Winter Still Life #4 | Mark Lindsay

Four days before Thanksgiving it hit me. The traffic was heavier and the drivers more frantic. The left-turn signal to the Safeway had a long line of idling cars, exhaust evaporating into the chilled autumn air. The holidays are here. I don't know anyone who looks forward to that first realization. What should be the loveliest, most peaceful and introspective of seasons has become a frantic dash to the finish line.

"They were playing CHRISTMAS CAROLS at the mall today," I overheard a woman say at the farmer's market—on the first weekend of November. The early arrival of the holidays is now a common lament. People are still in a good mood on Christmas Day, but the lead-up is brutal. Mental health takes a beating in December.

I adore the winter light. It makes me think of the class still life. The Italians call still life, la natura morta—dead nature. I think of it, instead, as the quieting of December life, a way for me to still myself and my life. The low, golden sun dances from window to window, casting its spell on whatever it finds. Every room has its hour of enchantment. And so my tripod and I follow the sun's arc, looking for the mundane. Dead nature, indeed. Nothing makes me feel more alive than discovering or constructing a winter still life.

And so this is Christmas…or at least crescendo of the holiday season. Every year, with varying degrees of success, I promise myself not to get caught in its whirlpool. I watch from my picture window as the highway clogs up like a smoker's artery. The town is in holiday code blue. Call the paramedics. Yet, beyond all that, the lovely winter sun gives us short days of achingly beautiful light. If only we could stop long enough to appreciate it.