Dare I say it?...Merry Christmas!

I, for one, am reluctant to see the holiday season come to its end. Certainly, the cessation of those poor, overworked holiday songs is some consolation. We bear witness to their suffering, their long hours and unpaid overtime, their exquisiteness diminished by ubiquity earlier and earlier each year. Witness Mel Torme, the bearer of "Chestnuts Roasting On An Open Fire"... Irving Berlin and his "White Christmas"... Sammy Cohen's "Let It Snow", Johnny Marks' poor, over-whipped "Rudolph" and his reindeer friends, all spinning in their (incidentally, Jewish) graves as their inventions are chewed through the gears of the commerce machine. It's a testament to the resilience of these songs that as the holiday actually approaches, they gain strength and restore their stamina to carry us through. "Silent Night" is sublime and "What Child Is This?" is utterly resplendent on December 23, whereas they were tinny counterfeits only a few weeks before.

Perhaps it is our state of minds that colour these songs. In those obligatory, scurrying weeks of early and mid-December, it sure doesn't feel like Christmas, no matter the blizzard of paper snowflakes. Then, the songs echo through our mental mountains of checklists and errands. Once those mountains are eroded down to, say, molehills... or once we feel that we've conquered Mt. Christmas, the holiday mood can really settle in, the songs can work their intended magic, we can really sit there in our slippers and sip some nog, and with the aid of a little blessed quietness, ponder poor Mary and Joseph in their desperation and wonder. And finally, this is a Silent Night! I get it!

I walked out onto my porch Christmas morning and heard it: silence. The clatter of the city and the continual whoosh of the roadways was, for once, for one precious day, absent. I ventured out for a stroll down the normally bustling South Congress Avenue, its colorful storefronts pastelled by the early morning light and there was nothing. Not one person, not one car. It felt like the 1950's. I walked along and looked at the little details of the buildings. By one permanently shuttered door of Allen's Boots, there is a landing of hand-laid hexagonal tilework that spells "bakery." Weathered, bare wood joists support the marquee of one of the antique shops. Further on, Nik the goat snoozed in his little hutch. All through the house, not one creature stirred, not even a mouse. I felt for a minute like I had Austin all to myself.

You may have experienced some of the same, you may join me in being sorry to see the season go, for whatever reason. You may feel a little extra reflective, the way you do when you start a new paragraph. Christmas and New Years, no matter your religion, no matter your mood, wrap up a paragraph in your life. Before you take up your pen again, you take a pause, take a breath, use that quietness and set your mind to writing the next one.