Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas Eve 2012: The madness is still here. School Children and Firefighters have been slain by men with guns in the United States. In Pakistan women valiantly trying to inoculate children against the scourge of polio are killed by ignorant and stupid men. The stories about reduced ice in both poles, and how that fits into every rational explanation about climate change is still ignored by those that have been granted power to do something about it. So nothing has changed: The Romans who occupied and brutalized Palestine two thousand years ago would fit in perfectly into today’s world. But why do I feel so full of hope and faith and love tonight? Is it because of listening to Ella Fitzgerald sing Christmas Carols? Is it the warmth of the fireplace? Is it the bitter cold and snow blanket that is just on the other side of the door? Is it the brightly lit tree (real fir!)? Something happened two thousand years ago. Sitting here in the Ottawa Valley I feel like I am in the best part of the best country in the world at the best possible time, I cannot imagine living in in Bethlehem, Nazareth, Capernaum , or any other town of village there at that time. If your best friend was King Herod and your worst enemy was the Roman Occupier it is not much of an existence. Yet out of this murky pond of brutality and oppression something emerged. Whatever, or whoever emerged has created a fire that shines rays of trust, hope, charity, faith, love, understanding, cooperation, learning, teaching, and beauty wherever it light is allowed to shine. It not about details of geography, about historical timing, or the mechanics of biology. When you are cold you want to get warm – you don’t worry about the details of what kind of fire you have, is it from spruce or oak or even coal. I think that the biggest mistake people make is think that the warmth of the fire is secondary, and all that matters is the type of fuel. So enjoy the warmth of Christmas, it is there for all and free for the taking. Merry Christmas!!!

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Day 5
Today I was looking at the barren cross at church and I wondered which symbol today, in 2012 is more powerful: The Cross or the Nike Swish? The Swish has a a lot going for it. Take a pair of soft shoes, call them running shoes, colour them exotically, add the Swish and people will line up all night and riot for them. I laugh at that, I cluck condescendingly, but I will pay triple the price for a T shirt for the addition of the Swish. Of course there is a bit of a dark side to the Swish: Making shoes and garments is a low paying job and we in the West have for the most part farmed that out to the poorest of the poor in the East. So do I worship the Swish? I would say no, but my actions perhaps speak for themselves.

The Cross has a rougher go. I have never lined up for the Cross. I do not venerate it. I can criticize the Cross for past abuses, scandals, and mistakes. Wars and murders have been committed under the banner of the Cross. But the main thing I do is take the Cross for granted. I think that the Cross will always be there. I think that I can look at the Cross anytime I want. But I know that is not in a good chunk of the world this is not the case.

I guess my ideal Cross is my private cross. No one can see it except for me. It is big enough to have be an instrument of torture and death. I can see nail holes but I don't know if it is real or an illusion. It bugs me, it confuses me, it frustrates me that there are no answers.

So the Swish or the Cross? The Swish is easy and fun, the Cross is neither. So do I take the easy road, the soft and gentle way? I think not ... it is Lent after all and that is enough of a thing to learn on the fifth day.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Day 4
Today, was the best day for my back and that let me do 6 k on the treadmill,so right way it was a wonderful day. I baked some really good bread with dried cherries and hazelnuts that made a great dinner (a good bread makes a wonderful meal - all we had with it was a small piece of cheese)
We went a saw a silent movie from Germany made in 1920 "The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari" that had live music with it from a group called the Hilotons.
I met some friends and we had a very interesting discussion on spirituality. it was good to be inside today as there was a bitter wind that acted as a sharp lens to the somewhat chilly minus 12 temperature.
I guess that today's lesson is that health, pain free health, is a great gift. The ability to make one's own bread is a gift. And it was a gift to have been able to feel a film that people made who had just endured the First World War and could not imagine the horrors that were less than two decades away. I really think there is a very big lesson there as well
But sleep beckons so the contemplation may have to wait.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Day 3

