The recent snows chose to skip over us here in the valley, but from the windows in our breakfast nook, Dick and I gaze out on snow-tipped mountains — a suitable decoration for any holiday gathering.

Add to that sight cardinals in their bright red feathers perched on a maple limb, nandina bushes drooping with red berries and green cedars in a fence row and it would appear there’s hardly any reason for humans to decorate for the season.

However, the urge always hits me at this time of year, a yen even when I’m indoors for the pungent smell of cedar and other evergreens, a need for baskets of pine cones on the tables and twinkly lights roping the windows and winding through the sunroom’s Norfolk pine.

Though we have a couple of weeks to go before the big day, the house is beginning to look a lot like Christmas — or at least like a spot where someone might eventually get ready for the holidays. Dick and I have brought up from the basement the Santas and angels as well as the lighted tree from my Aunt Dixie.

We’ve dragged down from the closet shelves the boxes filled with holiday placemats and napkins, hand towels and kitchen linens. We’ve pulled out the Christmas throw pillows and lap robes and have placed them on the couches and chairs. We’ve tied red bows on baskets of pine cones in the house, hung wreaths outdoors and placed baskets of freshly cut greenery, topped by more red bows, on the front stoop.

We’ve trimmed the corner cupboard in the dining room and the armoire in the sunroom with boxwood and red berries. A white cloth goose nestles among the greenery on the armoire, a stuffed decoration the mother of one of daughter Amanda’s friends made for me some years ago. I had vowed to cut back on the decorating this year, but after a day or two with a few things in place, my intentions toward moderation weakened.

It’s not just red bows and greenery that make our home feel like Christmas. Already the house is scented with the smell of baking as I begin filling the freezer with pies and bread. Food aromas will grow ever more intense over the next two weeks as I add cookies and our favorite snacks to the must-prepare list.

Though Dick and I don’t do much gift shopping anymore, we celebrate with extended family gathered around. And everyone in the family likes to eat. They especially like to eat the treats of the season.

It’s not just us humans who like to eat at this time of year. The birds daily crowd the feeders hanging beyond my kitchen window. One of winter’s most profound joys is watching birds fly in, perch a moment, select a sunflower seed or a nibble of suet and fly back into the trees.

Juncos, titmice, finches, nuthatches, chickadees, downy and red-bellied woodpeckers, blue jays, various sparrows and the fore-mentioned cardinals are daily visitors. Mourning doves scratch around beneath the feeders, nibbling on seeds the other birds have kicked out in their haste to eat before something scares them away.

Though the doves look lumbering, like oversized airplanes that would never be able to achieve liftoff, if I step out, they are away in a flash. There is nothing awkward appearing about a dove on the wing.

The cats, Olivia and Kaycee, watch the birds from atop a chest by the window or gaze out through the glass doors. Our dog Ember, though outdoors, is too boisterous to slip up on anything. The birds seem to recognize when the coast is clear and they gather in large numbers. Even the bluebirds come, primarily to splash in the bird bath.

There is much to be done yet before Christmas day, but with the sights of the season so close by, the smells lingering and even the song of winter whispering in the wind around the corners of the house, it certainly has begun to feel like the holidays are here.

Dick and I try to find moments in the middle of all the hustle and bustle just to sit quietly, look around and enjoy this special time of year.

Connie Green grew up in Oak Ridge and is a poet, novelist and writing instructor. To contact her, visit her website at