When The Light Returns

by Maria Theresa Maggi on December 20, 2019

A couple of mornings ago before daybreak, I was sitting on the couch waiting to let Cotton back in and this is what I saw: the fireplace glowing in the still darkened house, and the little miniature of my house my daughter-in-law’s mother made me a few Christmases ago sitting on the hearth, lit from within with a small night light. Even in my sleepy state, I was filled with peace and gratitude for my cozy home sweet home. That I have a warm and dry house through the storms of winter (even if I sometimes share the porch roof attic with a chipmunk “squirreling” away his stash of goodies) is a blessing beyond compare. So I wanted to wish you all the opportunity to call to mind the ways in your life you are held in warmth and safety and love, even in times that seem perilous in very grave ways.

This feeling of gratitude got me thinking about what I’ll call “the sweetness of Winter.” I know lots of people don’t like it, but I was born in early winter, and there’s something about that that helps me appreciate its slower pace, its requirement of methodical preparation, sometimes to do the most simple tasks, its propensity for less instead of more, and the deepened rush of color when it comes up against the cold air and the gray tones. Maybe it’s just because I see them more frequently since it’s when we’re out walking, but as the days grow shorter and the air grows colder, the colors in the sunset can seem almost surreal in their intensity. A couple of weeks ago a friend of mine took this shot of Cotton and I down on the beach in the glow of one:

In a couple of days it will be what would have been Romeo’s fifteenth birthday. I always loved that he was born around the Winter Solstice, which is my favorite of all those ancient markers, and now I’m happy for the grace to be able to accept his passing, however sad and beautiful it was, and feel his spirit come to visit and continue to love me and Cotton and bless us on such an immense continuum of the heart.

And no holiday season would be properly blessed without a little silliness, if you ask me, so to fit that bill here’s a knitting story inspired by my Dad’s legacy that’s still making me chuckle.

When I was in Portland over Thanksgiving, my son and daughter-in-law requested slippers for Christmas, so we went to pick out yarn each of them like. My daughter-in-law picked a colorful striped tweed and my son, true to form, picked the deepest black on the shelf. I read the yardage on the skein and thought, oh that’s enough, even if I make his bigger. Back on the coast in the knitting zone, as I was finishing the first slipper, I started to worry. It didn’t look like there was enough for a second slipper. I started texting a neighbor friend here who knits, saying “I don’t think there’s going to be enough!” So sad. . .” and I promptly ordered another large skein of the same thing online. It was scheduled to come any time between Dec 19 and Christmas Eve. So my worrier self contemplated whether or not to try to get a ride into town to search for yet more I could acquire before that.  Wisely, I decided to sleep on it. The next morning on our early sunrise walk, the image of my Dad, who my son is named after, suddenly being possessed by the Spirit of Christmas each Christmas Eve, made me giggle. It was always the first day of his two week holiday stay-cation from work, and he was positively giddy–he’d go out to shop for all of us, and bring back an ice cream yule log treat and finally in the dark, be out there changing our “Advent” lights to multi-colored Christmas lights, while my mother wrung her hands that he wouldn’t get home in time for dinner or that the lights wouldn’t be up in time. But she was laughing about it too. So that morning, I thought to myself, well if the extra yarn doesn’t come until Christmas Eve, I’ll just call on my Dad’s spirit to get me down the runway at the last minute.

When I got home, after breakfast I just decided I would knit on the second slipper, which was already in progress, until I ran out of yarn. (I had also thought wryly to myself the day before that I needed a miracle of fishes and loaves, only with yarn, in order to have enough.) But this morning, I was happy to just keep knitting and watch the yarn disappear and see how far I could get. Some time into this process the memory of a family trip to San Francisco when I was about ten years old popped into my head. My sister and I were in the back seat and suddenly my Dad had taken a route that didn’t lead right to the place we usually stayed. My mother, a dedicated backseat driver, started bugging him about why he was going the way he was going, which wouldn’t lead to the hotel. He never really answered her, but just nodded and smiled and said we were going a different way this time. Then he took an off ramp that was clearly not where we were headed and she was almost beside herself with exasperation. Down the off ramp we went and then up a gently sloped driveway that landed us right at a gas pump in a gas station where we promptly ran out of gas–close enough to refill.

This story about running out of gas at the gas station became a favorite in the canon of family stories. And as I remembered all this, and how pleased my Dad was with himself in judging it all so exactly, I knew he was telegraphing to me from wherever he is in heaven that I was going to have enough yarn. I couldn’t stop laughing out loud. I’d knit a few stitches and stop and laugh again. And I did, indeed, have enough yarn.

