Sunrise in the Snow
An Evocation of Yule
by Levana Lindentree
A field of snow lies, shadows blue, in the gray before dawn. The air is so cold it pinches your nose shut; it smells crisp, like ice. Your breath around you is steam. You crunch forward in the snow, leaving footprints, one by one, in blank snow, like the first person on earth. Into silence, echoing silence.
At the edge of the field sits a wooden fence, wood of its ties gone silver-gray with age. You climb over, drop to the other side. You see that from the fence’s top tie you have peeled a splinter, and in the wound the wood shows warm tan-brown, the old wood still young beneath its skin. You brush yourself off, wondering where the splinter has gone, but you are bundled against the cold and you do not find it.
You stand still a moment on the snowy hill. The sky has lightened to a shining yellow-white, and along the blue mountains on the horizon flames a rim of coral. The sun is about to rise.
Ahead of you is a small wood. You crunch down to it through the cold. Oaks tower there, still holding their last brown leaves; dark firs stand, snow on their shoulders; low and merry holly-trees glisten, berries bright; ivy twines in the shadows.
At the wood’s edge, you greet a sentinel holly, touch one glossy leaf, feel its needle-spiked edge. Then you enter the darkness of the wood. Here the ground is barely snowy, just a few shakings on the path. The earth is deep in decaying leaves, turning to muck, in brown needles that muffle your steps. The air is hushed. Here, the night remains.
The wood’s darkness envelops you like a coat, protective, secret: secrets of earth. You breathe in. The air is warmer here; you smell fir and decaying leaves. You breathe in darkness, secrets, protection.
Now you walk forward, to the edge of the wood, and out again; you look back once, say farewell to the trees. The air is brighter, and ahead you see the red sun-disk poised on the horizon. The sun is rising, liquid fire, and as you watch, bit by bit it surfaces, the whole flaming round, the sun reborn at solstice. The light warms your face, and you reach out your hands.
Red light falls, colors the snow. All around you is silence. You breathe in cold fresh air, new light.
After a few moments, you turn your steps uphill to the small stone house where you are going. You tread fresh snow. Quickly you kneel, pull off a glove and take a handful of snow, bring it to your tongue. It tastes cold, empty. You rise and walk forward, reach the house’s doorstep. You feel nearly frozen; your ears are burning. The door is unlocked. You push inside.
Shutting the door behind you, you take off coat, gloves and boots. To the right is a stone fireplace, where someone has laid a fire. You find matches on the mantel and strike one, set it to the tinder, which blazes up. In a few moments, the fire is flaring, crackling, eating its wood, beginning to warm the house. You hold out your hands to it.
The house is decorated for Yule. Fir branches and holly drape the doorway, and in an arch hangs mistletoe, deep green, white berries, the semen of the God. On the fire is a large log, twined in ivy and fir, runes cut into its skin. You know this is the Yule log, beginning to burn.
There is only one thing missing. Then you hear stamping feet at the door, and it opens: a rush of cold air. There in the doorway stand the people you love best, come to celebrate Yule. You come forward and are enveloped in embraces.