At the beginning of December, I braved a nursery to find some frosty white cyclamen for the pots out front. Also, some paperwhite bulbs to force and bring a bit of wintry white indoors. Only to find that I was too late.
“Sorry, we’re out of both cyclamen and paperwhites,” said the nursery owner, confirming what is happening around the country as the demand for Christmas trees, wrapping paper, and decorations outstrips supply. “Everything sold out early this year.”
She attributed the rush on seasonal “color” to the shelter-in-place life we’re still living. “People are home, so they got a head start on the season.”
I’m inclined to think they got a head start on the New Year.
Unable to effect change any other way, [people are] hoping to flip the calendar page more quickly by rushing the rituals of the season. We can’t get to the New Year until we make it through December and if that means decking the halls prematurely, so be it.
When my book club met over Zoom in early November, we watched a friend decorate her Christmas tree while we discussed systemic racism. “No judging,” she said. “I just need a little Christmas—right this very minute.”
Though I waited until our quiet Thanksgiving had passed, I too, had my tree up early this year. It’s a substantial task to trim the tall, skinny tree that suits our living room, involving ladders and the annual wrangle with my husband over what goes where. But this year, rather than grumbling about how many more years we’re going to buy, transport, and trim an eleven-foot Silver Tip, I bought extra twinkly lights (still, thankfully, available) and he took special care to tuck the cords and wires out of sight. We dug out second-tier ornaments to add even more sparkle and memories of travel from our past.
Our efforts have made this tenth month of sheltering shimmer with hope.
In her beautiful memoir Wintering: The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times, British writer Katherine May describes the benefits of slowing down and not trying to squeeze seasonal rituals like tree-trimming into the off-hours of an overstuffed holiday season.
“I come home and feel ready, not at all like I resisted Christmas until the last moment. Instead, I have addressed it in its place and at the right time, making it a joy instead of a labour,” she writes.
As I decorated the house and garden, I too, found joy in the annual festooning without the distraction of other demands. It was a gift I gave myself to have a change of scenery within and without these four walls.
It’s also taught me to take action for the future.
Last weekend, with a storm on the horizon and the last new moon of the year approaching, I planted some seeds after a gardener friend bemoaned the abundance of love-in-a-mist in her garden, flourishing even in the dark of winter. Our phone conversation spurred me to scatter an unopened packet of nigella seeds near my now-slumbering roses. I buried a celebratory dinner menu embedded with wildflower seeds in a sunny spot between the bare persimmon and crepe myrtle trees. And tucked the seed “bomb” my niece made in her PHS Environmental Science class last spring near two leafless hydrangeas.
Yes, it’s early to be planting seeds, but with our relatively mild winters there’s a good chance something will come of my pandemic-driven efforts to start anew.
As rain soaked the newly-seeded spots the night before the first vaccines were set to be administered here in the US, I rejoiced thinking about all the dark corners that will light up come spring.
Kathryn Pritchett is a writer and blogger who likes to explore the basic building blocks of good design. Her writing about design-related things can be found in many print and online publications including the Bay Area News Group where her column Things Elemental ran for many years.