Well today I did the letter of my Lenten Retreat but not sure if I nailed the spirit. My wife and had freshly made guacamole on whole wheat pita for breakfast. We concocted a rice pilaf our of organic red and brown rice, vegetable broth, grape seed oil , onion, garlic, corn , feta cheese, and Parmigiano-Reggiano for dinner. Since I just had a granola bar for lunch I really chomped down on the latter, which was quite good. We had a bunch of frozen melon in the freezer and we blended that with some leftover fruit juices into a really terrific smoothie. So no meat, nothing from a restaurant , so I did the Lent Rules. I gave up nothing at all but I figure that we would have gone to dinner out tonight so I am putting $50 in the till for the Royal Ottawa.

I guess that there are a number of thoughts going through my head. Like usual, they are disjointed, somewhat random, and do not really make sense necessarily. But that is why I blog.

So thought 1 – I really had a wonderful day of excess with respect to food. Here I am in the Ottawa Valley in late February, a snowy and windy February’s day and I am eating avocadoes, limes, whole wheat pitas, rice form California, cheese from Canada and cheese from Italy, melons from Mexico , juices from Florida. I am not sure that eating fries and a Big Mac from the Arches would have made a lesser impact on the planet, and that includes the wrapping!

So thought 2 - Of course from a health view point I am way ahead of the Big Mac. I am just oozing vitamins and fibre which is very good.

So thought 3 – I am very blessed and lucky. I had incredible food. I experienced love, freedom and employment today. I was able to laugh. My back is better today and I did not need the muscle relaxant (although I may take a hit before bed, which is a blessing as well). I was able to do a hill climb on the treadmill today.

So what can I take away this third day of Lent? I am blessed. I know I am blessed. I have good things. I know I have good things. I was able to help the Royal Ottawa.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Day 2
Well as I am coming to the end of the second day of Lent I have complaints. I wretched my back today and it was sore so I did not run. I had a full day of meetings in Ottawa so my lunch was late. I stopped in to look at a GPS but it was sold out. I then rushed to another meeting, then got home and took a muscle relaxant, stayed still for half an hour, felt a bit better, made dinner, realized that the dishwasher was still full from last night so I put them on wash with expensive electricity. I then rushed to a local meeting where I got to go to the meeting part but missed the free dinner part that everybody who did go was raving about (but it saved my Lenten theme of course). The meeting went on not too badly but I am now on two subcommittees. I get home and the beagle wants to be fed and walked. My back hurts again but no more muscle relaxant until I go to bed. And the kitchen still needs cleaning , although my wife is back from her meeting and can finish.
WHAT A PERFECTLY WONDERFUL DAY. I had employment, I had food, I had choice, I had muscle relaxant,and of course the love of beagle and wife (NB - alphabetical listing). A very fitting and wonderful second anniversary of my bypass.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Ash Wednesday

Well, on this first Day of Lent I had oatmeal for breakfast, I had vegetarian salad bar in a restaurant (business lunch), and a salad for dinner we made at home from spinach, feta, fennel and leftover couscous. And I had a piece of cheese to accompany my nightly shot of drugs and I had some orange juice after I did 5K on the treadmill.
I did border on righteous anger a couple of times mainly directed at the Woman Who Claims to be Our Member of Parliament but I did manage to control them before my Flights of Anger got too far down the runway.
At the grocery store tonight I bought avocados, whole grain pita, some white potatoes, some purple sweet potatoes (it was all they had) and some Gatorade on sale. (the last item is Lent Questionable I know, but if do a sweaty workout it is my hydration drink)
I did not watch TV (except for the news) but that is easy for me. No Angry Birds and the one hour on line time was dodgy.
I went to a Lent Service but chose not to get the smear of ash on my forehead as I consider myself too much of a Lent Poser and not the real thing. Or at least I have a feeling of discomfort in being part of a ritual that I do not fully comprehend, understand or feel like a full participant.
But I did learn a new word: compunction. The homilist seemed imply that this was the nadir of regret and remorse , or to put it more colloquially as sorry as sorry can be. I am a bit muddled as the Catholic Dictionary says:
A momentary sorrow or regret for having done, or contemplated doing, something wrong. It may also be a slight feeling of remorse, without implying either complete repentance or a firm resolve not to do the same wrong thing again. (Etym. Latin compunctio, remorse, the sting of conscience; from compungere, to prick.).

