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January 7, 2008
"Need some help?" a visitor offered.

No, I didn't. It was the Feast of the Epiphany, the day appointed here at home for taking down all the Christmas decorations, one of my very favorite and most solitary housekeeping rituals. Now, why is this? I adore everything about Christmas, and I love decorating for it. But I am happy to delegate getting the tree, trimming it, putting up lights, glad to have help hanging the ornaments, to talk about the provenance of each one.

Taking it all down is different -- I want it all for myself, want to contemplate the quiet re-emergence of a sparer way of life on my own, without a lot of small talk. I want to put it away in silence, respectfully closing the lid on that bright beauty.

In past years, it's all gone back up to the attic, the boxes of glass globes, boxes of angels and birds, the bags of light strings. This year, though, I realized that there were empty drawers in the little secretary in the living room, that the hall closet had a space on its shelf just the size of three stacked wreaths.

And so the Christmas things will make their permanent home with us. Sometime in July, if I want to, I can open one of the drawers and catch a Christmas flash of red and gold, crack another and look at all the glass hummingbirds.

The seasons are not far from one another, not any more. A year used to crawl by, but now they race to their ends ahead of me, one yielding to another in disorienting succession. That may be why the taking down of Christmas appeals -- the stretch of ordinariness feels more timeless than the dizzying race of all the festivals. I move gratefully through our simpler house and acknowledge the promise of its blank slate. The year is new and clean and fresh. All is still in order. I have not lost any of it yet.
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