Wednesday, December 23, 2015

On the Eve of Christmas Eve

Snow is falling gently. Chick-a-dees, nuthatches and woodpeckers are flocking to the feeders. Squirrels dust snow from the top of oak branches as they travel through the trees. Much of Minnesota seems destined to have a white Christmas. I've gained an insight into cultural conditioning.

I've never, at least since I learned to drive, been a big fan of snow. If it stayed on lawns, forests and fields I might feel differently. It doesn't, it accumulates on roads and sidewalks and driveways, each of which then requires shoveling or snow-blowing or plowing. The diminished traction induces irrational exuberance by drivers of 4-wheel-drive pickup trucks, many of whom sport lift kits higher than the operators I.Q. Travel in snow requires an ability to turn and stop as well as go, but you know that. Despite all of that, I'm willing to admit that it does look more like Christmas now than it did a day ago. Since this is Christmas Eve Eve, that's a good thing.

celebrating Winter Solstice
celebrating Winter Solstice
Photo by J. Harrington

Last night the younger generation shared a Solstice celebration, including a small fire, out of the wind in the lee of the house and garage. (Yes, of course it was in a fire ring.) The Daughter Person and Son-In-Law had a handful of friends and relatives, some still local, some back in town for the holidays, some back in the country for the holidays, over for pasta and catching up. It brought to mind times when I would gather with friends in Mad River Vermont or on Cape Cod. Christmas was for "family," but Solstice, Winter or Summer, was pretty much for fellow heathens and pagans, many of my friends in those days. I was pleased we had at least a small, local celebration of this Winter's Solstice. I fret about how much we've become a rootless nation where too many fail to recognize our dependence on Nature and each other. One of my Solstice wishes for all of us is that, as Joni Mitchell wrote and sang, we "get ourselves / Back to the garden…" After all, I don't think it was coincidence that Christ's birth took place in a stable.

Speaking of birthday's, Happy Birthday and many happy returns to Robert Bly!

A Christmas Poem


Christmas is a place, like Jackson Hole, where we all
agree
To meet once a year. It has water, and grass for
horses;
All the fur traders can come in. We visited the place
As children, but we never heard the good stories.

Those stories only get told in the big tents, late
At night, when a trapper who has been caught
In his own trap, held down in icy water, talks; and a
man
With a ponytail and a limp comes in from the edge of
the fire.

As children, we knew there was more to it —
Why some men got drunk on Christmas Eve
Wasn’t explained, nor why we were so often
Near tears nor why the stars came down so close,

Why so much was lost. Those men and women
Who had died in wars started by others,
Did they come that night? Is that why the Christmas
tree
Trembled just before we opened the presents?

There was something about angels. Angels we
Have heard on high Sweetly singing o’er
The plain. The angels were certain. But we could not
Be certain whether our family was worthy tonight.


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