As I lean against the wall of Byen Bakery, half-drowsed in the still warm, thinning light of October, I spot the familiar long stride of my niece Amelia. The bundle against her chest is my first great-niece Murron, and suddenly the day gets larger, the heavens go deeper. Inside, glass cases gleam and chrome cake stands shine. White icing drapes curls of pastry and cinnamon infuses the air. The small face tips up beneath a knobby knit hat purple as our Concord grapes, as our overabundance of plums, upon which we will feast for months. The hour wears its best party clothes.
We are leaning into the holiday season, torn between our call to communal celebration and a desire for the muffling peace of low cloud and apple-scented candles, Suzanne Wolfe’s latest murder, and dozy cat-nipped cats. The trees have slipped their leaves off of their shoulders to pool and ember in the grass, and step naked into the cold of the season. The sidewalk collects what falls—saffron, lime, butter, and wine. We return from our walks through the smoky-sweet air with pockets full of acorns, braids of the seeds of oregano. Pearled galaxies of snowberries dress our windowsills. Our big-leaf maple is a candelabra lit by the late sun.
The days draw the darkness in around them. The birds, we imagine, are heavy with sleep, rocked in the cedar that hangs over our back fence. It is this that I want most: the aftermath of the feasting and gather, the subdued and solitary waver of tinsel icicles when the lamp is turned down, the chance to rustle through the shininess of decorative baubles we’ve collected from Santa Fe like magpies. The small activities that extend the load of extended family, neighborhood, and church festivities out into the ordinary hours. This too is celebration.
We are present now, as we unstring the last grape vine with chilly fingers and dash back into the warm house, as we anticipate conversations with a nephew, a best friend in Canada or Mill Creek. We are in the mood for feasting, for coming into the presence of what or who is beloved. Outside, silent stars swing gaudy and bright, winging through the dusk.
Anne Doe Overstreet is a freelance editor who grew up with pianos and banjos, lightning-strike stories, and games of hangman after dinner. Since then, she’s learned something of weather watching, the intricacies of bones, and the flora of New Zealand. These things and her love of the particulars of place shape her writing and her teaching. She is the author of Delicate Machinery Suspended, a poetry and essay collection.