Now I’m using the extra black yarn (which thankfully arrived on the 19th)  to make my son a surprise gift. It can be difficult to see the stitches in black when stitching the panels together, but this lack of visibility and mystery also seems very appropriate to the season. We are changed at this time of year in ways we can’t yet see, that will come to bud when Spring rolls around.

And finally I’ll leave you with a song. I’ve been listening to a lot of piano jazz while I knit and my favorite by far is Bill Evans playing “Like Someone In Love.” If you take a listen and like what you hear, also take a few minutes to read the comments from people all over the world who come to listen to it because they love it so much. Also, it reminds me in a very real way what my friend Clark once said about me: that I am in love with the world. It is, indeed, true, and if that feeling had a theme song, I guess this would be it. And call this Sunday’s Child a little crazy, but there’s no other time than the beginning of Winter, the longest night and the shortest day, when commemorating that love seems especially right. If the weather allows us down on the beach, we might even honor that love with leaving some of Romeo’s ashes down there. He loved it so, and I am so fortunate he was in this world and with me for a long enough time to help me relax into how much I really do love it, even with its “sham, drudgery, and broken dreams.” I feel that again each time Cotton leaps for joy to run. Love really is a continuum, an unbroken sequence, and may we all find our thread in that tapestry this season and weave it into our hearts.

Maria (moonwatcher)


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{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Johnnye Denman December 20, 2019 at 12:56 pm

Enjoyed your lovely post so much, Maria, including the Bill Evans piano (which I like so much). Your always positive attitude reminds me not to allow negativity to cloud my time left on this planet. I’m sure I will reread this post to bolster my own resolve. I wish you and Cotton a wondrous Christmas, many beautiful sunsets in all seasons, and peace in the upcoming year.


2 Maria Theresa Maggi December 20, 2019 at 1:35 pm

Thank you for these kind words, Johnnye (JR), they are very much appreciated, as is your readership. I am honored. <3 Focusing on such things gives me the strength to keep working for the world I love, in word and deed. Peace back to you in the coming year, too.


3 Cynthia Dunn December 22, 2019 at 9:58 am

One of my favorite songs and such a beautiful rendition. Thanks.


4 Maria Theresa Maggi December 22, 2019 at 10:47 am

My pleasure, Cynthia! 🙂


5 Veronica December 23, 2019 at 8:20 am

I love how your knitting came out just right! That’s happened to me a couple times, and it feels wonderful 🙂
I do love winter sunsets, and how winter forces us to slow down and just be. That photo of Cotton and you with the sunset is beautiful! The ocean just adds to the wonderment of colors – with its reflections and texture.
Merry Christmas, Maria. May the happy memories of Romeo along with Cotton’s snuggles help keep you warm <3


6 Maria Theresa Maggi December 23, 2019 at 9:12 am

Dear Veronica, thank you for these beautiful kind words, which are a blessing to me! here’s to us both having enough yarn and beautiful sunsets and slowing down to “just be.” xoxo


7 Colleen February 15, 2020 at 10:43 am

Lovely and a reminder of why I am working so diligently, if slowly, on getting back to Oregon. In Arizona we hibernate in the summer and the care folks in the PNW must take in the winter we must take in the summer. It feels wrong, to me, to be in that state while surrounded by almost perpetual binding white light. In the end, though, being in love with the world is the very essence of what we all are regardless of the length of days or threat of weather. We just forget our essence in the challenges we mostly make for ourselves if we are privileged. Thank you for bringing us back to our essences.


8 Maria Theresa Maggi February 17, 2020 at 9:50 am

It was my pleasure. Your comment reminded me of some of my neighbors down the street who spend the “winter” in Arizona and the “summers” here. Perhaps you will make your way back to Oregon! Your comments reminded me of long ago when I came for a teaching job interview in Northern Arizona in the Spring. My then 5 year old son and I pulled over during a thunderstorm around Kingman and watched the sky and then saw a beautiful rainbow. That wet red dirt. <3


9 Colleen February 17, 2020 at 2:02 pm

I got caught in one of those between Yuma and Phoenix. It was quite an experience and a good memory given that everything worked out, even without the red dirt.

I will absolutely be buying a PNW place in about a year, if I live that long and stay healthy enough to travel. There is no hidden meaning in that sentence, it is just that the older I get the more obvious it becomes to me that tomorrow, let alone next year, is a hope not a given. I won’t be living there for a few years until I retire, but I plan to rent it out and make a couple of trips a year to check in on the place until I can actually move. I would love to meet you on one of my trips!


10 Maria Theresa Maggi February 17, 2020 at 2:42 pm

That sounds great Colleen! Keep my posted!! 🙂


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