Respite December 19, 2020

Ron Dekett photo


Return of the Light

Winter Solstice 2020

this morning

the sun shines bright

the lamp

to lighten day



shorter, shorter

each hour

looking toward night


in this hour

I turn inward

to feel

my soul stir with



for solitude—


waning like a dirge


prayer becomes


a glowing candle

a hymn


a poem

born in darkness

not fear

a promise that


moon and sun

follow their own


yet I am here


to mark their paths

to sing songs


their dancing rays



My father rises early and shovels through knee-high snow to reach the farmyard. The bitter wind burns his eyes and reddens his cheeks. He fetches a hand ax from the corncrib and hacks ice loose in the water tank for the cattle, kneels to re-light the kerosene burner under the tank, then shovels a path to the barn. He grabs a pitchfork and throws down hay for the cattle, then to the chicken house where he fills feeders with mash.

Fingers numb, toes cold, he tramps back to the house and downstairs to the basement where he pulls off his boots and outer gear. Back upstairs he opens the door to the warm kitchen where my mother is waiting. He kisses her and she places a cup of hot coffee in his hands.

That was 1950s Iowa where I grew up. I love to remember my parents standing in the kitchen, hugging.

Respite—a moment when peace touches the heart and a kernel of faith whispers that all is well.

These are my wishes for a Winter Solstice 2020 respite:

  • a good night’s sleep for nurses
  • an apple of gratitude for teachers
  • hot meals for hungry children
  • thank you cards for emergency departments
  • a cup brimming with hope for doctors
  • angel wings enfolding those who suffer
  • the blessing of peace for all
  • a huge dollop of faith for climate scientists
  • shields of protection for the purveyors of truth.

It would be a gracious plenty if all my wishes were granted. I light a white candle for those who mourn and a green candle of thanksgiving that the U.S. will soon rejoin the Paris Accord. Our Earth desperately needs relief from the ravages of fossil fuels.


Little Acts of Kindness

For those of us who struggle to remain positive despite what 2020 has thrown at us, little acts of kindness can bring respite. This morning as I sat in my writing room looking out at the bird feeders my husband fills every day, the mail carrier drove up. What was she bringing? I searched my mind for what we had ordered. When I opened the door to crisp December air, a box from my sister-in-law lay on the stoop.

Every year my husband’s sisters gather in one big kitchen and churn out dozens of goodies they pack up and mail to family members who live far away. The annual Christmas cookie bake had been canceled this year because of COVID-19.

The scents of peppermint and vanilla escaped into my kitchen the minute I opened the box. Molasses crinkles, chocolate cookies light as air, crunchy walnut balls dusted in confectioner’s sugar, a sugar cookie in the shape of a Christmas tree wearing green sparkles, and Peggy’s homemade peanut brittle.

How did this happen? My guess: love persevered in the face of adversity, this year, in separate kitchens. I texted my sister-in-law, Mary, to ask.

“Elves,” she said.

Happy Winter Solstice and may 2021 bring healing and moments of respite to you and yours.

About Nan Lundeen
Nan Lundeen is the author of Black Dirt Days: Poems as Memoir, Gaia’s Cry, The Pantyhose Declarations, and Moo of Writing. Visit her at You can read more about the author here.

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