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Thursday, Dec. 23, 2004 04:40 pm

For as long as we can

It is dark now, an early darkness that will soon give us the longest night. A thin moon hangs high in the December sky, looking down cold, the color of ice.

The first wind of winter out of the north gives voice to the oak and elm. I hear their conversations, and it keeps me company.

By lamplight I write in the shadows with a yellow pencil. In my quiet comfort, I like the sound it makes as it moves over the paper,

shaping the letters, whispering to me as mental pictures are formed into words and paragraphs of thoughts and feelings.

Somewhere, lying in us when we are born, is a need for music. At some point we hear it. It calls to us, and it is our sound. We are awakened to its strengths and comforts. We wish for the sound again and again and go to where it is.

A sweetly tuned fiddle could raise Grandmother Dena from her sickbed, carry her some distance away to Trotter's Hall, where she found the sound and the strength to dance, if only for a little while.

I know the feeling. I have just returned from a Christmas dance, a square dance, the last of the season. I carry with me the music, the tunes, the emotions, the familiar faces, and the good feelings I find there. It is all on deposit, and I will recall it in days to come.

We of a certain age are drawn by the music of a few instruments politely played, by a soft voice singing, and by a fellowship going back for most of our lives.

We were dressed for the season. The music was right. The dancing was spirited, making for laughter and jolly responses. The maple floor was alive and responded to the dancers with flex and sound. We found the rhythms of a good thing happening.

While I rested between squares, I listened and watched the gracefulness and good nature of the others. I am acquainted with the people, if not by name, then by association over the years. I know for some there is great courage and heart in their coming. They are carrying as much as they can, confident that they are not letting it show. Walter is favoring his new hip. Emma is facing the season alone for the first time. Norma has a soldier husband far away. Lucy awaits test results. There is Ben, willing to try again after a long lonely time, dancing with a younger woman a bit younger than 60. We breathe a silent cheer for all of them and feel a wetness blur our vision.

There will always be concerns and remembrances at Christmastime, but we will come anyway and dance for as long as we can . . . for as long as we can.

There is no greater gift we can give one another than being there, letting our hearts reach out to spread a little joyduring the Christmas season.

May God bless us, every one.

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