After the "holidaze," nothing to me is as restorative as a return to routine.
At first, when picking up wrapping paper and boxes, it seems that order will never return. All efforts feel uphill, with no end to clutter in sight. Refrigerators and desktops overflow. Bite by bite, box by box (plus a few bags to the trash and Goodwill), a glimmer of order reappears. If a few tasks are done each day, gradually the house resumes a semblance of order.
I begin reading one or two of the books I've been given as Christmas gifts, go to a movie, listen to new music and eat some spicy chili or Italian food as an antidote to holiday fare. What luxury.
Without substantial snowfall and the accompanying shoveling, digging and wet clothing, the days after New Year's bring other soothing routines. Work resumes. Children return to school. Bedtimes come earlier with more hours of sleep, unless interrupted by the hacking cough that has plagued many this season.
My favorite post-holiday activity is a late-afternoon walk in Roland Park. I crunch up the tiny hemlock cones that cover our sidewalk.
Sparrows fly in and out of the boxwoods and privet hedge. Water in the birdbath is half-frozen.
Winter jasmine and a pink azalea at the Woman's Club of Roland Park are in premature bloom, but rhododendron leaves have winter curl.
Late afternoon sun lights the tops of shingle houses on the east side of Roland. I cross to that sunnier side and run into a friend as she exits Kenwood Road in her new diesel station wagon. Minutes before, I had enjoyed a small slice of the pecan pie she baked for us as a Christmas gift. A little sweet every afternoon is also part of my post-holiday enjoyment.
Blue lights brighten a dogwood, with white ones next door and multi-colored lights around a spruce. Electric candles shine in windows, third floor to first, and garlands festoon porches and doors.
I am reminded when I walk past the mammoth houses in our neighborhood of what a previous St. David's rector once said in a sermon — we are here by accidents of birth.
So much seems random. Our healthy children trudge home with heavy backpacks after their holiday vacations, while children in Newtown, Conn., resume school via a road lined with angel cutouts.
Cars tear up and down Roland. Many go too fast. Some drivers have cell phones pressed to their ears. One drifts into another lane, the hallmark of a texting driver. Why don't we learn?
A smoking chimney at Petit Louis sends up a reassuring smell. The reconfigured parking lot at that historic shopping center has too many empty signposts cluttering the perimeter. I wish more evergreen shrubs had been planted in the new gardens there. Fading roses are charming, but more glossy green winter foliage would add substance to the large bed.
At the corner of Wyndhurst, I run into a neighbor with her two sons. She walks with them to and from school every day and has for years. Instead of walking farther, I turn and walk with them towards home. We talk of how old the boys will be when exams begin, riding horses in winter, and the renovation of their new house on Cape Cod.
I think of a grown boy who teaches at their school, his alma mater. Every afternoon, he returns to his parents' nearby home to be with his father and his mother, who right before the holidays learned of her metastasized cancer for which there is no treatment.
Rounding the corner to home, a narrow strip of pink on the horizon reminds me of other winter afternoons when we sat in hospice and felt the peace of twilight.