Monday, January 31, 2011

I dreamed a dream

I turn on the TV sometimes and channel surf, hoping for a gardening show. I usually don't find one. They tend to be on only on the weekends. I would like one or more 24-hour gardening channels. I would like to turn on my TV any time of the day or night and be able to find someone showing off their garden, giving the Latin and the folk names of the plants, talking about types of soil and pruning. I think if there were several 24-hour gardening networks and few or no 24-hour news networks, the world would be a better place.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

One more day

One more day and January will be over! Meanwhile . . .

I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep: for thou, LORD, only makest me dwell in safety. Psalm 4:8.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Today I watched a broadcast of a men's basketball game between my beloved alma mater, Calvin College, in Grand Rapids, Michigan and Calvin's arch-rival, Hope College, in Holland Michigan. Disappointingly, Calvin lost. However, I did have some good pizza, at Milt's Pizza, in Lynden.

Milt's Pizza was in Lynden when I visited here as a teenager, back in the days before any national chain of any kind dreamed of establishing an outpost in Lynden. I know I ate there, but I can't remember what it was like inside. I know it was on the Guide Meridian, walkable from the home of the cousins I visited most frequently. We walked by or through pastures that now are strip malls. At some point, Milt's closed, but a few years ago some of the kids of the original Milt re-opened it in its present location.

It's nice to eat in a place that has local and personal history. The name "Milt's" has a Lynden vibe that I used to long for in those other states and places where I lived. I had a fantasy that if I lived in Lynden, I would be happier than wherever I was. Now I do live in Lynden, and I suppose I am happier.

I like to have it happen that when I meet people, my name is already familiar to them, and the first thing they will ask me about is who I'm related to (or to whom). I like it when I drive around, and I know who lives in that house, and that one--sometimes friends, sometimes relatives. I like just knowing that dotted all around the town are my aunts and uncles and cousins. I like to run into relatives and church members in the grocery store and in restaurants. I like to throw around the names of streets we all know: the Guide, the Hannegan, Front Street, Depot Road, Bender, Badger, and even . . . yes, the Kok Road.

I used to think it would be great to live on the Kok Road, just to be Kok on the Kok Road. Now, I'm not so sure, because the Kok Road borders the fairgrounds, and every year during the Northwest Washington Fair, there would be horrendous traffic and people wanting to park in front of your house, and possibly in front of your driveway.

Anyway, it's good to be here. It's not perfect, because I'm not perfect. But it's the place for me.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

A little dull

Well, I guess I could start a blog where the theme is: I blog at night and boy am I sleepy. Every night, I could try to find a new way to say I'm tired.

Oh, wait. I'm doing that already.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Once upon a mattress

Long ago, in the dim reaches of the misty past, upon an ancient holiday known as "New Year's Eve," I had the kind of passing fancy traditionally called a "New Year's Resolution." I imagined myself engaging in the quaint folk habit, "getting enough sleep at night." Some time after that (perhaps the following Tuesday), I failed in that endeavor and in the more than three endless weeks since then, I have not ceased to fail. Tonight, however, the whim again comes to mind. What if I went to bed at such an hour that when it was time to wake up, I might be rested? It seems like such a crazy idea, but, you know what? I think I'm adventurous enough to do it, and this very night.

That is just my madcap, zany way.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Day is done

I have a post in my head, but my head is nodding. I am overcome with sleepiness. I must head for Bedfordshire, to the land of Winken, Blinken, and Nod, to the arms of Morpheus. I must hit the hay. Shadrach, Meshach and To Bed We Go.

The Day Thou Gavest, Lord, Is Ended
John Ellerton, 1826-93

The day Thou gavest, Lord, is ended,
The darkness falls at Thy behest;
To Thee our morning hymns ascended,
Thy praise shall sanctify our rest.

We thank Thee that Thy church, unsleeping,
While earth rolls onward into light,
Through all the world her watch is keeping,
And rests not now by day or night.

