Just bitchin'

And To All A Good Night…

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I did something shocking.

I proclaimed, loudly and without the slightest apology: “Merry Christmas.”

I hadn’t intended to; it just slipped out.

Silence ensued.

I had committed the politically incorrect sin of uttering something un-generic at a time of year when we are all very careful to tiptoe about on religious eggshells for fear of alienating anyone who might not celebrate the same holiday that we do.

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I knew it the second the words dropped like leaden harbingers of impropriety. And then I decided I really didn’t care what others thought. I wouldn’t be offended if someone wished me a Happy Hanukkah, or a Happy Solstice, or any of the multitude of other winter observations, as long as the intent was to share joy.

I’m sorry to offend, but the term ‘Happy Holidays’ just doesn’t pack the emotional oomph of its more specific cousins.

So with all due respect…

Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night…

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Suddenly Strange

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This morning there were bats silhouetted against ragged clouds tinted moon-orange.

Such eerie beauty catches your breath. When you remember to inhale, you breathe in the change that is gathering in the dark. This is the time of year when worlds collide…

…when the separation between superstition and logic thins, perforates, lifts…

…when it is rumored the faerie kingdom is on the move, changing venue for another year…

…when ethereal things solidify…

…when the current of strange energy that few can perceive, flares bright.

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It’s candy and costumes and masked balls. It’s opening your door to strangers and taking risks.

It’s a feeling in the pit of your stomach that wavers between terror and anticipation. It’s the small hairs on your neck rising. It’s the fleeting image of something pale gibbering in the corner of your eye.

You are haunted.

You love it.

Happy Halloween…

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A Different Kind of 4th

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I live on the beach, so the 4th of July is usually a noisy, colorful celebration that sparkles across the night sky from sundown to midnight, with a few inebriated revelers lurching about until dawn, setting off the occasional Roman candle just to keep the rest of us on our toes.

Not so this year.

Extreme fire danger prompted authorities to ban fireworks.

Bans rarely enjoy unanimous compliance here. Especially on the 4th of July. I mean, in a country that treasures individual freedom above all else…a nation based on rebellion…you think we’re going to do as we’re told on the very holiday that honors revolution?

Naaaaah.

But this year was different.

The fireworks displays were fewer and farther between. Instead of sitting on my beach, feeling the ground reverberate, hearing my windows rattle, and keeping a hose handy for the vagrant sparks the wind would fan my way…instead of all that, I listened to quiet voices in the dark.

I listened to an elderly gentleman tell the story of the American Revolution to grandchildren who weren’t distracted by pyrotechnics.

I watched a young father raise his daughter to his shoulders and point out the dazzling constellations that glittered overhead in a crystal clear sky.

I heard someone whisper ‘We’re so lucky to live here.’

And I have to agree.

Happy Birthday, America.

Thank you for taking my people in, so I could call you ‘home.’

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The Magic of the Night…

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Christmas Day is lovely.
Can’t argue with that.

But the night before is what steals my breath and makes me believe in magic. When you’ve outgrown Santa, when you’ve made the conscious decision to relegate to the rear mad shopping, stress and the frantic pace, what is left is the sheer beauty of the season.

For me nothing showcases that unique splendor like a fine, clear, cold night. Dark. Deserted. Lit with splendor.

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I wander unfamiliar neighborhoods and find elaborate displays. Extravagant creations glittering in the night….

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Sparkling abundance paying silent homage….

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But I linger longest before the simple presentations.

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Their elegant purity touches the heart. They do not shout. They whisper.

This is the night before the Day. This is the anticipation of the celebration of something extraordinary.

Merry Christmas…

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Alternative Rites of Christmas

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Every family celebrates the holidays with a touch of individuality.

Those little quirks acquired along the way eventually transform into tradition.

The earliest remembrance I have of mine was around the age of four.

We’d been decorating the Christmas tree, that huge pine-scented presence that brought magic and happy expectation into our home. Someone of my tender years wasn’t allowed to do much. While the others adjusted lights, draped tinsel, and placed strategic puffs of angel’s hair, my primary task was to put hooks on the ornaments. Sitting cross-legged on the floor, I pulled each delicate, blown-glass piece from its nest of tissue paper, attached the wire hook and placed the finished product to one side for someone else to have the honor of hanging.

Low to the ground, I saw things the others didn’t. Like the way the tree’s water supply was already littered with pine needles. Like the way the cottony-white skirt sprinkled with glitter caught the light, shimmering like an echo of the magnificence towering above it.

