The deep snow is still beautiful a week after the storm dump, frosted by the daily dustings.
The woods are in their winter glory, with trees draped in white and the tracks of deer, hares and tiny creatures crisscrossing the paths. Walk back into the depths and you can get away from the noise of the world — and periodically get walloped by a clump of snow dropping on your head.
For us northerners, it’s the look and feel of the season. Even my Floridian is happy with the quiet and the beauty, especially if he can keep his feet warm.
It’s putting us all in a holiday mood. The Floridian suggested right after Thanksgiving that we get a Christmas tree, even though our tradition is to wait a little longer. We consulted the younger child, who has long been in charge of Christmas trees, being the fussiest person in the family when it comes to perfection in trees. The child said no, we wait until the whole family is back home together Christmas week.
That child is back at college now, and the other is at her home in the city. They are busy in their lives as we are in ours.
Everyone is busy. And everyone is looking to find a little more time.
Last week I got an email from a professional organization, advising me to find work-life balance during the holidays — and then inviting me to a couple of professional organization events, which I think would have wrecked my life balance. My carpool buddy said she gets similar mixed messages at work: Make sure you take time to enjoy the holidays and, oh, by the way, can you take on these three extra projects?
Slowing down and finding balance is never easy. And it just get harder during the holidays. Rather than having time to be with family and friends, to enjoy a quiet talk by the fire or a tramp through the snowy woods, we’re on tighter deadlines while we’re running extra errands in all our spare time.
For those working retail, it’s a crazy time. Businesses that operate every day — hospitals, newspapers — have to stay staffed, with some working extra to cover for colleagues taking time off.
When a friend lived in Sweden for a year, she found the Swedes’ take on holiday work-life balance was simple: Family wins. You do what you need to do at work — and do it by candlelight — then get home to bake and sing and skate and go to winter pageants, where all the kids hold candles and no one worries that they will set things on fire. Her husband was criticized by his colleagues for working too much during the festive time of year. “Don’t you love your family?” they asked him.
That’s not the way people think in this country, but we can still strive for some balance. For me, that means walking in the woods even if I think I don’t have time to. One morning last week I took my dog and a visiting neighbor’s dog on an early morning tramp to where I knew some winterberry bushes were growing. Two dogs and two leashes in the woods made for some tangling, especially when I had one hand occupied with berry branches. But we had fun, and now I have a vase of bright red winterberries on my windowsill to put me in a festive mood.
Look for moments when you can slow down, find a patch of stillness. Take time to step outside during the day to look at the sky above the treetops, or at night to look at the stars.
Find time for coffee with a friend or a walk with a family member. Collect fir boughs or pine cones to decorate your house — and to get out of your house to find them. It’s all in the balance.
Greenpoint appears every other Sunday. Look for it next on Dec. 22. Reach Margaret Hartley at [email protected] com or @Hartley_Maggie on Twitter. Opinions expressed in Greenpoint are hers and not necessarily the newspaper’s.