Friday, December 24, 2010

Happy Holidays!

Once again, I am of two minds:

On the one hand, I feel that the Christmas holiday is messed up. It co-opts the old pagan Solstice celebration, and it's likely that the date it's celebrated has nothing whatsoever to do with when Jesus of Nazareth was born. It has come to be a time of extravagance, of which I'm quite certain he would disapprove. People are wondering what they can get for Christmas, and worrying about what material things they can give, instead of being truly supportive of one another. It's so much about material things, instead of the lasting things that can be shared by humans.

On the other hand, what's wrong with celebration? Laws were passed in England and these colonies in the 1600s, forbidding the celebration of Christmas and the use of its pagan trappings, like Christmas trees and decorations and mince pie and pudding, so that it was not generally celebrated in this country until the 1850s. And that was so much "bah, humbug".

So, where does that leave me? Perhaps just back where I began, feeling that there's plenty to be critical of, but also acknowledging that people need to get together to enjoy one another's company, enjoy good food and drink, and perhaps to give gifts to one another. It is good to see a child's smile when they receive a toy that gives them pleasure. Every child deserves some of that. So do grown-ups.

But I won't go so far as to say that Jesus is all this holiday is about. Feeling this way may get me accused of just being politically correct (or worse), but I don't think that's an insult. Political correctness simply takes into account that not EVERYone celebrates Christmas. To say "Happy Holidays" may seem to dilute the greeting, but it takes into account the preferences of an audience that is not singularly Christian, and most people do know someone who celebrates Hanukkah or Kwanzaa, or the winter Solstice, and this is as it should be.

In the same sense that we should not be prohibited from celebrating Christmas, or Kwanzaa, or Hanukkah, or the Solstice, neither should we be REQUIRED to do so. We should celebrate Christmas with joy and gratitude. Hanukkah deserves celebrating, as a commemoration of the end of fighting, and a festival of lights. Kwanzaa, as a celebration of family, community and culture, does, too. So does the solstice, because it is wonderful to know that the days will be getting longer instead of shorter, when winter seems to have closed in around us.

May we all find more of the best of ourselves and each other, at this holiday time, and less of the worst of ourselves, and of others.

Merry Christmas! Happy Hanukkah! Joyous Kwanzaa! Happy Winter Solstice! Happy Holidays!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

He looks like me

Who is he?

This young man looks like me.
He is my co-creation.

His mother carried and nourished him,
We have tried to guide.
Encouraged him
These thirteen years.

A lifetime left to go . . .

He seems to feel things I recall.
I cringe at all he must go through.

He is so like his mother
That I relive our courtship again.

My love for him is deep,
Beyond fathoming,
As if it were
My own love for life.

If I could
I would give him all I know:
A database file
Direct to his mind.
Whatever wisdom I’ve earned.
Struggle and heartache.
Moments of joy.

All we can do
Is moment by moment:
Shared laughter.
Common tears.
Stories from life.
Dose by dose,
Day by day.

This young man looks like me,
But he is another self,
Beyond my grasp.

I cannot make him love what I love,
But I can nourish his mind and spirit
With love and excursions
From which he will sculpt his own being.

He will protect himself from my judgement
Though I judge myself more harshly.

This young man looks like me.
He is my boy,
Yet he is his own man.

My son,
May you walk with courage in spite of darkness.
May daylight brighten your days.
May you live with satisfaction of work well done.
May your friends be many and faithful.
May love find you in many places,
And may you find many to give yours to.
May your love also grow deep and strong.
May your children be blessed
And your grandchildren many.
And may our love find its way to them all.

G. Douglas Clarke
March 20, 2010

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Tracks in snow

I took a walk in the field below our house this morning with our dog, before the sun had yet come up. The wind was unceasing and biting, in spite of temperatures that have been melting our snow-pack steadily for a week. Not many days ago, if I tried to walk in our fields or woods, most of my steps were ones in which I put my foot down in one place but it slid to a new one before my weight was even resting upon it. Enough of the snow is now gone, that ones feet mostly stay where you put them, when walking. As i moved south across the meadow on the path that I mow in the summer, I found my own tracks. I had taken our son and a friend to a slope below the house, for some sledding, twice during the winter, and here were tracks from one of those outings, that had been buried under a foot or more of snow, for a month or more. It got me to thinking about the evidence for global warming that has been trapped in ice and snow for hundreds of thousands of years. It also got me thinking about the impact one person may have on others' lives, or even on their own. I could, by looking in my diary, figure out what day we had made those tracks. But I couldn't have found those tracks a few days ago, before the layers of more recent snow had melted. The sun and warm air had done what I could not. I had an experience yesterday that was a similar sort of liberation, perhaps. I had been told that a person who joined our fire department when I was an assistant chief, had said that he'd not been effectively engaged in learning how things work, and being trained so he could be active. I had taken this as fact, and assumed some of the responsibility for his never getting very active in the department, which is very much in need of people to fill offices and get things done. Yesterday, I saw him on the street and had a chance to ask him if he could serve in some more active role, or if he would at least recommend people for those roles. In introducing that possibility to him, I said I'd understood that he'd felt neglected in those early days. He said that no, everyone had been friendly and engaging, and that he never had felt ignored nor neglected. For years I had carried a load of guilt around, thinking I had been responsible for his hurt feelings and his not being active in the organization. I don't know if whoever told me that, had misunderstood something my friend had said, or if I had associated the guilt with the wrong person, or whether he had simply stopped feeling that way, but it was like that depth of snow that has melted from our meadow, was lifted off in an instant.
Why I carry such burdens around with me, I don't know. I know I come by the propensity due to inherited traits from my ancestors, both learned and genetic. But I don't know why I don't throw off such burdens, psychologically and emotionally. I know they steal buoyancy from my spirit, but it is difficult not to cling to them.
Well, at least there is one less of them, now.

About Me

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I've been a number of things over the years: husband, father, environmental technical specialist, college instructor, carpenter, volunteer firefighter and ambulance driver, student of Lakota and Japanese languages, technical writer, process engineer, research technician, IT technician, emergency dispatcher, etc.