In the car today on the way to school I had the local classical station on the radio. They started slipping the occasional Christmas song into rotation on Dec 1, every five pieces or so. It was a string arrangement of a carol, and I started singing along. Sparky said, “I don’t know this one. I don’t know a lot of Christmas songs, Mama.” And he’s right. Mainly because I worked in retail for about fifteen years and developed a violent aversion to Christmas music that way, but also because I’m an admitted music snob and I dislike most “popular” versions of carols, preferring instrumental arrangements.
Now, every year we get together with a family of dear friends (we’re godparents to their girls, they’re Sparky’s godparents) and we have an intimate Yule singalong. I play the cello, Jeff plays guitar, the kids play bells or bodhrans, and if we’re lucky Pasley plays one of her recorders for a song or two (and I wish she’d play it more often, because it’s a beautiful sound, and yes Paze, I am talking to YOU) and we sing all sorts of stuff, from really old ones to some popular Christmas songs the kids know well, like Frosty and so forth. But every year, Sparky’s stumped by the more classic ones I used to sing in church as a kid.
So today, I find myself in the slightly odd position of developing a Christmas music playlist so he can hear the songs and learn them. I don’t have many recordings (see above about my snobby tastes and violent dislikes), so I’m digging through what I do have to find what I can put together. I may have to record myself singing some to fill out the playlist, which is a frightening thought.
And as every year, I find myself wanting to do something to decorate the house for the season, but coming up with a blank. Pinterest has me wanting to string pine cones on red ribbon and hanging them from found branches above the windows — so simple! — but really? And where would I find the time? And can you even get pine cones that aren’t drenched in cinnamon oil? (Hmm, this would be the perfect excuse to finally check out the new Michaels.) Candles we do all year round, so adding more seems pointless. HRH hung the Christmas lights along the peak and eaves of the house this past weekend, and they look wonderful, but that’s a night-time thing (and even that has me uncomfortable because it’s so early in December and there’s no snow again). And we don’t buy the tree and decorate it till Solstice, so that we can enjoy it during Christmas week without it drying out and having to be taken down right after the 25th. The boughs and swag for the front door don’t happen till the week before Christmas, because they’re fresh, too. I need to think some more about what we can do that is baby-friendly, works with our decor and layout, and isn’t expensive or overly time-consuming.
Part of the problem, I think, is that we have one box of Christmas stuff in the shed, and we take it out when the tree arrives, so I don’t have lead time on the non-tree decorations. Maybe we should separate them into two boxes, one marked ‘early Christmas’ and one marked ‘immediate Christmas.’ Because, you know, that would be intelligent and foresighted, two things that do not characterize my state of mind when we pack everything away in early January.
I am back from the vet with an empty pet carrier and a Nixie-shaped hole in my heart.
It was time, but that doesn’t make saying goodbye any easier. It also didn’t help that her veins were collapsing so they couldn’t insert the IV properly, and had to inject her in the abdomen, which meant that she went more slowly (although with the sedative and painkiller they’d already given her, she wasn’t feeling anything by that point). At least I got to hold her close in my arms until she stopped breathing. It felt right, like it was a fitting bookend to how often I had held her as a newborn kitten to feed her, to make sure she lived.
Born to a feral cat being fostered by a friend who lived a few blocks away, Nixie was the tiniest one of the litter, very tiny indeed, and we didn’t think she’d make it without help. So I went over once or twice a day to give her extra meals and cuddles. Naturally, when she was old enough, she came home with me. She never really got very big, remaining the size of an adolescent kitten. She was perfect the way she was.
She used to sleep behind a row of books on the bottom shelf of a bookcase. If she’d been rolling on the floor and had motes of dust in her fur, when she walked through a sunbeam she looked like she was the velvety blackness of space with tiny sparkling galaxies scattered through. She liked to sleep in tiny hidey-holes, particularly shelves. In her later years, she slept next to my pillow at night, though this past year she’s slept on a blanket upstairs in the attic office. Her fur was the silkiest I’ve ever felt on a cat. I loved her purr, and how she would delicately reach out with a paw and just the tiniest bit of unsheathed claw to pat my hand or my cheek, to coax me into stroking her.
We had just over ten wonderful years together.
She was light enough to be able to jump up and balance on my cello in its soft case (and don’t think I didn’t find her napping inside the empty case when she thought she could get away with it!):
She would lie on my desk and keep me company while I worked:
Sparky took a really neat photo of her when he was about four:
But this is how I will always remember her, lithe, with big green eyes, sitting in the sun on my bookshelves.
Thank you, sweet little cat, for being my dear companion, for loving us all, and for enriching our lives with your delicate personality. Say hello to Maggie, Gulliver, and Roman for us. Sparky told me last night that Maggie would be waiting for you, to show you the best sunny spots and grass to play in. And I’m not going to argue with the eerily insightful seven-year-old, because honestly, I think he’s right.
