Merry Christmas!

Scrooge crawled off this morning when I looked at photos of the step-grandkids on Christmas Eve opening presents I had sent them. I was hard pressed to do gifts this year, hard-pressed financially and emotionally, but I assembled a big box and the presents were set under their tree.

My step-daughter-in-law is German, and her tradition of Christmas is like that of my family’s. Open gifts on Christmas Eve. She has endured the custom tug-o-war with her husband’s mom, but reached the same compromise my mom did with her in-laws. Open some gifts on Christmas Eve. The rest on Christmas Day.

Last night the kids were taken for a walk around the neighborhood to look at Christmas lights, and the room with the tree was set up with the presents. The kids came back to a surprise Christmas wonderland, and opened only the presents sent by Oma Martha (that’s me). When I saw the photos of them wearing the caps knitted by my friend, E, my Grinch heart softened. Maybe that’s the whole point. ❤

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2018/12/25/rdp-tuesday-host/



More John Greenleaf Whittier and a Rant

The Mystic’s Christmas
John Greenleaf Whittier, 1807 – 1892

“All hail!” the bells of Christmas rang,
“All hail!” the monks at Christmas sang,
The merry monks who kept with cheer
The gladdest day of all their year.

But still apart, unmoved thereat,
A pious elder brother sat
Silent, in his accustomed place,
With God’s sweet peace upon his face.

“Why sitt’st thou thus?” his brethren cried,
“It is the blessed Christmas-tide;
The Christmas lights are all aglow,
The sacred lilies bud and blow.

“Above our heads the joy-bells ring,
Without the happy children sing,
And all God’s creatures hail the morn
On which the holy Christ was born.

“Rejoice with us; no more rebuke
Our gladness with thy quiet look.”
The gray monk answered, “Keep, I pray,
Even as ye list, the Lord’s birthday.

“Let heathen Yule fires flicker red
Where thronged refectory feasts are spread;
With mystery-play and masque and mime
And wait-songs speed the holy time!

“The blindest faith may haply save;
The Lord accepts the things we have;
And reverence, howsoe’er it strays,
May find at last the shining ways.

“They needs must grope who cannot see,
The blade before the ear must be;
As ye are feeling I have felt,
And where ye dwell I too have dwelt.

“But now, beyond the things of sense,
Beyond occasions and events,
I know, through God’s exceeding grace,
Release from form and time and space.

“I listen, from no mortal tongue,
To hear the song the angels sung;
And wait within myself to know
The Christmas lilies bud and blow.

“The outward symbols disappear
From him whose inward sight is clear;
And small must be the choice of days
To him who fills them all with praise!

“Keep while you need it, brothers mine,
With honest seal your Christmas sign,
But judge not him who every morn
Feels in his heart the Lord Christ born!

I was raised Christian and I liked it. My social life revolved around my church and when the moment came to accept Christ as my personal savior I did it whole-heartedly. But already just a few years later I began to see the problem with the decision I made.

Accepting Christ as a personal savior is not a personal thing. It makes a person the member of a “club.” It sets up an “us vs. them” or “mine is better” reality, and I didn’t want any part of that. I still don’t. My first experience with this was when I was asked to leave my Sunday school class — twice, first for suggesting that evolution was probably true, and the second time for suggesting that Buddhists (or any non-Christian) could know God, too. Then I was thrown out of my youth group at church, and, finally, I had problems at a Baptist summer camp where I was a counselor. I took issue with the leader of the camp who was all about keeping kids indoors and holding revival meetings, and I thought the kids should be taking hikes in the woods, playing games and learning some wilderness skills. The director of the camp was on my side, and the camp leader was reprimanded, but I saw from all this that I didn’t fit in with the Christians around me.

The objection to conforming to usages that have become dead to you is that it scatters your force. It loses your time and blurs the impression of your character. If you maintain a dead church, contribute to a dead Bible-society, vote with a great party either for the government or against it, spread your table like base housekeepers,–under all these screens I have difficulty to detect the precise man you are: and of course so much force is withdrawn from your proper life. But do your work, and I shall know you. Do your work, and you shall reinforce yourself. A man must consider what a blindman’s-buff is this game of conformity. If I know your sect, I anticipate your argument… Emerson, “Self-Reliance.”


