I had an infuriating day grappling (unsuccessfully) with an impenetrable government bureaucracy (an intolerance for bureaucracy is one of the many reasons I no longer work for the government) and Christmas shopping for about the 100th time this holiday season, thinking I was done, finally, before realizing I'd forgotten gifts for two people. I went into the evening tense and grouchy.
While I made soup, I put E and Z to work stringing popcorn. They've reached the stage where they can pop the corn with only a little guidance, thread their own needles and knot their own threads. One of the advantages of repeating the same rituals year after year. After many years of making failed birdseed ornaments, I gave in this year and bought a bird seed bell instead, and after dinner we hung that and the popcorn in the spruce tree in front of our house and then trekked through the woods, down to the river.
I don't get outside at night at winter much—except when driving to and from places—because, I admit it, I don't like being cold. But it was a beautiful night—cold, yes, but still and starry, with the snow giving off enough light you almost didn't need a flashlight (which is a good thing because my headlamp battery died on the way there).
Down at the river, we lit a small fire (more of a b- fire than a bon-fire), toasted marshmallows, made s'mores, finally burned the sparklers that have been sitting on a high shelf since I-don't-know-when. We sat in the snow and watched as the fire burned down to coals and then trekked our way home, feeling a little lighter as we entered into winter.