There is probably no greater difference between two consecutive months on the calendar than December and January. December is full of holidays, shopping, decorations, social gatherings, TV specials, vacation time, endless holiday music, and colorful artificial lights illuminating the darkness. By the time the month is over everyone is exhausted.
Once everybody ushers in the New Year, silence and stillness descend as the month of January sneaks up on us.
The ski resort town where we spent the first week of January was much quieter than during hectic, crowded weekends and holidays. There were no crowds anyplace except in Starbucks and around the bar in a couple of pubs. The airports – especially on our way home January 8th - were quiet and empty. Holiday revelers were home and business traffic had not yet strongly resumed following the December holiday break.
I came home to a warm (relatively speaking!), quiet East coast shore town. I walked down our Main Street and could feel the stillness everywhere.
I felt as if I was walking through a ghost town.
It did not help that the weather was gray, damp and chilly, probably keeping many people indoors. There was no enticement to venture outside.
As I walked along the lack of activity was startling.
There was no one at the bus stop.
The sidewalks were empty of humans.
There was plenty of parking on both sides of the street. Few cars drove by.
The local café, usually a hub of activity from seven in the morning until mid-afternoon, was closed for vacation.
The Italian restaurant was closed for an entirely different reason. A couple of weeks ago the place was padlocked, shut for not remitting sales taxes to the state. It was a popular lunch and dinner spot, eat in or take out, with a dining room on one side of the eatery and an informal pizza and sandwich shop on the other side. During the spring, summer and fall there were always a couple of outdoor tables filled with families and friends enjoying the camaraderie, the traffic and people, and of course the great food.
There was minimal activity in the hair salon and nail salon, both usually bustling with customers.
The owner of the meat market sat by the cash register, reading the paper.
The grocery store had a couple of customers slowly wandering the aisles. The cashier looked relaxed, talking to another employee.
The owner of the dress shop, on the phone, waved and smiled at me. She was talking animatedly and laughing. This was a personal call, not a business conversation.
Our shore town, a summer beach haven, has a substantial year round population. Following the holidays many take off for anywhere from a week or two to early spring. Some head south to bright sunlight. Others head north or west to the ski slopes. And some spend the days at home, recuperating from December mania.
The nights are not quite as long in January, but only incrementally. The weather is mostly gray. It is not very cold now, but brilliant sunlight is sorely missed.
As the month crawls on, more people will appear on the streets, in their cars, in the stores and restaurants. The post-holiday mini-hibernation period will end, and folks will once again participate in too busy schedules.
Meanwhile it is lovely to enjoy the peace and quiet, the stillness and sluggishness, the lack of urgency to complete tasks now.
The pace of life will increase again soon enough.
Winter, a lingering season, is a time to gather golden moments, embark upon a sentimental journey, and enjoy every idle hour. – John Boswell