Why not? I like Christianity as a philosophy, and I know very well what the New Testament says. It’s beautiful. Living according to that might make a peaceful world until…

Us vs. Them.

Someone has to be “right,” not in the sense of right and wrong, but in the sense of having THE answer. After godnose how many arguments over doctrine with people, I find that absurd because THE answer is all around us. We live in a universe that excludes nothing. We live in the answer. We don’t have to ask anything. Everything we might seek to exclude is here regardless of our beliefs.

I haven’t been a Christian in a very long time. I am really with Goethe when he said, “I’m not un-Christian, I’m not anti-Christian. I’m simply NOT Christian.” Yeah. Exactly.

For me, Christmas this year has been very strange. I’m different as a result, I think, of my new hip and the fact that for the first time in 10 years I haven’t got the relentless awkwardness and pain with which I’ve been struggling. The world is resplendent with new possibilities but also limitations. It’s been a little shocking to experience that the world is going on in its usual way while I try to figure out who I am now and where I’m going. I don’t know. The sweet moments of this season have been exceedingly sweet, but deep down I’m waiting for it to be over so I can get on with winter, cold walks, snow, writing, peace — the exploration of my world as it is now.

Immigrants and Refugees

A long time ago in a faraway land known as Omaha, Nebraska, I went to a private school. I was in the 6th grade, studying Spanish and a member of the Spanish club along with my best friend, Mary N.

Christmas came around and the head of the foreign languages department, Dr. Espinosa (known as Dr. Halitosis because kids are both young and cruel) wanted to organize a Christmas music event for the Spanish Club of Omaha. What this meant was that we learned a lot of Christmas songs in Spanish, some just the usual carols and some songs from Spanish speaking countries.

The big night came and because Mary and I were the only two middle-schoolers in the group, we had to dress like the other girls who were in high school. It was the first time I wore nylons, and I had to borrow a red blazer. Middle schoolers wore sweaters.

My dad took me and dropped me off at the Spanish club, and Mary’s father volunteered to bring me home though Bellevue was NOT on the way from downtown Omaha where our school was located to Council Bluffs, Iowa where Mary lived. From there we’d ride the school bus to the Big Event.

My mom’s nylons felt creepy on my legs, that plus my mom felt that 11 year old girls should NOT wear nylons. They were also cold. It was December in Nebraska, damp, biting cold hit my essentially bare legs. Both Mary’s mom and my mom drew the line on heels. Neither of us were going to wear them. Dr. Espinosa accepted that. We didn’t really look like high school girls anyway, especially for 1963 which was a lot of bouffant and hairspray, blue eye-shadow and orange lips.

We arrived in an old building in downtown Omaha. We were ushered into a room which was filled with old people, all dressed up, women all in red lipstick. There was a table filled with cookies and punch. As it was 1963, people were also smoking. They sat in three or four rows. We assembled ourselves in front of them and Dr. Espinosa introduced us.

It was an interesting introduction because he didn’t just introduce us girls to the group of well-dressed old people, but he introduced them to us.

They were all refugees from the fascism of Generalissimo Franco’s regime. Our songs — especially those that came from Spain — meant a lot to the people sitting in that room.

The only one I remember is this one, “Arrurru, Arrurru.” As I remember, it’s a song from Mexico, one often sung during La Posada, a re-enactment of Mary and Joseph’s attempt to find a place to sleep.

We sang it much more slowly than this version, but I have no idea what’s the right way or wrong way to sing it or if there is even such a thing.

The people attending the concert that night were very touched by our music. One woman said, “Thank you for bringing a little bit of Spain to Omaha tonight. Bless you, girls.”

My friend and I were silly pre-teenagers, caught up in our own passions (hers was horses, mine was Lawrence of Arabia) but we got it.

It was an important experience for me, unforgettable (obviously). It was the first time I fully understood how people could be forced to leave a country they loved, a culture to which they belonged, because of politics.

Not that PBR

I’m sorry but what? My family? Two dogs. A couple of cousins in the wilds of Montana (one of whom flirts with me, very creepy) and a couple others here and there. Family is not all it’s cracked up to be. Some families are just fucked from the getgo. Some fall apart over time. This joyful holiday get-together-with-family BS is just an added pressure this time of year, and I’m at the point in life where I get to choose my “family.”