As o’er each continent and island
The dawn leads on another day,
The voice of prayer is never silent,
Nor dies the strain of praise away.

The sun that bids us rest is waking
Our brethren ’neath the western sky,
And hour by hour fresh lips are making
Thy wondrous doings heard on high.

So be it, Lord; Thy throne shall never,
Like earth’s proud empires, pass away:
Thy kingdom stands, and grows forever,
Till all Thy creatures own Thy sway.

Monday, January 24, 2011

From the porch to Monte Cristo

This past Saturday, although it was rainy in the morning, I did sit out on the deck again for a while. Instead of sitting on the unsheltered side of the deck -- known on brighter days as the sunny side -- I sat on the sheltered side -- known on brighter days as the shady side. I sat in this rocker:

As you can see, lots of stuff stuck under the shelter for the winter. I would like to buy another rocker just like this one, so two people could sit and rock and talk together. There also was, at one time, a matching bench in the hardware store where I bought this rocker and the potting bench next to it. But I wonder if they still have any of this line of furniture, or can order some, or if special ordered how much it would cost. I will have to find all that out as warmer weather draws near -- no fear of that right now, it seems!

I'm excited about this summer. Lots of my family are going to visit, and I hope we can sit out on a deck made beautiful by my flower-growing efforts. Of course, the amount of time I will spend anticipating the visit exceeds the amount of time people will actually be visiting by a factor of about 32. Oh, well.

I always remember a line from The Last Remake of Beau Geste; the commander of their French Foreign Legion tells the legionnaires: "Life is as brief as butterfly's fart." It's kind of along the same lines as Keats' "Ode on Melancholy," but not quite as lyrical. Mortality, etc.

Another good line is when Marty Feldman claims that his character and the character "Beau," played by Michael York, are identical twins, "Only, somehow, Beau was more identical than I was."

My favorite Michael York movie is the double feature The Three Musketeers and The Four Musketeers. Some great 70's eye candy in that movie: Michael York, yes, and Richard Chamberlain, and Oliver Reed. Powerhouse actors such as Charlton Heston and Christoper Lee, and lovely women Raquel Welch and Faye Dunaway. Let me also mention Frank Finlay and Geraldine Chaplin. I can't remember if I saw the movie then read the Dumas novel (just The Three Musketeers; it is the movies that split it in two) and then more Dumas novels (The Count of Monte Cristo, The Man in the Iron Mask), which were also made into TV movies, both starring the justifiably ubiquitous Richard Chamberlain.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Good enough

I went to church today and visited my sister-in-law and niece, went to the grocery store, made my sandwich to eat on my lunch break tomorrow, and did a load of laundry.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

House plants

This afternoon I transplanted some house plants. Ordinarily I would take a picture of them and include it in this post, but they are mostly pretty sorry looking right now. One plant was droopy because its roots were waterlogged. It was in a starter pot that was stuck inside a plastic pot for store display purposes, so not good drainage. The other three had been together in a shallow pot that was sent to me many months ago by co-workers after I had a medical procedure. I had let them dry out recently and one of them was root bound.

Then there were the spider plant babies. I cut them off my spider plant and stuck them in a glass of water to see if they would grow roots. They did not, but some of the leaves rotted. So this afternoon I stuck them into a pot of dirt to see if they would root in the dirt.

The three dried-out plants were an African violet (actually the healthiest of the bunch, but not blooming right now), something that resembles an asparagus fern, and some type of creeping plant. The creeper was healthy but only growing in one direction, and the asparagus fern-like plant had quite a few yellow leaves or needles as the case may be.

I've been meaning to do this transplanting for weeks. I can only do it on a Saturday, as on weekdays I'm only home during the dark  hours, and on Sundays I have other things to do. Today was cloudy but not rainy and the temperature was mild enough that being out on the deck in a sweatshirt and vest was not unpleasant.

