Monday, December 21, 2009

Here Comes the Sun

We got some snow this weekend, and apparently it was a lot of snow, but I don't know how much because I'm generally not one to measure things. There are exceptions, of course -- I usually weigh my flour when I bake a cake, and I'm reasonably exact about measurments when it comes to home improvement projects -- but I'm not sure that it matters whether we got eighteen or twenty inches of snow. B&c proudly mentioned that in my former/his current exurb, they'd gotten twenty-six inches of snow, but in addition to not really caring how many inches of anything I have to deal with, I often find that the number of inches has been overstated, sometimes significantly. When I was out shoveling the driveway yesterday, I noted that the snow was deeper than the shovel blade, and that means there was more than enough.

I like snow a lot, especially from a distance, and when it begins falling on a Friday night and falls all day Saturday and on Sunday I can clear my driveway in half an hour, it seems like a fine thing to me, though I guess your point of view might be different if you were in retail or had somewhere to be. The only place I might have had to be would have been at church, and all the services were canceled. Sunday would have been the Christmas pageant, so I might not have showed up anyway. The pageant is the same every year, and watching the youngsters stumble through a Unitarianized version of the Christmas story is not more than I can bear, but it's certainly more than I want to bear.

By contrast, the choir's contribution to the Christmas Eve service this year will be three carols interspersed with readings of the Christmas story from, gasp, the Bible. I would like to think that this approach represents a more enlightened way of including Christian texts, but I'm pretty sure that we're doing it this way because the choir director is overwhelmed by all of the work associated with our upcoming trip to New York and the concert that we're giving before we go. The carols are arranged in a very intuitive four-part harmony, and the Biblical text is, well, already written.

I was about to say that people are far too emotional about their religion, but then I realized that a) I regularly find myself crying during church, and b) duh. Still, I wish Unitarians weren't so sensitive about Christianity. Nobody in my church believes that the Bible is the literal word of God, and almost all of them regard it as mythology, plain and simple, so why all the angst over its inclusion in the worship service? We love to include sacred texts from other religions. The answer has to do with personal histories, of course. A lot of the people who end up in a UU church feel abused by Christianity. But I doubt that any of them felt the yoke of fundamentalism any more keenly than I did as a youth, and I've long since learned to enjoy the beauty of the King James version's language and to appreciate the spirit of the Gospels (the Pauline epistles being another matter altogether) while rolling my eyes at any suggestion of fire and/or brimstone. Or let's put it another way: the existence of some douchebag minister in Uganda who's using the Biblical story of Sodom and Gomorrah to justify life imprisonment for homosexuals does not negate the impact of this:
And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed.
And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.
And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:)
To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.
And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.
And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.
And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.
And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.
And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.
And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,
Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

Which is not to say that I find Christianity a compelling religion in its entirety. It's more to say that there are few things I find as compelling as this:

One of the things that I find equally compelling is snow. I have, as is my wont at this time of year, been humming, whistling, and singing the above aria and chorus (I transpose the aria down a bit, obviously; I'm sure that Mr. Handel's failure to set it for a bass instead of a soprano was merely an oversight.) for much of the past weekend, and my sudden, temporary, and extremely incomplete re-connection to the nativity story has little to do with the story itself and much to do with the frozen deluge.

My knowledge of the history of the Bible is weak, but I feel relatively confident in saying that the early writers of the gospels were not inspired by snowfall. Still, the Christmas story as it's told in Luke speaks to the same atavistic desires as a snow storm: here is the world, despoiled by sin and decay, and here is the promise of renewal, in the form of a baby, or a blanket of snow.

There are other paths to renewal, of course. My newly cheerful Christmas spirit kind of mood certainly had a lot to do with the fact that on Friday, I called the contractor who had been second in line to do my bathroom upgrade, told him about my shower woes, and asked him to come take a look at the situation. He showed up later that afternoon and shook his head at what had been done, explaining to me the many ways in which the work that had been done was not up to code. I wasn't pleased at the idea of having to shell out so much money to have the shower ripped out and redone, but the idea of having the matter settled, even if I'm not having the new contractor start work until next Tuesday, was a huge boost.

I got another boost in the form of a mid-snowstorm social call from a new friend with a four-wheel-drive pickup truck. He and I had been trying to connect for some time, and I had begun to think we never would, but he had said that the snow would not keep him away, and when I saw him tromping through the snow up to my door and then removing his boots in the entryway, I could not have been more pleased by the apparition of an archangel. Such social calls are not exactly a rare occurrence for me, but this particular three-hour, mid-snowstorm interlude was special, and I could not look at his partially covered bootprints the next morning without a wide smile. Perhaps next year I can talk him into a horizontal sundown to sunrise celebration of the solstice. The idea has merit.

I am similarly unable to suppress a grin when I look at my Christmas tree. The dehydrated citrus slices certainly have not the level of skill of which Marth Stewart would approve, but I like them a lot. I am not so sure about the so-called red ornaments. I made them by simmering thin slices of orange in a red wine syrup before putting them in the dehydrator. EFU, however, looked at them and thought they were just slices that had turned brown. Perhaps I need to start with some red grapefruit, but a grapefruit will not fit on my little Japanese mandoline.

The cranberry garlands are time consuming to make, but stringing berries is a good thing to do while watching a movie. Idle hands, they tell me, are the devil's workshop. I would still like to make some cookies and hang them as ornaments, and, if the greengrocer cooperates, I would not be averse to a garland of red chili peppers and kumquats. Or something else altogether. After all, I still have ornament hooks to use.

Religion (of any variety) and/or spirituality aside, I maintain that forcing everyone to sit tight in their homes for a day at one of the most hectic times of the year can only be a good thing. After all, isn't this the year when we're all supposed to be cutting back, in recognition of a difficult economy? What better way to embrace the true meaning of Christmas than to stay inside and spend time with the people you love. Or, if it doesn't happen to be your custodial weekend, with an especially fit and intrepid pickup-driving near stranger. In either case, it's a lot less expensive and aggravating and a lot more rewarding than a trip to the mall.

Christmas, after all, is still going to happen without that one day of shopping. Many of my gifts are still in transit, but the kids won't really care that much if a couple of things are a day late. Besides, YFU would probably trade any of her gifts for a snow day, and she got that early.

Sunday, after the snow was finished, was sunny, with an almost painfully blue and clear sky. It was, nearly, a pleasure to reach for my ergonomically designed snow shovel and begin to clear my driveway.

There were a lot of other people out at the same time doing the same thing, and even the people who were forced to walk along the street because the sidewalk was still buried seemed unusually cheerful. It's all that beauty and all that potential inherent in the snow, or else it's that some other poor guy is shoveling a driveway, and they aren't. In any case, it was a beautiful day to shovel snow, and the work went quickly. Before long, I had enough room for both my car and EFU's, and I was buoyed by the knowledge that the volume of snow on the ground ensures a white Christmas.

1 comment:

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