Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Not for Christmas

I went to the grocery store on my way home from work today. Christmas songs were shuffling on the sound system, and I was enjoying that, even singing along in secluded areas of dairy products and canned goods. Then a song came into the mix that gave me pause; it was Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah."

I've noticed lately that this song creeps into some Christmas settings. I guess because it contains the word "hallelujah" people think it's a Christmas song. Well, I'm here to say that it's not. It's a beautiful song; it's just not a Christmas song.

Here are just a few of the reasons I hold this opinion:

1. The word "hallelujah" is not an automatic Christmas reference.

The word derives from the Hebrew and basically means "Praise the Lord."

Even the Hallelujah chorus from Handel's Messiah—often heard at this time of year—was not written to celebrate Christmas. The oratorio Messiah is an overview of the whole story of Christ. There are sections of it that are about the Nativity, but the Hallelujah chorus is not one of them. The Hallelujah chorus celebrates the post-Resurrection and -Ascension lordship of Christ. The words come from the book of Revelation.

The two biblical narratives about Christ's birth do not contain the word "hallelujah." Look for yourself at Matthew 1:18-25 and Luke 2:1-20.

2. The lyrics of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" have nothing to do with Christmas.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Winter morning in my back yard

We had snow last week, and the temperature has stayed so cold that it hasn't melted. This kind of cold weather happens from time to time in the Pacific Northwest—not every year, by any means, but on the average of every few years.

Here's the creek, looking brown against the snow. Some ice has formed around twigs and branches that dangle into the water.

I love how this tree trunk leans out over the creek then grows upward.

And the red-twig dogwood lives up to its name. I boosted the color a bit in this photo, hoping you can see it.

My dad planted this. The landscaping purpose of a red-twig dogwood is to provide some color during the winter. During the summer, it's covered with leaves, which is fine, too. It gets some tiny blooms and berries.

Here are a holly and some ivy growing up in the shelter of a rosa grotendorst (Dutch for "great thirst"). Whenever I pay attention to this clump of plants, I start singing "The Holly and the Ivy" in my head.

My dad and I always have called the big plant a "groote dorster," but when I searched the name online I couldn't find it; I did find a reference to the rosa grotendorst, so I guess that's the correct name. Whatever its name, or the level of its thirst, it is the prickliest plant in my domain. When I'm driving my lawnmower in the summer, I don't like to get too close because it reaches out and grabs and stabs me. That's why a holly and an ivy are growing under it—because I'm afraid to confront it.

At the southwest corner of the yard, you've got to love this mossy old tree. It's a weeping willow.

Willows have notoriously water-seeking roots. They're good to plant by a water way, but dangerous near your water supply or sewer pipes. This willow is nicely secluded.

And here's an icicle hanging from the rain gutter.

Again, having weather cold enough to create an icicle is newsworthy where I live.

In my opinion—which is so rarely solicited on questions of importance—we've had sufficient ice and snow for this winter, but I see the forecast is for snow on Sunday. However, after that, temperature is supposed to rise well above freezing and rain should fall. Sometimes when we have substantial snow followed by rain, the creek overflows its banks. My back yard is a floodplain. So far the water has never reached my house. The snow on the ground right now is persistent but not deep. I don't think it's enough to flood the creek, but with more snow added in on Sunday that may change. Interesting times.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Serenity now

Today I went to two meetings with hospice nurses, one for each of my parents. My mom is now on hospice; the meeting about my dad was in preparation for when he needs to go on hospice. Starting hospice does not mean death is imminent. It means that death may be expected within six months, and also that the care will focus on comfort, not on prolonging life. But it's a significant step.

Last night and this morning were particularly cold here in Lynden, and the northeast wind—the coldest we know in this region—blew. I woke up and began sneezing uncontrollably. I told my sister-in-law later that it's as though cold has a smell, and that smell makes me sneeze—I smelled it and I could feel the reaction in one particular spot inside my sinuses.† (Later in the day I did discover that a window in the room where I slept was not closed properly, so I had had a stream of freezing outdoor air coming in to my environment all night.)

Once started, the sneezing—as is the wont of my allergies—would not stop. I sneezed and blew my nose through the two hospice meetings. By the time I was headed home, my nose, on the side where I could feel the reaction in my sinuses, was dripping. I had to hold a tissue (napkin, paper towel, whatever) up to my nose to catch it.

I know from bitter experience that when my allergies are out of control the only thing that will stop them is for me to fall asleep. Only then does my system relax enough to stop the madness. Fortunately, I was feeling tired out by the day's experience, so when I got home I found the cracked window and shut it, took some diphenhydramine, covered myself with a quilt, and took a nap, probably for about two hours.

Allergies are aggravated by stress, and I think that mine were extra bad today because I had these two hospice meetings. Those meetings were signposts for a difficult part of the journey. I think my poor, confused body realized something was wrong and sprang to the defense by pushing my immune system into overdrive. There, there, poor body. I know you mean well, but that really didn't help. What you need to do is calm down.

Francis of Assisi called his body "Brother Ass." I guess I could call mine "Sister Stupid." Just now I looked that up in the Catholic Encyclopedia, and it said that, after he wore out his body with mortification, Saint Francis asked pardon of Brother Ass for treating him so harshly. So I also ask pardon of Sister Stupid for my inattentiveness to her needs and again ask that she remain calm.

This is the kind of explanation of my system that gains me laughing disbelief, strange looks, or shakes of the head.