Thursday, December 31, 2009

At the Doorway!

The Romans may have had their flaws (and if you consider some of the nutjobs who were Emperor, their flaws were mighty indeed!), but they understood the value of contemplation. That is a useful characteristic to employ on this, the final day of 2009. Janus, the two-headed Roman god of doorways, has the ability (two heads, don't you know) to look forward and backward simultaneously. It's a good quality as one makes plans - or resolutions.

As for resolutions, I'm afraid I'm a bit predictable this year - my clothes are a bit snug and my gym membership is covered in dust. (I suspect these two events are related, but I'm not entirely sure.) But it's been a good year.

Looking at my left ring finger, let me amend that. A very good year. And I'm looking forward to an excellent and exciting new year in 2010.

Best wishes for you and yours, as well!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Christmas Is a State of Mind

Like many working Americans, FryDaddy and I have a myriad of celebrations and responsibilities keeping us on the road over the next ten days or so. When we sat down with our respective calendars and realized that (the simple fact that we both had respective calendars to coordinate should've told us everything we needed to know), we decided that we needed to be bold and resolute regarding the holidays.

Now, let me make this clear. I love the holidays. I really do. But I also totally understand why so many people cite the holidays as the most stressful (rather than "most wonderful") time of the year. Personally, I blame us as a society. Generally speaking, most of us don't have a problem throughout most of the year admitting that we're barely holding it together. But sometime around Thanksgiving, we begin to feel inadequate and guilty if we don't have a gorgeously-appointed house that is sparkling clean, tastefully decorated, and scented with the smells of Colorado pine, gingerbread and simmering wassail. It's as if we're collectively possessed by the the love child of Norman Rockwell and Martha Stewart - a bad combination at any time, I think you'll agree.

FryDaddy and I didn't want to opt out of the holidays, but we wanted to be sure that we had time to enjoy them at our own pace. So we came up with a solution that may be unconventional, but I think borders on sheer genius.

We moved them.

Why not? If the Queen of England can decide her birthday would be better in June rather than April when she was actually born, I think anything can be a moveable feast. So we ran around like mad hatters through yesterday tending to the bits and pieces of the season (Cards! Parties! Wrapping! To the post office! To the mall! To the grocery store!), then quietly began our Christmas celebration today. We slept late, delightedly ransacked stockings, and littered the dining room with the remains of wrapping paper. Later, I acted as sous chef to FryDaddy's chef de cuisine and the result is a stuffed duck roasting in the oven even as I type. I think it'll be delicious and hey! if all else fails, I have the number for the local pizza delivery guys.

I have to say, I recommend having Christmas when it suits you and yours. We'll still be here on the big day - and probably more rested and relaxed than we would be otherwise.

In my part of the world, Christmas is the mack daddy of holidays and it's easy to get caught up in the hype. It's not about the hype, you understand, but sometimes it seems that way. Why not take a lesson from some of the antecedents of this holiday (Hanukkah, Saturnalia, Solstice, etc.) and just stop for a moment to look around. After all, while it is true that the dark is coming, it is also true that the light always returns.

So don't be afraid to take time from the flurry and bustle of the holiday madness to look for the miracles. They really are there, but often worthwhile things must be sought in order to be found.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Literary Whiplash!

Now, I'm a Mockingbird who likes to read. I usually have two books going at once, with no real rhyme or reason to the choices. For example, one book might be nonfiction (maybe a collection of travel writing) while the other might be fiction (maybe the latest installment of the Sookie Stackhouse series). Often, this makes for an interesting mix, not to mention some rather fascinating dreams as the various books collide in my subconscious.

I also suffer from a near-total inability to put down a book unread, even if I don't really care for the book. Add to that my quest to read more of those Books That Are Good for Me and you can understand that it's been an intriguing time in the Nest.

It really wasn't my fault. Honestly, I was minding my own business, trying to improve my mind by reading Jane Austen's Mansfield Park. A mistake. I was sucked in by the blurb on the back of the book, which (it must be admitted) had the double whammy of being both handsome and on sale. Now, even devoted Austen fans often find this novel a bit hard to swallow. Really - just click here! But even though I thought Fanny Price was far too much of a meek mouse for me to bear, I just couldn't put the book aside unread.

In and of itself, that would have been fine. The problem occurred when I picked up my next book on the pile and read the first paragraph, just to reassure me that there was prose beyond twaddle of this sort:

"Fanny found herself obliged to yield that she might not be accused of pride or indifference, or some other littleness; and having with modest reluctance given her consent, made her selection. She looked and looked, longing to know which might be least valuable; and was determined in her choice at last, by fancying there was one necklace more frequently placed before her eyes than the rest. It was of gold prettily worked; and though Fanny would have preferred a longer and plainer chain as more adapted for her purpose, she hoped in fixing on this, to be chusing what Miss Crawford least wished to keep."

Contrast with the opening lines of The Road:

"When he woke in the woods in the dark and the cold of the night he'd reach out to touch the child sleeping beside him. Nights dark beyond darkness and the days more gray each one than what had gone before. Like the onset of some cold glaucoma dimming away the world."

Switching from Jane Austen to Cormac McCarthy really should come with a warning as to the difficulty level. Sort of the literary equivalent to a reverse 3 1/2 somersault in pike position - which ain't easy, my friends. Not at all.