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The dark time of the year comes again. Day is compressed into a few hours; the night spreads its wings to the maximum. It is cold and windy. People huddle into their heavy coats and sweaters; animals curl up in their burrows or in homes they share with their humans or in pasture and byre.

Every light is burning in our office, with extras on the tree in the conference room and strung along the secretary's desk and work counter. Laughter seems a little louder and conversations more frenetic, as though we were afraid of the dark, of entropy lurking in the shadows.

As the temperature drops, the furnace roars into life and the fans start blowing warm air around, though under my desk and in the corners, behind the door, the air remains chill.

Preparations for the annual Christmas brunch are under way. Food, hot beverages, sweets--all comfort foods. Gone are the salads of summer, the fruits of autumn. What we want now are filling, comfortable foods. I contributed a couple of loaves of bread, the staff of life. Doesn't get any more basic than bread.

And coffee.

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