Author: Marilyn Armstrong

THOSE SPECIAL TWELVE DAYS

On the second day of Christmas, my True Love gave to me ... 2 TURTLEDOVES!

On the second day of Christmas, my True Love gave to me … 2 TURTLE DOVES!

Every year, we sing the song … or somebody does. Usually more than one somebody. The 12 Days of Christmas. It’s been done with humor, with dread seriousness, as a short, funny film. As a picture book. The Boston Pops does a brilliant and hilariously raucous version that bears little resemblance to the original song.

On the 3rd day of Christmas, my True Love gave to me ... THREE FRENCH HENS!

On the third day of Christmas, my True Love gave to me … 3 FRENCH HENS!

In all these years, hearing the song, playing the song on the piano and the organ, singing the song, humming it, pondering why or how anyone could give anyone a partridge in a pear tree and live to tell the tale … I mean, okay, five gold rings … but seven swans a-swimming? Did he include the pond? Did he have to do major construction to get those swans a-swimming for his lady-love?

On the 4th day of Christmas, my True Love gave to me ... 4 CALLING BIRDS!

On the fourth day of Christmas, my True Love gave to me … 4 CALLING BIRDS!

And where on earth do you find leaping lords? You certainly can’t just go to Walmart and put them in your basket for checkout. At the very least, you’d have to get them to go along with your act and lords, especially around these parts, are hard to find. Maybe guys with the last name “Lord” would do? Hofstra had a President named “Lord” at the same time as Nassau County had a Parks Commissioner named “Moses.” It led to the unforgettable headline on the Hofstra Chronicle:

LORD AND MOSES CONFER OVER PROMISED LAND

At issue was a small parcel on the north side of Hempstead Turnpike which the university wanted to incorporate as part of its development of a new dormitory and library complex on the former Mitchell field, north of the Main Campus. This really happened and though I saved the copy of the paper, it has disappeared with the passing years. Pity about that. NOTE: For you history buffs, this is the airfield from which Lindbergh began his historic trans-Atlantic flight.

But I digress.

TAKE NOTES. THERE WILL BE SHORT QUIZ AT THE END OF THE LECTURE

This morning I woke up fully engulfed in a mental itch.

When are the twelve days of Christmas? It can’t be the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day because that’s always one week and will never change. Even if you add in Christmas Eve, that’s still only 8 days. What’s with the other four days and why doesn’t Google put them on the calendar? It puts on the birthdays of even the most obscure of my “Google +” connections. Surely (I know, don’t call me Shirley) this has got to be at least as important as some acquaintance I’ve never met having a birthday. You think, Probie?

But all was not lost. The calendar might not offer much help, but Google, the ubiquitous source of all miscellaneous information combined with — let’s not always see the same hands … you, there, in the back — right! Wikipedia! They had the answer and it only took me 0.77 seconds to get about 515,000,000 results. I only needed one result and don’t have time or enough interest in the subject to check out the other 514,999,999 answers.

Twelve Days of Christmas 2014 begin on
Thursday, December 25
and end on Monday, January 5

From Wikipedia. It’s the religious response, or at least a general overview thereof. Feel free to check out any of the other hundreds of thousands of available answers to this question:

The Twelve Days of Christmas is the festive Christian season, beginning on Christmas Day (25 December), that celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ, as the Son of God. This period is also known as Christmastide. This is different from the Octave of Christmas, which is the liturgical time from Christmas Day until the Solemnity of Mary on 1 January. The Twelfth Day of Christmas falls on 5 or 6 January depending which tradition is followed. There is similar confusion about the date of Twelfth Night which is commonly held to be 5 January but some hold that it is 6 January. The Feast of the Epiphany is on 6 January which celebrates the visit of the Wise Men (Magi) and their bringing of gifts to the child Jesus. In some traditions, the feast of Epiphany and Twelfth Day overlap.

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In Medieval England, this period was continuous feasting and merrymaking, climaxing on Twelfth Night, the traditional end of the Christmas season. In Tudor England, Twelfth Night was permanently embedded in popular culture when William Shakespeare used it as the title of one of his most famous comedies.

Some traditions were adapted from the older pagan customs, including the Roman Saturnalia and the Germanic Yuletide.  Christianity was, as all religions have been, opportunistic. If everyone was going to celebrate anyway, why not give the celebration Christian meaning? It’s no coincidence that every religion celebrates the solstices and equinoxes … or that the pagan Omer (celebrating the first cutting of the wheat) coincides with Passover on which Easter is overlaid. Nor should these overlays of later religions on earlier ones diminish the importance of the holidays. It’s hard enough to get a new religion going, to convert an entire population to a new way of thinking. Why not use whatever tools (and holidays) are handy?

