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12/25/2003 Archived Entry: "Christmas goodies"


The cabin is filled this morning with the cinnamon-nutmeg aroma of baking cookies, with just a touch of last night's pine-scented candle still lingering. After two months of dodging every jingly-jangly rendition of "Jingle Bells," I've cranked up my favorite holiday music, the four-CD set, "The Revels Collection."* Later it'll be time for a "traditional" dinner of homemade ravioli, courtesy of Italian friends.

Over by the door, my gentle golden retriever (a gift from Debra and Torry Ricketts) lays with her head on a small, black, and so-far nameless cat, who seems as content as the retriever is with the arrangement. The other dogs snooze on their beds as the weather flirts with both snow and sun.

A day or two back I was discouraged about the lack of progress on the new book. After posting my whine, I got the warmest messages from friends Jim and Ceridwen, reminding me that I'm blessed to have people in my life who are as wise as they are caring. (And yes, the whine and the messages helped; the book is finally lurching ahead.) Yesterday I had a long, conspiratorial chat with Debra, definitely one of my favorite human beings, and later got a call from another faraway friend whose chaotic life reminds me to appreciate the woodsy silence I live in.

Christmas can be depressing, but today everything is conspiring to bring peace and joy. Even NPR -- usually a source of aggravation -- cooperated with a hopeful and very American story. The tale: When Mirro (the aluminum cookware company) closed a plant, laid-off 900 workers in Wisconsin, and moved the operation to Mexico, it could have been a typical sad story. But the ex-employees didn't just fall into depression or demand protective legislation. With cooperation from Mirro's parent company and dozens of small investors, they bought the factory and re-opened it. They've been working without pay for two months now. But they're working, and better yet, working for themselves. (Click and scroll down to listen to the feature.) What does it have to do with Christmas? Nothing. Or maybe everything, since this is the time we celebrate light breaking through darkness. And if Americans are still like that, then there is still light even in these dark, dark days.

I hope your holiday is as peaceful, musical, and fresh-scented as mine, and that wherever you are, you're doing what you love with people you love. I hope none of your friends or family members are away at war, and if they are, may they come home soon.

I haven't met most of you, yet I know I can also count many of you among my friends. Even on less peaceful days (or especially then), I'm grateful you're out there.


*If you might go postal -- or rather, go Wal-Mart -- after hearing "Frosty the Snowman" one more time, and if you like unusual music, check out these CDs. This collection is from the Christmas Revels, a threatrical solstice celebration produced every December around the U.S. It's about half traditional (but not necessarily familiar) Christian music and half general winter-celebration songs. Even its "Christmas standards" aren't standard -- with songs as varied as the "Sussex Mummer's Carol," "Go Tell it on the Mountain," and "Il Est Ne le Divin Enfant" (beloved by anybody who ever had a high school French class). When the revelers sing the imposing Latin processional, "Personent Hodie," you can almost see the candles glowing in some Medieval cathedral. And how can you not love "L'Homme Arme," a fiery, dramatic, not-exactly-Christmas carol of mysterious origins whose message is "beware the armed man"? (You can hear a sample of that one on the Revels Web site.)

"Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree" it ain't.

Posted by Claire @ 01:21 PM CST

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