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Friday, December 2, 2016

SILENT KNIGHT



 *
This Christmas Season Night as I sit alone with ghosts from my past

it occurs to me that each of us is a Silent Knight ...


A Silent Knight for whatever creed shapes our thoughts and steps.

No matter our words, it is our actions that speak for us.



Have we spoken love and forgiveness to only retort sharply at the harried store clerk who did not respond fast enough for us?


Have we scoured the stores for just the right present, the perfect gift wrap only to snap at the very ones for whom we bought it out of irritation and weariness?


Have we slaved over a king's spread of assorted recipes, only to have no appetite or warmth or patience for those for whom we prepared the delicious dishes?

If we were to glance up and see the flag of the True Creed which our actions proclaim we live by, would we cringe in disbelief?

 

Today books, films and Internet sites are filled with fanciful tales purporting to tell the history of "Silent Night."

Some tell of mice eating the bellows of the organ creating the necessity for a hymn to be accompanied by a guitar.


 Others claim that Joseph Mohr was forced to write the words to a new carol in haste since the organ would not play.

The German words for the original six stanzas of the carol we know as "Silent Night" were written by Joseph Mohr in 1816, 


when he was a young priest assigned to a pilgrimage church in Mariapfarr, Austria.

The fact is, we have no idea if any particular event inspired Joseph Mohr to pen his poetic version of the birth of the Christchild. 


The world is fortunate, however, that he didn't leave it behind when he was transferred to Oberndorf the following year (1817).

On December 24, 1818 Joseph Mohr journeyed to the home of musician-schoolteacher Franz Gruber 

who lived in an apartment over the schoolhouse in nearby Arnsdorf. 

He showed his friend the poem and asked him to add a melody and guitar accompaniment so that it could be sung at Midnight Mass.

His reason for wanting the new carol is unknown.

Later that evening, as the two men, backed by the choir, stood in front of the main altar in St. Nicholas Church and sang "Stille Nacht! Heilige Nacht!" 


for the first time, they could hardly imagine the impact their composition would have on the world.

And so,


they were Silent Knights for their God. 


As we, too, are Silent Knights for our gods: 

Esteem in the eyes of others, 

Wealth,  

Social Status,  

World Acclaim,  

Control over Others, 

Control over Ourselves,

or  


He who sang the universe into being.
 


We can hardly imagine the impact our actions, positive or caustic, 
will have on the network of fragile souls 
in our world.  


That fact should make us careful and compassionate in the days to come.

May your Christmas Season be magical and healing. 


Me and my Christmas ghosts tip our egg nog to you, 

while we listen to Josh Groban singing "Silent Night." 

(Picture courtesy of S. Ward)
***

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

ONE CHRISTMAS NIGHT_WEP Entry_Utopian Dreams


I am the Charioteer


A rather grandiose name considering my present occupation.


But here in the ironic dying of civilization's light in the 21st Century's dawn, 

there are precious few ways to to roam abroad on horse-drawn vehicles.


After my days as the Cid, I forswore riding for any king or country.  

My days at Camelot should have taught me better than to think any king worth the blood of his followers.


Once I drove Apollo's chariot across the skies, not that he was worth the deaths he caused in his vain wisdom. 


But I was young enough to sacrifice good sense for the thrill of flying across the heavens, 

my fiery steeds singing their joy at the celestial race in tones that thrummed my bones like tuning forks.


Yes, I contested in the Roman Colosseum races as well.  Not for the thrill of victory nor for the roar of the brutish crowds.

I did not know then for what I raced.


I do now.

I raced in a vain attempt to outrun my mistakes of the past. 

But you cannot outrun regret or the pain of memory.

Pain always catches up.


Perhaps that is why my pace is so much slower now.  

My valiant warhorse patiently pulls my light-festooned carriage, waiting for me to come to my senses and race the moon again.


My passengers chatter behind me, their words becoming more shallow and empty with every passing year. 

Soon their words will become so slight and without meaning that they will fly away on the chill winds before they can reach my ears.

