was written last year.  It still works for me this year.

Merry Christmas.

Lady Nyo


I saw the Cooper’s hawk this morning. She landed on the chimney pot, probably looking for my miniature hen, Grayson. Four years ago she was a starving fledgling who mantled over while I fed her cold chicken. She’s back this holiday, my spirits lifting. A good Christmas present.

In the middle of the commercialization of Christmas, Nature closes the gap. I have noticed squirrels with pecans in mouths leaping the trees, hawks hunting low over now-bare woods, unknown song birds sitting on fences, heard the migration of Sandhill cranes as they honk in formation. You hear their cacophony well before they appear. Their chiding cries float down to upturned faces.

There is brightness to the holly, washed by our early winter rains and the orange of the nandina berries has turned crimson. Smell of woodsmoke in the air and the crispness of mornings means the earth is going to sleep. We humans should reclaim our past and our fecal plugs and join the slumber party of our brother bears.

Jingle Bells will fade and our tension with it. Looking towards deep winter when the Earth is again silent will restore our balance and calm nerves with a blanket of peace.

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2008

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