It’s the week after Christmas, or ‘holiday’ if you’re part of the alchemist crowd that mixed Jesus with Visa and got Santa. Hopefully you dodged the dictates of the Office of Diversity and Inclusion that mandated all celebrations be generic.
Whichever season it’s called, the last week in the year seems to be a peaceful one.
The frenzy is over. The family has vanished. The career for the perfect evergreen is over. It’s ready for the chipper, anxious for the recycled life ahead.
The fading tree lights reflect it all. Another Christmas, come and gone. Another year, over and done. You know what lies ahead. Still, you’re at peace. Which is what Christmas is about.
This ‘tween week might bring mild anxiety, since the tree has to be disposed of. It has to be done; you do it, affirm your action. But lingering in the back of your mind is the knowledge you’ll have to do it all again next year. The very thought of that could spoil your reverie if you let it. But for the moment, you’re at peace.
Myself? I zone out, forget negative thoughts. Instead, I focus on some books my children gave me. You can’t go wrong giving books for Christmas. Books, like socks, are utilitarian. Who could possibly live without ‘Spy Secrets That Can Save Your Life?’ I flip through it, imagining myself a CIA operative drinking martinis and saving the world from destruction. Who hasn’t fantasized such foolishness?
I read about the Escape and Evasion Gun Belt. It has everything from hat pins to a monkey fist key chain, household items to extricate you from dangerous situations and maim any malefactor. Oh, it also comes with a hand cuff key, handy if you’re detained by TSA goons because your eyeballs inadvertently match those of a bearded fellow in the next aisle who keeps winking at you. Everyone is suspect these days.
Another book, ‘100 Deadly Skills,’ describes techniques for eluding pursuers, evading capture and surviving dangerous situations. Notable are articles on how to make the NYT’s into a newspaper nail bat, plus how to convert an elbow into a deadly weapon. Every housewife needs to know this.
But like most gifts, the novelty soon wears off. On the coast the sun blazes. The thermometer registers 75 and I consider being re-baptized. No, not in the church font, but the ocean. I want to get a jump on the January 1st baptizers who wash off last night’s sins in the Atlantic. Dripping wet in 30 degree wind chill is as close to a cryogenic experience as I want to get.
So I take the plunge and emerge a new person, born again, with a resurgent spirit of enthusiasm that mingles with the multitude of chill bumps. Sufficient champagne will produce the same feeling I’m told.
Back in my chair I pass up reviewing the Christmas cards, everything from family biographies, pictures of people you don’t know and Hallmarks from CVS. Rather, I leaf through a poetry book by T. S. Eliot.
Maybe you don’t dig poetry. It’s a poor career choice anyway and can’t compete with Wall Street or welding scrap steel into yard art. Poets are mostly morose, unwashed people with bad hair, I think. But at least Eliot’s fresh breath went against convention.
Lines from ‘The Hollow Men’ are intriguing. He stretches to grasp the mystical interspace between dreams and reality, between now and later:
“Between the idea
And the reality
Between the motion
And the act
Falls the Shadow
Between the conception
And the creation
Between the emotion
And the response
Falls the Shadow”
Strange lines, don’t you agree? But when read in the context of this waning week of the year, they seem to hold a message.
At midnight the year 2015 will end forever. In the interspace of a millisecond the old will pass, the new will begin. Everyone gets the chance for a second wind. Perhaps it’s in that very instant when the Shadow falls.
A line from one of Wendell Berry’s poems comes to mind:
“I greet you at the beginning; for we are either beginning or we are dead.”
What will 2016 hold for us, for you, for me, for them? It’s a mystery. But to the poet in us all, life is a strange, mystical romance if only we’re willing to embrace it.