January Lights

It’s late. I was just out for a long walk with the dog. A few houses in our part of North Berkeley still display Christmas lights. I took ours down over the weekend; there’s something about late Christmas decorations on my own house that I believe advertises distraction, disarray, or laziness. It may come from a childhood memory of a Christmas tree we didn’t manage to take down until after Groundhog Day. In my big bundle of neuroses, It’s a relatively minor one.

But on the other houses around about, I find I like seeing the lights, even if I wonder why they’re still up. They never mean exactly the same thing to me here as they did back in Illinois, because somehow you need to have snow or at least a dead lawn and a blast of Arctic cold to put the lights in the proper context. We don’t have any of that here, but they manage to bespeak a mildly out-of-season yuletide cheer nonetheless. After mid-January, though, they start to say something else: maybe about a desire to hang on to some little bit of fun while we’re waiting for the sun to come back.

It was a nice surprise tonight to see the place up the way on Cedar Street that still has its modest display of flashing white icicle lights. And another house, at Yolo and Bonita, with a couple of deep blue snowflakes in the window. And a yard around the corner from that place, on Hopkins Street, that I somehow didn’t see until tonight. Someone hung a long string of red lights in a 100-foot redwood and stretched them in a long diagonal down to a house below. Rubies suspended in the night. Beautiful.

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