Caspar David Friedrich, Oak Tree in the Snow, 1829 (National Museum, Berlin)

I’ve spent the last couple of months trying to balance a very busy working-parenting life with my inborn nesting instinct. Beginning around Thanksgiving, I feel an uncontrollable urge to hunker down—stock up on fire wood, cook caloric food, wear thick socks and snuggle under plush blankets—whether I’m in seventy degree New York, subzero Wisconsin, or rainy Seattle. I’m like a bird programmed to fly south at the first hint of . . . that something.

That’s one reason I’ve never been a huge fan of New Year’s Eve celebrations. Why on Earth would you want to get dressed up and fight crowds when the natural (so my brain says) thing to do is eat cookies by the fire with one or two of your best beloveds? Perhaps that’s why my husband and I decided to get married on New Year’s Day—as a way of reclaiming the day as our very own and giving us an excuse to eat cookies by the fire rather than feeling pressured to carouse with the multitudes.

I suppose for me the quietude of a New Year’s Eve at home allows for the proper meditation on whatever it is we’re supposed to meditate on at this time of year: love, hope, loss, joy. Trifling things like our place in the universe and the progress we’re making along the course of our lives. I guess that’s why so many people like to go out, get drunk, and make a lot of noise—these are not easy and comfortable things to contemplate, and I know what a salve champagne and camaraderie can be.

In any case, those towering issues loom at the new year, whether we face them or not. They confront us, in turn giving us resolve and casting a shadow over us. To my mind Caspar David Friedrich’s The Oak Tree in the Snow (1829) is a perfect metaphor for this. Friedrich’s oak tree stands alone in a frosty landscape, gnarled and complicated and so very real. It is because of its realness—and its imperfection—that it is so beautiful.

Here’s hoping that the branches of your trees lead to happy places in 2016. Happy New Year!


4 thoughts on “Quietude

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