Saturday, December 04, 2004

Earth and mercy mild


I run across stickers such internet banners, stickers, (ususally on the back of Christmas cards) and occasionally lapel buttons that read the above, which always make me roll my eyes and whip out a similarily pithy rhyming message about Satan.

Very few words rhyme with Satan however, and I can't think of anything more self defeating than the Satanic bible and movement, and not only on Theological terms, but on common sense. Most Satanists claim that they're not 'evil' in the Judeo-Christian sense, since they eschew the ethic entirely.

Therefore, the whole good/evil can't be held against them since they don't recognize the context and besides, they don't actually do all that stuff that they're supposed to do based on movies of the week. Of course the whole black-mass thing is a direct perversion of Catholic mass, but that is part of the non-acknowledgement, somehow...

Where was I? Ah. Reason for the Season. Hate to be a Grinch (actually, I REALLY hate to be a Grinch...let's say Scrooge)and all but the label/banner/button/pin always pisses me off. Ususally faster than somebody telling me to pray...somebody saying that they will pray for me, I've always found quite touching- being told to pray however is rather like somebody saying 'Appreciate this sunset!' or 'Enjoy yourself! Immediately!- its one of those things that can't be told- suggested, at best.

It could also just be a kneejerk reaction to the button (the wearer is stating the obvious and calling it clever), or maybe just in the rhyme. "Reason for the Season" is inches away from "If it doesn't fit, you must acquit" or the jingle of your choice. In any case, I've been seing the buttons worn by an apparently wide range of the Christian sort this Christmas, which is probably good for the cause of ecumanicalism but irritating to see.

I'm trying to drag myself past this- at least make a nod to some Spiritus, ok? Drop the rhyming lapel pins and mutter some Latin with a grin:

O Jesu dulcis!
O Jesu pie!
O Jesu Fili Mariae. Amen!
The party line, mine included. The details and the corners are a little more dusty, however. I peered out a window recently and saw this-


A matchstick blind obscuring a rainy day and a few Christmas lights strung against the grey. It summed up my feelings towards the season, this time around at least. Not what I will settle on, or have associated from the past but the here, the now.

I must wear it on my face- the above photo was taken at a shutter speed in 10ths of a second. The thought process of "The bright colour is sort of pretty, the sky is sort of depressing, wow, Christmas lights against the grim, sums up my state of mind, maybe I should take a picture at least the lights are pretty, mess around with it in PhotoShop" and click and move on to the day. But my wife this evening said
"What are you looking at?"

"Nothing. The lights. It just looks interesting."

"Is it taking you back somewhere?"

"No. It's lights. It looks interesting. Sort of. I took a picture, let me..."

"You look unhappy."
It's enough to make one self-concious, looking unhappy out a window in the time it takes a shutter to drop in a digital camera. It doesn't take me anywhere- not really- that's reserved for weirder stuff. Sense memories. Most of them fleeting, but not attractive, not happy.

Or particularily logical. I drove my wife and sister up to visit my mother a few weeks ago- my mother had been working all day, my sister and wife were hungry, so I drove to a drive through window to grab some food. This is a rare occurance- I rarely drive, and rarely anywhere with a drive through window. And a burger is a burger, without subtext.

But I had visited that particular window in the last days of my father- I had forgotten how many. Shouldn't matter. A burger is a burger. It was between the pay-our-hands window and the here-the-sodium window that it felt unchanged from the frantic gotta-eat-or-fall-down runs in his last days and my skin crawled. All at once. I dug my nails into the steering wheel and tried to be invisible because it's ridiculous- one should not suffer over dinner (venue notwithstanding). My wife noticed, as always, at once relieving me and making me become more invisible. Who wants to admit, to bring it all back up? And (even weeks ago) feeling so close to Christmas?

All that said...not all associations are whiplashed into longing or whistfulness. Again, no logic to it. I drove along Queen St. tonight, west of Ossington, seeing old store-fronts, some with bright Christmas lights glowing admanatly against the grey sky, sidewalk, walls. A hardware store with a plastic wreath of holly glowing a strange blue under a cold white flourescent, with a trim of tiny red lights beneath. It could be 1942. Or 1992. Or now.

Very now, I saw it and thought 'This is how it starts- somethng it happening again' with every one of those words meant well. Just a few lights and they didn't look like an impression of Christmas, but a harbinger, a few glowing moments of something coming, not unwelcome.

"Then why," somebody asks, "are you writing, so late?"

Writing over a flood of seconds that, if spoken, might flow out of my brain rather than simply onto themselves. My apartment with slender twisted wire starshapes suspended by invisible black thread against a mantlepiece. A fat, tophatted snowman with a transluscent belly for a tealight. Bells on red and green ribbon at the doorknob, for the cat or for whoever enters and leaves with a jingle. Debate over a real or fake bough of green to drape over a framed picture and Tom Lerher, spicing all of it quietly liberated via Mp3 as I type:
"Christmas time is here, by golly
Disapproval would be folly
Deck the halls with hunks of holly
Fill the cup and don't say 'when'
Kill the turkeys, ducks and chickens
Mix the punch, drag out the Dickens
Even though the prospect sickens
Brother, here we go again.

On Christmas Day you can't get sore
Your fellow man you must adore
There's time to rob him all the more
The other three hundred and sixty-four..."


And a different flood, first black and white in the silver sheen glamour of the 40's Photographs of drifts and Navy uniforms, my grandfather and grandmother in and around Niagara where people went to country clubs and wore cuffs and studs and double breasted suits. Leap forward to streaky, too-new colour and the other side of the family is the deeper snow of the farming belt north of Ontario and the too-coloured images are primarily deep yellow drifing into gold shortly before bleeding into sepia, those pictures lack the glamour but do have a warmth, the kind that makes you long to be on the electric-lit, radiator drive side of snow-frosted windows driving through a small town.

I'm not thinking about printing photographs before my father's death. It hangs over my shoulder but I'm not thinking about it, per ce. I'm thinking about most other things, for the same reason that my heart lept at snippets of a short story found in the back of a magazine in the laundry room today- a woman writing about trading recipes for roast chicken with her mother, while waiting for the call from the hospital about her father. Discuss the chicken- it beats the alternative. I wrote an absurdly long letter to my father about the merits of a multi-standard DVD player one afternoon shortly after his chemotherapy started and it must have surprised both of us for different reasons- why am I writing this and why is he writing this and it isn't a chat about chemotherapy, that is something.


Something that is not Christmas, and I am trying. I am sliding and I am trying. I am between wanting to stock up on little, deep green and faux pine and shiny, star-derived things to hang or prop or keep on shelves, and wanting to hide. Another Christmas someplace neutral. I've spent one or two in hotels, sort of like floating over and across a holiday rather than finding yourself in it.

But it won't do. The compromise is to stream it all out and find sense memory being enough- the scent of paraffin. The taste of ginger and icing sugar after grabbing a cookie at work - Pfefferneuse- always Christmas. I have a friend who said he weeps at Emmylou Harris singing Angel Band not because he likes the song but the delivery- I am that way, this year, about this season, except for the weeping. I like the trappings, the sentiment, the (hidden behind all previously stated problems) intent.


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