From Rev. Barbara’s Balcony: December 2022

A poem, written by retired UU minister the Rev. Mary Wellemeyer, called ‘Late November’:

One day it happens –
often it comes after rain.
Suddenly the leaves are gone
from the trees of the hillsides;
only some oak and beech trees
cling to curled brown souvenirs of summer.
Now comes a special time
of seeing into the depths of the woods,
discerning shapes of hills,
location of bounders and cliffs,
pathways of streams.
Now comes the time for stone walls,
for cellar holes and ruined barns
to tell their tales of farms now gone,
of lives lived in open fields
now covered again in forest.
The underlying shape of Earth,
the hints of stories from the past –
these offer themselves to eye and mind,
now, between the falling of leaves
and the coming of heavy snow.
Looking deep and seeing what was hidden
Opens a secret doorway
For seeing deep within ourselves.

We’re at another of those turning points in the year. Summer has faded and the leaves of autumn have dropped. Snow and seasonal holidays loom, but they’re not quite here yet – even after Thanksgiving Day, there’s a pause before plunging into December. This can be a time to contemplate the things that often get hidden in the busy-ness of life.

When my daughter Meg was very young, she puzzled me for several days one year with her talk of ‘winter houses’. After a while, I figured out that she meant the houses that are hidden by leaves in the summer, whole lives that become invisible – and then are once again exposed when winter strips off the leaves. There may be buildings you never knew existed, renovations that escaped your attention, a house abandoned since last year, a garden planted: all of these are suddenly exposed. The bones of the earth are laid bare.

There are times in life when the surface things disappear and expose what’s underneath. Family gatherings (or the lack thereof) can call us to reflect on the bones of our connections rather than the surfaces elements: who do we really enjoy or admire and who do we not, and what are the histories that shape those relationships? If we look behind the trappings of the coming holidays, what really matters to us? What’s ‘real’ and what’s just an illusion – and how much of our energy, money and time will we give to each?

May this transitional season, this lull before more gaiety and color arrives, be a time of reflection and discovery.

Shalom and Salaam,
Rev. Barbara