But etymology and definitions aside the word to me gave me focus on empathy and understanding. He spoke also about Alms for the Poor being actually debt repayment to God for forgiving our sins. (all of this is way to hard for me and why I do not feel ready to have ashes on the forehead) but here is the way I took it. I think that sin is essentially letting the self (call it ego if you wish) to rule you and forgiveness of sin lets you focus on the planet: the people, the animals, the water, the air, the forests, even the oil (does it really make sense to pump it out of the ground and burn it as fast as we can?) .

One really good suggestion the homilist made was to pick two days of the week and just have a bowl of rice that day - nothing else, no meat, no butter, no salt, no vegetables, nothing else except for the rice. That would give you an incredible feeling of self but you could work to transcend that into forgiveness. I am not sure if I would have to courage to search for faith for that for any length of time.

So I guess I am going to take the new word “Compunction” as meaning that I am going to work during these 40 days on getting out of self, of parking the ego and letting myself feel the pain of others to the best of my ability and then doing something about it, Which I think is the whole point of what Jesus tried to tell us, but he did not have too many listeners and even less who understood.

This Lent business is going to be tough – I should have maybe just gotten the ashes on the forehead and as the homilist said just “follow the rules”. It would have likely been easier ….

Sunday, February 19, 2012

The season of Lent is upon us and that is becoming one of my favorite times of year. I am unencumbered by formal religious obligations and am in ignorance of the knowledge of learned scholars, so I get to muddle and do what I want. It is an amazing feeling of freedom, choice, and liberation that gives me.
It is my understanding that Lent is based on the 40 days that Jesus spent in the desert, where he supposedly fasted, prayed, and chatted with Satan. It is odd that there is precious little recorded about what happened during that time. I think there is a reason for that. No, I do not think that the 40 days was a smoke screen for Jesus to party with the angels. I think the reason is that Jesus spent those 40 days of solitude to figure stuff out, to mediate, to feel the cold of the night, to feel the scorching heat of the day, to feel out why he was there and what he has to do. If he had the answers he would have been a big dummy to have gone into the desert just for fun, He used those 40 days, it seems wisely to get answers and maybe that is my guide to what to do with Lent, So here is my game plan for Lent:

Dining Out – It is one of life’s pleasures to dine out. It is great to have someone else prepare the meal and clean up afterwards. Yet my wife and I have morphed into Frequent Eater Outters. We go out at the drop of a hat, or set of keys and that is a) a waste of money, b) a waste of our sense of appreciation. During Lent we shall not eat out unless it is a) for reasons of travel or business and simply not being at home or b) a celebration with a guest. I will keep track of the money not spent and at the end of Lent donate it to the Royal Ottawa Hospital

Dining In – We shall eat at our house freely of all food that is in the house. That will give me a sense of practicality and using resources that one has stored, and prevent me from falling into the trap of following the letter and not the spirit.

Shopping for Food
– During this season we shall not purchase any food that is made from an animal, fish or most especially a mollusk. The prohibition will also include any food that is perceived as “snack” or “junk” and include cakes, cookies, ice cream, popcorn, rice cakes, chocolate and so forth. This will help me reflect on two things: 1) the fact that all life is sacred and it is important to think of that once in a while and 2) that we have really turned many of God’s food in poison and we need to think about that as well.

Righteous Anger - I love being angry about the right thing. As I write this the Conservative Government in Ottawa has killed the Long Gun Registry. That is their right and they did get the majority government from the people. I think the Long Gun Registry was a very good thing but that is water over the dam now. But the Conservative Party, on this victory of theirs, chose to have an almost gloating victory party totally unmindful of the many people deeply upset about this, The actions of the MPs that did this, make me angry , in my view that is Righteous Anger. But all anger is bad and I want to make an effort to abandon all of my anger for Lent.

