The holidays were a bit odd. The weather was deviant and did not provide the customary snow. Parties, family gatherings and trips were ever-changing as we braced ourselves against another variant of the coronavirus.

Our family was not unscathed. A holiday gathering with several loved ones missing was followed by a cancelled trip and subsequent fighting for refunds. I suppose that is why on Jan. 1 I pressed my less-than-enthusiastic husband, Michael, to join me in un-decorating. This would be no small task.

Honestly, thinking back I was excited to decorate for the holidays and bring some cheer into our lives as this year had been full of sadness. We were still reeling from my only sister’s unexpected death in October 2020 when in the spring of 2021 a horrible, debilitating disease took our son-in-law. We tried to catch our breath when, in September, Michael’s father, Chuck, a giant of a man, passed away. Our grief was raw as we talked and prayed our way through sadness and memories.

So, when the holidays loomed, I became fixated on decorating. I wanted to create something beautiful, heavenly and full of whim when I bought, unpacked, dragged, climbed and created our outdoor Christmas display. We lighted the house, a tree, a creche. We positioned Santa, an angel and a set of wooden deer and made sure everything was precisely spotlighted. I was proud of my feeble attempt at energy conservation as I daisy-chained extension cords, adapters and timers together in an effort to sync and control all the sparkle and light. With hope of bidding farewell to very moody 2021, I waited for snow. One good night of magical snow was all we were allotted.

On Jan. 1, insert me standing in my cold garage looking at a wet, muddy heap of tangled cords and decorations and saying to myself, “What was I thinking?” Grief, adversity and disappointment can take us strange places as we seek answers and attempt to fix our circumstances for the betterment of our existence. We attempt to create something tangible to silence a pain that cannot be grasped.

On a recent Saturday, Michael and I awoke to snow hanging on the white pines in front of our house. I had recently read about research done on the positive psychological effects of spending time in a snow-covered forest. We could not gear up fast enough. Our walk through the woods to French Creek provided peace and solace. At the base of a hill, we stood on the banks of French Creek and watched the slushy, icy snow float past. The healing touch of nature was effortless — nothing we created. It was the perfect remedy for an odd holiday.

Carla J. Swick loves nature and lives in Meadville with her husband. She has a degree in journalism from Edinboro University and works in higher education as an IT analyst.

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