Holidays, holy days

Holidays.

Holy days.

The words roll round my mind as I drive to work, noting how the rising sun gilds the trees in all their fall colors against a deep charcoal sky. The sharp glory of it is beyond my power to describe. It’s beautiful. Haunting. Fierce. How can there be such detailed color and brilliance when the sky is so strangely dark? If a storm is brewing, why is the light so golden-bright? And where exactly is it coming from? The sun itself is hidden.

I cannot quite capture how I feel. It’s more than one thing. Awe. Reverence. Curiosity. A bit of foreboding.

Mostly gratitude for having been here to see it.

Holy day.

Holiday.

I am thinking a lot about the interplay of light and dark this holiday week.

And the fierce beauty of life.

My husband is here after a massive heart attack this summer. His surgeon said that his blockages were such that when the last artery went down that day, he had no reserve; he made a “medically inexplicable recovery.” This coming only three years after my husband lost an eye to ocular melanoma.

Light and dark, dark and light.

He lives to see our son get married the day after Thanksgiving. Not just to see it, but to officiate. After all the years of praying for the boy to go into the ministry and the boy saying, no, Dad, that’s not for me.

He ordained our son into the ministry three weeks ago.

Never say never.

Today the boy took the last of his things out of our house to finish setting up his new home. He’s gone, but not too far away.

He took his dog.

Henry.

The last dog.

In two years, we’ve lost three: Nikolaus the dachshund to old age. Banjo the yellow Lab that I raised from age seven weeks to a new home because my husband can no longer manage a 90-pound dog after bypass surgery. And now Henry, the best of the best, the rescue dog whose sole mission in life is to extract and exude as much love as possible.

I am now dogless for the first time in almost two decades. On every one of those days I could always count on a happy greeting, an ever-faithful warmth, some commiseration or comic relief. No tail thumping tonight, no snuffling, whiskered nose in my hand, no nails scrambling on the floor in exuberance for a pat, a treat.

How strange is it that my son moves out and I write about missing the dog.

And another thing: I recently wrote about the two old mules around the corner, how one of them was sick. I often saw it lying on its side in the pasture as the other mule grazed nearby. The farmer didn’t want to put his ailing mule down, knowing that the other mule would grieve, as they had never been apart. He finally had to. When I rode by the following week, I saw the remaining mule standing bereft in the pasture. My friend who lives on an adjoining farm said the mule hadn’t eaten since its sister died. I dared not drive that way for a few days afterward, fearing what I’d see, or not see. But this week I braved it. I drove past the pasture. There was the mule, grazing, which made me happy. As I watched, a big orange tabby cat came strolling across the pasture to sit by the mule. It looked right in my direction, swishing its tail.

A once-in-a-lifetime photo shoot that I couldn’t stop and capture.

And then today as I went by . . . the cat was still there. In all these years of loving those old mules from afar, I have never seen any other creature in the pasture. That cat is there keeping that mule company. It was sent. I am sure of it.

What is life but a bizarre balancing act, a series of give and take, comings and goings, losses and comforts, laced with love, fierce in itself. A mosaic of light and color, a stark silhouette against a backdrop of darkest gray.

Holy days.

Holidays.

Every day is one to be celebrated.

Tonight I go to sleep in my dogless house, beside my husband who’s still here. We have one more son sleeping upstairs. Although there’s an ache, there’s not emptiness. I am grateful for that big orange cat who’s out in the pasture with the old mule left behind. I am grateful to see the glory and drama of autumn with the promise of celebrations to come. I am deeply grateful my oldest has found his calling at the same time great love has entered his life; on the day after Thanksgiving, he becomes a husband and a father all at once. It just so happens that his wedding day is the second anniversary of his grandmother’s passing; how she’d rejoice for him.

Light and dark, dark and light.

Oh, and on the wedding night, I get to bring home a little girl, officially my granddaughter; she and I will have our own celebration with Bride’s Cake ice cream and peppermint bark Oreos and probably the movie Frozen.

I put the Christmas tree up early, just for her.

Holidays.

Holy days.

How can there be so much light.

********

Note: After publishing this post, I learned that the big orange cat has a name: Sunshine.

16 thoughts on “Holidays, holy days

  1. Oh, Fran, what a beautiful, holy slice with much to celebrate & some to mourn. I love the story of the big orange cat hanging in the pasture with the mule. It reminds me of Terry Kay’s book, To Dance with the White Dog. Happy holidays & holy days! (And maybe you need a dog for Christmas!)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ramona, you’re never going to believe this but my friend has told me – since I published the post – that the big orange cat is named … Sunshine. Thank you for reading, for your words and the book reference (amazing how you know so many!). And I am thinking – just thinking! – about a Christmas dog…

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  2. Gorgeous piece of writing, Fran. From this line onward, “The words roll round my mind as I drive to work, noting how the rising sun gilds the trees in all their fall colors against a deep charcoal sky,” your words capture such a wide range of emotion so effortlessly and beautifully. I sensed the cycles we see in life, intertwining- birth, rebirth, passing on…they’re all there. Thanks for sharing such a lovely slice.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Beyond words … Your craft is simply beautiful. Your story is so personal and universal. I found myself trying to slow down to savor each word, yet the pace of your writing kept me moving forward – much like life. I will be on the lookout for tabby cats … have a wonderful holiday, celebration, and time with a new little one in your life. Thank you for this gift today.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for the gift of your words, Clare – and I simply must tell you that I’ve just learned that the orange tabby has a name: Sunshine. I am sitting here, awed all over again. Happy Thanksgiving to you & yours! ❤️

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  4. There is love all over this post, gushy and wonderful! I am so happy the donkey has a friend. My new middle grade novel is titled Sunshine after the chicken that helps the MC Blessen find love and friendship. So the fact that the cat is named Sunshine just touches me greatly.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Oh, Fran! I want read this over and over. You’ve captured moment after moment of beauty and woven them together in a way that makes each thought simultaneously individual and necessary to the whole. I feel that I have felt these emotions even though I have had none of these particular experiences. I can’t even decide which one to tell you is my favourite – the sun? Your son leaving – and you write about the dogs. The mules? The cat? Maybe it’s the way that loss and fear twine with joy, current and anticipated, until these moments reflect life, lived. Thank you for this. It is beautiful.

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  6. We are both celebrating in new ways this holiday season, for similar reasons–our families are growing! We mourn the losses as we celebrate the gains; I pray that the latter outweighs the former for our families this Thanksgiving. Ditto the advice for getting another dog–I think it will be good for your husband’s heart, as well as for your new granddaughter. You can have dog playdates with the new pooch and Henry!

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