"Vest" is an interesting word. For Americans, it means a sleeveless garment worn over a shirt--what the Brits call a "waistcoat." And for Brits "vest" means what Americans would call an "undershirt." The vest I was wearing was not the type that would be part of a 3-piece suit, but is more like a sleeveless jacket, quite large, so that it can go over a sweatshirt.

Anyway, maybe in a few weeks, if these plants have survived and thrived, then I can take a picture and post it.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Sleeping dogs should lie

A little while ago I heard a heartsick cat yowling outside. I slowly turned my eyes, then my head toward my dog, who was on the couch. Fortunately, he was asleep and stayed that way. If he were awake and I had visibly started at the sound of a cat outside, he would have gone from somnolence to insanity in less than a second and launched himself at the furniture near the windows--yelping, barking, and snorting, all the while glancing over at me as if to check how impressive his display of watchfulness is and wondering (hoping against hope) that I, too, will leap to my feet and fling open the door and let him run out to challenge the feline.

I do not let my dog out unless he is on a leash. One time he got out while I was at work. I forget whether I blogged about this. But he was missing overnight, and I got very little sleep that night. Thank heaven and the Lynden police that he was returned to me safely the next day.

Goof Dog

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Optimist Me

Well, the 4-day work week is half over. And January is more than half over. I guess that means the glass is half-full.


I was awake early this morning and got on my computer and saw on my Google gadget that it's full moon. A little later I was walking my dog and saw the full moon low in the western sky, large and yellow. Beautiful.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011


In the scene from "Sense and Sensibility" in the last post, during the commentary, Emma Thompson and the other commentator mentioned that Ang Lee studied the paintings of Vermeer in preparation for this film and often tried to capture a Vermeer-like visual feeling.

Being a Janeite

I'm almost done with a total Jane Austen re-read. During the Christmas season, I (re-)watched "Sense and Sensibility," directed by Ang Lee, with the screenplay by Emma Thompson, starring all kinds of wonderful people including the intriguing Alan Rickman.

Mm, yes.

Sorry. I got distracted there a minute.

Anyway, I watched the movie, then the Emma Thompson commentary, then re-read the book, and having tasted the sweets of Jane Austen once more had to gobble down the whole plateful.

I read them in no particular order. Sense and Sensibility, then Pride and Prejudice, then Emma, then Northanger Abbey, then Mansfield Park, and now I am about a third of the way through Persuasion.

O that Jane Austen had been spared to write more books! (I'm paraphrasing Mr. Bennett's remark about Mr. Bingley, in Chapter Three of Pride and Prejudice: "O that he had sprained his ancle in the first dance!" Then Mrs. Bennett wouldn't bore him by reciting a list of all Mr. Bingley's partners.)

Get intrigued:

Monday, January 17, 2011

Day off

Today I had off from work because it is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. King was certainly a great man--in my opinion the greatest American of the 20th Century--and deserves to have a holiday in his honor.

That said, I did not observe it in any special way. I slept in. I bought birdseed and refilled the bird feeders. I loaded the dishwasher. I did a load of laundry.

While I was driving around town, I also went to a gas station. Although my tank was only half empty I figured why not fill up before the price of gas goes up even further. On my way, I saw that there was water over the road on the Hannegan; that would be the Nooksack River overflowing its banks. I wished I had my camera to take a picture, but I didn't.

Now it is the night before the first day of work of the week. I hope it's a good work week.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Weathering the winter

Before I went inside, I went over to the other side of the deck, where I put my flower pots under the shelter of the upper deck. This pansy is still living:

So is this one.

The saxifraga, which has already survived one winter, is still living as well.

The wallflower is also doing well, although my photograph of it is blurry.

The needlepoint ivy is quite a few years old. Usually in the fall or spring I cut it back, then it re-grows.

We should live in the present, but in the winter, it's hard not to long for spring. Today was a pleasant winter day, and I was contented by it. I did regret the early sunset. The days have been lengthening now for less than a month. It will take a while to become more noticeable. Today, sunset was at 4:41 p.m. here in Lynden. By the end of the month, it will be after 5:00 p.m. That's a little more reasonable.

