The Nativity scene is a very important Christmas tradition in my family. We assemble one of our sets (we have several) in the living room, constructing a full backdrop for it in a little nook under a prayer table. Fabric draped over boxes become hills, and pine tree trimmings become trees.
For to us a child is born. A child of hair and nails and teeth; a child of shoulders and ankles and wrists and knees; a child of muscles that strained and bones that broke and cartilage that twisted and rubbed and wore and tore. A child who could, and who would, feel the pain and limitations of being human.
The smoky scent of a wood fire drifts up and through the open-air walkways of the Kartause, mingling with puffs of mint, eucalyptus, and clove billowing up from a vendor’s essential oil diffuser. Both warm smells are sliced by the cold.
My family has the unique claim of being the March family from Little Women. That, or the closest thing to it: four sisters and their mother. Of course, each sister doesn’t line up quite perfectly with her counterpart in Louisa May Alcott’s book.
As I look up at the mountain, my legs heavy, my face cold, I realize my hike is also a time of waiting. How much longer? Where is the summit? When can I sit down, out of the cold, and change my socks? As much as I want a sign around each corner or ridge telling me where to turn, I have to walk on, confident the summit is ahead.