One can only hope.

I no longer turn when a passenger boards my carriage.

I hear the rustle of the worthless paper money go into the slot of the metal box behind Sir's back.

Sir?

Once his name had frozen the blood of humans ... as had mine.  

He thinks himself a Foo Dog.

I let him.  

After all, do we not all deserve to write our own myths?


Few see his two other heads. They only see death if they should attack me.  

Few do attack.  And none twice.


Snow drifts like dreams' echoes around me and Sir.  I feel my carriage shift from the slight weight of another passenger.

No paper money.  The heavy thudding of gold coins.

Sir rumbles a greeting, something he has not done for centuries.

"Good to see you, too, Cerberus."

The Voice whispers icy tingles through my blood.  Tender, cold fingers feather the back of my neck.

I turn.


Turquoise eyes laugh into my very soul.  

A face, its beauty terrible and haunting beyond any singing of it, study me with wry amusement.

"Oh, Helios, how often I beckoned to you, but always you raced faster than my words."

"I move slower now, Gaia."

Her whole face glows in a smile.  Snow flurries swirl around us.  

"Perhaps our nights will no longer be lonely."

Nor were they ... ever again.

Perhaps on Christmas Night, miracles still happen.



I wrote this flash fiction to this tune:

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

MARK TWAIN'S CHRISTMAS

Photo courtesy of Frank C. Grace -- any of his prints may be purchased at


"It is my heart-warming and world-embracing Christmas hope and aspiration

that all of us,


the high, the low, the rich, the poor, the despised, the admired, the loved, the hated, the civilized, the savage


(every man and brother of us all throughout the whole earth),


may eventually be gathered in a heaven of everlasting rest and peace and bliss --


except the inventor of the telephone."

- Mark Twain, Boston Daily Globe.


 

Journal of Captain Samuel McCord

(December 24, 1874)


Sammy Clemens looked at me and sighed,

"Captain Sam, if you live long enough,

the approach of the holiday season can stir up sad memories as well as happy ones."

His blue/grey eyes sparkled, "So I aim to make the happy ones sizzling!"

He was dressed as the most fur-layered Santa Claus I had ever seen.

He held up the telephone in his right fur-gloved hand and glared at Nikola Tesla at my side.

"I might as well make use of this danged instrument you forced me to invest in, Nikola.

Why I declare I would have made twice as much money if you had let me invest in that Paige typesetter."

Nikola huffed, "Oh, go suck on your false beard! What do you know of science? I, the far-seeing genius that I am ---"

Sammy snorted, "And humble, too!"

Nikola happily ignored him and continued,

"I saw the design flaws in that machine and saw the potential in Mr. Bell's invention -- since he stole it from me!

Besides, it was Captain McCord who forced you to invest in the telephone. Why berate me?"

"Because you can't turn me into a turnip, you jack nape, that's why."

He turned to me. "Can you do your Apache hoodoo and set me at the foot of Susy's and Clara's bed?"

"Yes, Sammy, but it's the middle of Christmas Eve night."

"That's the whole dang point! I put this fancy telephone gadget on their night stand to wake 'em up on this very night."

I smiled sadly. 


On the outside, Sammy was all humbug. 

But there was nothing he would not do to hear the happy squeals of delight from his daughters.


He dialed the telephone number of his daughters' phone.  

It was 7. 

 Sammy had one of the first telephones to be installed in a home.

He literally danced in place, waiting for one of his daughters to pick up and answer. 

 "Dang, little heathens sleep as heavy as damp logs!"

His eyes lit up, "Hello, Susy! This is the Man in the Moon. "



(That was Sammy's nickname for Santa.) 


I heard the girl's sleepy voice, "Oh, Papa, I know your voice!"

"You accuse Santa of swearing false?"

He pulled out a piece of coal from his pocket and winked at me. 

 "For that, I will hand-deliver a lump of coal!"

I sucked in a breath I didn't need and folded the fabric of distance as I wanted. 

