Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Last ember

Funny how the words have come to sound and look like their months. September suggests a fresh lined yellow pad of paper. October is all rounded and open, like a pumpkin with nothing to hide. November has those dark consonants, the color of brown wet leaves. And December has the icy c: a cold tinselly sound.


Hard to get to know the real December. No other month is so dominated by one of its days, maybe because that day is near the end of the month that ends the year, so Christmas exerts a gravitational pull on December even stronger than the one Halloween has on October or Thanksgiving on November.

There's one way of slowing down that cascade of days. December has its own calendar. LIttle paper windows to open each day of the month until Christmas, usually revealing things like angels, toys, wreaths, ornaments. We even had one once when I was a kid. I remember it hanging in our kitchen, an exotic item in a Jewish household, but I enjoyed those little daily revelations.

One December first, a few years ago, I was wandering through the meadowy acreage of Alewife Brook reservation. Came upon a bird box, one of several put up to attract bluebirds. On a whim, I reached up, opened the hinged wooden lid and peeked inside. There lay a little field mouse, fast asleep. Of course there would be! I quickly reclosed the lid. And it occurred to me later that what I had here was the first opening of a natural advent calendar. One could fill all the days of the month (or any other month) with such unexpected revelations, ones that shed light on the other December. Or just passed the time interestingly.

So let's try it. Here's the first opening, an easy choice: the full moon. It's actually full in about four hours, on December second, but close enough for jazz. I didn't expect it and there it was, no longer the scary guy it used to be, but an entertaining, burning cold, movie using borrowed light. What to call it? Usually December's moon is the Cold Moon, but this December has two full moons. I suppose the second one, on the 31st, will be called the Cold Blue Moon.

And here's a runner-up, a word I discovered this morning, in a preface by Christopher Morley describing Sherlock Holmes. He was, Morley said, an infracaninophile. Any guesses?

Time's up. A champion of the underdog. (Of course it would be!)

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