Out on the road or close to home, the winter holidays always present me with chances to consider paradoxes of travel: solitude and crowds, people who love Christmas, people who trash the whole of the holiday idea, people who are celebrating other holidays altogether, people who go at things full tilt in a hurry people who reflect and consider, light and dark, cold and warmth, clashing noise, beautiful music, silence. It’s all there, in winter pointed up by the holiday paradoxes of change and reflection.:

In the urgency of buying and selling and of getting everything done, of meeting strangers and living up to expectations of family and friends, it can be challenging to find quiet moments, or to step into the quiet when such spaces are found. Yet, that’s what travel, and for me, traveling in winter in particular, is all about — the wonder, the silence, the connection that comes through

the snatch of a Chanuka song heard amidst the Christmas carols on a busy city street

walking that same street long after midnight when even the displays in the shop windows seem to radiate quiet moments of celebration

sharing an afternoon by the fireside with friends and strangers

hearing holiday songs in languages I do not know

a misty Christmas eve morning in the southern Appalachians

the fourth Sunday in Advent greeted with green chile stew and cornbread high in the Sangre de Cristos of northern New Mexico

making the first footprints in the snow in Ireland

celebrating the warm Texas welcome of the Texas Christmas tree

hearing rustle of leaves under my feet as I walk by the lake in north Florida, and see along the way mailboxes decorated for the holiday

moments of silence in conversation with a friend as we share cups of tea in Massachusetts

Paradoxes all, holiday travels all, moments of silence in the rush, all of these.

On her album Northern Lights, Gretchen Peters has a song called Careful How You Go which gets at the heart of this idea, a song which Kim Richey wrote one eveing while contmeplating the holiday in London. Shannon Heaton’s title song for the albumFine Winter’s Night is a good companion to this sort of reflection too.

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Music for the Festival of Lights

Quiet moments of winter: waiting for the train

Wherever your travels find you this festive season, I wish you the joy of connection, and the joy of reflection.

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