Sammy disappeared with a yelp and a rush of air going with him to his daughters' room.

Nikola shook his head as we heard distant screams of shock and delight from the girls' room. I counted to three. I re-folded distance again.

Sammy reeled to the wall, laughing so hard he held his pillow-fattened stomach with both gloved hands.

"Oh, Captain Sam! You should have seen their faces! No Santa-naying for them gals from this day on!"

Nikola turned to me with one raised eyebrow. "Thankfully for his daughters, I hear good things of a Dr. Freud in Vienna."

{And that's the way it was at Christmas in Hartford, 1876 -- give or take a lie or two.}
*
For more of Mark Twain, Nikola Tesla,
and Sam McCord

- This time in 1895 Egypt -

Read or Listen to 

DEATH IN THE HOUSE OF LIFE

and

THE STARS BLEED AT MIDNIGHT

 
Here is a photo of feisty Mark in Nikola's lab:
{Notice Nikola in the background} 



Monday, November 28, 2016

HOLI-DAZE!




Even sugar-charged Ratatoskr has fallen victim to the dreaded HOLI-DAZE!  

(He is currently riding with me on one of my blood runs, having just collapsed after telling his last Christmas joke:

"Did you hear about the dyslexic Devil worshiper who sold his soul to Santa?")


SO: 
HOW CAN YOU AVOID THE HOLI-DAZE?





1.) REMEMBER THE REASON FOR THE SEASON:



The Great Mystery's Light visited our world in the human form of a tiny infant.

Take a moment to reflect that that very Light might reside in the hurrying body of the person next to you, 

that very Light formed the stars and the seas and the birds of the air.

Breathe in deeply and pause to soak in the wonder of His caring for the sparrows of the field ... 

and you  ... and what it cost Him.






 2.) SLOW DOWN AND SMELL THE MISTLETOE



And the cinnamon and the chestnuts and the turkey 

and all of the other delicious smells, beautiful sights, and familiar sounds 

that have become symbols of the joy of the holiday season.

Enjoy it in the way it was meant to be enjoyed, 

by relaxing and sharing quality time with family and friends. The rest is just window dressing.





3.) SLEEP



Don't allow the hustle and bustle of the season to cause you to sacrifice sleep. 

It's normal during the holidays to have more on your to-do list than usual, 

but that shouldn't result in cutting SLEEP from that list!

Sleep is restorative. 

It's the time when your body replenishes itself at a cellular level 

and repairs itself from the damage of mental stress, physical strain, infection, sun exposure, and pollutants. 

Without enough sleep, 

our minds and bodies don't function as well as they could, which makes us less productive.

And sleep even aids in LOSING WEIGHT!
http://www.webmd.com/diet/sleep-and-weight-loss

SO SLEEP MORE & WEIGH LESS!!



4.) AIM FOR PROGRESS NOT PERFECTION!



When you expect perfection in your holiday preparations, 

expect a lot of added and unnecessary stress and fatigue as well. 

No battle ever went as planned -- 
ask Napoleon.  

And Christmas can be a BATTLE!


If you're planning to host a party, why do you need to prepare a major feast? 

Why not try an assortment of easy-to-make side dishes or appetizers? 

Or why not consider sharing the load by making the event a pot luck? 

Most holiday guests feel compelled to bring something anyway, so why not let them bring a dish?




5.) PLAN A SILENT NIGHT

Block it in your calendar as if it were a visit from the Pope.

Plan a night for just you.  

Listen to your favorite music no matter if it is POLKA!  

Dance by yourself if the whim takes you.

Whatever would heal you in your down time, do it.


Even when you are alone, 
you are not alone 
if you love:





 6.) ELF YOURSELF




Or your boss.  Or your friends.  

Laughter has been around for awhile now.  There's a reason for that.  

Laughter heals!

Mark Twain has young Satan ask:

"Will a day come when your race will detect the funniness of these juvenilities and laugh at them--and by laughing at them destroy them?

