Villagers all, this frosty tide,
Let your doors swing open wide,
Though wind may follow, and snow beside,
Yet draw us in by your fire to bide;
Joy shall be yours in the morning!
Here we stand in the cold and the sleet,
Blowing fingers and stamping feet,
Come from far away you to greet—
You by the fire and we in the street—
Bidding you joy in the morning!
–Kenneth Grahame, from The Wind in the Willows
Advent is my favorite season. I didn’t know it was a season until I began choral singing for the Episcopalians — I knew the word only in the context of the many Advent calendars I made to count down to Christmas in my childhood (the tour de force being a rather intricate model castle for a young friend). But I could have told you that I liked the weeks of festive preparation, of secret gift-making, of gathering greens to decorate the house (my only horseback-riding accident was precipitated by finding myself unable, at full gallop, to untangle a branch of scarlet-berried hawthorn from my wooly glove and my mare’s mane), of tramping out into the damp fields to cut a spindly fir, of eggnog and satsumas and caroling in the cold, as much as the climactic morning with the stockings and presents under the tree. And in recent years, I’ve liked those weeks of anticipation more than the event itself, grinchy as it may sound to say so. (I get, quite frankly, a little overwhelmed under the deluge of generosity from our dear ones. If I could get everyone on board with thoughtfully choosing — or even making — a single gift per family member, I’d be vastly happy.)
Now I like the thought of this season as a time of beginnings, of preparation, of watchfulness and mindfulness that the winter earth is sheltering and nourishing the seeds that will thrust up and shake themselves free when the sun returns.
And so Advent feels like the right time to share that a little field-mouse has drawn himself — or herself — up by our fire to bide. In the way of little mice, this one didn’t wait for an invitation, but quietly established itself in the coziest way possible and made its own plans to appear in the outside world in June, when the world is warm and lively again. I haven’t knit him or her anything yet, but these summery little slippers are waiting to cover a set of tiny toes…
The thing I’d most love to make for this second babe is Leila Raabe’s Spire Blanket from the new LOFT Collection. In that wonderful Old World color, blue flecked with red, exactly as shown. I’m sure that later I’ll be seized by fits of inspiration to design anew for my little one, but Ms. Raabe has already crafted every detail of this blanket just as I’d wish. (And really, why put pressure on oneself to design as well when one is already contemplating knitting a big lace blanket involving 1600 yards of fingering-weight wool? Will the baby care? I expect not.) But I am determined that this child shall be no less thoroughly swathed in woolen handknits just because it wasn’t anyone’s firstborn. You’ll learn, little field-mouse, that this is how your mama shows she loves people.
Yes, joy shall be ours in the morning.