A long day draws nigh
The moon melts away worries
Magic in the stars……..
A long day draws nigh
I like to think that January is magical—that magically all my tales of woe will be left behind and I will begin the New Year afresh and anew. American author, Robert Clark disagrees with this outlook saying: “I would say happy New Year but it’s not happy; it’s exactly the same as last year except colder.” I think the truth is somewhere in between.
The website EarthSky says that“Our modern celebration of New Year’s Day stems from an ancient Roman custom, the feast of the Roman god Janus – god of doorways and beginnings. The name for the month of January also comes from Janus, who was depicted as having two faces. One face of Janus looked back into the past, and the other peered forward to the future.” And to me that is exactly what January is—not two-faced in the objectionable sense, but a month in which we can reflect on our past, plan for the future, while all the while try to make the present as pleasant as possible. Or that is what I wish.
Clark has a point, just because we go from December 31st to January 1st—things do not change, unless of course we want them to—and that is what January is all about. Grasping for something better, something new, something more gratifying. It provides a break, a corner to turn, a new course to take, a decision to perhaps take the other path in the fork in the road. This year I want to take the road less traveled as inspired by Robert Frost in the last three lines of his poem, “The Road Not Taken”:
“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.”
First day of autumn
At 4:44 today
Fall magic begins
Evening. Faint twilight.
Diaphanous time of day.
Sheer curtain draws back.
“What an astonishing thing a book is. It’s a flat object made from a tree with flexible parts on which are imprinted lots of funny dark squiggles. But one glance at it and you’re inside the mind of another person, maybe somebody dead for thousands of years. Across the millennia, an author is speaking clearly and silently inside your head, directly to you. Writing is perhaps the greatest of human inventions, binding together people who never knew each other, citizens of distant epochs. Books break the shackles of time. A book is proof that humans are capable of working magic. ~ Carl Sagan
Magic ~ something I have long been looking for and it has been right there in front of me all along. Sagan is right–books are magic—and they are a magic that is available to everyone!
This quote has to be my all time, hands down, forever and always, FAVOURITE. It speaks to my very core. Sagan says exactly what I believe about books—that thay transcend time; that they are a conversation that never ends; and they are the very thing that “binds us together” and are “proof that humans are capable of working magic.”
I found the quote on one of my favourite blogs mybeautfulthings, and I have to thank her profusely for providing this inspiration. Many times I think writers wonder what the point is– if adding another book to the number that are already out there is worthwhile—but Sagan answers these questions beautifully.
Books put you “inside the mind of another person” and by doing so give comfort, teach you something, and provide you with another point of view, or one that agrees with what you already think.
I am inspired now to keep writing,….
What inspires you?
Everything you read has a kernel of truth. Or something that takes you by surprise. The book I am reading right now is “A Discovery of Witches” by Deborah Harkness, and though it is a work of fiction, I think there are kernels of truth scattered throughout, and definitely surprises.
This book challenges many of my firmly rooted opinions. And it is these sentences, on page 72 that are responsible:
“I wanted to know how humans came up with a view of the world that had so little magic in it….I needed to understand how they convinced themselves that magic wasn’t important.”
These statements were in response to a vampire asking a witch why she was interested in the history of science. The witch is the main character or protagonist in the book, Diana Bishop. The vampire is Matthew Clairmont. I am far enough into the book to be intrigued—and I found Diana’s statements very telling: why do we think there is so little magic in the world?
This is not a book I would generally pick up—I am not a real vampire fan, but the story introduces the readers to an intelligent, alternate world that many of us may not be familiar with. I am finding it difficult to parse fact from fiction, but that is what makes it so interesting.
Magic is a word that conjures wonder. I must say that I agree with Diana ~ why do we live in a world where we are not believers in magic?
Is there bliss in magic, or do you think of it as a dark art?
“No matter how tired and cranky, how jaded or cynical, how utterly tiresome Christmas becomes, there is always a kernel of magic at its core, isn’t there?” – Will Ferguson
The magic at the core of Christmas is what makes the season enchanting. Whether it is the wonder of the original Christmas story, our family traditions that lighten up the dark days, or even belief in that jolly old elf—the feeling that the season elicits is magical.
