The neighbours let off some lanterns and they drifted, slowly and magically into the northern sky. I watched them from the dining room window, called the others, remarked that there were five lanterns, each one could have represented us. We stood in silence until one by one they headed into a gauze of grey cloud and did not re-emerge. Instead they dissipated like we all do eventually but we did not like to think of that.
Besides we had so much to celebrate. The walk by the shore earlier on. The way the rocks challenged our steps. The way the water lapped like music at our feet and the dogs going crazy drowning in thick seaweed, brown and slimy, slippery, shiny. Beautiful. I gathered shells. Shells with holes. I sought imperfection because I wanted to string them onto the blue netting thread I found in the rocks. I wanted something to remind me of the moment. And we walked forever into the Western sky with nothing only silhouettes to bewitch us and a big fat black boat on the horizon going somewhere important and there we were gathering shells and musing on being together as a family. A rare event.
The fishmonger shelled the prawns earlier on that morning and put the shells in a bag for me to make stock. I put the shells in the freezer. I was too busy to contemplate stock. I had cranberry sauce to make and stuffing and chocolate mousse and ham to cook. It, the stock, will call out to me in January. No doubt about that. And the kitchen, a buzz of activity with everyone coming in and going out and I stand like a captain of a ship or a lantern drifting into a deep sea full of the unknown. Nibbles of food satisfy the hunger brought on by the sea air and a bottle of wine is uncorked and the smooth red liquid reaches into our souls and we talk and walk around in woollen socks (there are slippers beneath the tree) and we light the candles to remember the past year and if I sound mad I have to say that I thank the kindest of gods who have minded me and my family this past year, who have decided the gauze of cloud should be avoided, at least for a little while, to grant a little time and I look at my sons and my loved one and my dogs and the fireplace and the candles and the food and the curtains and the fluffy towels and the humble table and the blessed house that has withstood the storms and I embrace it all because if I did not embrace it I would be taking it for granted and you can never take anything for granted in this life. I know. I saw how it can be and believe me if you can walk on the shore with your family and count shells and pick them up, thread them on a piece of blue string and revel in its beauty then you are certainly blessed. Life is nothing but a big loop and the knot is what counts because if the knot is loose it all falls apart, gets lost in the sand until the tide comes in and washes it all away for somebody else to find. To begin all over again.