Last Christmas I spent with some of my chosen family in Colorado Springs. Providence brought me a sister not long after my brother Kirk died from alcoholism. “Here,” Providence said, “from Kirk.” We thank Kirk from time to time because without him dying we wouldn’t know each other. To learn about that, you can read my post on the Kindness of the Gods.

The Christmas Eve get-together of family and friends was hilarious and grim as only family Christmases can be. The “brother-in-law,” we’ll call him “M,” got drunk and spent the evening sitting on the “going to the basement” stairs of the split-level house my chosen sister (CS) had borrowed from her second brother (who was not there) because it had a dishwasher and more space than her house. Probably 30 people attended. I knew most of them, but didn’t get to talk to everyone. I was in a lot of pain from my hip and couldn’t stand for more than five or ten minutes, so I had to spend the party sitting on a comfy chair (“No, no, not the comfy chair!”)

My “son-like-thing” was depressed and mildly inebriated, in a bad relationship and lost in life. My nephew, one of the sweetest people on the planet, a developmentally disabled guy in his 30s, sat with me on a small sofa with his head on my shoulder staring at my tits. My CS’s oldest brother and his piece-of-work wife interviewed me about my education and credentials to see if I merited their attention and conversation. I passed, but that didn’t mean we had anything to say to each other.

After about a couple of hours, my CS noticed that “M” was MIA.

“He’s on the basement stairs. He’s been there all night.”
“Is he OK?”
“He doesn’t look so good.”
“I’ll take him home,” I said. I’d signed up for that job early in the day.

Some friends helped “M” to my car. No one knew if he (blind and arthritic and drunk) could walk on his own, and the thought of him falling was not to be borne. “I’ll meet you there,” said one of my CS’s friends who was there with her son and his new girlfriend. I was pretty stove up at the time, needing hip surgery and unable to easily climb stairs, so I wouldn’t have been able to help him into the house. We’d have sat in the car godnose how long.

Absurd.

“Great,” I said, relieved. On the way “home,” I dropped off my CS’s very pitiful ( 😦 )alcoholic musician friend, then took “M” home. The friends drove up, ready to help, but “M” was fine. He went in by himself, headed directly to the basement, his hangout, with the mini-fridge and the 20 pack of *PBRs.

“You going back to the party?” asked the friend.