Canadian author, Will Ferguson, wrote a charming little memoir called “Coal Dust Kisses”, which harkens to his childhood days. He and the other children brought up around the Cape Breton coal mines had proof positive that Santa had visited their houses on Christmas Eve. The proof was not in the presents beneath the tree, but in a smudge of coal dust on their foreheads.
Ferguson’s grandfather worked in the mines before he found a job at the Canadian National Railroad; but Ferguson himself never saw the inside of a mine shaft, and in his words: “God willing, never would”. Born in Cape Breton, he became part of a tradition that comes from being in a coal mining area. It was Father Christmas that Ferguson’s father waited for on Christmas Eve; and on Christmas morning he had evidence that the gentleman “had tiptoed through houses, late at night, covered in soot…” He “would stop to kiss children on the forehead when they lay sleeping…” When the children awoke in the morning, there on their foreheads were “coal dust kisses.”
The author waited for Santa Claus who replaced Father Christmas over the years, but the tradition of “coal dust kisses” carried on. He remembers the “stampede of feet towards the bathroom mirror” on Christmas morning, when he and his siblings crowded into the bathroom and “stared in awe and wonderment” at the smudge on their foreheads—providing the elusive proof positive that Santa Claus had left his calling card. This, he said was “a moment of magic” captured in countless yuletide photographs.
He has continued the tradition with his own family, taking the “Scottish coal-mining tradition…from Cape Breton to the northwest woods, from Ecuador to southern Japan, and back again to Canada.” Tradition, handed down from generation to generation travels easily. The jolly old elf takes his magic with him wherever he goes, or wherever we go.
The magic of Christmas belies the sometimes gaudy pomp and circumstance of commercialism (which we have to admit has its place and puts food on the table for many). Believing in something for the sake of believing without question does not seem to be a simple thing. We need proof, whether it be in “coal dust kisses” or something else that we can see, touch or feel. Sometimes though, we have to just believe in the magic of Christmas and not dissect it until we no longer recognize its wonder.
So what proof do you have of the magic of Christmas? What is your “kernel” of Christmas magic?
Last year I was about to buy a new Christmas tree when I had a conversation with my son who is away at college. That conversation resulted in this offering (slightly edited for you) which I wrote for my weekly newspaper column. As I get ready to put up the tree this year, I am not even thinking about getting a new tree–the die is cast–and until it falls apart, it will be part and parcel of our Christmas traditions.
The decision has been made. No new Christmas tree this year. I bandied the idea about and even went so far as to look at some of those fancy pre-lit trees. But I talked to my youngest son, Tyler, who is coming home in a couple of weeks from college, and he said no to a new tree. He wanted our traditional, though far past its prime, spindly Christmas tree. I call it our Charlie Brown Christmas tree, as I have to finagle with the branches to get them not to droop, and wedge it back into a corner, forcing all of its branches forward, thus producing a thicker, more (seemingly) luxurious tree.
Now you may be thinking to yourself that if I want a new tree, I should get a new tree, and not necessarily listen to the nostalgic whims of my son. But, I too, had doubts about getting a new tree. And some of the new ones I looked at were really no better than the one I have, once I put my magic spell on it.
I decorate our Christmas tree as if there is no tomorrow. The branches are layered with ornaments we have received over the years. Homemade and store-bought share space on a tree that groans under their weight. But the stars of the show are all the decorations that both my sons have made over the years, carefully wrapped in tissue until they are brought out to be placed lovingly on the tree.
Macaroni sprayed gold and arranged in wreath shapes, reindeer made from those old large Christmas light bulbs with antlers shaped out of chenille pipe cleaners, sleighs cleverly fashioned from popsicle sticks, tissue paper stained glass bells and stars, and pinecones with glitter galore will adorn our tree again this year. Of course we have a million other ornaments, each imbued with memories, or just purchased because we liked them. But really, our tree, like yours, is just an excuse to walk down memory lane for a few weeks in the dark bleak midwinter.
In honour of our cat, we don’t put tinsel on our tree, as a choking cat is not a festive thing to see—and as the rest of the members of my family are quite taken with Kitty Bob, I make this exception without much regret. But if that cat does to the tree what he did to the tree last year, one of his lives is going to be threatened. Thankfully a teddy bear took the brunt of his indiscretion and could be thrown in the washing machine, but I was none too happy.