Today's sky

The sky was overcast. That's why the temperature was mild. Clear days in the winter are cold. But they were not heavy rain clouds.

The branches of the pin oak are bare. I think this tree is about 30 years old, as is our house. I'm not sure of the tree's age. One good thing about the windy, stormy weather we've had at times this winter is it has stripped the pin oak. Otherwise, it sheds its leaves all winter.

And this majestic evergreen is on the other side of the creek. I've probably taken hundreds and posted dozens of pictures of this tree, but to see trees like this every day is one of the reasons I moved to Washington.

That cloudy sky with the dark evergreen in front of it is a very Western Washington scene. I love it.

Peaceful Saturday morning

This morning I walked my dog, and the temperature was so mild compared to earlier this week that I stopped and looked at my favorite deck chair and thought of sitting there. I include my dog in the picture because, always, he is part of the charm of the scene.

If any wind had been blowing, it would have been chilly, but the air was still. So I did go ahead and sit in that Adirondack chair. My dog was willing to wait for me, although he wondered why, now that the thrill of his walk was over, we didn't go inside and take it easy on soft furniture in a warm room.

I sat and look out at our back yard, delightful even in winter. I love that snow doesn't stay and that the lawn stays green all winter. The creek is high from the recent snow and rain. In the picture below, between the thick tree trunk center left and the brown bush center right, past the grass, you can just see the top of the water rushing in the creek.

You can only see the water in the creek from my deck during the winter when it's high. My dad said that it is about a foot lower today than yesterday. Our back yard is the creek's flood plain, and it does flood every two or three years. The water has never reached the house, but my dad built a retaining wall, which you can see at the bottom of the above picture, anyway. He didn't build it with his own hands. A contractor built it by pumping concrete into a form.

It was very pleasant sitting out there. I was wearing a sweatshirt and coat and did not get cold. Little birds fluttered around the feeder.

Sitting on the deck in mild weather, enjoying the yard and watching the birds is just about the perfect Saturday morning activity.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Driving around

I met some a friend and some of her friends at The Copper Hog in Bellingham after work. She was happy because she's leaving a job where she's been unhappy and found the kind of work she's been wanting to do for some time. So, I'm happy for her, and I sure hope it works out well.

When I left, I got in my car, navigated a couple one-way streets and promptly got lost. I have a genetic condition, shared by all my siblings, where I get lost almost every time I go somewhere that's not someplace I go regularly and frequently. Generally, it starts when I see a street name that's familiar, so I turn onto it, hoping I'm turning in the direction that will take me where I want to go. I am always wrong.

So I drove around strange, dark areas of Bellingham and into Fairhaven trying to find my way home. I eventually found my way back to downtown Bellingham and thence home again.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Labour's bath

Hooray, tomorrow's Friday and then a three-day weekend. I am profoundly tired tonight and need to go to bed on time. Driving home from work this evening I seriously struggled to stay awake at the wheel.

I just went and pushed on the lever of my kitchen faucet to stop an annoying drip. Are there any drips that are not annoying? Dripping faucets, dripping noses. Those are annoying. Maybe the occasional drips of rain drops off tree branches is not.

I have eaten dinner, and soon it will be time for great Nature's second course.

Sleep that knits up the ravell'd sleave of care,
The death of each day's life, sore labour's bath,
Balm of hurt minds, great nature's second course,
Chief nourisher in life's feast . . .

Macbeth, Act 2, Scene 2, William Shakespeare

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

These boots . . . what are they made for?

A Tale of Two Boots. It was the best of boots, it was the worst of boots.