Like the family dog, Tio, having his way with a light bulb.

All our decorations were handed down from grandparents I’d never known. The lights were antiquated: large, heavy things, tapering from a broad end with the screw cap to a rounded tip. Tio had managed to engulf the whole ensemble, leaving only the tip poking between his lips like a glossy, green bubble.

Neither Tio nor I recognized the danger of the situation. He wagged his tail in contentment, sucking on his new toy. But my laughter at the ridiculous picture he presented alerted my mother. Scolding, she pulled the bulb from Tio’s mouth, then replaced it with a green-tinted biscuit.

Dogs are smart. They remember.

Every year thereafter, Tio demanded a biscuit in return for refraining from mouthing light bulbs.

At some point, we began leaving the biscuit on a low-lying branch of the tree. Tio would snatch it up and consider his ransom demand met.

But that made the cats jealous.

Food wouldn’t placate Buffy and Phoebe. Oh, no. They wanted the crash and dazzle of breakage. They wanted an interactive batting practice. And so began the tradition that still continues today.

The Rite of the Sacrificial Ornament.

It must be large. It must be shiny. It must hang low.

Its demise must be met with a humble, human willingness to clean up the mess.

If these conditions are not met at the outset, then woe to the entire tree. It will not survive. However, make the sacrifice and nothing else is required.

It astonishes me that this bargain has passed from generation to generation of pets as well as people. At least that’s how I see it. I put up my first tree on my own, in my own apartment only to have it decimated by Boots, a cat who had never been party to previous Rites of Sacrifice. It was with an almost occult shiver of skepticism that I righted the tree, cleaned up the damage, and then, with disbelieving fingers, hung a sacrificial ornament.

Boots accepted it. The rest of the tree was left inviolate. And so it continued.

This rite persists. It is weird in its reliable performance.

But I suppose the same could be said of my family.

We are the practitioners of the Rite of the Sacrificial Ornament.

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Human Hubris

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I know a couple verging on senior citizenship. They are professionals. They are well-off financially. They are parents and grandparents. They are educated and well-traveled.

They send me cute, little e-mail greeting cards at the drop of a hat. New Year’s. Valentine’s Day. St. Patrick’s Day. Mother’s Day. Father’s Day. Arbor Day. Thanksgiving. And Christmas…assuredly Christmas.

But not Halloween. Never, ever Halloween.

They associate All Hallow’s Eve with Satanism…Devil Worship…Eternal Damnation…

They worry about me. Because of my Celtic heritage and the way I embrace a night of costumes and folklore and imagination. They have recommended their church to me in hopes that I will join and ‘find the companionship that has so enriched our lives.’

But I know what they’re really saying. The poor girl with the Welsh ancestors needs saving. And being the good people they are, they will not shrink from the task of hammering out that pagan streak of innocence; replacing it with their own particular brand of Christianity.

I was raised Christian. I wear a fleur-de-lys cross . (I guess my French heritage passes muster with them, but I could be as wrong about that as I am wrong to celebrate Halloween.) I pray. I donate to charity regularly no matter what my financial circumstances of the moment. I cry when animals get hurt. I believe in things that are eternal and beautiful. And I have fun once a year in a shivery, fake-horror, too-many-sweets way.

And these people who cringe away from Halloween, who endeavor to live up to the standards they wish everyone would adopt, do things that horrify me. Most recently they confided that they were sorry they had to kill raccoons that trespassed on their newly-sodded lawn.

‘We spent so much to have it all made nice. We just couldn’t let animals destroy it.’

They trapped and killed the creatures themselves. ‘But we said a prayer for our souls with each one we put down.’

Well, I guess that makes it all okay, doesn’t it?

They believe such action is acceptable, because ‘animals have no souls.’

Ah, yes. The hubris of the human race. Like a story in the news some months ago. After extensive study of the electrical impulses in their brains and comparison to synonymous paths in those of humans, it was declared that dogs are indeed capable of feeling love.

Gosh, really? Did you really need to spend vast amounts of time with extremely expensive equipment to come to that conclusion? I could have told you dogs feel love. And cats. And pretty much any creature you take the time to know.

The hubris of the human race. Again.

Next thing you know, they’ll be announcing that animals…yes, even animals!…have souls. But first they’ll have to prove that humans do, so there will be something to use as a baseline comparison.

I’m not sure they can. At least, not all of us…. Must be that rebellious, Celtic streak.

 

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