Is There Another Way?

 

The Magi - Henry Siddons Mowbray



Epiphany, the Light for the Way, falls just over the threshold of each new year.

As the fatherly advice at the opening of the main story of A House Not Made With Hands goes: "Plough a straight furrow, lad. Fix your eye on the far side and never look back."

Here, Muir's poem is complemented by the work of figurative artist, Daniel Gerhartz. The scenes are quiescent, yet inspiring, charged with an optimism that verges on the sacred and captures the extraordinary in the everyday. His dreamy luminism has the clarity of a vision and becomes almost an experience of life in a timeless parenthesis. Some of his paintings echo those of Joaquin Sorolla.





Friend, I have lost the way.
The way leads on.
Is there another way?
The way is one.
I must retrace the track.
It’s lost and gone.
Back, I must travel back!
None goes there, none.
Then I’ll make here my place,
(The road leads on),
Stand still and set my face,
(The road leaps on),
Stay here, for ever stay.
None stays here, none.
I cannot find the way.
The way leads on.
Oh places I have passed!
That journey’s done.
And what will come at last?
The road leads on.

Edwin Muir, courtesy of the Scottish Poetry Library

first published in The Labyrinth (Faber, 1949) and included in Collected Poems (Faber, 1984)



 

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Twelve Days of Christmas--or More

Our Christmas was different, but it was a good one. Our first pre-Christmas guests were Gerry and Vickie and Geri Ann, who had already had their family celebration at College Station. We had a good breakfast with Glasco kin at Cracker Barrell the morning after they arrived around midnight. There was a second Glasco breakfast there a week later when was Jamie Escue was home from Louisiana, but I was at Katherine's the evening before and didn't get to go to that breakfast. Gerry and Geri Ann were giving two softball clinics in this area while here, and Gerald even went along to the second one and was impressed. As well as to be with the Johnson and Glasco family celebrations, Vickie was here to help her mother who was recovering from surgery.

Gerry did not stay as long as the other two.Vickie took Gerry up the Friday before Christmas to catch a 4:30 a.m. plane to south Texas for hunting and bird dog work, which Gerry loves so much that it is more fun than work. We fed him favorite foods that we had stuck in the freezer to save for him since he could not be here for the Thanksgiving feast. On Christmas day, he was texting Vickie trying to get pity for missing the family dinners and claiming to eat from a bag of chips, but I refused to feel even a mite of pity. His hunting work continued through the New Year celebration when Vickie and their three grandsons joined him for the weekend, and he really enjoyed himself then.

Jeannie and Rick with Cecelie came through Woodsong for a brief overnight visit on their way down to Nashville to spend Christmas with Leslie and Mike. With Geri Ann here from Oregon and Sam here from Baylor, and the Taylor kids off school, they made the most of Cecelie's visit. They also made plans then for a second cousins' celebration the day after Christmas when Cecelie would be back through and Elijah also would be driving up after his Nashville visit. In fact, Vickie agreed to stay an extra day just so the six youngest of the cousins could have yet another night together, and Sam's special friend Anna joined them since they consider her one of the cousins. (When I say night together, I am not exaggerating. They started early and left Woodsong for dinner in Carbondale and a movie and I think a bowling alley visit and ended up at Woodsong where the hardiest of them stayed up till 4 a.m. I was told. Since that was about the time Vickie and Geri Ann were gathering up their suitcases and three dogs to drive to College Station, I am not sure Geri Ann ever went to bed.) That same night Jeannie and Rick and I saw the same movie, Fences, in Marion. That was a late night out on the town for me, but I think we were probably home soon after l0, and Jeannie and I did not talk too late since they were also driving home the next day.

