On Letting Go of Beautiful Things, and the Importance of January 11th

Here I am, an old man in a dry month,
Being read to by a boy, waiting for rain.
– TS Eliot

There is a time in the winter, approximately eleven days into a new year, when everything stops. The grass has finally given in and turned a greenish-tan, like oxidized copper. Cold air halts even the wind, perhaps just for a moment. And the only leaves that haven’t drifted off are those clinging to dead branches.

* * * * *

I sit with the girls. Lucy is usually the first to go – she gives in to sleep while I rub the growing pains from her knees and her shins. Abra coughs and tries to fight away the night.

“Why are you sitting by our bed?” she asks.

“Because if I don’t sit here then you girls talk too much and don’t fall asleep.”


She requests a song. She’s always requesting songs.

Summer and winter, and springtime and harvest,
Sun, moon and stars in their courses above,
Join with all nature in manifold witness
To Thy great faithfulness, mercy and love.

* * * * *

I turn off all of the lights in the house before noticing a lazy glow from the boys’ room, so I circle back around, peek through the short hallway and through their door. Cade is burrowed under his blanket. Only the top of his hair peeks out, like the corn stubble still on the winter fields. His new book light spills over the pages. That image – him, the book, the halo of light, the mound of blanket under which he exists – somehow stop time. Everything loops back on itself: my childhood, the changing seasons, my children, my life.

These are the thoughts that come during the stillness that is the 11th day of January.

* * * * *

A previous winter’s night. Lucy enters the living room, tears threatening, her lips doing that wobbly dance of resistance.

“Honey, what’s wrong?” Mai asks her.

After many questions, many hugs, and many entreaties, she finally confesses.

“I just finished Little Women and I didn’t want it to end.”

* * * * *

I often wonder about the ends of things. And the beginnings. I wonder about looking back, the value of melancholic reflection. I consider with skepticism the art of looking ahead, of creating and planning for imaginary futures, so few of which ever come into being.

I often look up and wonder about the only remaining leaves on these winter trees. Dead branches refusing to let go of dead things. It’s the disconnection from life that keeps that branch hanging on to shriveled reminders of seasons past.

In contrast, there’s something about a living branch that refuses to hold on to things out of season.

Even things as beautiful as an autumn leaf.

4 Replies to “On Letting Go of Beautiful Things, and the Importance of January 11th”

  1. Very sweet. A beautiful description of a moment I recognize. And how wonderful that she longs to continue the book. That bodes well, I think, for her love of literature and for her love of people. There’s a connection taking place that is meaningful to her. Glad I chanced upon this tweet and had time to look it up!

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