I would sing some Solstice carols, but I don’t think I know any. The glorious moon is full now, the only light in the darkest season of the year. And the recent cold snap has laid flat a good swath of nasturtiums in the back yard. The poor dears never learn. Fall falls and they set their seeds and dry up. Then at the first rain the seeds hatch, their new leaf rounds appearing over the sandy yard like an invading army of little double-wide green umbrellas. Then comes the frost and their enthusiasm is harshly tempered. But that doesn’t stop them from trying again. Busy little teachers with their chipper little lessons of endurance and renewal on the longest of nights.
The Rogers Red grapevines went out in a blaze of scarlet glory, their leaves burning red in the waning sun, waiting for the first windstorm to scatter their finery all over the yard. And after their spectacular finish, they’re ready to tuck up their twig-tips for a long winter’s nap and dream of summer’s green.
The ghosts of the long-dead Basenjis are all around the yard. My own little troop of Jacob Marleys, whispering wraiths, ghosts of Christmas Past and all the long summers gone, their ashes taken up into the blazing grape leaves by now, and present in the pungent sage bushes or glowing in the white beauty of the rock roses. Everywhere I look, a yard of little graves full of transformed life. All the Basenjis but one who, wrapped in a sweater to warm her old bones, now sniffs and pees in salute on the resting places of her kin. All gone now, while the seasons turn and she too will be but a memory, whispering.
Inside the house the nutcrackers are all in their places, holly garlands and wreaths and lights girdle the room. A tacky Kinkaid clock chimes Christmas Carols every hour on the hour, while across the kitchen my John Deere clock chimes John Deere engine noises, also on the hour. The effect startles visitors who think it odd that “God Rest Ye Merry” should have “ta pockata-pockata-pockata” in the middle of it. I find the sounds deliciously disturbing, a reminder that the world is a very noisy place filled with dissonance, until you stand back very far and squint. Then it hums with lovely weird music.
Including the scrabble of the tall dogs’ toenails on the floor as they titter-tatter in circles, yipping and eager for their walk in the cold morning sun. Since adding another rescued Greyhound to the pack, I have to take them out in batches since Archibald McDawg, the resident butthead, is ADD-afflicted and infects the other dogs with his crazed hyper-vigilance. Those left for the second walk will howl their Anvil Chorus of woe that I can hear half-way down the block. I often think about timing our leave taking when both clocks are going off just to hear what that comic coda would sound like.
On the political front, the year has not lacked in comic effect either. I can’t help but think God has a wicked sense of humor. In the midst of such economic woe, with Mother Nature poised within a few carbon-points of taking her terrible, irreversible revenge on us all for our heedless but successful efforts at turning her once beautiful world into a global heat sink, we get clowns. Clowns. Clowns with bad comb-overs, clowns popping out of pizzas, clowns leaping up at Come-to-Jesus political rallies, clowns spilling out of a paralyzed Congress and fiddling on their little violins while the circus tent burns down. It’s a Christmas mummers’ masque, the last futile dance macabre before the bell towers fall and the Black Death arrives in the morning. More carbon-loaded Yule Logs for the fires! Wassail!
Well, nothing much to do, really, once the fine gears have clicked into place and the great wheel begins to turn. And turn it will. Since the lessons of Scrooge remain unlearned, the Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come will start arriving soon. And as Scrooge found out, it won’t be pretty.
But at this moment, I am shivering in the dark cold of early morning. Looking west, I watch the setting moon go dark and red with eclipse. It is a glorious planetary dance that has gone on for millions of year, but still causes wonder at its beauty. To my left a rooster crows. He has seen. Behind me, the sun is rising in a pink-streaked dawn.
Inside the house, the dogs are restless. They want their walk, their breakfast. And there’s still Christmas chores for me to finish. In the backyard, the nasturtium seeds are once again pushing their green leaves out into the pale warmth of the sun. Another year has begun.