In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow,
In the bleak midwinter, long ago.
It's icy here tonight. Plans made, weather permitting, will be remade. We came home from a haircut and a quick trip to exchange wrong-sized pajamas and a zip in and out of the grocery store and felt relieved that the water had just begun to turn to slippery stone. Other obligations, other opportunities, other wishes will have to wait.
Our God, Heaven cannot hold Him, nor earth sustain;
Heaven and earth shall flee away when He comes to reign.
In the bleak midwinter a stable place sufficed
The Lord God Almighty, Jesus Christ.
I actually like a snow day. It reminds me that we can't control everything, that sometimes time itself needs a break from being counted and manipulated so assiduously. Being cut off from travel opens the possibility of spending a day differently. There may be baking, surely writing, a little knitting, the making of a list, the wishing for more days before Christmas comes.
Enough for Him, whom cherubim, worship night and day,
Breastful of milk, and a mangerful of hay;
Enough for Him, whom angels fall before,
The ox and ass and camel which adore.
At our house the animals are cats and dogs, and they spend an amazing proportion of their time completely relaxed. Oh, Sam does his work of barking when something or someone passes in front of the house. But mostly they lounge, only to perk up when they suspect there might be worship–of them. The tail will begin to whap hopefully against the floor, before the head raises even an inch.
Angels and archangels may have gathered there,
Cherubim and seraphim thronged the air;
But His mother only, in her maiden bliss,
Worshipped the beloved with a kiss.
My babies are grown, or almost. They communicate by cell phone, by text message, my angels of the wireless world. "My audition at Juilliard is January 24th." "What does LP want for Christmas?" Don't forget to withdraw your travel money, I say. When will you be home for Christmas, I type with my thumb on the tiny phone keys. It's only been a short time since we were all together, but I want it, again.
What can I give Him, poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb;
If I were a Wise Man, I would do my part;
Yet what I can I give Him: give my heart.
My heart–my daughter–sits playing Holst's tune to Rossetti's words. I asked if she would sing it at a service. Yes, she said, and took the hymnal to the piano. She plays the right hand, all the way through, and then the left. I've done this so many times, "sounding" out the hymn chords, putting all the pieces in place. My dream, my daughter, the girl at the keyboard, does her part in the bleak midwinter.
("In the Bleak Midwinter," Christina Rossetti)