The shortest day, the longest night.
I'm not sure we're actually going to see much of the sun at all today, as drizzly rain heads our way to wash away what little color there will be before early night sets in.
The air was already heavy this morning when I got up at 6:00 to go to physical therapy. I headed out the door with my coat over my arm, hobbling to the car as fast as I could in the dark chill. Cake was playing on the radio as I drove the four miles or so to my appointment. I turned the volume and the bass up and cruised on the silent suburban streets over to northbound 270.
It was a wonderful counterpoint to last night's drive home, when all the roads to my neighborhood were choked with holiday shoppers and travelers headed out of town. I left work at 4:45, but didn't get home - 16 miles away - until 7 o'clock.
When I hit the area around our local cathedral of conspicuous consumption, Mazza Gallerie, the streets were overflowing with cars and pedestrians throwing caution to the wind, skittering through backed-up traffic like mindless rodents. (Albeit rodents toting backs from Needless Markup and other pricey stores.) Usually, the bright lights of the store windows put me in a holiday mood, but not when the traffic is bumper to bumper and drivers are behaving badly. I just wanted to grab a bowl of soup from the Chinese carry-out up the road and hie myself home to the comfort and safety of my sofa. With no funds to participate in the annual festival of overextended credit, I find myself mostly an observer in the material aspects of American Christmas.
I'm just not in a holiday frame of mind. Not yet, at least. I'm trying, though.
Before getting caught in the snarl of traffic on Wisconsin yesterday, I took a slow open-windowed drive down M Street from my office over on 16th down into Georgetown. The air was cold and still, so the uniquely urban smell of the season hung heavy and unmoving around me -- the distinctive, clinging, slightly nauseating odor of spent Sterno from a hundred office party buffets.
But a quick turn down 23rd Street brought me the intoxicating smell of wood fire from cozy, overpriced, brick homes, decked in Victorian evergreen and tiny, tasteful white lights. I breathed deep and filled my lungs and my head with the scent memory of a dozen Christmases at my parents' house in Illinois, wrapped up in a warm blanket by our fireplace, with a dog at my feet (or a cat smothering my head with affection), waiting for The Little Drummer Boy to come on TV. Do they even show it any more? I have a feeling it's too dark for our current PC "protect the kiddies from everything/increasingly nanny state" culture. I always loved the sound of Greer Garson's voice as the narrator. The voice of another generation.
It's almost 11 now, and the sun is up, but barely creeping through the blinds in my living room. I'm listening to Pink Martini's CD "Hang On Little Tomato." It's good music for a day like today - jazzy, a little exotic, but also a little wistful. It feels a million miles away from where I am right now. I have a big cup of coffee, a couple of old movies to watch, and the glow of old school, very American, red and green twinkle lights on my balcony.
Maybe I'll pull my little fake tree out of the basement.
Maybe the spirit will find me.
For right now, it's just a short, gray day here. But the evening brings a gathering at a home of a friend - a lovely friend I met through blogging here in DC. Proof that the Internet can be a Good Thing.
And then, after the curtailed light of this solstice, the days grow longer again.
Tomorrow, I get to see one of my best friends for the first time in several years. I adore her. She is a gem. We've known each other since we were kids, creative geeks, living a couple of blocks away from each other in Illinois. Her daughter must be getting ready to graduate from high school soon, which astounds me. When did everyone around me become real grown-ups, with kids and mortgages and honest responsibilities?
Will I ever be one?
Jury's still out.
Happy Solstice to my pagan friends from the resident lapsed Catholic girl. May this day find you blessed!