Moles are solitary creatures.
In a winter climate, those of us who are fortunate enough to have burrows, can hunker down, light a fire, pour ourselves a tumbler of mulled wine, eat a mince-pie or two, wind up the gramophone, listen to crackling voices singing Stille Nacht, and settle into a favourite armchair with a good book, perhaps even a jigsaw puzzle.
Here where it is mid summer it is harder, somehow, to hunker. Long, hot days bleach out the festive lights of Christmas and diffuse the attraction of a hearth. In the past I have closed my eyes tight shut and wished the season away, but the Advent hysteria of the town has penetrated the walls of my burrow. It has even penetrated my pelt, so that no buffering by way of creature comforts has been quite able to dispel my sense of being out of sorts.
And, if truth be told, even if I were able to exclude the outside world, memories would still niggle at my moleheart. A mince pie paused between paw and snout might recall sitting at the dining room table with my late mother, crumbling bread for the chicken stuffing. A strain of Stille Nacht might recall my late father weeping at the sound of Once in Royal David’s City, or the rustling noises behind closed doors as he forced nuts and mandarins and ocarinas into his poor deformed socks.
In the grieving years after the deaths of my parents, when solitude slid into loneliness, kind friends gathered me into the bosom of their families for Christmas. Last year I evaded Christmas altogether by planning a long journey immediately afterwards. I spent the day in my bedroom, packing winter clothes into my suitcase.
This year, I avoided the season for as long as possible, but even when the day approached, I felt less out of sorts. I thought of solitary ways of being a more social animal on Christmas Day: writing letters, or making presents, or choosing a poem or two for friends, counting my blessings. There might also be social occupations to suit a solitary mole; singing perhaps, or going for a stroll and wishing those you meet a cheery season.
As it happened, there was not a moment of solitude this year. I rang bells at the Cathedral, then padded around my neighbourhood, bestowing gifts on small children, slow-lunching with good friends – barely finishing my Christmas pudding before embarking on salmon with my neighbour who came to my burrow for an early, gentle evening meal.
Christmas fell on the day that is usually set aside for composing the murmurs, but it has taken this mole several days and lots of naps to recalibrate itself. Maybe next year I will avoid avoidance, plan gently, and open my moleheart to the kindnesses of Christmas.
And make a little time for solitude as well.