words not made

Eyes are vocal, tears have tongues,
And there are words not made with lungs.
– Richard Crashaw, poet (1613-1649)

Well, Christmas is upon us, on the New Calendar. I always like to note that December 25 on the Julian Calendar – the Orthodox liturgical calendar – falls on January 6 on the Calendar used by most Westerners and their governments. So Christmas in my Church is still 2.5 weeks away. But I digressed before I never started to have a point. … Oh yeah, Christmas.

No. I don’t know what I want to say to you about Christmas yet. Maybe tomorrow. Tonight, the topic is words. I’ll be briefer.

I want to change the quote of the day to read this way:

Eyes are vocal tears,
have tongues,
And there are words not made,
with lungs.

Anybody mind? Richard probably doesn’t. He’s dead, presumably. And I’m off to bed, to dream about words not made.

So much of what I’ve written,
I haven’t.

In honor of the Solstice, let us remember the words of The Chink:

Ha ha ho ho and hee hee.

no religion too

There is no religion without love, and people may talk as much as they like about their religion, but if it does not teach them to be good and kind to other animals as well as humans, it is all a sham.

– Anna Sewell, writer



So I’m hanging out in Coffee Bean in Montecito, down the hill from the burn. I’m talking to Bill, a retired professor of English. He lost his home in the Tea Fire a few days ago. I’m drinking apricot ceylon tea. It has an aftertaste that makes my mouth feel arid.

Bill says he’s a happy man. It’s not death, he says. He “learned about life and death and evil on Iwo,” when he was eighteen.” This fire, he implies, is not death or evil. I guess he must mean that it’s life. I have trouble accessing this level of stoicism, and offer my best, mostly-sincere, bright autumn day sympathies. He shrugs them off. What good is, “I am so sorry to hear that,” amidst the potsherds and ash? To face it is a difficult Job.

I sit with my laptop and look around: pretty girls, mauve walls, tile floors, Christmas decorations, packages of coffee and tea priced to make you proud you can afford it.

Wait … Christmas decorations? I shit you not, gentle reader.

That’s just not right. In the midst of all this life and death and evil, whatever you might imagine giving you defense or consolation in it, it is not by God Christmas time. Not yet. No sir.

Christmas comes after Thanksgiving, on any calendar you can find. Halloween, Thanksgiving, then Christmas. Add in any holidays – Hanukkah, for example – that you like, but don’t move Christmas up a month or change the order of things. It’s not offensive or sacrilegious so must as a pallid, insipid, dumbass way to enter the culture around you.

Take a step back, Jack. Let it be, is my point.

easter marginalia

  • Today is Easter on the Western calendar; the first Sunday following the first full moon, after the vernal equinox. Happy Easter to you and your family, if you are celebrating today. Every last soul among you is in my heart and in my prayers. Congratulations on a good race, and the completion of your Fast, if you’ve been so inclined. Greetings also to my Jewish friends as they prepare for the coming of Passover.

    Ah, and there’s the rub. Passover hasn’t happened yet. Pascha (Easter) on the Christian liturgical calendar is the first Sabbath following the first full moon after the vernal equinox, provided that the Jewish Passover has passed. As it was at the time of our Lord’s Crucifixion and Resurrection.

    I’m not saying anyone is wrong here; no schismatic, I. I’m just sayin’, for those of us who are Orthodox, it’ll be another month. So save me an egg; preferably red.

  • Today is also special for me, on a much more personal note. From deep in the dark and cedar-scented recesses of my cerebral toy box, this:

    On March 23, 1978, a girl named Carol and I sat in my 1967 Mercury Cougar, at the south end of Ash St. near the beach, and decided to go steady. I was in my mid teens, a junior at Carpinteria High School, and she was my first real girlfriend. We went out for about two years, until she dumped me for a serious bonehead whose name has evaporated in indifference.

    Do I mention this because I still pine? Carry a torch? Harbor resentment? Hardly. Because I’m a romantic? Well, I can be if properly motivated, but no. (Though I’ll admit those two years were mostly pretty fun.) I mention it only because of the irrefutable drama of the interval. Thirty (30 dammit) years. It was 30 years ago today. When things you can almost remember like it was yesterday actually happened decades ago, it makes you feel old.

  • It’s been a beautiful, warm and sunny spring day here in Carp. I walked the dog, had lunch on the patio over at my folks’ place,took a nice long bike ride. Now I’m off to work on the book.

