December is the shepherd who drives flocks from field to fold, a bare and naked month, with the meadow greens now tawny and dull as another year winds down. Shortening days bring thermometers falling to new lows, blizzards sweeping the Dakotas, snowy winds howling in much of the northern U.S. and, not uncommonly, in our own southern Appalachians.
And yet December brings an awakening of indoor flowers as hosts decorate for the holidays, while camellias bloom in the chill outside and sumac and holly berries take on a new brilliance. Evergreens, many from our own mountains, take up residence in households turning from Thanksgiving toward Christmas.
The month brings chickadee weather, and drives colorful flocks to well-stocked feeders. Inside, flames dance in hungry fireplaces, radiating pure pleasure. Frost paints the lawn white, ices windshields and spreads toppings of ice on puddles that sparkle in the late-rising morning sun.
We savored summers delights but now find they came at the price of cold December, and the payments are due.