 For your race, in its poverty, has unquestionably only one really effective weapon--laughter. 

Power, Money, Persuasion, Supplication, Persecution--these can lift at a colossal humbug,--

push it a little-- crowd it a little--weaken it a little, century by century: 

but only Laughter can blow it to rags and atoms at a blast. Against the assault of Laughter nothing can stand.
 

- "The Chronicle of Young Satan," Mysterious Stranger Manuscripts



7.) START AND END WITH GRATITUDE





In a sense THANKSGIVING starts the HOLIDAY season and there is WISDOM in that.


If you are not grateful for what you have,
 you will soon find yourself with even less.

Remember:
Somewhere in this world someone is happy with less than what you have.

The way to start and end the day is 

to pause and list the things and people that have made and make your day better just by being in your life.

You may have lost some things, beloved persons in your life -- give yourself permission to grieve.

Take ten minutes to feel shitty.

Then 

THINK OF HOW LUCKY YOU WERE TO HAVE THEM AT ALL --

HOW DIFFERENT A PERSON YOU WOULD HAVE BEEN WITHOUT THEM.

Decide then and there that at least for Christmas

you will be a healing presence in at least one person's life -- 

even if it is only to let some harried driver in the crowded lane ahead of you.


MY PRAYER FOR ALL YOU,
 MY FRIENDS,
THIS HOLIDAY SEASON

HAVE A HEALING, PEACEFUL CHRISTMAS!


Ratatoskr just rolled over and told me to ask you guys:

"What do you call Batman when he skips church?

Christian Bail!"


Great!  

You groan at me, and Ratatoskr is fast asleep!!

My Christmas gift to you:

Sunday, November 27, 2016

CHRISTMAS LIGHTS


Mother always loved to have me drive up and down the streets at night during the Christmas Season. 

Even when she was ill and weak that last time, 

she became a little child again as we drove oohing and ahhing at the lights.



Thanksgiving has past once more, 
 and the Christmas lights are up in my city.


“Heap on more wood! the wind is chill; 

But let it whistle as it will, 

We'll keep our Christmas merry still.”

 - Sir Walter Scott



Driving home tonight after a long day and night of transporting rare blood over lonely rural roads, 

I saw the Christmas Lights on homes had gone up all over town.

You might think this tradition has been around for a looong time.  

You would be wrong.  

It has only been around for the past 60 years or so.

Yet, the custom goes back to putting candles on the Christmas tree in upper class homes in 18th century German homes.

In 1895, President Grover Cleveland put up the first electric lights on a tree in the White House.

"He who has not Christmas in his heart will never find it under a tree." 
- Samuel McCord

I thought as I drove that you and I are the true Christmas Lights.  

The Christmas Season is dark for many.  

For others it is a financially demanding gauntlet through endless store aisles, 

crammed with ill-tempered shoppers and frayed-nerved clerks.

By the light of our compassion, our concern, and our companionship, we can be small lights in a black season for many.

A candle's light is feeble, but it casts back the darkness enough for you to see far enough to take the next step.

“When we recall Christmas past, 

we usually find that the simplest things 

- not the great occasions - 

give off the greatest glow of happiness.” 

- Bob Hope

The American tradition of decorating evergreen trees, homes, and landscapes with brightly lit Christmas lights is not as old as many people think. Most of us probably assume that Americans have always used Christmas lights in one form or another but this isn't exactly true. As it turns out, this American tradition has only been around for about 60 years - See more at: http://www.holidayleds.com/articles/history_and_meaning_christmas_lights_america#sthash.zuAq4Pso.dpuf
The American tradition of decorating evergreen trees, homes, and landscapes with brightly lit Christmas lights is not as old as many people think. Most of us probably assume that Americans have always used Christmas lights in one form or another but this isn't exactly true. As it turns out, this American tradition has only been around for about 60 years - See more at: http://www.holidayleds.com/articles/history_and_meaning_christmas_lights_america#sthash.zuAq4Pso.dpuf