Internet, Television, and Computer
– I have recently succumbed to the game Angry Birds and spend an embarrassing amount of time trying to get to the next level. On one level it is innocent fun, on the other it is a total waste of time.
I can wile away hours on the computer surfing the net and last week I watched an entire television show that ended in a cliffhanger to entice me to watch next week.
During Lent I shall not play any computer games, and limit my online time to an hour a day. I shall watch no television with the exception of the news, This will serve to make me mindful of the gift of time and I want to use this gift to a) read more, b) mediate more, and c) clean up more.

So that is the plan – life will still go on. I am not in the desert and I have the gift and obligation of a day job. But if I can make myself a little better during Lent that is good. Like I said, it is becoming one of my favotite times of year.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Well as I write this the Superbowl Roman Numeral something is on and Madonna may even be singing or performing or doing whatever she has been doing for all these decades. Good for her I say. Even though I cannot say I am a fan it is sort of good that Superbowl Halftimes are usually done by Old Fogies (being an Old Fogie myself)
But I am refusing to get myself sucked into this American Football Drama. For starters, I do not like football. I think it is a brutal, viscous sport that wrecks havoc on knees and bones, causes concussions, and destroys lives. I am probably being dramatic, but that is the way I feel. I have to work hard to be open minded to those that love the sport and accept their view.
I do not watch football during the year so it seems pointless for me to be caught up in it February. I do not live in New Jersey nor Boston (I think I have the cities right) and that makes the attachment level zero. But I think what bugs me most of all is the hype, the marketing, the advertising, the artificial frenzy that is being created like Whipped Edible Oil Filled Trans Fat Twinkies that are coming out of some sort of Frankensteinian Laboratory.
Television ads are a pain to watch but we tolerate them as it gives us "free" TV. Of course free TV is a joke; you need cable or a dish or very fast and cheap highspeed but that is a rant for another day. But on the Breakfast TV that we watch most mornings the advertisements have been played time after time after time. Jerry Seinfeld, you are no longer funny. Barking dogs; saw that 20 years ago with Dogs Singing Jingle Bells. What is the big deal about a television commercial? What can't I figure out?
I am not a soccer fan (I am a pretty poor male role model), but I can see the World Cup of Soccer. Once every four years, the best in the world play, lots of games, this is exciting and a Big Deal. The Superbowl is Sunday Afternoon Football.
I did chance upon a bit of pregame stuff while waiting at Pizza Pizza this afternoon. The commentators were a) shouters and b) largely monosyllabic and c) just plain not very bright. (mind you I am sure they get paid more in a week than I get paid in a year so the issue of relative brightness is open to debate)
I am sitting here, with my wife, The Beagle, and three sleeping cats. I am blogging and reading Half of a Yellow Sun. I just realized - I am the 1 %!! No wonder those guys were so mad last year. They are just jealous of my happiness. I am indeed a lucky man.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Another word that is not to be tolerated by some is loser. It is bad to be a loser , it is bad to lose and there is nothing worse than to come in last. I like losing, I like being a loser and I like being last. I do it all the time when I run.

