I’m changing the format so that the update is at the top.
I finished the day with the delicious meal I’d been working on for three days — roast duck, celery and onion dressing, watercress salad, spiced Seckel pears — more proletarian carols, the life of Swinburne, and sleep.
Well, she ain’t playin’ croquet now.‘
I laid in all 8 discs of the BBC’s 1974 costume drama of the Pallisers, by Trollope, as it is clear I will never read that particular master. And I do so love a pretty dress. On Christmas Day I am allowed to believe 1864 was before all the shit hit the fan. Now for some therapeutic crochet, writing a few more 12 days of Christmas cards (it ain’t over until January 6, all you crazy people who put your tree up on Thanksgiving), endless Victorian chazerei, and perhaps a cup of Mariage Freres tea at four.
I will be grazing on Waverly Fitzgerald’s pagan solstice celebrations and bracing quotes from my old age studies. Ready for some Seneca? Buckle up.
I’m definitely drunk on cranberry tangerine juice. It prolly has more sugar in it than I ate all year. Except maybe for the plate of biscochitos a friend swapped me for Christmas chicken ornaments I made. I am lolling on the couch in my jammies, surfing the net. Lucky me.
Every time the carb load threatens to kill my buzz, I look at the windows. The house is filled with sunlight, burning candles and lit Christmas ornaments.
While shepherds watched their flocks by night,
All seated on the ground,
The angel of the Lord came down,
And glory shone around.
“Fear not!” said he, for mighty dread
Had seized their troubled mind;
“Glad tidings of great joy I bring
To you and all mankind.
“To you, in David’s town, this day
Is born of David’s line
A Savior, who is Christ the Lord,
And this shall be the sign:
“The heav’nly Babe you there shall find
To human view displayed,
All meanly wrapped in swathing bands,
And in a manger laid.”
Thus spake the seraph and forthwith
Appeared a shining throng
Of angels praising God on high,
Who thus addressed their song:
“All glory be to God on high,
And to the Earth be peace;
Good will henceforth from heav’n to men
Begin and never cease!”
Source: •Songs of Victory, 1885 (57)
I’m taking my handcarved wooden coffee scoop instead of a begging bowl to the Vanaprastha hermitage.
Awoke to nightmares about powerlessness in the face of death: the dog disappeared down a well. My teeth ache from grinding all night long. Sciatica stabs my thigh. I command God to take the pain away immediately. It stops. I think about a Christmas religious message, that the Christ spirit within me is awakened. I think about Swami Shankarananda’s command to see God flood the universe.
I put in my eye drops. I take out my tooth guard. I get up. The sight of the blue bayou tree, its frogs and stars, gives me true consolation. I turn on the oven. I take the strata I made for Christmas breakfast out of the refrigerator. I turn on the Moravian star lights. I scoop coffee with the scoop handcarved by Berea college students which always brings me home. I look at the sunlight on my neighbor’s wall. I will light the pillar candle soon.
Here is what Terrence Des Pres writes about “Nightmare and Waking” in the concentration camps:
The fact that prisoners remained sane with so little rest and under such pressure argues a radical revision of the body’s basic rhythms and therefore an agency beyond will alone. Sleep and waking are phases in a process biologically determined, and we may speculate that in extremity men and women find a foundation for struggle in the organic activities of everyday life, as if these were indeed acts of life. Every morning the survivor’s will had to be renewed, and it was not through some secret fortitude of the heart, but through the physical act of getting up. The pain might be enormous, despair complete, but the commitment — to that day, to that much more of existence — was made. A survivor of Auschwitz [Primo Levi] describes it this way: “I climb down on to the floor and put on my shoes. The sores on my feet reopen at once, and a new day begins.”
I am far from Auschwitz, but this passage of The Survivor: An Anatomy of Life in the Death Camps has gotten me through years. I have faith in it. Do you think the Swami would let me take my handcarved Berea College coffee scoop into the forest? Now to light my pillar candle.
Realize that my neighbor and I both really want to be alone, and that the annual invasion by tour buses of the neighborhood light display will prevent me from escaping the hood for parties or church services. I think about the place you get when there’s nothing else to do, no obligations, no hope, no despair — I call it floating. It’s a form a bliss known to detachment students. I am reading Swami Shankarananda on third ashram of Hindu life, early old age, when a good Hindu leaves home and work and goes to the forest with his begging bowl. A season of asceticism. He says you need to perform a purification of the subconscious mind as the last act of the second stage of life, householder, before you leave home.”Once a person has purified his subconscious mind (Chitt) by performing selfless service (Nishkam Karma) then one must leave his home without delay.”