Pagan Pregnancy has finally been released. It is an e-book, and there are no plans to publish it in hard copy. But I am so incredibly thankful that it’s at least been made available in any format after four years of waiting! It’s currently out for the Kindle, and it should be appearing on other platforms very soon. (The rest of my backlist is also available in e-book format.) Heartfelt thanks go out to my editor, Andrea, who fought long and hard to get this released after the initial publication was cancelled four years ago.
The bird book (it does have a name… Birds: A Spiritual Field Guide) is also now available, and is a real live book. I’d post photos of my box of author’s copies of the bird book, like I always do when I announce a book’s release, but as I said yesterday the USB ports are dead and I can’t get anything off the camera. Just use your imagination to visualise a box full of books with this gorgeous cover:
Imbolc, a festival of new life and creativity, seems a fitting time to announce these pieces of news, yes?
It’s a miserable day out there today. The weather is schizophrenic, part fluffy snow, part ice pellets, part freezing rain, and part plain old rain.
But there is something wonderful that makes up for the misery outside my window.
Hail and welcome to Rowan Mark James St-Martin, newly born son of our dear and long-time friends Kristie and Rob, born only minutes into this day! May your life be full and blessed; may you know joy, weep only happy tears, and taste the entirety of what life offers you with enthusiasm, wisdom, and grace.
Newborn babies are wonderful things. Ours or not, we have the opportunity to celebrate the renewal of life, and the confirmation that new beginnings come again and again to lift us up and inspire us when things seem mundane. We are all blessed by sharing in the joy surrounding a birth.
The boy came home from his grandparents’ house with a 102.6°F fever this evening. He was complaining about being tired and hot when we arrived to collect him and was punchy in the car on the way home, rambling from one unconnected topic to another. He started working himself up about not being able to get a dog in the near future and about dying someday (talk about out of the blue) and so I said, “Why not think about something more cheerful, like Christmas?”
“I don’t know very much about Christmas,” he said. “Not like you guys. You must know all about Christmas, right?”
“Um,” I said. “We know… stuff, yes. Maybe not all about it.”
“Tell me something,” he said.
So in the dark on a relatively lonely highway, I told him about the reason we call it Christ-mas, and followed it with the story about Jesus’ birth. Try to tell that one to a kid who has grown up without being steeped in the Christian mythos. (I know I’ve told him the story before, but it obviously didn’t stick.) He was okay with Mary and Joseph looking for a place to sleep in a busy town because Mary was very pregnant, and the birth in the stable, and Jesus being wrapped up in a cloak and tucked into a manger because there wasn’t a crib ( “I think Jesus must have been very comfortable.”). But he needed context. So I explained that Christ was half a god and half a man ( “Like Hercules!”), and that the wise men who were mages and philosophers and astronomers followed the magic star to the barn where Christ was born and knew when they got there that the baby was very, very special ( “But how did they know?” “They were… very wise and knew a lot of stuff about things like God.” “Oh, okay.”), and that angels were so happy that Christ was born that they sang and led shepherds to the barn too, who loved the baby as soon as they saw him, and that the birth of the baby reminded everyone about love and hope and compassion.
There was silence in the back seat for a bit. Then he said suspiciously, “Is there more to this story?”
HRH cleared his throat, and I said, somewhat truthfully, “Well, that’s the end of the Christmas bit.” (It does sort of need the crucifixion story for the Christmas story to have the proper significance, but there’s no way I’m going to tell him that the Christian mythos also dictates that this wonderful Christmas baby grew up to be killed, and indeed was born for the sole purpose of being sacrificed to cleanse the stain of sin from mankind, thank you very much. Not until he’s old enough to understand that it’s a specific religion’s dogma and not a universal belief, because (a) he takes things very literally and is obviously having a problem with the idea of death right now, and (b) I am very much against the idea of people being born sinful, and indeed not a supporter of the whole Christian concept of sin or the need for salvation. There are some beautiful things about the Christian religion and spirituality that I love and appreciate. This and the accompanying inference that we should be guilty because this had to happen is not one of them. Tangent over.)
Now that he’s got the basic Christian Christmas story, though, tomorrow I’ll curl up with him and explain that the Christmas story is like our celebration of the winter solstice and the return of the light, that the world had become a very mean place and the Christian God wanted everyone to have light and hope in their hearts again, so he sent his son be an inspiration. We’ve explained Christmas as a celebration of love, family, and generosity to those who are less fortunate than we are, and we’re very satisfied with that; Christ’s altruism and desire to heal and encourage love ties in nicely. We can talk about other mythos that the Christian story maps on to as well, like Mithras (Sol Invictus, anyone?), and the general neopagan concept of the Sun God.
That’s what you get for being born the son of someone who has taught comparative religion, though. There’s never a dull moment when it comes to talking about religious festivals. We’ve already talked about how Santa is the spirit of Christmas, how he’s a twentieth century version of Father Christmas/Saint Nicholas, and how he’s portrayed very differently in all the different countries of the world, sometimes as a different person or figure entirely.
He didn’t want dinner. We gave him Tylenol and lots of water, read him a couple of books, and he’s sleeping hard. We’ll see how he feels tomorrow morning, and if he even remembers the conversation in the car.