About a year ago, I bought the boots on the right. I like how they look. They are suede, with a fuzzy inside. They are warm. But they have two faults. One: They are not watertight. In fluffy snow, they will keep your feet warm and dry. In the heavy, rain-saturated snow that covered my fair city this morning, they would not. During my walk with my dog, the boots got soaking wet at the feet, and my got wet. Two: They are difficult to put on and take off. There is a narrowness at the ankle, so that I point my foot down into it, then my heel won't go down past the ankle of the boot, and I have to pull the top of the boot, wiggle my foot, pull, wiggle, pull, wiggle, until finally, eventually, my heel can slide down to where it belongs, and the boot is on. Then the other foot. This is rather strenuous exercise in the dark, early hours when I just got up. Then when I get home, I have to pull off the boot, twist it, pull, twist, pull, twist, until finally it will come off my foot. Sometimes I get a Charlie horse in the process.

Last night's weather prediction came true. It snowed all night, then rained all morning. The snow cover was ankle deep, soft, and watery. I drove into Bellingham for work and stayed there all day. The snow was pretty much gone by the end of the day there. But here it Lynden it lingers. Streets important enough to rate a plow are clear, but my street and those where I walk my dog are in a state of primitive nature. The snow is still deep, but it is just barely solid slush. You walk on it and it squishes and splatters out from under your foot with a splashy sound. Your footprint fills with water.

I happened to run into my dad in the garage. When I pulled into our driveway after work, I thought that before I would even go into the house, I would throw down some ice melter on the front sidewalk. I hope it doesn't harm the flora, but better the grass should suffer than my parents should slip and fall. So I went in the garage at the same time as my dad was coming into the garage from the house with cardboard for recycle. In the course of our chatting, I told the tale of my boots. I bemoaned that my feet would get all wet when I walked my dog. Dad said he also had a pair of boots that were difficult for him to pull on and off. However, they were waterproof. He said if I wanted to try them, I could. Maybe since my foot is smaller than his, I could put them on more easily.

Yes, I could. I could still feel that they were tight at the ankles, but not tight enough to drive me to extremes of exertion. And of course when I had them on, the foot part of the boot was much bigger than my foot inside it. But I wore them, trudging through the slush. It reminded me of that old joke insult, "Your mother wears army boots." Someone could say that to my dog. Fortunately, he doesn't care what I wear. He's very non-judgmental about my looks. That's one of the reasons I love him. At any rate, my feet in their spacious chamber were dry.

Since both boots were extremely tight in the ankle for the size of foot they're made for, I have to believe that what seemed like a design flaw was actually a feature. But why? What possible good reason could there be to make boots with ankles so tight that you work up a sweat trying to put them on?

Yet another reason January is an endurance test. The reward is survival. If by January 31st you have not broken your bones on the ice, caught pneumonia from the cold, wet weather, or committed some act of desperation born of darkness and tight boots, then you win. Your prize: go on with your life. Keep gritting your teeth. Just February and then the primroses will be for sale in front of Safeway and RiteAid, and you'll know spring is really going to come.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011


It's snowing. It started recently. It's supposed to snow all night. Every hour in the hourly forecast says "light snow," but it says it for about 13 hours. We're supposed to accumulate 1"-6", which is a lot for around here. Then, tomorrow morning, the temperature is supposed to rise and the snow will turn to rain. The time when it's raining into snow and maybe the runny stuff will still kind of freeze is when driving will be treacherous.

We'll see what it's like tomorrow.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Sun and Moon

I have been pondering that this coming weekend is a three-day weekend. It's nice that I just had to hang in there for two weeks after the holidays, and then I get a little break.

In the church year, the next big event will be Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent. I looked it up and in 2011, Ash Wednesday is March 9, and Easter is April 24. That's pretty late. It seems like usually Ash Wednesday is in February. It seems like just a few years ago we had an exceptionally early Easter, that actually fell in March. Is that possible? Yes. I searched online and in 2008 Easter was on March 23. So three years later, we're a month and a day later. I think Easter can fall as late as May. Nope. I looked that up, and it doesn't happen. I read that Easter will fall on one of the days from March 22 to April 25. So this year's Eater is almost as late as it can be.

Easter is the first Sunday after the first full moon after the spring equinox.