I shook my head, thinking how amazing life is that even with everyone in my own dysfunctional blood family dead, I could still have a Christmas Eve like that. ❤

~~~

*PBR stands both for Professional Bull Riders and Pabst Blue Ribbon Beer.

Bridges…

I’m trying to figure out why I’m so depressed, and I’m hoping there is an external cause, like maybe it’s just the holidays. If there is no external cause, that sucks. Time will tell. 

I honestly have never liked Christmas. I’ve tried to like it. I’ve liked aspects of it. I have had some really nice Christmases in my life with beloved family and friends and even alone. I loved my Christmases in Zürich with my Swiss family. I loved my Christmases with my Montana aunts. I loved a very special Christmas when my stepson, Ben, and his wife, Sandi, brought German Christmas (Sandi is German) to my house in the mountains of CA on Christmas Eve. We took a hike in the afternoon to decorate a pine tree with bird seed. Sandi didn’t. know it had snowed in the mountains and that was the best Christmas present she could have gotten. That night we exchanged gifts and opened presents — that was the tradition in my family as well. With my family mostly gone at that point, I’d never expected to participate in that custom again. I could (and maybe should?) write a long list of happy Christmas memories. Maybe that would fix this, but I doubt it.

The closer it gets, the more I wish I could escape to a non-Christmas place. I’ve tried this year to just sample the meaningful things that have come my way — and I’ve enjoyed them — but it still seems to go on and on and on and on and on and on and on. 

When I was a kid, Christmas was happy if we went away. Otherwise, it was often horrible and maybe that’s why I dread it. One year (when I really really really really wanted a long flannel nightgown like the girls wore in Little Women) I bugged my mom about it (as kids do). Suddenly my mom said, “You only think about yourself. You never think about other people. Come here.” She grabbed my wrist rather brutally, sat me down hard in front of the Christmas tree and opened my presents. I kept my eyes closed, but really? I was 8. 

Usually I’ve gone away, but this year there is no money for that — $700 for car insurance, $400 for new tires, $150 for car registration all due in the last two months on top of a year that was filled with lots of expenses.

Any-hoo, in other somewhat less self-indulgent news, I made a Christmas ornament for a tree that a family puts up downtown in memory of their family members who have died. They write the family member’s names on ornaments and invite others to do the same. I lost my last two aunts in the last year. A dear friend of mine lost her two sons in a car crash 5 years ago and the lawsuit has (thankfully) just recently come to an end. Her son and his wife (who also died in the crash) were good friends of mine. Out of that disaster I “got” his mom who’s a very inspiring person, a fine artist, and a kind and vibrant soul who’s lived an adventurous life. I love her very much. My friend Lois always misses her mom and then there’s my brother about whom I have intensely mixed feelings but he’s still my bro. I decided to make a star and write their names on the points.

The dogs and I got in the car, drove the star down to the tree and then we went for a walk at the slough. Because Dusty is somewhat stove up, we couldn’t go far so we went to the place where I run into the Icky Man. He wasn’t there. We walked fast because I expected him to show up any time, but we were lucky. As we were driving away from the spot — already on the road — his truck passed us. Perfect timing and a great Christmas present since Dusty and Bear really had a lot of messages to read and leave. 


“I’m happy, Martha.”
“I’m glad, Dusty T. <3”

Christmas Presents

Dusty, Mindy, Bear and I made it home safely, driving over La Veta Pass, listening to punk and new wave Christmas songs. That was lovely. No traffic, either, no big trucks slowing things down and making people do stupid stuff like pass when they shouldn’t.

Christmas in Colorado Springs was beautiful in the way Christmas has of surprising us.

A little backstory. I spent six of the worst years of my life in that town as an adolescent. It was the darkest time of my family’s life. Soon after we moved there from six years in Nebraska where my dad worked for SAC, my dad got a terrible eye infection that signaled the beginning of a rapid decline from MS. Six years later he was dead. During those six years my mom, brother and I tried to grapple with our own rapidly changing lives and that immense sad change.

When I left Colorado Springs for good in 1972, I never, ever wanted to go back. But in 2004, I did go back to give a paper at the conference of the Interdisciplinary Society for the Study of Social Imagery. It happened that the room in which I gave my paper had a window overlooking the locus of a very happy memory of my time there. I began to think the town was trying to tell me something. When I returned in 2010 for my high school reunion, more of what someone might call “healing messages” came my way. In 2013 when I returned again to give a paper, I looked for houses and scattered my brother’s ashes. I came back in 2014 to give yet ANOTHER paper. I looked again at houses, but I wasn’t ready to buy. I had not retired; I did not know what my income would be. But, after looking at houses that day, I filed my retirement papers… Living in Colorado Springs was not to be. By the time I was able to retire, I could no longer afford a home there.

That turned out to be lucky break. I’d rather live in the San Luis Valley than anywhere else in this country. 🙂 ❤ I’m always happy to get to the west side of the pass and the sign that says, “You are entering the San Luis Valley.” It was right for me to find a new home, my own place, somewhere untinged and beautiful.

