Entry 5.0 "December Lights"
Human beings, in general, detest darkness. Since the first torch, we’ve become experts at harnessing light to chase away gathering shadows at will. New England Decembers on Earth, left to their own devises, are cold and dark. Days pale in comparison to their former selves and a damp cold effortlessly penetrates skin and bone. Every year I silently thanked the first person who stood on a rickety ladder with the intention of stapling the first string of Christmas lights to rain gutters. Because of that brave soul, the month with the distinction of having the fewest daylight hours suddenly had the most colorful, festive, and yes, even the brightest night-times of the year.
As a side note, if you think Christmas decorations are elaborate in your time, future technologies up the game substantially - think even more festive than the guy on your block who takes his decorations way too far. For example, imagine your front lawn as the stage for three-dimensional hologram actors painstakingly rendered from scenes in classic Christmas movies! My favorite “Christmas Presence” clips were, George Bailey running across the lawn, exclaiming, “Merry Christmas you wonderful old building and loan!”, and Ebenezer Scrooge opening up the house shutters proclaiming, “Bah Humbug”, or an enthusiastic “Merry Christmas!” - depending on the current mood (or sense of humor) of the occupant.
Even though we’ve managed to find more elaborate ways to remind ourselves, people in my time have not forgotten the reason we celebrate the Christmas season. Despite countless attempts over the centuries to disparage, discredit, and cancel those of faith, people still hold fast to their personal beliefs. Freedom for all religions, though historically threatened, has become ironclad in my time and personal liberties are considered essential and are fiercely protected. Though I don’t pretend to know all of our noble, or even nefarious motivations for exploring and colonizing the planets of the Throughworlds, I do know that we were not driven by the desire to escape religious persecution.
Like so many before her, Araly brought her faith and traditions into the stars with her. They comforted her when she crossed the threshold of a starship bound for the 2nd moon of Galenia, when she gave birth to her son below a cold roof heavy with snow, and when she dug the hole to bury her husband in the same dirt on which he had assembled their shelter just a few short years earlier.
The couple, an engineer and an energy prospector, knew the risks when they set out to build a “Sole Station” on a less than hospitable moon. Sole Stations were space entrepreneur self-starter kits, marketed to ambitious adventurers on Earth. They promised a bold and enterprising way of life free from the chains, and expectations of society, all tax free. The concept appealed to many, but the cost was usually unattainably high and, though many liked to talk and even save for it (payment in full only), it was seen as a kind of righteous suicide and very few actually went through with it. In short, Sole Stations included a plot of land, a customizable shelter, some tools and small vehicles suitable for tasks and local travel, and a sustainable food supply.
Araly and her husband’s ultimate goal was to harvest raw materials and energy to maintain a station perfect for spacefaring travelers to get their ships powered up, maybe a light repair, and a place to rest and refresh on their way to someplace better. You can imagine it as the only gas station for the next hundred miles in the Pennsylvania pines when driving at night - you kind of have to go there even though the bathroom is not typically ideal.
In our travels, we’ve found that dreams were abbreviated, expectations changed, and people still died - much like on Earth. But miracles also happened! Children were born, we adapted to our new set of circumstances - and sometimes even thrived, as was the case with Araly. The second moon of Galenia, which she affectionately, but unofficially named, “December” for it's proclivity to snow, had become her home. Though not as extensive as once imagined, Araly, and now her 12-year-old son Clarence, ran a very modest (but functional) respite station which happened to be the perfect stop for the Wanderment to get a power up.
One loses track of the way Earth recons time while traveling through space, and it wasn’t until the bright fins of the Wanderment touched down onto billowing snow that we were reminded of the first Christmas we would soon spend away from home. Araly was charming and unabashedly happy for the company, and our business. She confessed that after she received the transmission that we would be stopping, she began decorating early so that we would be able to witness her annual tree lighting. “Just in case it might inspire a famous painting”, she added with the hope usually reserved for a child asking for too much on their list.
At early evening, Clarence led us (ice skate-footed and yellow scarf wind-borne) across a lake that I had little doubt was frozen through its full depth. Bare and twisted, a soot black tree of an unidentifiable species grasped for too-large snowflakes with its gnarled appendages. I’m a little ashamed to say that, despite the fact that I inherently wanted to please Araly with a beautiful art piece, all the sensory information that I was absorbing was ominous, cold and unredeemable. That is, until I heard what sounded like a faint countdown in the distance. “5,4,3,2...” on “1” hundreds of Christmas tree lights lit up the old twisted tree with the kind of brilliance you could easily see from space.
The previously black tree, the lights, the family, they all told a story -- a Christmas story about birth, death, long suffering, redemption, healing and even joy; about strength in the face of adversity and taking the time and effort to celebrate blessings - even after the hardest year.
Araly rose skyward on a weather-beaten hovercrane. When she reached the top, I thought I saw her silhouette briefly bow just before fitting a golden star onto the highest point of the tree.