Speaking of full moons, we had some crazy calls at work that made me wonder if the moon was full, but I just looked that up online, too, and the moon is at 39% of full. I put a moon phase gadget onto my igoogle page. The moon is waxing.

I like the word waxing. It has a fine, archaic ring to it. It occurs frequently in the King James Version of the Bible. Now I am waxing sleepy. Like Jacob, I'll gather up my feet into my bed, although I hope just to sleep, not to yield up the ghost.

I know someone who has a fear that if he falls asleep he may not wake up, and it gives him insomnia. To me, that would be the perfect way to go. No fear beforehand, just lie down, go quietly to sleep, and wake up in heaven. We all should have such an end.

And perhaps it is a good thing to acknowledge, as poets often have, that sleep and death resemble each other, so that each night we have a reminder of the inevitability of our death. In our contemporary culture, to think about your own death is considered morbid. There have been times when contemplating your own mortality was considered praiseworthy, and a thoughtful man might keep a skull in his study as a reminder. Ew. I wouldn't go that far, but to consider that you could go to sleep and not wake up is a good motivation to put your soul in order before you go to sleep.

On the Guide Meridian between Lynden and Bellingham is a sign that says, Judgement Day, May 21, 2011.  The owner of that property is evidently a follower of Harold Camping, who is predicting Judgment Day on that date. I think it is wrong to predict a certain date. However, the sign is a good reminder to live in expectation of Christ's return. I ask myself, as I drive by, if I believed that, would I do anything different than I have planned? Because if so, I should do what I would do in the face of judgment. I see it on my way to work sometimes, and I believe that if that date were right, it would be okay if I kept going to work every day until then. As the Apostle Paul wrote to the believers in Thessaloniki:

Now, brothers and sisters, about times and dates we do not need to write to you, for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night (1 Thessalonians 5:1-2) .  Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to him, we ask you, brothers and sisters, not to become easily unsettled or alarmed by the teaching allegedly from us—whether by a prophecy or by word of mouth or by letter—asserting that the day of the Lord has already come (2 Thessalonians 2:1-2). For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: “The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.” We hear that some among you are idle and disruptive. They are not busy; they are busybodies. Such people we command and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ to settle down and earn the food they eat (2 Thessalonians 3:10-13).

So I feel that by going to work every day and doing my job, I am obeying Paul's exhortation.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Cold day

Got up this morning, and there was snow on the ground.

Not the day for sitting in my Adirondack chair. I'll have to keep dreaming of sunny spring and summer days.

When I got back from walking the dog, I tried throwing down some ice melter on the sidewalk. I'm hoping it helps get rid of ice for the sake of my parents. I've never used it before, but I bought some after the Thanksgiving snow we had.

While I scattered the ice melter, my dog waited patiently. I had hooked his leash over a branch to hold him. I figured he might as well not walk on this product.

It stayed freezing cold all day, and it looks like we're in for a cold week. January is to be endured.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

No complaining

Yesterday I caught part of a Dr. Phil show about disastrous wedding days. A woman was on who had had an allergic reaction at her wedding reception and eventually had to be taken away by an ambulance in a state of anaphylactic shock. Nine years later, she is still upset about this. She was moaning, "I didn't get to throw the bouquet, I didn't get to do the garter, all those things you dream about." She also was angry with her husband because when her reaction started and her nose, lips, and even her ears were swelling up, she asked him if she looked bad, and he told her, "No, you look beautiful," even though he could see that her facial features were swelling. Her husband felt she should get over this event, because they had been happily married for nine years. I agree.

When I was listening to her whine about everything that happened, I thought how different, and how much better, it would be if she were telling the same events, but with a sense of humor as a funny story. For nine years, if she had been able to laugh about it, she could have told a funny story that people would enjoy hearing. Instead, she complained in a way that would make people want to cover their ears and yell, "Make it stop!"

Then a beautiful metaphor occurred to me, that I want to share with the world, starting with you, my readers. It is this:

Complaining is verbal farting. It gives momentary relief, but it's distinctly unpleasant for everyone nearby.

