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50s Christmas | by Dreaming in the deep south
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50s Christmas

50s Christmas

 

Bill, forgetting to blink as the flash goes off. Who is the grown up ? Maybe Aunt Helen? Aunt June?

 

"The Chaos of Christmas" -- are those Mother's hands on the right ? The goddess, the maker, the soul of childhood Christmas, she who was forever both Divine and Human. The great shaft of light Is emanating from her brow [as it always did].

 

Today was All Saints Day. In church, our Priest read all of the names that people had submitted of the dead.

 

But the way the Priest said it, it was "those who died this year." So...... it made it seem as if there were a giant train wreck or something: "Mister and Mrs. So-and-So" All of these names on and on. I remembered attending a friend's graduation from Nursing school. She was going to get up and acknowledge the families of the graduates, AND also those who had passed away -- but somehow what she said seemed to imply that this was a memorial slide show, portraits of families.. And as the slide show showed whole families, smiling, all ages, husbands, children, and I started having to squelch my laughter, because you could see that people thought that all of these people had died -- whole families had died, young and old. There was sort of a shocked silence, and I could see that my friend was frustrated, as this was supposed to be a light hearted moment, and she didn't understand that what she had said had confused the audience.

 

They didn't want to display any..... untoward levity -- just in case there had been a massive freeway accident and all the families of all the graduates had somehow been killed.

 

Welll. When the Priest today read my mother's name, I was kind of surprised, because I thought that I had submitted her married name, but the name that was read was her maiden name. Interesting. She often preferred her maiden name, the name of her youth and of her family. It's as if that part of her was more authentic, more powerful.

 

Then, when I skimmed and speed read the NYTimes and read James Elroy's interview:

 

"If I could abolish one concept from the parlance, it would be closure. My mother and I continue. The force of her — the pure, feminine, complex, ambiguous, bereaved force of her — drives me to this day."

 

just kind of jumped out at me. I had been thinking that, actually, that my mother and I continue. That the force of her is so clear to me now. And it does drive me. It's not a sentimental notion, that. It isn't some little fanciful imagining. It is the presence of something that is a mystery. Maybe a secret. It isn't a ghost. This person I once knew was someone who I knew as part of myself, the lens through which so much came to me. -- Something of the beauty , richness and power of life came to me with her, as her. She carries something of me and I carry something of her.

 

I think it was Buechner who said something about a saint being someone who makes it easier to believe in God. This isn't to imply that she was "Saintly" because she was far from that. But , it's as though she fought all her life just to be herself. To not sell short something of herself that was important. Reminds me of a Nasrudin story:

 

"Mulla Nasrudin was eating a poor man's diet of chickpeas and bread. His neighbor, who also claimed to be a wise man, was living in a grand house and dining upon sumptuous meals provided by the emperor himself.

 

His neighbor told Nasrudin, "If only you would learn to flatter the emperor and be subservient as I do, you would not have to live on chickpeas and bread."

 

Nasrudin replied, "And if only you would learn to live on chickpeas and bread, as I do, you would not have to flatter and live subservient to the emperor."

 

**

 

The process of grief and grieving isn't closure. It is being in that broken world , in a broken place that will never be altogether mended.

 

"If there is anything in which this life,

this way, can be expressed,

in which God has been revealed most clearly,

it is the reality of love.

You are someone

only in as far as you are love,

and only what has turned to love in your life

will be preserved."

 

Is that what this process is?

 

***

 

Two poems:

 

The bud

stands for all things,

even for those things that don’t flower,

for everything flowers, from within, of self-blessing;

though sometimes it is necessary

to reteach a thing its loveliness,

to put a hand on its brow

of the flower

and retell it in words and in touch

it is lovely

until it flowers again from within, of self-blessing;

 

(from St . Francis and the Sow

Seamus Heaney)

 

and:

 

O look, look in the mirror,

O look in your distress;

Life remains a blessing

Although you cannot bless.

 

O stand, stand at the window

As the tears scald and start;

You shall love your crooked neighbor

With your crooked heart.’

 

--W. H. Auden

 

lastly:

 

I learned that her name was Proverb'

 

And the secret names

of all we meet who lead us deeper

into our labyrinth

of valleys and mountains, twisting valleys

and steeper mountains—

their hidden names are always,

like Proverb, promises.

Rune, Omen, Fable, Parable,

those we meet for only

one crucial moment, gaze to gaze,

or for years know and don’t recognize

 

but of whom later a word

sings back to us

as if from high among leaves,

still near but beyond sight

 

drawing us from tree to tree

towards the time and the unknown place

where we shall know

what it is to arrive.

 

--Denise Levertov

 

*

[From "Alive on All Channels" post "As If In A Dream"]

 

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Taken on January 18, 2009