Discover more from active rewriting
December's language is imprecise grief.
Surrendering to a landscape of snow storms, bright lights and holiday enchantment today.
For the last month and a half, living in New Hampshire has become synonymous with an ongoing sense of surrender. Surrendering to the mighty forest, the heaps of snow, the ever changing bus schedules and the resulting change in our itinerary.
What happens after you surrender? You belong. In this college town laden with frozen lakes and deers, there is a one mile stretch that houses bars, cafes and restaurants frequented by students who map time in quarters and semesters. There is this belief that no matter how many of us come and go - and have been coming and going since December 1769 - there will always be a warmer part of this city that will remain beyond our grasp.
Every once in a while, however, this feeling is interrupted by a whirlwind of music and lights. You feel the season’s spirit in all its eclectic, electric glory. You feel awestruck by the incandescent Christmas tree in the middle of a vast field, standing extravagantly amidst snowstorms and choir songs. But it isn’t just about the lights: warm corners by fireplaces, bursts of snow outside, warm cocoa and an uncontainable sense of illumination everywhere. And I don’t even celebrate Christmas.
A part of me misses Diwali — imagining a home lit up by the same joy that was often interrupted by work, college schedules and seasonal family feuds. Why didn’t I go home for Diwali that year? All I recall is my father’s hurt masked by anger, mine marked with defiance.
But this cheer around me reminds me of home in a deeper sense, too — the decadence of tiny organic fires and the noise of the neighborhood crackers — of how every time I rejected tradition with agnosticism, I remained in close quarters of it. I still couldn’t give up the inexhaustible warmth of my family coming together in front of a tiny mandir (temple) to recite hymns they never learnt. Those interruptions — our dog barking at my father smirking at my quips while my mother blasted bhajans (hymns) at 1.5x the speed to get it over with — were my incentive to stay in proximity to communal celebration, no matter how little I understood it. I see now that it wasn’t about comprehension; it was about not comprehending together.
I love the way agnosticism appears antithetical to wonder but, in fact, sits inside of it — even if just for an evening or a couple of hours — it finds you somewhere to put your heart down.
It struck him that how you spent Christmas was a message to the world about where you were in life.
— Nick Hornby, About a Boy
From the tawny light from the rainy nights from the imagination finding itself and more than itself alone and more than alone at the bottom of the well where the moon lives, can you pull me into December?
— Denise Levertov, Everything That Acts is Actual
When I slip beneath the quilt and fold into your warmth, I think we are like the pages of a love letter written thirty years ago that some aging god still reads each day and then tucks back into its envelope.
— Ellen Bass, Getting Into Bed On A December Night
December. A desperate celebration of an end
— Chandrama Deshmukh, A Teaspoon of Stars
You say I shouldn’t mind/ how the world doesn’t end for us/ when it ends for others/ maybe, it’s for the best.
— Navigating a layered existence: a conversation between Srishti and Madeeha
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