Tonight, I secure the velcro fastening of my red and blue hat under my chin and shrug into on my hooded maroon coat. Sitting on the steps, I pull on my boots and two pairs of gloves and zip up a second coat (a bright orange affair with reflective tape)over the first before clipping the leash to the dog's collar. It's cold outside and I've given up looking cute and feminine. So what if I waddle around like an over-bundled child in a snowsuit? My husband looks indulgently at my multi-colored, toddler-esque form as he pulls on just the normal amount of grown-up outerwear and we head out the door with the dog for her evening walk.
Outside the temperature has warmed to the low twenties but the wind still flicks icy snow against our faces as we walk down the road to Snicker's favorite pit stop down the road and across the bridge near the overgrown burdock plant. The whole world is mantled and muffled in fresh snow. Our familiar landscape is transformed. Even the burdock plant takes on a sacred, otherworldly appearance. It also looks delicious, as though someone coated it thickly with vanilla frosting. I tell my husband this but say little else. Usually, I'm much more chatty on these walks but tonight feels joyfully somber. There is something uncanny in the silence and in the pearlescent glow of the deep snow under the street lamp. When we speak, we keep our voices low. Otherwise, there is only the sound of the dog's snuffling nose as she burrows playfully in the snow and the muffled crunch of our boots on the snow-covered pavement.
As we turn back to the house, I see movement in the woods on the opposite side of the street. The dog tenses and brays just once, long and low, as five deer emerge single-file from the woods. They stop in the street under the street lamp on the opposite side of the bridge and gaze at us for a long enchanted moment before they leap over the guard rail and into our yard, run down our sledding hill by the pig pen and across the lawn to the creek and woods. It was all over in less than a minute but if I ever I have achieved childlike wonder in my adult life, it was in that minute. "Wasn't that cool?!" I keep asking my husband breathlessly, "Wasn't that amazing?!"
We share the dog's curiosity about the slender hoof prints in the snow and even consider following them to the creek but we have responsibilities in the house and the hour is already late. So we continue to the front door past the snow-covered holly bushes. Our children greet us on the front porch, sticking just their heads out the door so that they appear like a rosy-cheeked, smiling-eyed totem pole magically manifested in the streaming golden light from the front hall. Children cast their own spells and I am caught up again in their laughter and warmth. But even in the midst of sending little ones to brush their teeth and fussing with the ordinary task of putting away the clutter of winter garb, part of me is still caught up in the memory of the deers' gaze. Indeed, I am so enraptured and absent-minded that I do not at first notice that my husband had stopped by the car to retrieve the children's Epiphany candy. I am reminded when he looks at me meaningfully, and I notice that he has tucked his armload of sweets awkwardly under his coat to hide the surprise.
Tonight is the last night of Christmas. Before they go to bed, the children set out their shoes for the Wise Men and La Befana to fill with treats. La Befana is dear to children and children are dear to her. Long ago, she intended to join the Wise Men in their quest for the Holy Child, but she was so busy with her housework that she missed her opportunity. Today, she makes up for lost time as she follows the perpetual footsteps of the Magi as they travel from home to home in their quest to honor the Holy Child within the hearts of all children who welcome them. She flies behind them on her broomstick to fill the children's shoes with candy, a sweetness for their journey, a blessing for the divinity within each human child.
I too long to find the Holy Child. I too have allowed my housework and study, my fussing and worry to delay my quest. "Soon," I promise myself. "When these papers are graded. When these bills are paid. When these floors are swept." But there are always more papers to grade, more bills to be paid, more floors to be swept. "Soon," I keep promising even as I look up from my broom to find that the wise men have left me behind.
But not tonight. Tonight is a night of Deepest Magick. It is a night of Epiphany and Revelation. It is the night when Gods and Humanity may rebind the frayed edges that Reason relentlessly teases apart. When those deer stood looking at me in the liquid light of a gathering snow storm, I felt my own soul rebound within me. At my husband's side, in the quiet night, I wondered if I could bear the weight of a joy allowed to flower fully rather than nipped in the bud before it has the chance to bend the tender stalk. "Soon," I say to myself, "this will be over and I'll be more sad than before. As beautiful as this is, as connected and whole as I feel, all of this will pass and there is nothing any of us can do about it."
"Hush," a voice answers me. "You are alive right now. Be alive. Be glad. Eternity lives in a moment."