ARCHAEOLOGY AND RELIGION

For a long time, whenever I drove down the old road from Jerusalem to Lachish, I noticed a piece of an arch pushing out of the ground. I could see there was a ruin there. I hoped the archaeologists would get to it so I could find out what it was.

One day, the diggers arrived.

It was a 5th century synagogue, complete with mosaic floor showing a mandala of 12 astrological symbols, the same ones we use today. The floor was taken, intact, to a museum in Tel Aviv. Digging recommenced and beneath the synagogue, pillar on pillar, stood a Roman temple. After rescuing whatever artifacts they could, the group began to dig again and found — pillar on pillar — a Greek temple.

Astrological signs by J. D. Mylius

Astrological signs by J. D. Mylius

Finally, below the Greek temple, on the base rock, was a Canaanite temple.

During each stage of the dig, we were allowed to go poke around the ruins. Israelis love archaeology. It’s was as much the national pastime in Israel as baseball is here. Everyone has a few artifacts … pottery shards, tiny oil lamps, Roman glass, old coins from vanished empires.

Human history and religion has never been the monolithic, simplistic structure many people — on both sides of the religious equation — would like it to be. If there is an omnipotent deity, it is not an old guy with a long beard counting your sins and weighing them against your good deeds. Or his son, nephew, or third cousin twice removed.

Whatever there is, it is unlikely to be something we can neatly classify. It is, as “they” say, complicated.

FENCES: CEE’S BLACK AND WHITE PHOTO CHALLENGE

Cee’s Black & White Photo Challenge: Fences

I have a lot of pictures that include fences, though rather fewer where the fence is a primary feature. It was interesting seeing how they looked in monochrome. Entirely different moods than the original color photographs.

I loved the texture of the old wood fence ...

snowy fence on deck black and white BW

75-Along The Fence Sepia

cow field farm fence BW black and white

Evil Squirrel’s Nest Comic #138 — 12/18/14

Marilyn Armstrong:

If this doesn’t perfectly sum up the spirit of Christmas, I’m sure I can’t imagine what does. I’m also including the lovely portrait of Lil which Bill sent to me. It arrived — actually ARRIVED — via U.S. Postal Service. A Christmas miracle?

Lil is beautiful and so is Bill and so is Evil Squirrel, his alter-ego. Walt Kelley is smiling down from somewhere.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Originally posted on Evil Squirrel's Nest:

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ONE WEEK BEFORE CHRISTMAS: WHAT’S NEXT?

In Due Time — What’s your next, most pressing deadline? Are you excited, stressed, or ambivalent about it? What’s the first thing you’d like to do once you’re done with it?

Chistmas Eve 2013 gifts

Holy Moly! The pingbacks have returned! Can I believe my eyes? It must be Christmas!

I don’t know about you (though I can make an educated guess), but I have a full dance card this time of year. It would be hard to figure which of the many tasks remaining is the most pressing. Discounting everyday chores, the one that looms largest is the same one which every year, I procrastinate doing until later and later … sometimes until Christmas Eve itself! I’m generally not a procrastinator. Really.

Wrapping. The. Presents.

I bought paper. I bought gift bags. I bought ribbon and little sticky labels. I still need bows, but even without them, I’m good to go.

I am a capable, fast, and occasionally artistic gift wrapper. But over the years, watching people pick up their gifts, rip the paper and ribbons off without so much as checking to see whose name is on the label (like who is giving me this gift?) well, it has taken some of the bloom off that particular rose.

I used to put a lot of effort into beautifully wrapping packages. Now, I just wrap them. In whatever paper is the right size. Okay, I try to vary the paper so it make a pretty pile. And coördinate ribbons and bows to complement the colors in the paper. Make sure that I don’t give the fluffy pink kitties to the boys.

However, I don’t go that extra mile. I was probably over the top anyway. I made my own bows using miles of curling ribbon. Nobody can curl ribbon better than I can. But I was young and eager.

In recent years, I get wrapping done quickly, efficiently, neatly. Then I stand, admiring my handiwork for a while, hoping I haven’t left some important gift in the back of a closet where it may never be found.

Xmas gifts

Every year, I lose at least one expensive, important gift. I have reached an age where I should not be allowed to hide anything unless someone else knows where I’ve put it. Because the odds are high I will not remember where I put it. I may never remember. The next time it will see the light is when I am carried out of here, feet first, and my closets are finally emptied. It will be like archaeology.

When I am done with the wrapping, after I pick up all the little bits of paper, ribbon, and tape? I’m going to sit down in my recliner and watch “It’s a Wonderful Life.” While having a cup of cocoa. Does anyone have a better idea?

