I love TS Eliot’s beautiful language and weary tone. As I read it feels as if I am perpetually struggling home in a foul, foggy, freezing winter twilight, breathing air choked with coal smoke and auto exhaust, longing for hot tea and warm lamplight.
You can hear Eliot reading his Journey of the Magi here, a rare treat.*
It is wonderful to listen to the question the wise man asks, and ponder the double edge of The Holidays. Be happy, be gracious, enjoy OR ELSE!! This is a time of mass stress and guilt and acute consciousness of loss and lack in our personal lives and our world, right alongside the dictatorial mandate to celebrate the hope and beauty of various religious and natural events.
In the natural order of things, this should be a time of natural ‘death’- hunkering down, resting, feeling a little melancholy, to make way for spring’s rebirth. Instead we work twice as hard to ‘get ready’ for the season and find it is over before we even enjoyed it.
We are left with regrets- why did I allow myself to be taken in by obligation, guilt trips and marketing when I KNEW I wouldn’t enjoy myself and that nobody else cared about those details that left me chasing my tail when I should have been just enjoying? Why didn’t I follow my instinct to do less and love and enjoy more?
Instead of hibernating, getting the rest and communion and connection we crave, NEED, to sustain us until spring, our entire nation is not just fighting to be super productive as always, but taking on the obligations and dreams of The Holidays on top- no wonder we are all so dang depressed in January!
A little like the exhausted, wondering narrator, I have doggedly pursued the joy of this season, telling myself that it ain’t over til Epiphany. I just ordered babies for the King cake.
But a voice says ‘Doesn’t the tree look sad, standing there well beyond its season? Take it down. Get on with your life. It’s over now. You know you’re tired. You didn’t start early enough, you didn’t enjoy enough, and now it is over.’ Get thee behind me!
I have worked hard. I have done the right thing, sometimes for not much reward. And yes, I am tired. I am glad to ponder the double edge with the wise man.
One gift that will never be beyond this season is The Books! The holiday has given us time and resolve to stop frantically trying to force the new home into shape and just enjoy. So what do I do when I have a few quiet moments? I work on the books, of course! I’ve been going through the collection yet again as we move it into our new digs, and came across this sweet little book.
The Star of Bethlehem Jeanne K. Hanson $10
The author discusses the astronomical possibilities and the mysteries of symbolism and prophecy surrounding the Star of Bethlehem that led the Three Kings on their journey. The drawings by Glenn Wolff are very sweet, but what I loved most about it was the snippets of medieval ballads, plays, poetry and scripture throughout, including Eliot’s Journey.
I truly enjoyed stopping to ponder, in a way I should have been pondering since Thanksgiving. Because we were moving, I did give myself some freedom from the world of endlessly stressful holiday to-do lists… but I still didn’t ponder enough or enjoy enough. We were moving, packing, unpacking, rushing, buying, running here and there. Perhaps next year I will do better… Meanwhile, I have dear weary Eliot** and it ain’t over til Epiphany.
*Yes, I know about his racism, his misogyny, his anti-semitism and I absolutely do not approve. But I fell in love with these works before I knew, and we share a culture (sort of) in the Episcopal church. In spite of his airs and snobbery, please, please let me enjoy Prufrock and Journey and Wasteland on their own sad and cynical terms?
** See *