And, Colorado Springs remains haunted. The people I know have not moved far from “memory central.” Some are in the same neighborhood where my family first lived. A little part of me still dreads the city, but mixed with dread are beautiful memories that more and more involve people I know now. It’s good. It’s an enormous blessing to me.

I got presents this Christmas, really lovely ones, the best ones, the kind that show your friends know you. One very precious present is a set of paint brushes given me by my friend Lois’ husband, Michael. Michael got macular degeneration when he was very young, and lost his sight gradually over the years. That, in itself, is harsh, but to top that off, he was a painter. This morning in my Christmas stocking, I found his brushes, bound together with a rubber band.

Last night we were driving home from the amazing cocktail party my friend Lois put together and held at her brother’s house. The party was a true labor of love that took more than 24 hours to prepare.

As we were going home, I said to Michael, “I wish so much you could see.”

“I do too,” he said. “You know what we’d do if I could see? We’d have painting parties. Lois and I would come down and visit you in that beautiful valley, and we’d go outside some place and paint it. Have you ever done that?”

I wonder if, in the night, after our conversation, he played Santa with his brushes.

“I thought a real artist should be using them,” he said this morning. “They shouldn’t be lying around in a box. I bet you even know what to do with that Chinese brush.”

“I do,” I told him.

“I thought you would,” he said.

I will cherish them and not only because they are his; they’re great brushes!!

I know it’s all about giving, but this year, the giving of others has meant a lot to me. Up in that photo is homemade chokecherry/apple jelly (my favorite), Michael’s brushes, my new watercolor pencils — Swiss made and my favorite kind, a Sacajawea dollar with the Code Talkers on the back, and a sheep — a goofy, half-joking, memorial to Hellnarian memories of Iceland.

Thank you all my friends for such a wonderful Christmas. ❤

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/cherish/

Quotidian Christmas Rant # 93

What’s the deal with Christmas? This past Saturday I was walking with the dogs and I felt, suddenly, like someone was hammering a hot railroad spike into the space above my right eye. Since the ONLY headaches I get are migraines, it was strange. I walked and thought, “Shake it off, Kennedy.” It actually did go away.

But not really.

By Monday my sinuses were more like a concrete truck than the brilliantly designed drainage system they’re supposed to be. I KNEW what it was. I have PLANS this week. I didn’t want a sinus infection (who ever wants one?). I just had one last summer. Two in one year? Where’s the justice in that? I called the doctor. No way to see her, but I could see the nurse practitioner late that afternoon. I went.

It was gorgeous out there in Del Norte, I have to say.

“Yeah, the sinuses on the right side are very inflamed.” So, I had correctly diagnosed myself. She sent out a prescription (we don’t have to carry them any more). I drove the 14 miles home, and stopped at the pharmacy that hides in a dark corner of the local IGA grocery a block from my house. The kind and friendly people who work there — and live here — took care of me. I came home with Zithromycin. I was hoping for a quick fix.

There is no quick fix. Not quick enough. I spent yesterday trying to prepare for the drive north that was to happen today, but I was and am so tired. One particular characteristic of a sinus infection is fatigue. I don’t know if it’s the infection or the problems breathing and getting less oxygen, but not even my brain was working right (shut up). I went to the vets to get meds for my dogs, put them in my pocket and when I started to leave, I went back thinking I’d forgotten the meds… Sigh.

Even Bear got the idea yesterday that things were not right with her person and didn’t harass me for a walk. I couldn’t have done it. I don’t think I can do it today. Maybe. But I did pack, I did get the car cleaned out. I did some stuff.

What is the deal? My mom used to bitch at me every year, “You always get sick at Christmas!” It’s kind of but not totally true. I probably get sick at lots of other times that are not printed in red numbers on the calendar so no one notices, days that didn’t affect anyone’s plans.

I have no calling this morning. I just have plans I  have to reconfigure because I honestly am too sleepy to drive.

Most of the time I wish Christmas didn’t exist. I don’t fear the dark of winter’s short days. I don’t think Jesus did, either, seeing as he was born in a place where the days stay pretty much the same length all year, AND where the dominant culture was busy celebrating Saturnalia which must have been pretty wild. I actually think that celebrating Christmas should be a personal and quiet thing considering Christmas doesn’t even mean the same thing to any two people.

I hate the flash and expense of consumerism, but I have noticed that stores starting the Christmas thing WAY in October means that by the time Christmas is actually about to arrive, the whole sparkly mess has lost its power by being around so long. For me, the best part of Christmas is making Christmas cards, but that got messed up this year because my aunt Dickie died right as I was involved in that. I didn’t write them all at once or check off names in my address book. I don’t know for sure to whom I sent cards! I also enjoyed drawing gift tags this year; that was really fun. Painting rocks was good. I enjoyed hearing The Messiah with my neighbors. But now? I just wish I wasn’t sick.