On a more festive note, once I wrestle the lights onto my “old” un-pre-lit tree, the rest is gravy. At one time I made my husband do this job, as I found it frustrating. Now I just wind the lights around the tree in a “come what may” fashion, and they actually look better than if I do it carefully. I have learned over the years that by dressing the tree with about a thousand ornaments, those obnoxious wires will effectively be hidden from sight.
A Christmas tree, no matter how battered, is the repository of memories past, present, and future. Maybe next year I will get a fancy dancey pre-lit tree that has all its branches, but this year I will be happy with what I have.
(Note: 1. This is next year, and I will not be getting a fancy dancey pre-lit tree. 2. The cat did not do the unspeakable to the tree last year.)
What traditions do you have that cannot be broken?
Ever notice how Christmas comes at the right time of year? When it is at its darkest, and starting to get cold and dreary? Even without snow, Christmas lights brighten things up a bit. Last night we had a light shower of snow and it is gently snowing right now, adding a little frosting to the still warm ground. Just that right festive touch for getting into the spirit.
One of my favourite little Christmas ditties is “We Need A Little Christmas” by Jerry Herman–and these lines just seem to embody the season we are about to embark:
“For I’ve grown a little leaner, Grown a little colder, Grown a little sadder, Grown a little older, And I need a little angel, Sitting on my shoulder, Need a little Christmas now.”
We seem to make Christmas into a hassle with endless lists of things to do to make it merry and bright, and sometimes lose out on the magic of the whole season.
I read an interview with Santa in the book, “A Family Christmas” compiled by Caroline Kennedy, and the word magic was used no less than six times in answer to various questions.
Asked how reindeer fly, the jolly elf said that they are fed a magic mixture of corn and oats that only grows near the North Pole.
Magic was also the one word answer he gave to the questions, “how do you fit down the chimney”, and “how do you get into a home that does not have a chimney”.
How does he fly around the world in one night? Santa says it takes “a combination of lots of practice, judicious use of time zones, and of course, a little magic.
And how does he know who has been naughty and who has been nice? You got it: Magic.
What is magic? I have a two part definition: it is the suspension of disbelief; and the belief that there are things that happen we cannot explain. (It could be argued that this is also the basis of faith—but that is a topic for another place and another time.) The best dictionary definition I found, (among many) is that magic “is a supernatural power that makes impossible things happen.”
Right now, there is a group of people who want us to only believe in those things we can prove—Darwin is their main man, and they only want to deal in things that can be substantiated. I have no argument with these people—in fact I think it is easy to follow this dictum as it takes us out of the world of imagination, into a world of grounded thought.
At various times in my life, I too have wanted proof positive, but have come to the conclusion that it does not exist. I like to think that there are things that happen that there are no easy or worldly answers to.
I am not talking magic as in the world of potions and spells, enchantments and bewitchments. I am talking about magic as inexplicable and astonishing, miraculous and exquisite.
If reindeer do fly—it is magic. When Santa makes it down the chimney unscathed-it is magic. By the way, when he does get to
your house, he made it very clear in his interview that he likes all kinds of milk except buttermilk, and loves all kinds of cookies, but most especially Christmas cookies.
Santa’s favourite colour is red (who knew?); he has hundreds and hundreds of elves; and can remember without hesitation the names of his reindeer. And yes, he does count Rudolph as one of his reindeer.
When asked how old he is, Santa replied: “As old as my tongue, and slightly older than my teeth.”
So there you have it, from the horse’s mouth so to speak. And what is it that Santa wants for Christmas? Without batting an eye he says: “Peace on earth, goodwill towards all people.” Now where have we heard that before?
Do you believe in Magic?(Wasn’t that a title of a song from the 1960’s? The Barefoot Baroness would know.)
I have given up on writing haiku for the meantime – so here are my little poems–they hopefully need no rhyme or reason to exist:
Nights come sooner now
Days, shorter and cooler but
Sparkle ~ it is autumn
Night calms me
The day’s worries are done
Relax, reflect, read.
Night stars sprinkled above
I see no dipper or dove
Just the magic of the deep dark.