Graduate reader, Vera Clyne, reflects on lesser celebrated holidays and taking her time.
As the semester comes to an end and the holidays come into focus, we are all likely looking forward to a rest. Holiday traditionally means “a day of festivity or recreation when no work is done.” A special day. A day off. However, if you’ve ever hosted a holiday get-together, you’ll certainly be doing a lot of work! It takes a lot of energy to decorate, bake, clean, hunt down trees, make costumes, carve pumpkins, color eggs, cut out paper hearts, or otherwise perform nostalgic rituals. But I love the feeling of a special day, a time outside of time, a day that belongs to a seasonal calendar and not a daily planner.
Of the traditional holidays, I have a special love for Easter because it’s not celebrated on the same day every year. It falls on the first Sunday after the first full moon after the Spring Equinox. That’s some kind of magical sorcery! There are so many annual firsts – the first snow, the first swim in the river – that don’t happen on the same day every year and yet they mark the essential edges of our lives moving from one season to the next. More and more, I find myself looking forward to these cyclical events with great anticipation. They measure the movement of nature, the thrumming rhythm of life itself, and they keep a different sort of time. Most wonderfully, they are true holidays – they require no effort, there are no preparations. There is nothing to do but watch and wait. Here are a few of my personal favorites.
First Egg Day: Chickens don’t naturally lay eggs in the winter. As the weather gets colder and the days get shorter, they move into a natural rest cycle and abandon their nesting boxes. I clean out the ones in my front-yard coop and fill them with fresh straw and pine shavings, setting a few wooden eggs on the top. The chickens ignore them all winter, playing in the fluffy straw and generally making a mess of things. But one February day, I will open the lid of the nesting boxes and the straw will be swirled into a tidy little nest, wooden eggs bundled into the center. And soon after that, the first fresh egg will appear.
The Day the Leaves Fall: Mulberry trees are all over Albuquerque. There’s one in my front yard, several in my neighbors’ yards all up and down the street. Their large green leaves are shaped like hands, and they turn a bright, clear yellow in autumn. The trees are sensitive to the first hard frost – on that day all the leaves, whether yellow or still green, will fall. They don’t come down at night, no, they need the warmth of the morning sun and it’s going to take some time. One year I set up a tripod in the yard and filmed it – for several hours, single leaves fell in slow succession like rain, the morning light slanting through the golden leaves, glowing, translucent, an undulating blanket covering the ground. My cat never remembers, every year stretching a cautious paw into the pile, reluctant to step into the yard, forgetting that last year she was just as hesitant and that nothing bad happened.
And my personal favorite: The Day the Clocks Go Back. Daylight Savings Time didn’t used to bother me. I’d spend a day or two adjusting and go on with life. But I’m older now, and I resent clocks on principle. Shifting things by an hour is no longer an easy adjustment. The Spring Forward is anxiety-producing – I’m late! I’m always late! And I never seem to catch up. If I had my druthers, I’d live by this simple philosophy: Things take the time they take. My daily schedule would take its direction from the sun, the beings I live with, and the increasingly particular needs of my aging body. Bereft of this hour, I navigate the months in a spirit of resentful compliance until the Sunday after Halloween. When the collective consensus begrudgingly gives me back that stolen hour, it feels like a gift of time, a chance to catch my breath, a deep and calming sigh. I’m no longer late – there is still time. Time to finish eating, time to feed the cats, time to water the plants.
So, my wishes for you this holiday season are personal: may you and yours find great delight in the secret, cyclical moments that connect you with the ever-turning world. May you find your place.
Vera Clyne is in her second year of the UNM MFA program, and she is the current UNM Rudolfo Anaya fellow. She writes Creative Nonfiction and dabbles in poetry. Her recent work appears in Passengers Journal. She looks forward to spending a lot of time gardening, dancing, and taking long walks down by the river.