Last about 10 of us ran through the soggy, snowy, and slippery streets of Arnprior for about 7 (okay, 6.85) K yesterday. We did not start the run until 6:00 p.m. and the runners, all women (except for the leader) ,were, to put it bluntly, faster and better than me. Also, for the most part younger than me. So I ran at the back , and the gap between them and I lengthened. So I ran the dark streets by myslef. A red flashing light on my starboard side, and a white flashing light on the port. No iPod, no MP3, no music. Just the scruff of my feet on the ice and snow. Once in a while the lead runner would circle back an bit to see if I was moving and well.
And I was moving and I was well. I have found running very spiritual, especially when I do it by myself. I am conscious of my breath, of my heart beat, of those five bypasses, of my muscles, of my brain as it directs the rest of the body to balance on the ice.
I am free to listen to voices of those living and those passed. I run with the problems of the day, my hopes for the future, of my plans for the world. I run with my mother, I run with the Saints, I run with Demons, I run with my Higher Power. My Higher Power is no Patrick Makau . She huffs and puffs as much as I do , but if I drag my ass out to run so can she, creator of the entire universe, all time, and all that is good and positive aside. So my Higher Power is a loser as well. Losers get martyred, losers get crucified, losers get a lot of abuse. In fact I am not even a worthy loser but that is neither here nor there. Losers get to watch where everybody has been, losers have the best seat in town, losers make winners. I like running where I run, and the humility of being last is very, very, good for me. The lead runner pointed out a shortcut to me, but I liked being a loser so much I would not take it. I joked that I would not let him ruin my day my depriving me of distance - I know that he just had my best interests in mind.
Oh, and in full disclosure: near the end I caught up with three of the slower runners so I still lost, but as by as much I would have liked.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Debt - the new , really bad four letter word. Lines of credit and loans and mortgages used to be good but alas no more. The debtor has become the scourge of the earth. I am a debtor that will be in debt , but I am actually grateful for that. My debt is life itself, which of course I got with my open heart surgery and the saints, angels, disciples, students, healers, sages, technicians, and cats at the University of Ottawa Heart Institute, and the West Carlton Health Team. Not to mention priests, ministers, parishioners, believers, atheists, and channelers. Not to mention tax payers. Not to mentions politicians who were free of fear. Not to mention fellow trudgers. Not to mention beagles and cats. Not to mention friends. Not to mention my wife.
I pay the debt in many ways, but would like to briefly talk about exercise; I owe to my healers and payers and supporters to exercise.
So I try to do reasonably aggressive physical activity about 200 to 250 minutes a week. Up until the first snowfall that took place on the morning of Christmas Eve I was running on the street 6K, six times a week. Then I joined the gym and started doing 4 mile runs, maybe 4 to six times a week. I row 40 minutes when I do not run and I take a day off a week (although this week I ended up with two days off. So as long as I don't end up injuring myself that is the plan. Paying off debt one step at a time. Debt was never so wondeful

Saturday, January 14, 2012

I am not an engineer and I am incompetent and challenged in all matters of mechanics. This is no surprise to anyone who knows me. But, I do understand the thermostat. You know, the thing that sits on the wall and controls the temperature. Great minds have figured it out and while I do not understand the mechanics (coils of dissimilar metal and thermistors or something) I do understand the practical application. With a wood stove you were always anticipating ans guessing. If the night was going to be bitterly cold you would pile more wood in the stove, the idea being that this would give you more heat. This worked but had short comings. If the night was warmer than anticipated, you would sweat and waste wood. If the night was super cold but you fell into a deep sleep the house would be cold when you finally woke up and had to walk on an icy floor to get the fire going.
The modern thermostat solved all of that. You would set the temperature, sometime in October, to say 20 degrees C (maybe even the more politically correct 18 C) and forget it until May. Engineers have designed a system that was fool proof. Warm spells in November, Arctic Blasts in January, were no problem. All was 20 degrees in the home, and flannel jammies were something to save for the yurt in Algonquin Park.
My mother never bought this. On cold nights she always cranked up the heat and made me put on a sweater. I am not talking about my childhood. I am talking about me visiting her as a man in his forties . If the temperature hit below below minus twenty, my mother would crank up the thermostat and make me, her middle aged son bundle up.

The cats and beagle are the same, on cold nights they do insist the fire place is on and huddle by it, even thought the living room temperature is the same all winter. And , more than a decade after my mother's passing I too now like to huddle by the fireplace on a cold winter's eve. A tummy full of food, cats, and the singular beagle and I all warming by the fire. Who would have thought that it has taken all of these years to figure out the engineers were wrong and my mom was right?

