Symbols of a wider world

There was no snow for Christmas, only clouds and mizzling weather. As the New Year approached, a raw wind swept over us from the north and the temperature fell.

On a blustery afternoon we took our usual walk. From a point south of our house we could see across bleached meadows and conifered rises to the chalk blue of the Camden Hills, perhaps 20 miles away. The cold air clarified details on their distant slopes and we thought how each season had its revelations.

At home we sat at the kitchen table to have a hot drink and to chat, then we went into the living room as the evening gathered darkly in the east. One of us lit the Christmas tree which stood beside our big picture window. The tiny lights glowed, yet only shadowed the green needles around them.

Quite casually we glanced outside. In the almost dark the miniature bulbs of our tree, by some refraction of light through the double-paned window, appeared as another tree, standing in space, just beyond our house. Each star-like lamp spiraled upward in that conical progression which can be found in conch shells or in the galaxies of the universe.

Here - out there - was a Christmas tree which did not belong to us. It belonged to the vagaries of the eventide, to the world that went out from our doorstep, the world which stretched beyond the fields of our valley to the broad ocean and on around the earth.

Within a day or two the new year came ringing in. The decade continued with its mystery and opportunity. But the tree in space remained in our minds, and by it we knew that nothing belongs to us alone. Our symbols move off into the air, and lend their meanings even to the night.

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