Thanks for listening to me whine.

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/calling/

Sweet Day

When I was teaching, I had almost no social life. I taught literally all the time. I taught writing which means hundreds of essays to read, correct and respond to. And, I taught seven classes. A full load for a tenured faculty member is four classes one semester, three the next. This means in a whole YEAR that person teaches as many classes as I taught in a semester. Usually they had grading assistants to help with their load. I had grading assistants two semesters in my entire 35+ year career. Seven classes means I normally taught three classes a day. My seventh class was usually on Saturday morning. I really didn’t have the time or inclination to get to know anyone.

When I moved away from California, I left virtually no friends behind except the one who, a year or two later, moved to Colorado Springs, and my wonderful neighbors who’d already moved to work and live on a ranch in Northern California.

Moving to Monte Vista changed my life in almost every way, but the desire to know people has been one of the best. I moved into a neighborhood and, in my neighborhood, I found friends.

Yesterday we got together for one of our infamous tea parties (but we had coffee). This was kind of special because it was on St. Lucia’s Day which, in my family, was always the first day of Christmas. It was the day we put up our tree. Sometimes my mother invited guests for dinner and she cooked Lutefisk of song and legend. She wasn’t Swedish, but my dad’s mom was. It was a huge event if that’s what happened.

Lutefisk is dried, salted whitefish that’s been preserved in lye. (Cue Viking music.) Lutefisk wasn’t easy to find, but my mom always managed to find it. It had to soak over night, transforming from a whiteish, silverish, grayish boardlike thing to a gelatinous mass. It was then boiled, served on boiled potatoes with a creamy white sauce that my grandmother made with real butter, my mom with margarine. Along with it we had lingonberries and potato sausage (yum). Sometimes Swedish rye bread.

My neighbor, K, is Swedish and last year we talked of a tea party on St. Lucia’s day, but I was very sick last year and it didn’t happen.

But it happened yesterday. My neighbor, E, made traditional Swedish saffron buns and I made Swedish fruit soup. Remembering that no Swede in my life EVER drank tea, I made coffee.

Our conversation went from cooking to memories to family to the future in the hands of upcoming generations (none-to-soon, IMO) to the sudden preponderance of complaints by women of sexual harassment. It’s a hot-button topic for me, not the most congenial subject, but there we were. Having been — most of the time — a single, working woman — I have had WAY too many experiences with it. When I complained to bosses, supervisors, I was NEVER believed. “He didn’t mean that,” was one response I got from a boss when a fellow teacher stood behind me while I was working on the shared computer in our office and said, “You know you want to stick your hand down my pants. Why don’t you?” He harassed another woman, too, and rather being reprimanded, he was told to get psychiatric help. Another case involved a fellow teacher who was on the tenure review committee when I was going for a tenured position. He made it very clear to me that if I didn’t “do him” I could forget tenure. I didn’t “do him” and I didn’t get tenure. When I complained, a supervising colleague believed me, but the Dean did not. These are just two stories of a long litany that left me thinking that some men (most men? all men?) will demonstrate dominance in whatever way they can whether it’s sexually or, as in the case of a boss at SDSU, by verbally abusing me in front of staff.

E seemed to think the “Me Too” movement would have an effect on changing the society. My take is that it’s human nature and that’s pretty hard to change, but maybe it would make people think twice. We didn’t reach a conclusion.

I don’t know. I am just grateful not to be on the road any more. Not to be walking into classrooms or called in by some boss who doesn’t understand what I do because he’s a system’s analyst and I’m a writing teacher. I love this valley with all my heart and soul. I like my neighbors very much and I’m grateful to have been dropped into this little nexus of kindness and old-fashioned values and manners. I don’t know the answer to the world’s problems, but I suspect more Swedish saffron buns, more fruit soup, more congenial conversations, more good neighbors, more generosity of heart and soul could fix a lot of things.

 

 

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/legend/

The Messiah

Yesterday my friend, E, invited my friend K and I to go with her to hear The Messiah which was being performed at the catholic church in Alamosa by the Valley Community Chorus and the San Luis Valley Symphony.

Remember. The “community” is as large as Connecticut and has fewer than 50,000 people in it.

The sanctuary was PACKED. We were a little late because of me. I had some problems with the dogs while I was getting “gussied up” (elegance? not quite) and ultimately forgot to close the back door and we had to turn around, but we still got seats.

The first singer was a young man with an amazing tenor voice.

I listened to the music and its story and thought of Jesus.

I think a lot about Jesus. People’s belief in Jesus is about all I write about. And, it’s a big thing for people. When I bought my new table, the very nice people from whom I bought it asked me about my church. It’s a normal thing here. I am also OK telling the truth which is that I’m good with God, I don’t want to join a team.

