These deep winter days try the soul. The sky is gray and bleak. The trees stand grim and naked in the cold wind. Children toiling in classrooms sigh wearily. We fight sickness. Nighttime dreams grow strange and grotesque. We think perhaps Henry David Thoreau was right when he wrote “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.”

There is an urgent need for beauty. I light candles. I gather plants together in my room. I make dishes with white wine, cinnamon and figs. I listen to the thrumming sound of Parkening’s classical guitar, notes brisk and distinct as drops of rain. And Bob Dylan singing “Tomorrow is a Long Time.”

More achingly than usual I feel the absence of dear ones scattered about the world. Philadelphia. Canton. Blacksburg. San Francisco. Nairobi. New Orleans. Erie. Charlottesville. Cleveland. Los Angelos. Kathmandu. If I could, I would gather them round the table for a meal and then we would all sit by the fire and tell our stories.

Finally, I crave the beauty of words. Meditation. “In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength.”