Christmas morning was too quiet. The family gathering had been done already in order to accommodate schedules and the family had all left. But more so than that, too much else has gone missing. The floor bare under the tree where presents were stacked only a day before, nearby family photos dating back generations line the shelves, photos of people gone who left a gap wider than anything else gone before Christmas morning could arrive.
The weather report droned on about approaching winter storms and people taken by the tornados near my once home in Mississippi, an image of poinsettias and Christmas balloons set in memoriam at a once house, now muddy lot, kept flashing on. Everything was too quiet.
Dressed and gone, turn here, turn there, like clockwork, suddenly acutely aware of the tiniest of changes along a familiar route, a new trailer on that lot, a new porch being added to that house, they tore down one of my favorite farmhouses. Why do younger generations chose to live in trailers and let the family home rot to dust?
Out in the county and speeding up, a cold air rush and everything was settled down again no matter how much has changed. The ride was near perfect, an occasional lazy slow driver but otherwise no one else along a favorite route to another favorite route then a new highway and back again to one more familiar, an easy hundred and some odd miles, just a break from the quiet inside. But the world was markedly quiet outside too, except when stopped for a photograph in Smalltown America where Christmas carols drifted from a Smalltown America store. Even they sounded hollow floating disembodied in the otherwise silent cold.
The world was especially beautiful and wide open and my awareness of changes somewhere subconscious had begun to peak, perhaps due to the void left by what’s missing. The first clouds of the coming winter storm were moving in a great wave on the north western horizon, turning the day’s wide swathes of thin foamy white cirrus into a thick rolling current of deep lilac bruise and sullen gray mass. The stiff dead grass had turned the color of bright sand and distant trees blurred into one long line of cocoa shadow, fractured occasionally by the stark white contrast of a sycamore top.
As the sun sank lower the increasing clouds veiled all but the smallest swathes of blue. A bright, hazy winter sunset electrified the sparse colors of nature like God’s own Christmas lights. And as farms passed in the periphery, the heavy scent of windbreak pines hit, a nearly acrid madeleine. On the distant horizon, the storm languidly stared back at all my meditations.