It’s December 28th and I find myself in a place I recognize from holidays past. I don’t think I’m the only one. Many of us wander in those days between Christmas and New Years as if we lost our way in route to a joyful event being held at a neighbor’s house. We have the directions. We’ve been there before, and yet every year we wind up on a foggy mountain road wondering how to find the party.
Our Swedish neighbor, who knows much of what it is like to be lost in the dark, says that the Swedes take a week off every Christmas and celebrate as if there is no tomorrow. And truly, once the partying is over, they will be in the dark for many long months to come. When we talked to him after Christmas, he told us the Swedes have a name for this time between Christmas and New Years–only it doesn’t sound as cheerful in English. So he said “Happy Continuation!” Basically it means the good cheer keeps on flowing until everyone returns to work again. I wanted to tell him that I think most Americans think of it as the “In-Between.”
I equate this time of year more with the way our chickens and ducks feel in the evening just before roosting or resting time. The chickens are quite noisy about it. They fight for a place on the roost; flapping and clucking and even fighting in a most unfeminine pecking order. “I want this spot!” “No, that’s mine, I always sleep there!” Squawking and running around and fluffing up ominously until, at last, all are settled someplace whether they like it or not. This feathery mayhem can last for as long as an hour.
We finally had to move the ducks from their place beneath the apple trees where they joyfully motored in mud for most of a month. They now reside under the chestnuts. The dip in the land beneath the Crow’s Egg and the big yellow apple trees held water until we had a virtual duck soup. Our feathered darlings, which we always thought were such clean little birds in their white suits, billed holes in the mud and at the roots of the trees into which they could disappear their entire heads. Besides being somewhat horrifying, we figure it was not doing the land a lot of good either. So we moved them and their house and play yard to drier, if not higher, ground.
But birds have no sense of home as the house which is their abode. Fresh straw and water, a full tray of food notwithstanding, every evening they stand like statues staring forlornly back at the mudhole from whence they came. They do not motor. They do not swim, but sit in the water comforting themselves. In the evening they all three stretch out their long necks and look back, still as statues. At dusk, we must herd them into their same old house in this new location, which is obviously not home yet.
Leigh likes to call this time of day, the “dusk of their discontent.” I suppose, here at the beginning of winter, we could still use Shakespeare’s term, “the winter of our discontent” but actually, I prefer dusk for this particular time of the year where we are treading water between the end of the old year and the beginning of the new. Sure, we have all these new resolutions but we are waiting to begin them until New Years Day. There’s a Mardi Gras feel to this. I need to party hardy: drink all I want, smoke my last cigar, eat tons of sweets before I give it all up in just a few days. Even for those who don’t take our “continuation” on in exactly this manner, there’s a kind of discontent about not doing it in that way. What do we do with that time between the end and the beginning?
I don’t know. When I don’t know what to do with myself, I write in my journal, post a blog, read a book, attempt to better myself even before the New Year begins. Even if I am half-hearted about these things, it mostly prevents me picking fights with the other hens. “No harm, no fowl” as they say; or at least as we say around here. The leftovers are gone, the bad cookies have been fed to the chickens, and there’s no more candy. Time to eat that salad we’ve been talking about needing for days. Pick up the house. Take a hot shower. Go for a walk. Gather some kindling. These things bring some satisfaction, but really, the dusk of our discontent will continue until we get used to these new digs, which will happen hopefully with the dawn of 2015.