The past two weeks have been interesting. The Roman Janus was a two-faced god. I expect this is how the Romans explained the fair and foul possibilities of this first month of the year. We’ve, so far, experienced both and we are only at mid-month.
Epiphany was a lovely celebration and party — downstairs at the church instead of throughout our abode. The ambiance was different, but we all enjoyed the evening and managed to go through quite a lot of delicious food. The kids had fun with Twister and toys at one end of the social room. The laughter at the tables indicated that the adults didn’t need games to have a good time. We missed the sing-along, but that is only because our song leader was down with the dreadful head cold that seems to be going around. I would say that about 35 of us ended the Christmas season with great appreciation and festivity.
Then entered a real downer—- I was getting threatening/extortion letters in my Email. So I decided to change my address and passwords. It will be a while and several more calls for tech support before I’m back to normal; I’m having trouble accessing Face Book so you won’t see me there for a while. Please note my changed Email at the bottom of this essay. Truly, if the person who created this disaster could be caught, I’d first sentence him/her to a few days in the stocks of early New England days — and then public service cleaning out the sewers of some large city. I’m just a little angry!! ☹ We went through all the recommended routes —- State Police, Attorney General’s office — to no avail. They only said that they were getting other calls about the same thing. This seems to be a crime that no one wants to or is technologically savvy enough, to tackle. And for those of us who are basically computer illiterate, it becomes a major stressor!***
Then, just as the temperature was taking a nose-dive last week, our furnace began making whooping cough-like sounds. Our kind furnace man dropped by the next day and diagnosed worn-out bearings in the motor. When I think of how long furnaces used to last —- a lifetime —-this is distressing, and ours isn’t all that elderly! Fortunately, we could fire up the wood stove, operate several space heaters and remained relatively warm while awaiting the new bearings. When they are in, I will have increased appreciation for the thermostat.
In spite of our tech and mechanical problems, we did find the strength to go through all the bins when putting our Christmas decorations away, as promised earlier. We now have a variety of items in our “get rid of this” tub. Down-sizing Christmas decorations that have accumulated over the years, is definitely progress —-for us. Coming out of the Christmas season, though, reminds me of something from my childhood Christmases. Sibley’s and McCurdy’s were fine department stores in Rochester, and each of them created a yearly animated Christmas wonderland. Displays were set into seven or eight small booths (I’d guess 6×6 foot dimensions) and as one walked along a dark tunnel, the lighted scenes changed from magic elves making toys to Santa checking his list, along with reindeer and Mrs. Santa. Sometimes it was the Christmas story with angels, manger and shepherds. This was not video; these were 3-dimensional figures that moved. It was an elaborate project, with a different theme each year via those music-filled dioramas. Coming out of the magic tunnel into day light and throngs of busy shoppers was a rude awakening. It took a few minutes to adjust both eyes and one’s sense of reality. Now, having packed away the tree ornaments, the crèche and the glass snowflakes I am left with a similar sensation. I need to blink a few times before I can contemplate the winter before me.
Robert Herrick*, an English poet, wrote: “Down with the rosemary and so — down with the bags and mistletoe — down with the holly, ivy all wherewith ye dressed the Christmas hall.” So — we’ve done that, and are on to cleaning out dressers, boxes and trunks, my January project! I have found some interesting things. While searching for the myrrh and frankincense oils to be props for the Sunday school story, I came upon a basket full of carefully bagged and labeled dried herbs. I never did find the oils, but I have lemon balm for tea, borage leaves should I have a sore throat, and comfrey leaves for muscle or bone pain (external use only). It would probably be user-friendly, for me, to have many, many shelves (open storage) in every room so that I could see everything. Once placed in drawers or behind doors, my faulty memory seems to file things in some far recess of the brain, never again to emerge.
It’s January, but would you believe that I actually have a plant order in? There was a special offer if orders were in by a specific date in January. Usually I miss these things, but I paid attention this year. I am already envisioning the pale pink Montana Mayleen clematis climbing my back garden fence and I’m giving a violet-blue caryopteris one more try. Perhaps in a more sheltered spot it may winter over. I’m much better at planning gardens than in maintaining them, but the planning certainly provides winter “sunshine” on gray days.
So far, gray days have prevailed and the winter has been rain jacket to down parka and back again — just right for challenging immune systems. This weather is even disturbing the creatures outside. Last week when we awoke to two inches of new snow, the mourning doves were huddled in the lilac, pouting. They are ground birds and the ground wasn’t welcoming. Then the turkeys showed up and their big feet cleared away the snow so that the bird seed beneath the feeder could be accessed. Of course they greedily began cleaning it up, so the doves gave up and grumpily flew elsewhere. The cats aren’t really happy either; they shake their paws and look glumly at the expanse of whiteness. Ordinarily quite congenial, now they reach out and cuff each other. The ups and downs of winter drive many of us just a little crazy! Freckles is the only creature totally happy with cold and snow; he bounces in it, rolls in it and comes in feeling like a puppy again, even though he’s a very senior, senior citizen
It is comforting to think that the good things about Christmas don’t just end with storing away the creche; hopefully we carry the message of love and light with us all year. This is a poem that we used for our Christmas card many eons ago, and one that I think is fitting for the year before us: The Song of The Angels by Howard Thurman.**
“When the song of the angels is stilled
When the star in the sky is gone;
When the kings and the princes are home;
And the shepherds are back with their flocks,
Then the work of Christmas begins……….
To find the lost –
To heal the broken –
To feed the hungry –
To release the prisoners –
To rebuild the nations –
To bring peace among the people –
And to make music in each man’s heart.”
Hopefully, the smiling face of Janus will be turned our way and the cranky face looking into outer space. We’ve had some sun shine over the past week and it was reassuring to note the increased length of the day. Perhaps our faces will shine and our light increase, if we do our best to follow Mr. Thurman’s thoughtful post-Christmas philosophy.
And to feel better on the days when gloom seems to be a weight in the air, go outside. Really look — at the color and patterns in the shrubbery and trees, at what birds are flitting about despite the cold (maybe a chickadee will chat with you) and at the tracery of foot prints from mice, squirrels, stray cats and who knows what else. Focus on enjoying winter in the next two weeks. It will be easier to share with others if we each have music in our own hearts.
Carol may be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
*Robert Herrick —English poet and cleric. 1591-1674
** Howard Thurman —American author, theologian, educator, and civil rights leader. 1899-1981
*** Check out Kathleen Parker’s essay in the Ithaca Journal (and other newspapers too) for Monday, January 14th; she also was hacked and robbed. It probably can be googled. She also found no help.