On the evening of December 26, the moon shone bright and snow covered the hills. I was celebrating at Jimmy and Ginger’s house with a houseful of friends. We ate soup and played games in the warm house, savoring the lingering smells and sounds of Christmas. “Let’s go sledding!” someone said. After overcoming the more responsible voices in our heads, which reminded us of the lateness of the hour, the chill of the air, and the danger of the ice on the slopes, we decided to venture forth. Scavenging through the closets, we donned odd assortments of mittens, scarves, boots, and hats. Two of the guys emerged with big Russian beaver hats with flaps that fell far down over their foreheads and ears.

Outside, we trudged through the snowy fields, slipping on ice patches and pulling the sleds behind. Swaying from unsteady footing and the disorienting darkness, we reached out to each other for balance. The thick light of moon-glow affected us like a potion. We grew free, childlike, uninhibited, daring. We laughed ridiculously, shouted nonsense to each other, and chased unsteadily down the hill.

The sky arched over us – a velvet, royal blackness chiseled with a map of stars.  The moon shone pale, white and shadowed like the face of an old man. It lit the snow like an ancient mirror, casting a light of blue and lavender on the hill in front of us.

We climbed the daunting slope, panting for breath at the top, then loaded ourselves into the sleds. One heavy boot and then the other was tucked in. We thrilled at the sense of danger, and pushed off with all our might. The darkness rushed by as whisked down the gleaming slope. We clung to each other, wind zipping past our ears, eyes misted over, throats full of screams, and crashed to a halt, arms and legs askew, at the bottom.

Later we wandered home through the woods in the radiance of companionship, beauty, freedom, laughter, awe.

And all over the world, other pilgrims wander through the night, as we do, wondering and yearning.

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