(Or perhaps I should say di-stink-ly unpleasant. Har.)

So, ponder that at your leisure, and like the wedding guest in The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, go your way a sadder and a wiser [person].

Before and After


And after:

I took down my tree this week. Last night I dragged it out to the curb because the local Boy Scouts would pick up trees curbside this morning.

Before the Boy Scouts came, my dad looked out the front window and saw an ornament still hanging in the tree, and he went out and rescued it.

Thanks, Dad.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Made it

Well, I made it through that first work week after the holidays. My new year's resolution to get enough sleep during the week went totally to pieces this week, and I am dreadfully sleep-deprived even as we speak. I'm so happy that pretty soon I'll go to bed, and tomorrow I can wake up whenever I feel like it.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

The Feast of Epiphany

ἐπιφάνεια: a manifestation

Epiphany: January 6

Celebrates the arrival of the Magi to worship the Christ child; Christ being made manifest to the Gentiles.

Matthew 2:1-12

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”

When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born. “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written:

“‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for out of you will come a ruler
who will shepherd my people Israel.’”

Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.”

After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.

You notice that the biblical account does not actually state how many Magi there were, nor does it call them "kings." It does specify three gifts. The Bible says they came "from the East." In much traditional art, they are portrayed as being of three different races: African, Asian, and European. There was a time when those were the three known continents, and so they represented all the Gentile peoples having Christ revealed to them, and worshipping him, as foretold in Psalm 47:9:

The nobles of the nations assemble
as the people of the God of Abraham,
for the kings of the earth belong to God;
he is greatly exalted.

Also, Nativity scenes, such as my own, which I love, show everyone--the shepherds and the Magi--at the stable worshipping an infant. But the Bible makes clear that the Magi first saw the star two years before they arrived in Jerusalem (When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi--Matthew 2:16). It also doesn't specify whether the child was in a stable. We don't know if the star appeared two years before the birth of Jesus, so that the Magi arrived soon after his birth and found him as an infant, or if it appeared when he was born and they found him a toddler.

We Three Kings (1863)
John Henry Hopkins, Jr. (1820–1891)

We three kings of Orient are;
bearing gifts we traverse afar,
field and fountain, moor and mountain,
following yonder star.

O star of wonder, star of light,
star with royal beauty bright,
westward leading, still proceeding,
guide us to thy perfect light.

Born a King on Bethlehem's plain,
gold I bring to crown him again,
King forever, ceasing never,
over us all to reign.

Frankincense to offer have I;
incense owns a Deity nigh;
prayer and praising, voices raising,
worshiping God on high.

Myrrh is mine; its bitter perfume
breathes a life of gathering gloom;
sorrowing, sighing, bleeding, dying,
sealed in the stone-cold tomb.

Glorious now behold him arise;
King and God and sacrifice:
Alleluia, Alleluia,
sounds through the earth and skies.

When I was in high school, at a theater in Syracuse, New York, I saw the best Christmas play ever, called "Butterfingers Angel." I have never seen or heard of that play again, but it had the best grasp of the heart of the Christmas story of any Christmas play I ever saw. And it was funny. Amazing. Anyway, there was a scene where the three actors portraying the Magi start to sing "We Three Kings." The play used Christmas carols throughout to advance the story. When the third guy sings his verse about the myrrh, its bitter perfume, gloom, sorrowing, sighing, the other two stop him and ask, What kind of song is that to sing to a baby? But he says that's how the song goes. I also remember that they had a moment where everyone froze with the spotlight on, and the stage looked just like a Nativity scene. Then the actor portraying Herod declares, Now, Operation: Massacre of the Innocents. Lights go out, people scream. I think that the play ends with Joseph and Mary and the baby on the road to Egypt.

(By the way, yesterday I couldn't access the blog window of blogspot, although I could enter a title. So I posted just a title. That's why that's the way that is.)

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Eleven Pipers Piping

Man, eleven pipers piping would be noisy.