Some atheist friends of mine in San Diego who were using a Christ based curriculum to homeschool their kids got around it by calling it the “Jesus story.” I think it’s a lot more than that. I think it’s a very important story beyond the boundaries of any organized religion. It’s humanity’s story. I was conscious of it again listening to the Messiah.

This little baby is born — a birth that is miraculous because we can’t have an ordinary birth or an ordinary baby if we’re going to make this an important story.

In The Messiah (and in the Christmas story) my favorite part is where the angels appear to the terrified shepherds and say, “Be not afraid…”

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. 10And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. 11For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. 12And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. 13And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,

14Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. Luke 2

Compassion, in the sky.

When they got to “…peace, good will toward men” I wanted to cry.  I saw the whole thing.  Thousands of generations people at war with someone, mothers and fathers mourning the deaths of their children, cultures destroyed. I saw acrimony and anger everywhere FOREVER. Me in an argument on Facebook about whether my “remote” valley “deserves” tax money from the good people of Denver to keep operating our tiny, rural, life-saving airport.

And all the while, people are yearning for peace, including me, but I also want to punch the guy’s face in for not getting it.

Why is it so hard? Jesus — and others — have laid it out very clearly. “Love God and love your neighbor.” It’s totally possible to do those two things whether God’s name is Yaweh or Lamont. It doesn’t matter. And if there IS no God, you can still love your neighbor.

And I thought — not for the first time — “Poor Jesus.”

The story spun itself out climaxing in Jesus resurrection in the “Hallelujah Chorus” for which everyone stood and some sang along. It was a beautiful moment observing the people who live in ‘my” valley.

 

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/elegance/

It’s not Just Picnics and Turkey

I’m not big on traditions. I don’t even like them very much. One reason is that I live a solitary life and most of the traditions in a culture involve the tribe (the family). I have no family. I’m not going to “gather together to ask the Lord’s blessing” and carve up a turkey on Thanksgiving. I’m not going to have a big family cookout on Memorial day.

Truth be told, when I was in a situation where these things were part of my life, I hated them. I think a lot of people do. Beyond what people have told me about their holiday experiences (shudder), there are many films made about family meltdowns at traditional holidays. “Let’s bring a bunch of people together who have NO affiliation beyond childhood history and blood and see what happens!”

But… None of this means I cannot be touched by traditions.

Though I don’t have much in the way of family, I do have a “family” though I’m not related to them by blood. One “branch” of this family is my stepson, his wife and their kids.

Long, long ago in a stone cottage in far away Southern California, it was Christmas Eve. S, the German wife of my stepson, B, had decided to make German Christmas Eve dinner because she was homesick for German traditions. She also loves me (it’s mutual) and as they had no other family pressures for that day (Mother-in-Law) they decided to bring Christmas Eve up the road to me. I was then living in the Cuyamaca Mountains about 30 miles east of San Diego.

I did not know what to expect, but I was definitely open to it. Many unexpected and superlatively cool things have happened to me on Christmas Eve.

They arrived with baskets and boxes and bags of food and — what? Presents??? They put the presents under my tiny (12 inch) living Christmas tree (that means they put the presents on the dining room table). S immediately set about organizing things (she is German). I said, “Why don’t we take a hike before dinner?” I had mentioned decorating a pine tree up in the forest in the nearby mountains on Christmas Eve. This was interpreted as putting birdseed on a pine tree in the mountains and S had brought bird treats. I also knew (and they didn’t) that up there in the higher mountains was…

Snow.

My gift to S was a white Christmas.

We got in my car with Dusty T. Dog and headed to the Laguna Mountains. S couldn’t believe what she saw — a foot and more of snow on the ground. We got out and took a snowy walk. We hung a bird seed bell and suet rack on a tree, took some photos, and headed back for dinner.

Dinner was great, and after cleaning up we sat around in the living room and exchanged gifts.

Exchanging gifts on Christmas Eve is the tradition in my family. As I said, most of my family is dead. It’s a custom I enjoyed as a little kid with a huge extended family and in my own little family with my mom, dad and brother. There came a point in the Great Vanishing when it stopped. I think that was about 2004. I didn’t notice because it didn’t stop right on Christmas Eve, but choices I made in my life and events in my life, meant I wasn’t going ‘home’ to Montana (where the remainder of my family lives) for Christmas. Meanwhile, things were changing up there, too. I never thought about it. Never thought, “Well that’s it for the Christmas Eve exchange of gifts with my family. It was good while it lasted.”

So there we were, S, B and I opening gifts together on Christmas Eve in my little stone cottage in Southern California. The fire in the wood stove kept us comfy and warm. I felt deeply happy, connected, to all the years of tradition, my family, my grandma, all of them, that I love so much.

And that, folks, is the magic of tradition.

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