There are wood shavings on the rug in the study. I might ask why, but not for nothing have I essayed the discipline of nature study. Therefore I can report that in addition to the wood shavings, a large stick of wood has also been observed lurking about the premises of the rug -- but by whom, the passive construction prompts you now to ask. Well, dear reader, that's up to you and your discipline of nature study to discern. But I can help you out by telling you who got a pocket knife for Christmas.
The dog turned up in the front yard a few minutes ago. I hadn't known that he'd been gone, but when I went out to see if the mail had come, there he was, all bounce and fun, with that mad ruffled look that escape always gives him. When I opened the porch door, he consented to enter the house in much the same spirit as Smaug leaving his house. Minus the fire, of course.
Speaking of which, the furnace is still out. The neighbors have brought us space heaters, so we're not that cold, and though our electric bill is going to be through the roof for this month, I console myself with the thought of the gas bill.
Speaking of neighbors, the furnace is out next door, too. We know this because Aelred got us a porch swing for Christmas and stored it there until two a.m. Christmas morning, when I finally went to bed and he could lug the thing over here from Jane and Steve's and hang it up. Jane and Steve say that they're not cold, either, having also acquired space heaters from somewhere, but this parallel-life thing does seem kind of strange. I was already fairly sure that the vinyl-siding salesman had made a killing on our block all in one day; now I wonder whether there was a a door-to-door sale on furnaces the same week, lo those many years ago.
I just got up from my lunch to let the dog in, through the back gate this time. Apparently, in his freight-train progress through the house, he had met with some person who had thought that he would be better off outside, and he had promptly shinned out again through whatever breach in the fortifications it is this time. So I was sitting here, minding my own business (which is rare), eating up the remains of the oyster pie, which is my duty, the other person who likes oysters having left town this morning, when I heard what seemed to me to be some not-right barking -- not-right-at-the-back-door barking, that is. When I went to see, there stood the dog outside the gate, looking as if he weren't quite sure he lived here. I know that people emerge from seizures and fugue states disoriented and dissociated, but dogs?
What I got for Christmas:
*a long red tie-front cardigan, with a black cami to wear under, from my mother
*a book on organic gardening, also from my mother
*a book of poems, not by me, from Aelred
*Also from Aelred, a statue of St. Therese, with a shrine like this one, only with blue-and-white tile at the back
*Handmade items, too many to enumerate, from children
*the aforementioned porch swing, at which I'm gazing longingly at whiles this afternoon, through the living-room window, because really it's too cold to sit outside on a porch swing today, even with a ninety-seventh cup of coffee
*And chocolate. Many kinds. A whole stocking full. I may be sick before the week is out, but I'll be happy-sick
I'll tell you this: The child who got the pocket knife is the same child who, having gotten glasses two weeks ago, has now lost them. I just offered her an entire bag of Lindt truffles to find the schlassefrasching things (this may not be the correct German adjective, or indeed any German adjective at all, but it is a fairly accurate transliteration of what I hear when I read !%*&##!!), before I go out with the other girl, who also needs new glasses, and buy up the whole optical shop, just to be on the safe side.
If she doesn't find the glasses, maybe I'll offer her the truffles anyway, to hoover the study floor. Anything, anything, not to have to deal personally with my vacuum cleaner, with whom I maintain a barely-cordial relationship founded on mutual distrust. It doesn't trust me not to feed it things it doesn't like (the larger varieties of microscopic dust, for example), and I don't trust it not to choke on nothing, the schlassefrasching histrionic idiot machine. (my feelings about inanimate objects vis-a-vis me here). Other people like it, however, and the Electrolux people will apparently go on fixing it even after we're dead, so I suppose I should make my peace.
Maybe it's just that it's the Feast of the Holy Innocents, a distinctly uncomfortable feast, especially as it makes me feel ratty about feeling ratty about trivia like lost glasses and vacuum cleaners.
Something I wrote a long time ago, when Epiphany was little, and this story really was required bedtime reading for a while:
THE GLORIOUS IMPOSSIBLE
on a book by Madeleine L’Engle, with illustrations by Giotto
At bedtime, my daughter keeps demanding
“The Holy Innocents.” I keep having to explain
Slaughter, which she almost understands
As it applies to pigs. What's harder is Giotto's
Streetful of painted, dead babies,
White bodies swept together like hair
Just cut, the dark, thready blood
Arcing tidily from their necks
Into the blue sky, brought down to touch them.
It's horrifying, this page. The whole thing
Looks choreographed. The flat soldiers,
Starched into their armor, seem too
Appropriately unmoved by one mother's
Boneless arm, which is not raised
But floats up -- gravity has not
been invented, I might lie -- as if the body's
Grief were unacquainted with the will.
Let’s don’t look at that. I try to turn the page.
See the donkey fly the family into Egypt.
See how it turns out, I want to say.
Not these children knit with blood to God.
This truth. This street full of tears.
This poem appeared, under a different title and in an early stage of revision, in First Things sometime in the late 1990s. Grateful acknowledgment is due the editors.
Um, so those are my quick takes. Who knows when I'll remember to do it again. In the meantime, go visit Jen for all the rest.