The Sky in Mid December

posted December 17, 2004

The sky at four o’clock on December sixteenth. The sky in mid December when the front shifts from subhuman pre-deep freeze (so cold one breath goes straight to your brian and holds it in a nump clasp, not quite friendly, not quite lethal) to something more human, more gentle; still cold but just enough to be grateful for fires. The sky in mid December just before sunset, blue at the top, marked. Streaked with plane lines, exhausted plane tails trail by a saucy crescent of a moon–the moon just another white mark. The sky in mid December with the naked trees shimmying their branches black black against the sky like the fingers of African dancers. The sky in mid December when the light is fading and the rim red blaze hits the hills to the west and you almost miss it.

You almost miss it because you are filling your gas tank. You almost don’t look twice as you’re filling your gas tank at the Gibb’s station next to the Polish deli. You almost don’t look twice when the best part of you notices the sky. You almost space out and keep the gas pump going with the heel of an old high heeled shoe you keep in the backseat for just this purpose: so you can disengage from the pondorous act of filling your gas tank. You could disengage, turn your back, walk a few feet and make a call on your cell phone. But instead you fight through the sickening moment, the moment of engagement and you hold your gaze steady on the scene, as a body surfer off the coast of New Zealand holds the wave; as a climber grips the hold in the rock face; as a prize fighter takes the blows as he waits for the opponant to wear out; as a woman pants through the contraction. Your job is so much easier and the very most hard.

The Comments

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  1. fivecats –

    Thank you! I was trying to think of what song has the line, “the very most hard.”

    I like this entry for a couple reasons. First, it seems like it was an urgent post. What I mean is that, once Nerissa saw the sky and realized how she might have missed it if she was focussing on the challenges of daily life, it seems like she had to write it down quickly. Second, because back in September on my ride into work, I saw a sky that caused me to write about it. It was quite picturesque, but I wonder how many commuters actually noticed. I’m tempted to post my meager poem here, but since this is not my blog and this blog is not about me…. Besides, it pales in comparison.


  2. I feel like this piece and the one i wrote at the last retreat are having a little conversation. It’s beautiful Nerissa. The detail about the old high heel is lovely.

  3. Nerissa, I saw that crescent moon too. I saw it slowly sinking into the sky as I walked home from the train station. The air was freezing, but the scene was beautiful and it took my breath away and made me aware of the Divine Presence of the Creator of the Universe.

  4. One of the things I love about your writing is the way you can simultaneously elevate the ordinary, and bring the celestial down to earth. Everything’s so connected. I’m so happy I found this blog.

  5. Oops, I forgot to sign my name to my comment. This is Becky.

    By the way, I think it would be awesome if you and Katryna made a Christmas album. You already have several Christmas/winter songs, such as “Snowman,” “Christmas Carol,” and “Merry Christmas, Mr. Jones.” You also would sound wonderful singing tradtional carols, such as “Silent Night,” “Joy to the World,” and “White Christmas.”

  6. One of the things I am enjoying most about moving to the Mid-West is the sky. It is so vast! Out here you can see the whole scope of it, in all of its moods. It is truly amazing.
    I miss seeing the blackened night through the fringed fingers of high pines, and I miss the clear crystal of the stars without streetlights, but I never tire of looking up. Each moment is a different work of art.

    Thanks for keeping us thinking, Nerissa!



  7. I was thinking the same thing Whitney, while I was reading it. Nerissa, this is beautiful. I especially love the naked trees dancing. I am desperately looking forward to the January retreat.

  8. This is gorgeous, Nerissa. I just got back from a child’s birthday party and my head was swimming with the excitement, volume, and pace of three-year old nuttiness … and then I sat down to read your post. It was like an instant calm settled over me. One of the best things I’ve ever taught Charlotte she mirrored back to me the other day while we were in the car. She gasped and said from the backseat, “Wow, Mommy, look at the sky … isn’t it beautiful.”

    Peace and love from down here in PA — Melissa

  9. Thanks, Nerissa. I miss Massachussetts winters…they are unlike anything I’ve ever experienced…so crisp, cold and enchanting. Somehow, December never felt like December in Los Angeles, as I could still wear t-shirts! I prefer bulky sweaters, gloves and pea coats. Thanks for the reminder to soak in all that is around us at this magical time of year.

  10. nerissa, this is beautiful.
    thank you for sharing.
    i loved: “The sky in mid December with the naked trees shimmying their branches black black against the sky like the fingers of African dancers.”

  11. What a beautiful entry. Thank you.

    I noticed the lovely sky today while outside at work at sunset with the rosy-veined clouds behind the black lace of the trees. I wish I’d had my camera.

    (The heel in the gas pump scares me; I know there’s a reason for not being able to restrain the pump handle but I don’t know what it is.)


  12. What a happy surprise of an entry 🙂 I enjoyed this very much as I am constantly in awe of the sky here on the outer-cape (especially at this time of year). I refer to my 1/2 hour commute to and from work as an everchanging living painting.
    Last night the sky was such a fiery/flourescent red…spectacular…as were the more subtle pastel bluish/greenish/pinkish/yellowish colors that linger 🙂 And to think the sun is rising in china!

    ~ April

  13. Funny how it becomes unusual to be standing outdoors.

    Our society used to be very much attuned to nature. Not only were there fewer indoor attractions like computers and televisions, but there wasn’t even sufficient light to read. Colonial and pioneer windows seldom had glass, more likely tarpaper. And it was not that warm inside, unless you were standing next to the fireplace, due to the total lack of insulation and sealed window frames. As a result, people spend more time outdoors.

    Today, we need rituals to draw us outdoors. Walking the dog can be one. My cat prefers the indoors, so I have to find my own rituals. On Monday nights, when I take the recycling to the curb, I am invariably struck by the night sky. Yesterday, as I finally raked my leaves, I heard birds singing all around me. I make a point of going for a walk every day, just to appreciate nature’s gifts.

    Thanks for the reminder, Nerissa. Seems like you were meant to experience that scene so that we could all share in the moment on your blog!

    Jeff from Charlotte

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