Christmas Day itself was a small affair for us, but quite lovely for me since once again Mary Ellen had us over to their farm for dinner. Vickie and Geri Ann enjoyed the Johnson celebration on Saturday, and her mother was up to that gathering.  On Sunday, they attended church at Stonefort with her brothers' families and were very happy to hear Louie and Terry sign together. The Taylors and us worshipped in Marion together and enjoyed beautiful music, the sermon, and seeing friends. While the Taylors went on to the farm and check the ham and last minute meal preparations, we were able to go by Katherine's and give her pills before lunch. Later Mary Ellen and I took her in Christmas dinner, and Mary Ellen fed her, and we all enjoyed the Christmas tree Sam had put up in her bedroom  the night before for the special dinner he prepared and the evening they had together. Geri Ann and Brianna came adding to the afternoon  festivities, and our visit probably wore her out before we finally departed.

Mary Ellen's house was decorated inside and out this year; and when we drove by, we had already been enjoying Brian's white star on the barn—the same star the Rix family put up there for years. As we stepped into their large kitchen and were greeted by Fifi, our eyes were delighted with her lovely colorful table with its many candles and places waiting for the nine of us. Our noses were delighted with the wonderful smells, and soon our mouths were rewarded with all the good food they had waiting for us. Sam arrived from going to church with Anna and Vickie and Geri Ann were there.  Like Gerry, Fifi wanted us to feel sorry for her not having the yummy food; but remembering her vet's warning after she got sick on human food, I did not give her a mite of pity either. After we had indulged in the dessert table with its colorful fruit, pies, Brianna's angel food cake and the chocolate covered peanut butter drops she had also made, we all gathered by the tree in the living room to exchange gifts and stories. (I love the stories about the pinball machine decorating one back corner of their living room.) We were all having so much fun and laughter that Trent almost forgot that he was supposed to be at work by 2, but he wasn't very late.  Sam was able to go on and help his little niece celebrate her first birthday at his brother Davie and Krissy"s house.

The day after Christmas I enjoyed visiting with family still at the farm, but I was saddened to attend the funeral of a writer friend.  Jari Jackson had asked for a "journalist funeral."  The funeral director and her pastor were not sure what that meant, but Mayor Bob Butler, Jon Musgrave, and  Pastor Bob Dickerson did an excellent job of creating one for a long time journalist who wrote for big city papers and then retired in her hometown and continued writing pro bono promoting good things here.

Gerald and I celebrated New Year's Eve by driving into Marion and having our evening meal at the new I-HOP, which we had not yet visited. Waitresses with bright clothing and bright smiles greeted us warmly as we entered, the food was delicious, and everything was so new and clean. We were surprised at how large it was, which will be great next summer for the baseball crowds.

Altogether it was a very nice Christmas season despite our no longer all being together on one day and despite the horror of multiple sclerosis. Our one tree is still up and quite beautiful to me. I usually leave a tree up until New Year's Day because that is what we did at our house when I was a child in Jonesboro. Once or twice, however, when the weather was so bad the kids had school cancelled, I left a tree up till Old Christmas that I learned about from Jesse Stuart, a day some English immigrants continued down in Kentucky and which some Amish still do.  Tomorrow is Old Christmas or Epiphany and our tree will be there to help us celebrate. The truth is I am leaving it up till I get around to it, maybe during the weekend or maybe afterward. Taking off all the ornaments and putting them away in their proper box and then pulling the tree apart takes up a large part of a day, and the family room will be a jumble until the job is finally finished. So my twelve days of Christmas may stretch out to fourteen or so.  

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Losing The Compass

 

Winter - Ivan Shishkin

 

A rusty nail placed near a faithful compass, will sway it from the truth, and wreck the argosy.
Sir Walter Scott

 

My new year's resolutions have focused on re-ordering the week to make the best use of time. This is a flawed premise to begin with because we can't always make that judgment, only what we think is best. Every day is a tussle between the demands under our noses and the agenda we feel we ought to be pursuing. Henceforward, I shall be seeking to oust material and metaphysical clutter in the firm belief that it consumes energy, eats time, prevents clarity and fosters tunnel-vision. It impedes progress on all fronts.

