Several of my neighbors have put up Christmas lights, and in previous years my wife and I have spent at least one night during the holiday season just driving around looking at how people have decorated their yards. I always enjoy seeing houses lit up, even the insanely gaudy ones with fifteen Santas, sixty reindeer, three or four nativity scenes, a whole army of snowmen…yeah, you know the ones I’m talking about.
One of my neighbors has gone for a strangely subtle display by putting up a string of just green lights in the biggest tree in his front yard. They reach almost twenty feet in the air and are so separated they’re almost like individual stars. And then I turn to the backyard and the real stars.
Every year at this time I can look to the southeast and see Orion rising through the trees. Orion is the second constellation I learned to identify. The first was the Big Dipper. I remember one summer day a kid I knew said, “Tonight will be a good night to see the Big Dipper.” I asked my mother about it and that night she took me out and pointed up in the sky telling me, “There’s the handle and there’s the spoon.” I thought, what is she talking about? All I see are stars. Then I saw a picture of the Big Dipper, or Ursa Major, in a book and it all became clear. A few months later I pieced together Orion.
And I know it’s winter when I see the hunter rising through the trees.