IT’S GOING ON YOUR PERMANENT RECORD

Last night, watching Star Trek: Next Generation, Geordi La Forge (Levar Burton) disobeyed a direct order given by Captain Stewart, er, I mean, Jean-Luc Picard. Although he survived his misadventure — barely, I might add — Picard told Geordi that regretfully, he was going to have to “put this incident on your permanent record!”

Oh my god! His permanent record. Even in Star Fleet, you cannot escape your permanent record. It’s four hundred years in the future and they still have that record.

Back in our golden olden days, the thing that was held over our heads — the veritable Sword of Damocles — was that our bad behavior would go on our permanent record. From elementary school through our working years, we were warned our permanent record would follow us. Marks against us might even (gasp!) prevent us from getting into college at all, in which case we knew we might as well die on the spot. If you didn’t go to college, you would never have a decent job or find someone to love. I knew that right into the marrow of my bones. Didn’t you?

little colorado rocks

The Permanent Record is (was) (will be) like the Rock of Gibraltar. Huge, unchanging. No matter what we do with our lives, everyone will know about our misdeeds. All they have to do is check the record. They’ll know I sassed my eleventh grade social studies teacher (he deserved it and worse) in May 1962. That Garry ran over his allotted time while reporting a news event in Boston and was not even repentant when confronted with his foul deed! The evil that we do will be revealed.

You might want to see Lamont Cranston, because the Shadow Knows.

So, here’s the deal. Now and forever, every one of us has a permanent record in which all our misbehavior is cataloged. I know because I’ve been told. I’m not sure who has custody of these records, however. As far as I can tell, everyone on the planet has one, so there must be a gigantic storage unit somewhere, where everything is filed. That’s a lot of records to keep.

But they aren’t being stored around here. I’d have noticed a building that big.

permanent-record-file

I expect when we die, if there actually are Pearly Gates and a gatekeeper who decides if we can enter, he will be clutching a copy of our permanent record in one angelic hand. That’s right. You talked back to your teacher in fifth grade, cut school in high school. Told a professor the dog ate your final paper in college. Now, you won’t go to Heaven.

Sorry buddy. Your permanent record just caught up with you.

CHESTNUT STREET: CEE’S WHICH WAY PHOTO CHALLENGE #25

 Cee’s Which Way Photo Challenge: 2014 #25

This challenge subject is all about capturing the roads, walks, trails, rails, we move from one place to another on.  You can walk on them, climb them, drive them, ride them, as long as the way is visible.

75-ChestnutSt-77

This week, I decided to show pictures of one road. Just one.

Chestnut Street is a minor, barely two-lane country road that goes from North Street in Mendon, to Route 140 in Upton. There is no turnoff anywhere along its 2 mile length.

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They are building some kind of community center along it now, but otherwise, there are no houses. No businesses. Just an old railroad crossing and a great many trees. It is my favorite road in the area and when I drive it, I think “this is the way the valley looked before people came and built towns.”

chestnut street shadows

I wish they’d put the community center somewhere else and leave Chestnut Street in peace, but the deed is mostly done. The majority of the road most is unchanged.

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Chestnut Street is a permanent challenge to me. The trees grow very close to the road along its entire length and the few places where it appears safe to pull off, you have to be very careful. The river is nearby and many places that look like solid ground are actually swamp … mud … quicksand.

Unlike in the movies, quicksand won’t swallow you and your car, but it will make an ugly mess of it and you. And you’ll need a heavy-duty tow truck to pull you out, for sure.

72-Upton_038

Many of the pictures I’ve wanted to take there haven’t worked out because I can’t find a place to put the car for a few minutes while I shoot. All of that being said, I keep trying. And here it is. Chestnut Street.

forge house 5

A PLEA FROM THE WOMAN WITH THE VISA

Marilyn Armstrong:

Ah, the holidays. Oh the joys of shopping. All I can say is ‘THANK YOU ONLINE WORLD” because I no longer need to go to the mall for my holiday shopping. It gets delivered to my door and usually, it’s on time and in the same number of pieces it started out its journey. Sometimes, change is good.

Originally posted on Stuff my dog taught me:

imagesDEAR TRENDY CLOTHING STORE EMPLOYEE:

I know that everything in your store has been designed to fit and flatter my teenage daughters and that my presence is an unappreciated reminder that you will all someday sacrifice beauty for comfortable footwear.  However, as the woman with the VISA, I have no choice but to lurk around the racks and there will be occasions when verbal communication between you and I will be unavoidable.

To reduce my stress levels as well as yours I plea with you to consider lowering the music volume and perhaps turning up the lighting.  I could potentially lip read over the pounding, highly-synthesized rhythm, if only there was enough light for me to make out your facial features.  Alternatively, I could have my children verbally guide me through the store if I could make out their voices over the dance-party “mash up” that is playing at a stadium-concert…

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