This is no easy ticket. Never underestimate the power of habit. Its genesis is in our earliest breaths, long before we attain years of 'wisdom' and the freedom to make our own decisions. Which seems to indicate that our underlying patterns of behaviour are laid down by the generation behind us. How often have you seen history repeated in successive generations?

Miranda [name changed] a good friend of mine during the eighties, when we were in the chorus of an opera company together, underwent a crisis of faith about her role in marriage just as she turned forty when Life was supposed to begin. She said the relationship was stagnant. She couldn't feel about her husband the way she had when they were first hitched. Lovemaking was mechanical. It wasn't that she had come to despise Rob, or even dislike him, it was that everything felt flat, perfunctory and unrewarding. Her two early teen children seemed to need a degree of emotional support she couldn't give. She had been a devoted mother, but there were times when she wished she could hand over the responsibility for them to someone else. She was convinced she had come to the end of the road and made it quite clear that she was on the lookout for new horizons and a new partner.

Rob was totally bewildered as to what had gone wrong. In his view, it had been a loving, exciting, and stable marriage which had grown staid at the edges, perhaps, but even that had its comforts. He looked on dismayed and bereft, unable to reach his wife and ready to accommodate any proposition concerning a separation which would bring her to her senses and a realisation of what she was losing.

But if he was bewildered, so was Miranda. You see, when she was fifteen, about the age her children were now, her adored father had died. She had lost her compass. She had no blueprint as to what happened next. She couldn't relate to the (recognised) needs of her son and daughter, nor respond adequately to the emotional and psychological needs of a partner. She was grieving for the vulnerable teenager she was back then.

Separation, with a view to getting back together, seldom closes the rift because, as in this case, it is usually a one-sided recourse. Rob did not want her to go. He wanted for them to work through the phase together. It was finally decided that he should get a posting to another part of the country, while Miranda kept the house so that the children's lives and schooling were disrupted as little as possible.

Not long afterwards, I lost track of Miranda, Rob and their children. He left and she had a sequence of lovers and eventually moved away herself. I don't know the outcome of this story and it may be that they were reunited, having forged a stronger bond through absence and having gained an awareness of what was truly valuable in their lives. But I doubt it. By then, other destinies had become entangled in the mix. There would have been other forces to deal with which regret and remorse could not breach.

No one could blame Miranda for how she felt or how the feeling of isolation had come about. She knew she was acting unreasonably when they had had such a wonderful marriage and were the envy of many, but that did not answer. She had once played Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz and was sure that gold was not mined from granite seams, but must be found at the end of the rainbow.

As a contrasting footnote, some time ago, I watched a programme about how families coped during WWII with the geographic and emotional upheaval it caused. One woman who married the soldier of her dreams a few days before he returned to his regiment, told how, when the war ended, she was shocked to discover that he had been living with a prostitute for several months before he came home. There and then, she decided to sue for divorce, but her solicitor painted such a grim economic scenario and suggested that she might do better to hang fire for a while. She made up her mind to a change of attitude. She would throw down her arms - and open them! Before long, it had become second nature. When her spouse died, they had been happily married for fifty-six years!

So when the radar malfunctions and the compass goes into a spin, whatever our creed or Golden Rule, it can't hurt to keep in mind the following wisdom, attributed to Mother Teresa, as a road-map.

 

People are often unreasonable, irrational and self-centred. Forgive them anyway.

If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives. Be kind anyway.

If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and genuine enemies. Succeed anyway.

If you are honest and sincere, people may deceive you. Be honest and sincere anyway.

The good you do today will often be forgotten. Do good anyway.

Give the best you have, and it will never be enough. Give your best anyway.

In the final analysis, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway.

 

Wishing you many blessings in the coming year!

 

Journey of The Magi - Joseph Binder

 

  

 Adoration of the Magi (detail) - Domenico Ghirlandaio (He's second from the right in the painting.)

 

Copyright

© ©Rosy Cole 2012 & 2015

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