Following Christmas

For my far-flung family Christmas means the mailing of many packages. Some of the cartons have been used for years, have crossed the country many times, and have so many pairs of crossed-out addresses on them I can only congratulate the mailman for figuring out where they were going, versus where they were coming from. Maybe we should have left the addresses alone and just pasted on big arrows for every change of direction.

Some of the boxes have been disassembled, turned inside out, and taped back together for a set of fresh downs. Forgive me for that, I’ve acclimatized to Ann Arbor.

As each box appears, I approach with my very careful utility knife. Bubble wrap and packing paper explode across the room, revealing a stash of wrapped gifts wearing tags and ribbons I have seen before.

finally room for the cat

Finally room under the tree for the cat

On Christmas morning we find the new gifts inside are nestled into old familiar tissue paper, creases running through angels, trees, and peppermint stripes. Well-traveled shirt boxes limp a little at the corners, supported by bits of tape. I roll up the ribbons, collect the tags, smooth out the tissue, fold the boxes flat, and pick over the wrapping paper for usable centers and bits to save. The gifts will stay here, but the materials of their transport have eleven months of rest ahead of them, and will be on their way again.

Something old, something new, and one perpetually changing into the other. As Christmas turns into the New Year I make more room on shelves and tables, drawers and closets, and the new things settle in and become familiar.

Happy New Year!

My New Book

RICHSTONE_ROBIN_COVER_LMMy chapbook of poems, The Museum of Fresh Starts, is being published by Finishing Line Press. The book is 18 poems connected by a theme of migration, change, and the need for refuge. It will be published on March 29 but you can pre-order it here to help determine the press run.



December First

It isn’t the direction seasonal wonder usually goes in, but it’s quite miraculous to me to walk out into the yard as winter sets in, and feel how everything has changed. A few weeks ago I was barefoot on soft ground, and now I’m in clogs and woolly socks. Air has changed, earth has changed, water has changed – all that was soft is hard. Christina Rosetti was delightfully apt noting that in winter water is like a stone; but it doesn’t seem bleak to me. It seems full of sparkle and strangeness, that just the tilt of the earth’s axis is enough to turn summer into winter.

Imagine our farthest ancestors out of Africa tripping on that rock of winter for the first time. Water like a stone – what sorcery was this? Had the sun, now so low on the horizon, changed its mind about us and gone looking for a better set of creatures to support? Even in the time of the ancient Greeks, Herodotus wrote that the Scythians believed no one could travel in the northern parts of the

Version 2

Snow Scrim

continent because the air was full of feathers. He knew it to be snow, but the story reflects the astonishment of a first encounter.

We have only a scrim of snow on the ground as yet and early predictions are for a mild, dry winter; but that depends on an El Niño developing in California. A wet west coast makes a dry midwest. We are assured there’s science behind this, but it sounds like action at a distance, which is to say magic. There’s science behind winter turning water to stone, too. Just because it’s true doesn’t mean it can’t seem magical.