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Volume 14, Issue 5: Flotsam

Chocolate Hot

Nathan Wilson

Trees die beautifully every year. They shed. They imitate the sunset and pile their light in the yard. It is light that you can sit in, crawl in, fall in, frolic with the slugs in. It smells. Those leaves, the faux light of the maple tree, come down with scent. It is the scent of death, the beginnings of rot. It is beautiful. Thick in the air to breath. Food for the lungs. The carnage is devastating. Whole blocks are buried. Men and women wade through the beautiful death. They rake it up and bag it, and go about in sweaters.

Frost comes. The ground grows hard and the trees are done with their act. Leaves have been gathered, or they lie cold and colorless waiting to be buried. True sleep comes when the sky turns white and falls. Trees are wrapped, the ground is softened. Every tomb is white washed. The world lies dead.
We wear more sweaters and walk in the silence. When the sky falls, it falls quietly and muffles every complaint. It falls and smothers our breathing. The leafless trees give in. They are pessimists. It is time to die, they say, and they sleep. They are wise in their own way.
We wear red and sing more. We burn the dead trees and laugh at the death around us, "Where is thy sting?" and make chocolate hot.
The dark comes early then. The sun is always brief. We work and wander home in dark. Darkness prides itself in completeness. We wrap our homes in small but stubborn lights and drink more chocolate and eat more chocolate and some ham.
Frozen and tinted blue, we should give the world up for dead. But we do not. We have parties, whole collections of music, both sacred and trite, that we only play during the dead time. We spend great amounts of money on frivolous gifts. We wrap the gifts in paper and pile them under a tree. A tree. We have a tree in the house.
There are trees that do not die in the winter. They hunker down and bear the snow patiently. They are sturdy and hard and green. We stick them in little stands in the front window, tie them up with lights, and toss shiny balls, shiny horns, shiny little men, and mittens all over them.
When death is thick upon the world, our lives are thick with play. We laugh because there is something that the death does not know or cannot remember. That is Christmas.
The world was full of weeping, mourning, when one man was born. A man too big for manhood, too big for the cold, for the sky, for the rot. A man who came and looked on the dead world and smiled. She is not dead. She merely sleeps. And we wear green and eat more chocolate, sing more songs, roll the snow into men and wipe our runny noses.
The world has seen many winters. Death has come many times. But there is Christmas and the death melts and Easter comes.
A pagan Rome lay thick upon the world. Too heavy to shovel, too cold to breath. But the first Christmas came, the stars sang, and Rome melted.
Europe slept long. Men drank despair and joyed in blood. Pagans blindly danced and murdered, honoring trees.
But small boats came. Smiling men came, and brought Christmas. They cut down the trees, and took them inside.
But winter came to Rome again. Her branches bore only leaves brightly colored, and they floated to the ground, waiting to be raked. Her men imitated the sunset with robes and hats, not so well as the maple, and died. Her glory was greatest, and the aroma was sweet as the rot began. But the frost came, and the ground hardened. Nothing grew in Rome.
The winter was long as winters can be. But there came a morning when Luther woke and looked out his door and found that it was Christmas. A man too big had been born. Laughter came, and he wrote songs. Spring came with a violent resurrection, a scorching heat. The world melted, flooded, the rotten leaves of Rome thawed but were not raked. They lie cold again.
Christmas has been in Africa. It was in the South, but the leaves have turned, the frost has come, and death is thick again.
We have had Christmas. We have had Spring. We have had Autumn. Our leaves have turned, some are turning. Some places sleep, some are awake and heating chocolate and bringing trees inside.
Europe is cold again. Asia looks to Easter. Byzantium lies under a long winter.
We wake and shiver in the morning. We smile out the window at the cold. We have a tree inside. We have songs. We always have chocolate. We have laughter and our red sweaters. Nations and trees may think it time to die. We see the death and roll our children in the snow.
Winter may lie heavy in the world. Death is pronounced permanent. But there is a man too big. Too big for rot to hold. There is always Christmas.
She is not dead. She merely sleeps. The mourners keep weeping. We, we wrap our lights and sing our songs. We venture out among the dead, the sleeping, and buy gifts.
We heat our chocolate.

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