Last night, as the clouds rolled in and dusk prevailed, we finished up an early supper and got bundled up for a much-needed bit of exercise. Jim had heard there would be lights and caroling, hot drinks, and merriment along the path at Greenlake. We parked by the community center and set off on the very crowded path. People and dogs were holding and sometimes wearing strings of lights. The path was lit on either side by simple luminaries in white paper bags. My two-year old walked up to the first light on the right side of the path, stopped and bent down to look at the candle. We walked a few steps to the next luminary and he stopped again. He repeated the process for about the next 15 lights, establishing the fact of their sameness. I laughed and walked slowly on with him, content to let him satisfy that need. My five-year old charged ahead, as she likes to do, eager to see what was coming up next.
As we moved away from the lit parking lot, it got very dark. The huge evergreens in the park blocked the light from the street and most of the noise. The lake was quiet and still, a thin crust of ice over the top. Yet the path was filled with people, their anonymous forms filling the space between the lake and the trees with human sound. After about half a mile we came to a group of carolers and stopped to listen. The air was crisp and cool and the lights of the houses across the lake spread straight over the water's surface like drips of paint. The songs ended and we applauded in our mittens and gloves. I marveled how, in this place filled with strangers (and possibly friends, who would know?) we gained a new holiday tradition and breathed in just a bit of the whimsy that makes Christmas so special to me.