I got a cold in my nose for Christmas but my sickbed was very festive, Toby didn’t leave my side, and the celebrations and thoughtful presents were still wonderful.
I’m a few days late to the party, but The Atlantic is hosting Alan Taylor’s 11th annual Hubble Space Telescope Advent Calendar, a favorite around here. I used to talk about space a lot more, but things like this still get me (those are all mostly galaxies):
And via Kottke, I found A Christmas Movie A Day, which so far has featured great writing, old movies I want to add to my list (and also Batman Returns), and this gif of Katherine Hepburn dancing to bongos:
Despite all my decorating, I keep quoting the opening of A Charlie Brown Christmas to anyone who will listen (“Christmas is coming, but I’m not happy. I don’t feel the way I’m supposed to feel.”) I go back to this poem I found in 2012, which I think sums it up pretty well. If “Christmas is a place, like Jackson Hole”–ok, we’re here; now what?
A Christmas Poem
by Robert Bly
Christmas is a place, like Jackson Hole, where all
To meet once a year. It has water, and grass for
All the fur traders can come in. We visited the place
As children, but we never heard the good stories.
Those stories only get told in the big tents, late
At night, when a trapper who has been caught
In his own trap, held down in icy water, talks; and a
With a ponytail and a limp comes in from the edge of
As children we knew there was more to it—
Why some men got drunk on Christmas Eve
Wasn’t explained, nor why we were so often
Near tears nor why the stars came down so close,
Why so much was lost. Those men and women
Who had died in wars started by others,
Did they come that night? Is that why the Christmas
Trembled just before we opened the presents?
There was something about angels. Angels we
Have heard on high Sweetly singing o’er
The plain. The angels were certain. But we could not
Be certain whether our family was worthy tonight.
1. I’m taking tomorrow off and I think we all have Monday off, so let’s call this and start hibernating.
2. After linking to her essay yesterday, I found out that Jeanette Winterson has a new collection of Christmas stories out, with fiction and musings and recipes. I can’t read nicely designed books on a Kindle (app) because I just wonder how the “real” book looks, but if you can, it might make for a nice weekend read.
And then they heard the angels tell ‘Who were the first to cry NOWELL? Animals all, as it befell, In the stable where they did dwell! Joy shall be theirs in the morning!’
Never have I been so happy to tell a month, “Don’t let the door hit ya where the Good Lord split ya” (as Doc says). November, you were pretty rough. And while that’s more the fault of my fellow Americans more than the calendar, I don’t have fond memories of you.
Instead, I want to buy in to all the things marketing tells me December can be: love and joy, smiling at strangers, snowy forests, candles. A fresh start. And peace on earth.
It’s worth a try, right?
I have the next two days off and I plan to spend the mornings hibernating, so let’s put up this year’s Christmas poem and call it good. Be safe, be warm, be at peace.
Christmas Card to Grace Hartigan
by Frank O’Hara
There’s no holly, but there is
the glass and granite towers
and the white stone lions
and the pale violet clouds. And
the great tree of balls in
Rockefeller Plaza is public.
Christmas is green and general
like all great works of the
imagination, swelling from minute
private sentiments in the desert,
a wreath around our intimacy
like children’s voices in a park.
For red there is our blood
which, like your smile, must be
protected from spilling into
generality by secret meanings,
the lipstick of life hidden
in a handbag against violations.
Christmas is the time of cold air
and loud parties and big expense,
but in our hearts flames flicker
answeringly, as on old-fashioned
trees. I would rather the house
burn down than our flames go out.