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Roger Barbee: Hope during the holidays

By Roger Barbee

This morning, Mickey, the male beagle did not wake us in the cold dark wanting to go out. For whatever reason he slept in until the first light of day was breaking over Powell Mountain.

Opening my eyes at his first whines, I was appreciative for the additional time of slumber. While the wind shook the metal roof, causing it, as my friend Robert says, "to breathe," I rattled about in the bathroom before going downstairs to push the coffee maker on and let three of the dogs out.

Nolan has to be walked now that he's in an escape phase, and we have decided it is easier to walk him out in first light than to go over the neighborhood calling his name. Taking him out into a cold that was, as Robert McFarland writes is "like a wire in my nose," I encouraged Nolan to hurry. Finally, after much sniffing and pawing, he and three loose dogs rushed with me back into the warmth of the family room that held the smell of freshly brewed coffee.

Although the fierce wind of Friday and Saturday had settled, it was still cold and some breeze stirred the morning stillness. Surrounded by sleeping dogs and cats, I watched daylight come to Red Hill. I noticed that the morning seemed to hold more light at this hour, that somehow the dark gloom of morning was not as thick and heavy as before. Something had changed. I was reminded of the words of Oswald Chambers: "The unexplained things in life are more than the explained."

Something, ever so subtle, was different.

All the buildings were the same, the walnut trees in place, the winter-killed plants still held their dead leaves, the butterfly bush and Lydia roses stood in the cold, and the back field lay covered in sparkling frost. As Chambers observed, I knew of what I was seeing, but I could not understand or explain all that I saw. What was different?

Then I remembered. While our team had been in a large, local gymnasium at a wrestling tournament, the winter solstice had happened, and this day would be the first one longer, by six seconds or so, not shorter than the prior one of late December.

The days had, as we say in wrestling, turned the corner. As if to confirm my thoughts of longer and warmer days, a flock of bluebirds descended on the cistern fountain, their roan and blue colors in sharp contrast to the heavy frost and brine covering the fountain. Dare I have thoughts of spring on this cold December morning before Christmas? Dare I think of the peepers calling in the warmth of a spring dusk? Dare I hope?

Yes, I realized, watching the bluebirds busy with their morning, we should dare to hope for spring and to hope of warmer mornings to come with longer days. Drinking coffee, watching the bluebirds, seeing crows slice through the blue of sky I realized that hope is, after everything else, the only thing we have. The morning cold of today would soon enough give way to warmer mornings of tomorrow and the world will fill with new growth, new green of another season, renewed life.

So this season, when we celebrate His birth, hope. Hope that parents in Newtown, Conn., will one day be able to laugh again; hope that no children in the valley or elsewhere will go hungry; hope that our elected leaders will come together for needed solutions; hope that all of us will listen to the other point of view; hope that no one will be judged by the color of his skin; hope for justice. Hope.

Roger Barbee is a retired educator who lives in Edinburg with his wife Mary Ann, four dogs and five cats. Email him at redhill@shentel.net.


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