Actually, what instrument would these pipers be piping on? Piccolos? Flutes? Recorders? Pan pipes? Surely not bagpipes?

Well, whatever the case may be, it's past my self-appointed bed time. This is a pretty lame post but it's better than nothing.

Or is it?

Monday, January 3, 2011

Ten Lords A-Leaping

Happy Tenth Day of Christmas! I was back at work today, just as if Christmas were over. As a first day back after the holidays, it was not too bad. I'm fortunate at present in that most of the people in my workplace are professional and cordial, and no one is unpleasant. I have been in workplaces where it is otherwise.

There is a poem by Donald Hall, I think, called "otherwise." If I recall correctly, it lists all the pleasant, ordinary things he did and remarked after each that it might have been otherwise. This was because he had recovered from a serious illness. Well, I googled, and I was wrong. It was not Donald Hall, but Jane Kenyon who wrote "Otherwise." They were partners--married? Further googling. Yes, married. They both were poets. Jane Kenyon is dead now, for some years. What year was it that I went to the Festival of Faith and Writing at Calvin College, and Donald Hall was there. He talked about Ms. Kenyon, who had died very recently, and how much he had loved her, how much he missed her, how hard it was for him right now to be away from the home they shared. He read her lovely poem, "Let Evening Come," which was also read at her funeral. In the story of their relationship, they both were seriously ill at different times. He recovered, but she died. Her poetry is beautiful.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Nine Ladies Dancing

Amazing how long this goes on, isn't it? There are still three more days of Christmas, but this evening is the night before back to work. I'm a little sad about, but not too bad. I've made some mild resolutions that I hope will help me have a good year. I won't share all of them, but I'll mention that one goal I've set for myself is to try to get a good night's sleep every night. I've read in so many places that that is key to all kinds of health benefits, yet is is something most Americans -- perhaps most people in Western Civilization? or perhaps the Anglosphere? -- don't do. I have a tendency to stay up late on the internet, be tired in the mornings, and catch up on sleep on the weekends. Now I am going to try to go to bed early enough to have a full eight hours every night.

That means I have to blog on time to get to bed on time. I'm running slightly late tonight, but I will make it to bed on time. I am determined.

So, good night, sleep tight, and pleasant dreams to you.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Eight Maids A-Milking

Happy eighth day of Christmas and happy New Year!

My folks and I had a nice time last night, just a quiet New Year's Eve, watching TV and occasionally eating.

We watched my DVD of "The Snowman," a short (25-minute) animated story that I just love. It has no dialogue, only animation with music. It's enchanting. Later, we watched a New Year's episode of the Red Green Show. My dad had never seen it, but I knew it was just the kind of humor he would like, and he did. It's a Canadian show, hard to explain in a way, but just goofy skits about guys saying and doing silly, funny things. It plays on ideas like the extensive use of duct tape to build things, the desire to modify old junk into some ingenious machine, guys hanging out at "Possum Lodge." It's very clean, very slapstick "guy" humor. Closer to midnight, we watched the local Channel 5 (KING) coverage of the fireworks at the Space Needle in Seattle.

At 12:00 we had our glasses of champagne ready and clinked them and wished each other a happy New Year. Here is a slightly blurry photo of myself ready to toast and clink:

This morning, my folks and I drove out to CJ's Beach House Restaurant in Birch Bay, stopping to pick up my sister-in-law on our way, and had a little brunch. Outside the windows of the restaurant, we could see a lot of traffic and milling around related to the Polar Bear Plunge that takes place at Birch Bay every New Year's Day. The thought of running into the ocean water on a near-freezing winter day does not appeal to me.

It was a beautiful day today, though cold. Here is a picture of me with my parents just outside the restaurant with the waters of Birch Bay behind us. The Polar Bear crowd had dispersed before we left.

I hope and pray that 2011 will be a happy, healthy, safe year for my family and me -- and may I wish you the same, with many thanks to you for visiting my blog. Happy New Year!