The old Oak outside my window was moaning in the cold this morning as the wind rubbed it up against another Oak. There they stood, fellow travelers for the many years of their journeys growing alongside one another. Noble trees, vigilant and quietly speaking as a new day was just short of dawning.
As I sat down to listen to them and to read my morning mail in the cold crepuscular hour, I felt the peace and calm of the moments just as the sky starts to lighten. My sweet wife still lay asleep, although she made certain small sounds herself as she stirred. The pups had returned to their beds, contented following breakfast and a romp outdoors to do what dogs do, as well as to bark at marauding critters, illusionary perhaps but real enough in their minds. Besides, there is always something about that doesn’t belong.
With Christmas just a couple of days away, my feelings of peacefulness quickly faded, though, as I read of one more politician or king maker muttering another vicious or tone-deaf comment on recent events. I paused to wonder what message of goodwill and joy the wife of the head of the NRA has sent out to friends and family this year. Or what expression the leader of the Republican Party will smear on his chinless face come Christmas day. For a lesson in irony, ponder his statement accusing the President…
“…of pursuing a political victory over Republicans rather than searching for a policy that can win approval in the Democratic-controlled Senate and Republican-dominated House.”
This from the same mouth that just a few years earlier had publicly stated that his sole goal was to make The Skinny Guy a one-term president.
One wonders if the good gentleman from Kentucky will introduce legislation to pay for the NRA’s proposal to place armed guards in every school?
Much as I enjoy the early hours before full daylight, my heart was already heavy from earlier. Just the day before, a note fell from the Christmas card I had received from my first cousin Meleda. She is only one of two I have left.
She told me in that note that she had not wanted to burden me with the news, but her first born, a man of only 55 had died in the dark hours of the morning following Halloween. He had earlier happily passed out goodies to the children dressed in costume who had knocked on his door. In the haunting hours of the morn, though, he woke his wife to take him to hospital, only to die there still in the dark of night from a massive heart attack.
That same day, I had talked with the husband of my dear cousin Mildred who had passed earlier in the year, lost in her own darkness of dementia. Floyd belongs to what the gerontologists call the very old. The former librarian of a small college, now a much larger university, and survivor of New Caledonia during WWII, this fine gentleman will be 94 in February.
When I call to check on him, he’s normally taciturn to a fault and taxes my few skills to draw him out. But Friday was different. He was downright chatty and said he was “keeping busy” around the house but was a bit perplexed over his general health. He had just gotten his annual physical and the doctor was pleased to tell him all was “normal,” a word he chuckled over in the context. How could he be normal, he wondered, when he had so many aches and pains and only felt comfort when the heating pad allowed him to sleep.
Here’s a man who understands irony.
When I weigh these chats with what is going on around us, I have to wonder myself how people can go on with their lives when they have been crushed. My cousin said she will never get over the death of her son. She’s also suffering from the same pulmonary disease that killed her older sister, slowly turning the spongy tissue in her lungs into calcified hardness. Floyd had just reread a tribute to my mother who passed this time of year back in 1995. He said he is tiring of this life and, like her, looks forward to moving on. In the meantime, though, he finds time to “complain” that he’s developing a bit of a tummy and is worried about not being comfortable in his old slacks. When he loses his ability to laugh, especially at himself, I’ll begin to worry.
And then there are all the parents in Connecticut.
So when I hear all the hoopla over Christmas that blares out the joy you’re supposed to be enjoying this time of year, I just retreat back into the forest with my Pagan brothers the Oaks. These trees are rough in their honesty, clothed in bark and lichen. They are Titans who keep watch over the times, especially vigilant these days to all that is false and wicked. They are the keepers of the keys.
They stand in the pews of their own domain, moaning for the love of a God from another time, a God who would have no time for the likes of those witless ones today who blemish the very landscape with their presence.
Unlike today’s merchants of death and expediency, they have learned to move outside themselves. They are alive with their strength, a strength that is elastic and has shed its linear models.