Good night, Mrs. Calabash, wherever you are.

rood rudeness narrowly averted

Concurrent with the posting of my rant about the Seattle trees, I e-mailed a link to said post to Rabbi Bogomilsky. He must have read it upon returning from buying fish at Pike Place Fish Market, because he has relented in his threat to sue, and the trees are going back up.

My beloved Grandma, rest her soul, would say, “Thank you, Jesus.”

Time for some poetry, giving you a hint to the inscrutable title of this post.

Wondrous was that Victory Tree, and I the sinner guilty
and badly wounded with stain. There I observed the glorious
adorned with garment that beautifully beamed,
garnished with gold; with it gems stood
covering splendidly the Lord’s tree.

I know, I know, I’m just a sideshow of paradox.

o tannenbaum

SEATAC, Washington (AP) — All nine Christmas trees have been removed from the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport instead of adding a giant Jewish menorah to the holiday display as a rabbi had requested.

Maintenance workers boxed up the trees during the graveyard shift early Saturday, when airport bosses believed few people would notice.

“We decided to take the trees down because we didn’t want to be exclusive,” said airport spokeswoman Terri-Ann Betancourt. “We’re trying to be thoughtful and respectful, and will review policies after the first of the year.”

Rabbi Elazar Bogomilsky, who made his request weeks ago, said he was appalled by the decision. He had hired a lawyer and threatened to sue if the Port of Seattle didn’t add the menorah next to the trees, which had been festooned with red ribbons and bows. [Link]

Every year, it’s something. Every year, somebody sees Christmas as a fitting time for a fight, and hires a lawyer, and I am so tired of it. Every year, somebody expects Christmas to be refashioned to be all things to all people. Every year, somebody confuses the secular (Santa Claus/Christmas Trees) celebration with the religious (Birth of Jesus Christ/Nativity of the Son of God) reality, and gets his litigious knickers in a twist.

Christmas is the popular word used for a Christian religious holiday, The Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ. The word Christmas itself is not an official Church sacramental term, but mostly we know what it means. In this part of the world, Christianity is the most prevalent religion, and the secular society has decided it’s fun to play along with the Christians, adding Santa Claus, reindeer, snowmen, etc. It’s pretty inoffensive. The Christmas tree is not a religious symbol, it’s a pagan and popular one, with only a vague cross-like symbolism. I mean, it’s vertical; it portends to rise from the corporeal to the divine. But it’s a dead tree, or plastic. It’s not a cross. Propping one up in a public place is not a de facto endorsement of Christianity. It’s an endorsement of evergreens at solstice, hohoho, mistletoe, chestnuts, egg nog, sleigh bells, santa and rudolph, “you’ll shoot you eye out, kid,” etc.

You do not have to be Christian to put up a tree, or lights, or exchange gifts, and doing so does not imply that you believe in Jesus Christ. That shibboleth is a bit more difficult to pronounce.

I’m all for Jewish folks and their Menorahs. God bless. A beautiful way to recall and celebrate a miracle. But tree is not to Christianity as Menorah or Star of David are to Judaism. Sure, I have a tree in my condo, with little ornaments, and my folks have a beautiful one with many lights and family heirlooms. I love Christmas trees, but we don’t pray around them. There’s no ritual. You put it up, decorate it, it’s fun. It’s not sacred. Our symbol is the Cross. If someone puts up a Cross in an airport, that’s when you get to demand equal protection.

If you went to Mecca or Tehran or elsewhere in the Muslim world, and demanded to nail up a cross during Ramadan or some other Muslim holy time, what do you think would be the reaction? Right, not well received. But we Christians are expected to donate our religious times to everybody else. We’ve already been overrun by commercialism. So if the good Rabbi wants to enlighten the bleak Solstice, maybe he should string some twinkly lights. Any color will do. And plain old UL-listed indoor-outdoor; no blessed oil required. Indeed, I can’t believe a Rabbi would want or permit a Menorah to be set up in an airport. I would be offended by a cross there. Doesn’t it mean something important, something that transcends picking up your luggage and trying to find the Hertz counter?

The lights on my balcony do not form a cross, because it’s a debasement of something Sacred to parade it around in public. That would be like me using Holy Water to clean my kitchen. Too bad the good Teacher in Seattle couldn’t just smile at the trees, and hope the kids were enjoying them, that the pretty robbons and bows lifted people’s spirits, brought some consolation to a embittered world in a dark time.