Hot coffee, oatmeal toast, plum jam, I’ma hafta Google this.
is the third ashram of life, and the Hindus assign it spiritual duties. Shankarananda writes
Treat the hunger as a disease. Just as one takes medicine for disease, in the same way take alms daily to satisfy your hunger. Do not hanker for tasty food. Be satisfied with whatever food destiny gives you. Silently face the discomfort of heat and cold. Do not indulge in loose talks. It is desirable to be indifferent to the vagaries of life. Firmly renounce the favours of others. Live happily in solitude. Apply your mind fully on God. Try to see God in the various names and forms all around. Visualise the world as engulfed by God. Do not lament your past deeds. By sheer knowledge be dispassionate to all deed you perform in the future. Undergo whatever destiny has in store for you, here itself. Thereafter, abide in your True Self.
My True Self is still snared in the pleasures of the household. I have to read my home reno blogs now, I love the energy people put into concatenating home. And then I have to can a batch of spiced Seckel pears I made for Christmas Eve dinner a la Edna Lewis. Wash the kitchen floor. Put up, as per Christmas Eve tradition, the Christmas tree and decorate it. So I’ll be totally surprised tomorrow morning to discover that Santa has come.
Just flashed on the Christmas my parents invited a soltero to Christmas dinner. Apparently he had a few drinks before he arrived, because he had to go take a nap before Christmas dinner and was never seen again.
I have pickled up the Seckel pears for Christmas dinner. I am washing the mountain of dishes, surfing the Web, and eating crackers and pimento cheese. I am edging into the solstice, or perhaps Hindu, practice of listing everything I want to let go at the Burning Bowl ceremony I’m attending New Year’s Eve. Love and work are my big problems, this past year. Unlike everyone else. I think I have turned things around by my own courage and actions. It doesn’t feel so good yet. And I just flashed on the extraordinary unhappiness of the lives of my parents and family, which has had its impact on my own. I think I’ll be letting that go, in specific terms, when we step up to the altar to burn what no longer serves us on New Year’s Eve. I’m not exactly thinking of New Year’s resolutions, but of methods for going forward more whole and less entangled in other people’s intractable mental health problems. I’ve been taking care of these people for over 60 years, since before I could walk and talk. And now I stop.
I’m also unpacking the Christmas ornaments. I got out my mother’s 70+ year-old Mexican pottery bowl and filled it with clementines. Lit a pillar candle. Set the ivy wreath around the St. Lucy’s Viking candle crown and the little straw Dala horse ornaments around it. My grandma’s poem, written in 1941, on red construction paper, for her beloved daughter, my mother, for Christmas. Found the cute Dala horses garland I made from a download. And stashed it in my envelope for felt ornament patterns for next year.
Spirits flagging, as they always do at this hour. A certain slant of light.
The kitchen and I are scrubbed as clean as we’re going to get.
Emptying the strained cloves out of my mother’s enameled kitchen colander, which is probably older than me, I thought about what a wonderful and spirited cook she was. She cooked her way through the New York Times’ 1939
World’s Fair recipes on a llama-dung stove on the shores of Lake Titicaca. I still have her honeymoon cookbook with those clippings in it.
Here’s the story I wrote of their Christmases there, just before the war.
Time for “Meet Me in St. Louis”, which the BBC rates as one of the best unsung Christmas movies ever, some therapeutic crochet, and dipping into Waverly Fitzgerald’s wonderful compendium of non-Christian solstice celebrations.
Sitting in the Darkness
I’ve created one of my most satisfying winter solstice rituals around the feast day of Diva Angerona, a Roman goddess, so obscure that I for a long time I couldn’t find a source to verify her existence. All I knew was that her holiday was the Winter Solstice and she was supposedly the goddess of silence, always pictured holding her finger to her lips.
My ritual involves spending the day of the solstice in silence. I don’t talk to anyone, turn on the radio or the TV or answer the phone. I turn over or hide all the clocks. To increase my sense of time out of time, I also don’t turn on the electric lights at night but light candles. I’ve been doing this for many years and I love my oasis of peace and serenity in the midst of the chaotic holiday season.
The Blue Bayou tree is up. Blue Bayou is my happy place. The tree has tree frogs and silver stars, which is my first memory. We were in Puerto Rico. I was looking out the window at the night sky, and thought the twinkling of the stars made sound the tree frogs were singing. I believe.
There’s also shells, feathers, dragonflies, fish, and dimes with a hole drilled through and a red silk cord. You might could call it voodoo.
Still watching “Meet Me in St. Louis”. I love a pretty costume. These are Irene Sharaff. I got a lot done today, not everything I wanted to. But tomorrow is Christmas, and all is forgiven.
Just flashing on some wonderful presents my parents got me. A full Annie Oakley cowgirl outfit in Liberia. All the way to Suakoko. That Santa Claus is an amazing guy.