In Northfield, the inauguration of the Christmas season is made official by the annual downtown Chamber-of-Commerce-sponsored event called “Winter Walk”. Every year, it seems, it is better attended. This year, I was able to get a few photographs of the last minute preparations along Division Street and in Bridge Square, before the sun went down and I needed to drive Julia to a Mexican Folklorico performance across the icy Cannon River. On a grey afternoon, I was especially attracted to the lighted star and word sculptures in the windows of The Rare Pair/Clothes for Keeps.
Just before dusk, dozens of volunteers and merchants were transforming the streets, sidewalks, and shops into an inviting place to stroll, sip warm drinks, window shop, and enjoy a communal and light-hearted response to the dark, icy days ahead. The symbol of this transformation is the luminaria.,Winter Walk’s hallmark: humble brown bags, weighted with a little coarse sand, protecting dozens of tiny votive flames from the chill December gusts. As the dark deepens, these stout-hearted and sturdy lights create a welcome and inviting festival of light.
It is always fun to see the extra sparkle from the shop windows spill out onto the sidewalks and into Division Street.
Even for bees, winter comes far too soon.
No matter the weight of golden honey
stored, essence of a hundred afternoons,
a million flowers. For us, it’s money.
There is never quite enough, though we keep
making it, saving it, or trying to,
as we watch it drain through need, seep
through pockets faster than it can accrue.
Worried about the utility bill,
mortgage, insurance, we walk to bright displays,
all glitter at the bottom of the hill.
Compelled by the season to spend, we’re dazed
by strings of blinking lights, by crunching snow,
the heat and weight of our scratchy wool coats.
At the square, there are people we know
cheerily shaking hands as though seeking votes,
as though it were possible to elect
a “Merry Christmas” for the whole icy town.
We pause, and smile, and say what is correct.
To our surprise, we have less urge to frown.
A group of carolers draws near: a flock
of turkey-red-faced, singing children. Merchants
fling open doors, forget their gilded stock,
come out to see how spirit switches on.
Glad tidings are infectious.We finally don
gaily appareled hearts, admit this time enchants,
and smell the pines, and marvel at the stars,
rejoicing, holding dear all that is ours.
As we move into that timeless span of days, what I always call “the week between the years”, I hope we can each reflect on what went right last year and the new opportunities that are waiting just around the corner.
Wishing you a “Happy Christmas” and a light heart now and always!
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