An evening walk with Clemency after a busy day. This is the Andersons Bay inlet, ten minutes walk from my back door.Epiphany, being the twelfth day of Christmas, was when I took down the Christmas tree. Of course. All the little angels and glass stars and balls and various peculiar manikens and sewn things with abstracted shapes were sealed in bags, along with another year's memories, and stored. Then I took the tree outside to where it will be cut into firewood, and packed the crib scene and poured out the steel bowl of water and wrapped up the long rope of lights and vacuumed up the old pine needles. Thirty or forty times now, I have done this. Christmas ends, with me handling all these things, and as I clear them away, remembering the long history of each with fondness and thanksgiving.
I spent the rest of the day in my study. I emptied drawers and shelves. I fed black council rubbish bags with CDs and the notes from long past conferences. How had I managed to accumulate so many pens? Why did I need to keep all those name tags? The bags filled. The paper shredder whirred. By the end of the day the room was lighter and the compost heap heavier. I sat at my neat and spare desk in the warm half light and knew that for the first time in months, years maybe, this was a peaceful and undemanding place to be.
In the evening I went outside into the first clear, warm evening Dunedin has enjoyed for a good long while and scrubbed down the wooden back steps where they meander downhill from the house to the garden. Years of accumulated grime slaked off, revealing the form and pattern of the wood. I painted them with stain, the first instalment of what promises to be a long task of restoration of the house. The neatness of the steps has made more obvious the weathered edges of the rest of our place. There is quite a bit of pruning and painting and replacing to be done. This is a lovely place to live, and it will be lovelier now that we can finally address the consequences of fulfilling two vocations neither of whose long suit is oodles of spare time.
Epiphany was a powerful day for me. God is revealed to the Gentiles, or at least, to this Gentile, not so much in addition as in removal. The beauty and power of the universe lies about me on every hand, obscured by the detritus of years. I take stuff away. I sift and sort. I put things back where they belong. I dump the stuff which I once thought so important, and which may once have been, but is no longer. I see, as if for the first time, the beauties around me. Deep memories and connections. Simple shapes. Colour and line and form. Stillness. And in these things I glimpse myself and my place in it all and I return, praising and glorifying God for all I have heard and seen, as it has been told me.