Yesterday evening, when I went outside to turn on the holiday lights**, I looked up and saw the remnants of this beautiful sunset. I paused and turned the lights on first, then ran inside to get my camera.
I barely made it in time.
Then I snapped another picture as I came back inside.
This is the first year I have put decorations outside the house, as our previous home was not visible from the road. I would only decorate if we were having a party, and we had not had a party during the holiday season for many many years.
In early November I got really excited about Christmas and holiday decorating. The last few years had been difficult and I struggled with capturing that hopefullness that Advent and preparing for the winter holidays entails. Not this year. I started planning the outside lights early, knowing full well that the covenants of my new neighborhood do not allow lights on the house or large displays. I wanted something pretty but discreet, and it is possible I erred on the side of over-discretion, but I do like the result.
I knew I couldn't put anything up more than a month in advance, and I have never been among the tribe who decorate for Christmas over Thanksgiving. In my mind, Advent and holiday lights are combined, and in the past I always aimed for the first Sunday in Advent as "tree day". Despite my early exuberance, the week after Thanksgiving and the first week of Advent were a little rocky and my hopeful mood slipped behind some clouds. We pulled ourselves together this week though, and the tree is up and the decorations have been hauled out of the attic and unpacked.
The sunset the other night, combined with the rituals of decorating and lighting, have reminded me, once again, of the importance of slowing down and taking time. It reminded me of the importance of ritual, and how sometimes ritual can help ease our path to joy.
There is no doubt that G is somewhere along the path of his own personal sunset, his own journey through darkness, and I was reminded, as I looked at this sunset, and turned and saw our lights how important it is to take time and celebrate the small joys in each day.
What I love about the entire Advent, Christmas, Hannukah, Winter Solstice, or Whatever-you-call-it Season is the emphasis on hope and joy. In the darkest days of the year we focus on hope and promise and the sharing of gifts; we focus on coming out of darkness and into rebirth. It isn't always easy. In fact the culture we live in can make it harder to focus on these small joys as we fight the frenetic pace of holiday traffic and the cult of more. But the lights still come on. And joy is waiting if we pause long enough to take a breath.
**my lights do have timers, but the timers only run for 8 hours. If I turn the lights on at night, the house is dark when I leave for the gym at 5:45 AM. It brings me great joy to see the sparkle of tiny lights in the early morning and is well worth the effort of a twice daily walk with my trusty remote.