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Well the Magi are at the cradle on the manger. Or to be a little more accurate, they are the home of Joesph and Mary , having followed the star, and dropped off the frankincense, myrrh, and the gold. There is an air of intrigue because Herod wanted to find where this little Jesus was so he could off him, being very stressed that this baby could grow up and off Herod. But the Wise Magi are forewarned in a dream to take a different path home and avoid having to lie to Herod about the whereabouts of Joesph and family. Obviously diplomatic immunity did not play a role in and around Zero BC.
Well what to take away from this little tale ... a tale tightly edited by Matthew to tie in with the prophesy of Isiah. Well, the Magi, or the Wise Men, or the Three Kings came from the east, east of Bethlehem .... East of Bethlehem? Syria? Iraq? Iran? Maybe Afghanistan? India? Didn't Abraham start the whole ball rolling by emigrating from the East in the first place? Interesting that the part of the world that seems to be in the biggest mess today was the topic of reconciliation 2000 years ago. Is that the message for us today?
Three Kings bringing gifts to a baby? isn't that a bit backwards? Aren't the little supposed to bring gifts to the great? Doesn't the waitress, working from five in the morning through to the lunch shift , on her feet the whole time, pay a bigger % of income on taxes than a big corporation? Don't we line up for the big events that the corporate masters tell us about? But here is story telling us that great and powerful men will cross the threshold of a simple abode and pay homage to a small baby on faith alone. Is this not the antithesis of the Corporate West?
What's more the Magi were mystics. They spent time looking at the heavens for signs, and when they saw a sign, they acted on it. They logically must have been the only ones who saw the sign, it clearly was not a historical astronomical event. But something within them, compelled them to act. Is not the message here that we sometimes should listen to the voice that calls us and act, instead of analyzing something until it is starved of oxygen?
I guess the Christian Churches view this day as the moment that God became human but that nuance of that timing is beyond my mollusk brain. But my epiphany is just this: Take time to forgive, Take time to serve, Take time to follow a dream. Thanks for the lesson Matt: A great end to the formal Christmas,but I am very lucky and very blessed, for like Ebenezer Scrooge, it lives in my heart all year and most of the time I am smart enough to know that.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Raymond Lahey, the former Catholic Bishop of Antigonish was released from prison today for possessing child pornography and I am trying to think out what I feel about that. Certainly the creation, possession and viewing of pornographic images of innocent children is horrid, but fortunately beyond the imagination of most people. I think that sexual attraction of an adult to a child is indeed a sickness, in the same way that addiction to alcohol is a sickness. Yet the alcoholic is responsible for all that he or she does as a result of alcohol use, be it impaired driving or other criminal act, damaging relationships at work or at home, one’s personal health, and on and on. Similarly the individual, who may be indeed sick in their sexual attraction to children, has to be responsible for any and all consequences of that act. In Lahey’s case, he went through the system, was found guilty (by confession) and even volunteered to go to jail immediately, even before sentencing, which got him the “two for one deal”. The bottom line is that he confessed to the crime, went through the system, and justice was dealt. I am in no position to judge whether this justice was properly dispensed and with all that is going on in the world, I am going to give it no further thought. As for the issue of what the Administration of the Catholic Church does, well that is the business of the Administration of the Catholic Church.

This entire long winded preamble brings me to me. What would I do if I encountered Raymond Lahey? Could I look him in the eye? Would I shake his offered hand? What if he attended a retreat with me? What if he sat beside me at a Contemplative Eucharist? What is he wanted to talk to me? What if he wanted to share a fear with me? What if he just wanted some company for half an hour and just chat over coffee?

