Calhoun's Cannons for Dec 22, 2013
The universe if full of magical things patiently waiting for our wits to grow sharper.
Thank God this embarrassing year is finally tumbling offstage, all ridiculous clown shoes flapping, and ooga-ooga horns blaring. You just know the founding fathers are rolling their eyes while rolling in their graves. Could Congress get more idiotic than it already is? Who elected these fools? Wait. Don't answer that. Instead of shutting the government down and hurting real people and a real economy, what would have happened had all the sane Congresspersons simply turned the lights out and left the building? Let those morons sit there in the dark?
I know. They wouldn't have noticed.
Mercifully, time, tide, and rising suns will move this dumbshow off the stage, ready for some other piece of idiocy or sad pointless drama. Change and flow, all change and flow that briefly illuminates the flickering, ephemeral reality of our lives.
In my house, more change. The last of the Basenjis slipped into air to join all the other little canine spirits that haunt my garden. After 30-something years, the absence of their fierce little energies is palpable. But the tall dogs remain and move with languid grace among the garden-ghosts, lavenders and sage. Although their increasingly grey muzzles are a daily not-so gentle reminder of time's unstoppable flow.
Out in the garden, The Great Grapevine has renewed itself. Judicious but firm pruning forced its overgrown woody trunk to come back to life and sprout new vines. By Thanksgiving, the Roger's Red grapevines were curtained with leaves that blazed with some of the purest reds I've ever seen in nature. It's their last fiery gift to the coming winter. As is the huge mound of massed yellow blooms of the Tagetes. Warmed by the late afternoon sun, the tumbling cascade of flowers is alive with humming bees loading up last minute pollen for the cold, lean days ahead.
More transformation in the garden. I excavated the torso-sized root of a clump of Giant 4 O'Clocks, a 40-pound behemoth tuber that was finally defeated by strategy and a sharp shovel. I will miss the ghostly gleam of its array of pastel pink and white blooms that opened in the soft summer dusk, a floral offering for the night moths. But in its place I'll plant an apple tree that's supposed to grow well in this area. I don't know how long it will take to get apples, but with luck, I'll have soft blooms waiting for the hungry spring bees.
Throughout the land, Christmas will be a slimmer, darker affair. The Salvation Army's bell ringers have their work cut out for them. Food banks and homeless shelters, too. As a nation we have deliberately committed a bizarre form of suicide: Death by a thousand cuts, starting with the poor. While a few Scrooges pile up all the gold in their storehouses, the city fills with more and more Bob Cratchits shivering with only a half-lump of coal in their grates. No Christmas pudding for you! We've turned ourselves into Scrooged Nation and left ourselves behind as self-mutilated road-kill, a sprig of holly in our shabby lapels. Where is Jacob Marley, come to clank his chains at us and open our furious, blind hearts?
Once again I climb the ladder to bring the guardian nutcrackers down from the garage rafters and blow the dust off their boxes. Another year for them to watch over the small festivities. I place them around the house and drape a few strings of brilliantly hued LED Christmas lights and suddenly the ancient ritual of the Yule Log whispers into the room to keep the cold and darkness of winter's night at bay.
And across five million years, our own Christmas miracle arrived. The comet Ison appeared briefly before us like a messenger across time itself. And in a mystery, died in the blaze of our sun only to miraculously re-appear for an instant before finally disappearing into stardust. Like us, it had also been on a long, fragile, mysterious journey.
Overhead, the winter stars gleam, transiting in their own immense time, untouched by the minute scurryings on our own ill-used and dangerously fragile little speck of dust. I find their vast indifference a kind of cold comfort since hope for a decent future seems such a folly. Humans have no lock on survival and if we don't care enough to sustain a livable world, nature will pass her judgment on us soon enough. Either way, earth itself will abide and all will be well as Shiva dances in the spiraling, tumbling galaxies without end.
Molly McGuire roos at me as I stand in the cold, staring at the night sky. She wants her bedtime dog biscuit. The Mighty Finn McCool leans his tall body against mine, ears up to catch the rustlings in the night, nose twitching. The solstice sun will be rising soon on a brand new day.