6 January Friday. Little Christmas. Epiphany.
Traditionally, Little Christmas is the final day of the Twelve Days of Christmas. Traditionally, this is the day when the women of Ireland go out together for drinks or dinner or tea, and the men stay at home and take care of all the things which the women usually, traditionally, do. Traditionally, this is a well deserved respite from the whole holiday palaver of endless food and feeding and family and washing up and taking care of every little thing. The day has evolved and is now called Women’s Little Christmas. One day does not seem like much, as rewards go. Little Christmas is also the day when the decorations and the tree, if you have one, and the cards and the wreaths and all manner of decorations get put away or thrown away. The last day of Christmas is the last day of Christmas and after today things are schedualed to return to normal. As well as clearing out the decorations, it is the time for clearing out the refrigerator and eating up all of your last scraps of holiday food. If the scraps have already been taken care of, then it is the day to eat something completely different from what has been eaten over the holiday. I guess that is where the going out to a restaurant comes in. I am not sure how the women get to accomplish all this clearing and cleaning and then still consider it a day off. Traditionally, the idea is to put Christmas and all it entails behind you.
Since we barely celebrate, I have not got much to get rid of as far as seasonal stuff goes. I was pleased to notice an old evergreen wreath from three years ago hanging on the outside wall of the sauna. I moved it to a nail on the front of the round-topped shed and I felt it looked fine. It is dead and brown. The needles are falling off. But from a distance it looks like a cheerful wreath. I may leave it where it is for another week. Then I will return it to where it was. Maybe it will still have some needles left for next year.
5 January Thursday
We all enjoy spotting the Whooping Swans in various fields at this time of year. They arrive in enormous numbers with a big group wing flapping noise. I do not go searching for them but I enjoy their surprise appearances. They choose a field and return to that field day after day. Each year they choose different fields. At various times of the day they move to a different field where they were the day before at that same time. We heard one farmer complaining that they were eating everything in sight. This year Breda has become obsessed with the Whooping Swans. She is keeping track of their stopping places all around the area. She has been getting up in the dark and going to one particular field to be there when they arrive. She loves the silvery quality of their bellies as they settle down out of the darkness. This morning someone she knows but not someone she knows very well came along while she was standing beside a gate before dawn waiting for the field to fill up with birds. I saw her in the afternoon and she was still feeling embarrassed at having had to explain herself.
4 January Wednesday
The winter sun was low but very bright as it came through the window. I thought the bathroom light had been left on.
3 January Tuesday
I have had a plastic ear tag in my jacket pocket for a few years now. I cannot remember when I picked it up. I cannot remember exactly where I picked it up. I think it must have been while walking up Joe’s track toward his barns. That is where the cows walk so one of them must have lost it. I know that I dug it out of the mud because the bright yellow plastic caught my eye. It showed up so vividly against the mud and muck. At the time of finding it, I thought maybe I should tell Joe that I had found it and I should see if it was important for him to have it back. Then I must have forgotten about it because there are always other things to think about on a walk. Each time my hand located the tag in my pocket I probably had the same thought but I never had the thought when I was speaking with Joe. Now I think it has been a very long time. The cow who had that number and that tag might not even be around any more. The cows each have two of these ear tags. One for each ear. There is a bit that goes through a hole in the ear and clips into the back part of the tag. The two parts of my tag are very tight. I cannot separate them so I think this tag must have torn a part of the cow’s ear in order to have ended up in the mud. Farmers must get allotted numbers or maybe they apply for numbers when a calf is born. Each calf gets a number and then they can be kept track of. It is a form of registration. I assume that any movement of a cow can be traced back to this number and this tag. If each cow has two ear tags, one can be lost and the animal can still be identified. I love my ear tag. I love finding it in my pocket again and again. A few months ago, I considered sending it to my friend who was recovering from heart surgery. I knew she would love it as much as I do. Selfishly, I just did not want to let it go.