In eight days we will experience another winter solstice. In terms of daylight it is the shortest day of the year. It is 4:55p here at my dining room table and it is almost night. I am looking out over a snow covered view and I am greeted by a gentle variety of Christmas lights at each of my neighbor’s homes. My fireplace is gently waving to me with radiant warmth that comes as close to perfect as I could imagine. I plan to drive out before sunrise tomorrow just to watch it happen again. When the sun is way south, the daylight radiates and creates sunrises that go well with Handel’s Messiah. When I get to the the crest of the hill on 120th, I can see downtown Denver to the right and Boulder to the left.
Like everything else, this is a very unique Christmas time. The Pandemic has seemed to motivate my part the of world to be even more festive, and I am grateful. I have been thinking about light and dark all day. I remember going to the Cave of the Winds near Manitou Springs when I was about eight. Somewhere on the tour we were asked to stand still and the guide turned out all the lights. I was not scared, it was too dark even to imagine any scary thought. This total darkness was probably no more than a couple of minutes but I got the point.
A right of passage in my youth was to “walk the storm drain”. This 1/2 mile corrugated steel passage went from Belmont park to the Fountain river. It was about four feet tall which meant you negotiated it bent over. My first time through was this side of terrifying. I was last in a line of about five boys. The tunnel was straight for about 250 yards, then it made a turn which meant the light behind us disappeared. For the next few minutes you were in cave darkness. Then at about the time I asked myself why I did this, light appeared as a tiny round opening in front of us. We got to the end, where we threw rocks and chased lizards. The trek back was a piece of cake.
I have been thinking this week about a quote from Leonard Cohen. “The cracks are what let the light shine in”. Life is breaking my heart open again. The realities of solitude which can become loneliness has broken me open. The sadness of watching the Covid “death ticker” hit nearly 300,000 hurts. And then I get the message on my phone that Charley Pride died today of Covid. He had a great run!!! He would perform every
year at the Colorado State Fair in Pueblo. My parents were huge fans. They would put on their western gear and head to the Fair in red cowboy boots (mine now) and my mom in a classic cowgirl skirt and vest. “Kiss an Angel Good Morning” Charley. I cried when I thought of how this unlikely man crossed the racial divide with music, which began when he was in the Air Force singing in Montana. The light from this crack of grief is a gift.
Tonight I will put on the Nat King Cole Christmas album and think of the bubble lights on my parent’s tree by our fireplace on Alexander Circle. My mom would light a couple of candles and a 10 year old boy would sit on the couch for hours and bask in the lights of a winter’s night.
Onward and Upward, Mark