There are no shortage of celebrity crooks like Martha Stewart, Kiefer Sutherland, Conrad Black, Paris Hilton, Rod Blagojevich, Roman Polanski, Rob Ramage, Robert Downey Jr. and others who have done time in prison. Martha Stewart is more successful than ever and Roman Polanski continues to make movies abroad. Are there lists of crimes like the A List, B List , and C List? Martha Stewart is funny and stylish so she gets a pass. Roman Polanski is a great talent and it is uptight Republicans who are after him anyway and Kiefer Sutherland was just a bit careless with his booze. So was Rob Ramage but he killed Keith Magnuson, but of course Magnuson should have never gotten in the car in the first place.

But where does leave Raymond Lahey? Is his crime more heinous because he was a bishop? Would it have been less heinous had he owned a strip joint? He said he was sorry, he confessed to his crime, he went to prison, and his life is now shattered. Of course we will never know the pain of the young children who are the only true victims, but this man’s life is certainly ruined. It is hard to have sympathy, his life is ruined by his own choice, but the young victims had no choice.

So it comes to the hardest word of all – forgive. Raymond Lahey did no direct harm to me, so it is easy to forgive without pain, but I choose to forgive him. I would shake his hand, would not move if he sat beside me, and would have a coffee with him. I do not have the power to see in his soul any more than I can see in anybody’s soul and I am confident that he will be judged at another time and another place by a power greater than myself. I am glad that I do not have that responsibility. But I do not think that I can be forgiven unless I forgive. And a good as any place to start is with that coffee. No one ever said that faith is easy.

Monday, January 2, 2012

I remember the first night, almost ten years ago that we spent in our house here in the country. The movers were only coming the next day, so we had to sleep on pads on the floor of the bedroom. It was comfortable enough, the house was warm enough, and I was tired enough, but I could not fall asleep. I was perplexed, I was a bit excited but not apprehensive, and unlike some other moves the paperwork and legal side went smoothly yet I was not falling asleep. And then it dawned on me, after over 20 years of living in the constant dull roar of Toronto suburbs, the silence was deafening (not to mention the total darkness)
Of course the country is not always silent. Your ears tell you it is spring with the chatter of red winged black birds and that is followed by the spring peepers and together they make an spring’s eve almost deafening. I will address the sounds of the rest of the year later but the one characteristic of a winter’s eve is silence. It seems the colder it is, and the darker it is, the quieter it is. Once the river freezes the flexing ice will do whale sounds but tonight, even though it is going to dip to minus 22, the river still has lots of open water. So tonight it is quiet. No birds, no people on snowmobiles, no distant traffic, the trains are long gone, thankfully (as rare as they are) no sirens, no chatter, not even the coyotes or wolves are howling.
As the secular recognition of the Christmas Season winds down there are no more Christmas songs on the radio. The tinsel is down in the malls and the Boxing Day sales that started in November are all but wound down. Never mind that churches with wandering Magi have not moved them next to the stable yet; Christmas is over.
But I am sitting in the silence of the country, in front of a blazing fire (which, for nit pickers is not silent) and the Christmas Tree is still up and the white bulbs are singing in full voice. We had a party at our house yesterday (well more of a New Year’s Open House, although New Year’s Levee for the Beagle sounds better) so today, before work starts tomorrow is a day of lazy reflection and a day of silence. With silence I can hear the messages within me that get buried and I have the chance to reflect upon these little voices. I think of Mary and Joseph and their little baby and how frightened they must have been. The heavenly hosts have turned on their wings and are back in heaven, doing whatever heavenly hosts do for eternity. The baby is crying, the baby is hungry, the baby is cold, they certainly have not been given a plan for the future.
I like to think that Joseph went for a walk to get away from everything. I am sure that he had enough faith to leave the baby and Mary alone for a bit. I like to think that he went to the place where all those shepherds had come from and just hung out in the hills for a bit. Bethlehem would not have been that noisy then to start with and by the time he got in the hills, it would have been pretty quiet, except for a bit of wind and the occasional complaining sheep. I think that in the silence, Joseph heard the answers that he needed to hear. I don’t know of course if that happened at all – maybe the whole story is just a dream , but I do know that there is a lot to hear in silence, if one is willing to listen. I am sad that most people fear silence. Are they afraid of the message?