And now, the second week of January, it is quiet. All the hoopla of Christmas is over--the shopping, the decorating, the baking, the chattering, the singing. The lights and spangles have been dismantled and returned to the basement closet, the living room is severely decluttered--just a few candles on the mantelpiece--and it is solidly winter. There is nothing in particular to look forward to--no presents or celebrations or get-togethers. Just cold and dark for months to come.
For now, I appreciate the quiet weekends, when we build a slow-burning fire about 2 p.m. and keep it going into the night. We spend the afternoon absorbed in reading, rousing now and then to poke a log and send up a shower of sparks (which sends the border collie into the other room, in alarm) or brew another pot of tea. There aren't many place to go on a Sunday afternoon when it is two below zero. Or, more accurately, there aren't many places to go that are worth the trouble--pulling on all those layers of longjohns and wool and corduroy and fleece, shivering in a car that takes as long to warm up as it does to get to its destination, squeaking down the snowpacked street on square tires.
About the only thing that gets us out of the house on these January weekends is, of course, the obligation of the dogs: they need their walks, twice a day, no matter the weather.
Yesterday when it was two below zero, but sunny and bright and no wind, we put Boscoe's red booties on his back legs (the road salt stings his aging, cracked paws and makes him sit down in the middle of the street and refuse to move), pulled on our Mad Bomber hats, and headed down to the lake.
A man stopped as we were chatting and offered us the use of his binoculars. He told us where he had seen a pileated woodpecker, and I offered up the great gray owl that lives by the Japanese Garden. Another woman came by, walking a golden retriever with a plumey white tail. "What are you looking at? What's up there?" she asked, and stopped, and joined our little group.
As I trotted home some time later, my face numb with cold, I turned back to look at the hawk and thought what a wonderful thing it was--huge and beautiful, adorning our park, bringing people together in laughter and conversation outside, even when it is two below.