Archive for Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Shouts and Murmurs: Reflection of a random nature

December 28, 2005

My husband noticed the other night that, when reflected in the living room window, the lights of our Christmas tree fanned out in the shape of a star.

There was, as he observed, an unexpected order among the lights.

And after his comment, I found myself, almost without thinking about it, looking for order.

In particular, since this is the holiday season, in Christmas lights.

A house we passed on an evening drive seemed at first to have the lights strung out in the shape of a train engine. But a second look revealed no shape at all, just a random arrangement of lights draped across bushes.

I thought about order, and how we use random objects to create a sense of order -- and why.

In my house, the pictures on the wall, the various pieces of furniture, lamps, candles, even the magazines stacked in a basket, all have a certain order to them.

Sometimes, depending on how busy we've been, or how un-busy, the order scatters into a lazy randomness.

It's a comfort-zone kind of thing -- somehow knowing how much order we need in our lives to feel put-together, and yet how much randomness we accommodate so that order does not take over and, in a sense, become life itself.

Some of us are geared to tolerate more randomness, while others of us feel more at home in order.

When company is coming, such as in the family gathering we had at our house on Christmas day, I like for the house to reach a certain level of order before the first guest arrives -- the floors swept, furniture and pictures dusted, the grandfather clock wound and ticking.

For the holidays, of course the order extends to decorating the mantle, weaving garlands, lights and red velvet ribbon along the stair railing and putting the wreath, Santa, lit Christmas tree and bows on the deck.

Though when the first guest walks through the door, I want our house to be in order, after that, oddly, order no longer matters. Before we know it, there are 20 or more people in our house and the order we worked so hard to create is quickly replaced by the welcome chaos and warmth a party brings.

Dishes full of food, the roaster with a turkey or ham fresh from the oven, a tray of rolls, my sister-in-law's corn casserole, the relish tray, the dips and crackers. The coats, hats and purses by the door. The oldest members of our family merging with the youngest. The quiet prayer of Aunt Mildred, who leads us in saying the Lord's Prayer before dinner, the silverware clinking on the good china, the Christmas carols sounding from the stereo, the cheerful hum of chatter and the laughter of children and grandchildren. Even the quieter moments impart a random kind of noise -- it's fun and it's our family's annual Christmas celebration.

It is evening when the last guests depart. Though someone else has volunteered for dishwasher duty, there is still picking up to do. The tablecloths need to be washed, the crumbs swept. The kitchen floor will need to be mopped, the carpets vacuumed.

But these things will wait. For now, on Christmas evening as the quiet descends, we'll take it easy. The rush is past and the star, made by the lights of the Christmas tree reflecting on the window, shines bright.

In all things, I'm beginning to suspect, there is an order, whether we even realize it or not, and our holidays and the way we celebrate them, are a part of that.

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