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The last giant goodie tray has been taken to the office and consumed. Friends are now in swap mode -- "Need any more fudge?" "What have you got left?"

Although the outdoor lights are still up, the urgency to turn them on for 16 hours at a time is not so strong now that Christmas is over.

This holiday season seemed to stretch forever, helped along probably by the North Pole-like weather. And looking back, this year it was the not-so-obvious things that made our holiday bright.

As I drove along the two-lane highway (the days I was able to do so), I noticed a new sculpture in the prairie. Not steel or glass, this was all Wyoming.

In the front yard of a relatively new little homestead, there were six round hay bales, stacked to form a triangle -- three on the bottom, two in the middle and one on the top.

It was outlined with a single string of lights, and a lit star was affixed to the top. The front of the bales was decorated with one additional swirl of lights from side to side.

In the dark of the winter night, those six bales of hay turned into a magically lit Christmas tree, burning brightly.

A ways farther up the road, a single string of lights was attached to the top of a fence. At night it was visible from quite a distance, guiding us home.

Sometimes, it's not the gazillion-watt Vegasesque displays that touch our hearts (and there are plenty of those), but the lone lights that burn the brightest.

It's not the biggest gift under the tree (although the friend came through in a marvelously wonderful way) that brings the most joy, but the sight of a visibly pregnant woman -- for the moment not exhausted and not overwhelmed -- carrying a first grandchild.

It's the son providing five minutes of tech support that I could not figure out on my own in months and months of frustrated attempts.

It's an unwrapped book from book club amid four boxes of Christmas that Peggy Jane the Mom wanted to share (and I am loving it).

A dinner out with friends turns into a two-hour laughfest, the men carrying on some kind of conversation and the women having our own.

A quick stop in the neighborhood turns into a party when friends are also unexpectedly there.

And after the chaos of Christmas, sometimes it's a 40-minute phone call -- a real conversation -- that happens all too rarely.

Paraphrasing social media, we have 365 chances not to make a mess of 2015. That's an awesome blank canvas -- and also a tremendous responsibility.

Here's wishing us all a happy and healthy 2015. For some of us, there will be life-changing events ahead. For others, there will just be life. And who can complain about that?

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Community News editor Sally Ann Shurmur can be reached at 307-266-0520;; read her blog at; or follow her on Twitter @WYOSAS


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