Is it the shortest day, or the longest day?

The sixteen waking hours of a day can feel mighty long, when half of them are fully dark. For those of us whose body clocks get us up early, like it or not, light or not, a big slice of our waking darkness happens in the morning. I am in that lucky phase of life when I can do exactly as I wish with those hours, and I do. I get up—5, 5:30, 6—and make coffee, which I take up to the chaise that was my grandmother’s, to where it now rests on the third floor of our skinny house, next to a tall window overlooking a small park dominated by trees: oak and ash and evergreen.

In the winter, when the branches of the oak and ash trees are bare, Mt. Rainier steals the window-scene on every clear day, especially at sunrise.

I sip. I read. I meditate, with a small m. And on this morning after the Solstice, I think of my mother, as I set out the Longest Day votive I received in the mail from the Alzheimer’s Association. I think of what a bright light she was, at this time of year, concocting Christmas for six children, making the magic happen and allowing us to take it all for granted, long after we knew that Santa was not a guy in a red suit, but our mom, in her quilted aqua-blue bathrobe. Long into her untimely Alzheimer’s years, she still loved Christmas. Still wanted to be part of the magic.

This year, our gathering will include my newborn grand-niece, not quite four weeks old, and my father, not quite 89. We’ll ache for those we’ve lost. But we’ll celebrate the family members we get to see and hear and touch. Yes, there may be tests and masks and air purifiers involved; yes, we’re all vaccinated and boosted: I’m adding these details because I don’t want to trigger anyone’s safety alarms.

But to be together: what sweet luxury, in this time of light and dark, and in these days that are exactly both.


One bright light for me, this fall, was learning more about aging—hey, we’re all doing it, even the babies!—at the Gerontological Society of America Conference. I wrote a short piece about it for 3rd Act Magazine, and I’ll write more this spring. I also had the great pleasure of interviewing Rev. Rick Reynolds—a longtime beacon in the dark for people experiencing homelessness in Seattle–for 3rd Act.

And here are a few more holiday stories you might enjoy.  One’s about food, and the other is about a long-ago children’s Christmas pageant.

And one more New Year’s note: I’ll be teaching (virtually) a Memoir Writing workshop via Seattle Central College, beginning February 6.  Registration is open now.