Category Archives: holidays

Stuff and non-stuff

A gifted bowl. Milkweed pods sprayed gold by my sister.

Even as the tableaux produces a pang about Noreen (she was rapidly declining this time last year), the simplicity pleases.

A worn wooden floor. An exalted weed. A textured bowl crafted by a friend, lively in its imperfection.

Our relationship to things changes over time, doesn’t it?

I’m always ready to take the decorations down before husband and somehow feel a little bad about that. What does my eagerness signal?

Don’t get me wrong. I love the sweet nutcrackers, the festive wreaths, and the sentimental decorations given to the boys year in and year out. They represent a life lived and lived with some modicum of joy.

They signal the advent of time-outside-of-time.

In other years, the enjoyment of displaying decorations and the pleasure at putting them away ran about 50/50. This year, there was no contest. I felt a visceral relief clearing the spaces. I can almost imagine not bothering with any of it at some point.

I’ll leave you with this shot from Finn’s and my morning walk and a stanza from a poem by Wallace Stevens:

I do not know which to prefer, / The beauty of inflections / Or the beauty of innuendoes, / The blackbird whistling / Or just after.

From Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird.

Solstice means Sun Standing Still

Wendell Barry’s lines: “make a poem that does not disturb / the silence from which it came,” served as a writing prompt this week. Tall order, that! In fact, those lines would make a useful weekly prompt for the rest of my life (the full Berry poem, below).

SoulCollage : Solstice

Here’s a version of what I wrote on Tuesday.

Even when lids shut, the tissue
aquiver — the scroll of light
rolling on, a form of
damnation.

I want to go through my days,
my nights, like a rib cage.
Each curving spear connected
at a central pole. Sure
in form, sure in purpose,
protecting the two wind
lobes and the single beating
fist — lungs and heart safer
for the bony embrace.

Instead, a vibrato of uncertainty.

How has the non-tactile
flow of damage gained ascendancy
over sinew and nerve,
crowding out all the places
in the body that crave
silence?

One day those ribs will spear
dirt and crumble. Shouldn’t the body
being Hand Maiden to Death wake
us out of stupor now
and then?

Let me eat a cracker
with a smidge of butter.
Let me sweep the steps free of snow
and then sleep under a blanket
that whispers ‘hallelujah.’
Let the sun falling on tabletops
stir gratitude.

The Solstice is here.
Let ‘standing still’ mean something.

Wendell Berry’s poem, “How to Be a Poet,” from “Given:”

Make a place to sit down
Sit down. Be quiet. [ . . .]

Breathe with unconditional breath
the unconditional air.
Shun electric wire.
Communicate slowly. Live
a three-dimensional life;
stay away from screens.
Stay away from anything
that obscures the place it is in.
There are no unsacred places;
there are only sacred places
and desecrated places.

Accept what comes from silence.
Make the best you can of it.
Of the little words that come
out of the silence, like prayers
prayed back to the one who prays,
make a poem that does not disturb
the silence from which it came.

So many lines there to use as springboards!

I made my crack of day (not quite dawn) run to Wegman’s. Shallots, greens, prosciutto, corn meal, dill and sage, oranges and oyster mushrooms. Tonight: a Solstice Party at a neighbor’s (see last year’s post on ‘the Irish Goodbye’). I’ll bring an onion tart. Christmas Eve, dinner for eight. Ham, smashed potatoes, Brussels sprouts and cukes in vinegar. Slight variation on a meal I’ve made many times.

Any nice ideas for dessert?

With the boys and now my niece living so far away (LA, Boulder, San Fran), I’m really looking forward to this.

Happy Solstice to you!
May the richness of the dark touch you, nourish you,
and bring us all forward into the light.

PS I went to see if my first blog post was December 2009 so as to mention TEN YEARS of blogging. Turns out the first came December 2008. Imagine that! Eleven years here.

Mail from Michelle. More on that to come.

Also, have to post this. It goes to season, darkness, and the hope for cycling into light, after all.

 

 

Not traditional

We had a semi-typical TG meal last week when C was here: stuffed Cornish game hens, homemade cranberry sauce, wilted cucumbers and roasted butternut squash.

Tonight, we celebrate a different kind of moment. “The Irishman” is on. The fire warm. And dinner, based on a meal enjoyed at Vesta in Denver, is delicious!

Braised lamb shanks and root vegetables served on Parmesan / rosemary grits with garlic baby bok choy and more of that homemade cranberry sauce.

Chocolate biscotti for dessert.

Grateful.

Happy thanksgiving to all!

Movie tradition

Some years ago, I started a tradition of watching “Children of Men” every November. I’m not even sure why. The dystopian landscape is one that might manifest ten minutes from now — the scariest kind. There’s a compelling story and an unbelievable cast, including one of my all time favorites — Clive Owen.

(From IMdB)

The first time I saw the film, the idea of immigrants in cages seemed a little far fetched. But now? One characters states: “Illegal immigrants — our government hunts them down like cockroaches.” To Americans, this no longer sounds like the stuff of fantasy.

The distribution of assets is spectacularly unfair, with most people living in drab utilitarian spaces or in squalor. And then there is the fact that no baby has been born in 18 years.

In 2007, a year after the movie was made, Roger Ebert reviewed the film and penned these lines, more relevant now than they were 12 years ago:

Often I fear it will all come to this, that the rule of law and the rights of men will be destroyed by sectarian mischief and nationalistic recklessness. Are we living in the last good times?

In rare and spooky synchronicity, The Boston Globe today featured an article about declining fertility rates.

After a respectable pause, it’ll be on to my holiday favorites, prime among them “The Last Holiday,” with Queen Latifah.

Do you have any movie traditions this time of year?

the Irish goodbye

The Irish goodbye is a thing, you know. I’d done it, more or less, my entire life before finding that out.

What is the Irish goodbye? It’s the swift, some would say ungracious, nonverbal exit from company — often well before a social event’s natural end point.

My husband sometimes accommodates me. Last night, all I had to say was, “time to go” and in a matter of minutes, we were donning our coats and inhaling the bracing December air.

When you consider how much we would’ve had to interrupt our hosts in order to say ‘goodnight’ and ‘thank you’ — it’s not THAT ungracious a maneuver. I sent a beautiful picture and note by email this morning, along with a dinner invite for January. I’m not a monster!

You have to understand — this internal, possibly genetically-imparted pressure has absolutely nothing to do with the society involved. Last night’s party, for instance, was filled with folks I don’t get to see much anymore. People I really, really like. Interesting people.

Plus, there was a long dining table sagging with a glorious array of home-cooked dishes. You don’t always get that at gatherings.

No, it’s my disposition — some weird mix of ADD, impatience, and thorough-going introversion (recall the touchstones of an introvert — energized by solitude, drained by company).

And, just so you know, sometimes I accommodate my husband, generally when visiting his family. My in-law’s style of goodbye is the polar opposite of the Irish goodbye. Picture long, drawn out exchanges, often on the driveway with coats on and motors running. Future plans are outlined, routes home discussed. Entire conversations rise and fall, then rise and fall again. There are hugs and more hugs. I married into such a kind and considerate family!

Where am I during that second round of hugs, you ask? Often sitting in the car preparing to deal with my husband’s abject failure to abide by a generous, pre-arranged limit.

Fortunately, there is humor and self-acceptance in all of this. That’s the really, really good news.