December can be a very odd time of year. Even in the best of times, there can be a bit of melancholy. It may come with the music of the season, or a moment you find yourself alone in your car, songs on the radio from before you even drove. No-one necessarily hears you sing (just as well in my own case) nor do they know that you always tear up at one song, even if all is well.

Although celebrating holidays can become an unbearable subject in times of loss or illness, the seasons march forward and bring us to each time slice whether or not we think we can bear to go forward. You find you are face to face with all the relics and expressions of the season. But even when we have been far away, or did not find the heart to partake in even the simplest of decorations that would signal our part in this time of year, the reaction I am most surprised by is how the lights on houses and trees will reach through to me, an optimism like lighting luminaria.

I have had an unplanned ritual these past few weeks of retracing a route past my own hometown’s Christmas Tree Lane. Weekly. Sometimes twice a week. This is a long time tradition that I remembered, driving thru when we were children. An interloper now in town, this wasn’t even near where we lived, but I would sometimes remember to drive by during past holiday visits. The scale hasn’t really changed much over 40+ years, although the technology has (mostly LEDs, a few lights changing hues). The whole thing is very low key and understated. And it somehow gave me optimism in a way that little else could, in a very difficult period.

Tomorrow I will take the slow drive again, probably with more cars full of families, some maybe viewing for the first time. The simplest twinkle has given me a small smile. And I will seek my companion of lights in the anonymous twilight.

May this time of short days, often cold or wet, bring you a surprising source of quiet optimism, and may it come as you need it most.