Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter

Saturday, December 31, 2005

"It is ordinary among some Plebians in the South of Scotland, to go about from door to door upon New Year`s Eve, crying Hagmane."
Scotch Presbyterian Eloquence, 1693.

The Scots celebrate the New Year’s Eve with great passion and have a rich heritage associated with this event. The roots of this are in the Protestant Reformation when The Presbyterian Church of Scotland portrayed Christmas as a catholic feast which had to be prohibited. Christmas was all but banned in Scotland for around 400 years, from the end of the 17th century to as late as the 1950s. Many Scots had to work over Christmas and their winter solstice holiday was therefore at New Year when family and friends gathered for a party and to exchange presents which came to be called hogmanays.

Ah... so that explains it, my preference for New Year's over Christmas. And here I thought I was simply exchanging the two holidays in preference to my daughter's birthday, which happens to fall on January 1. And this working Christmas part certainly rings true... I always said even when I was working at the hospital, "I don't mind working Thanksgiving or Christmas... Just give me New Year's Day."

And now for something completely different...


When I was a 'peedie bairn'... All right 'peedie ball of fur'. Anyway, as I was saying, when I was little, Hogmanay was the best time of year. When the folk of Mill Cottage put on their coats, shoved a bottle in a pocket, turned out the light and closed the door, Mother would give us the sign and we'd scamper out between the millers feet. That was before they invented a special door for us. Something they call a 'cat flap'. We recognized the signs and knew it must be midnight and time for us to visit our friends as well. 'First-pawing' Mother called it.

Our first stop was the Mill across the road just in case someone came to visit us there. Then it was on to the Boardhouse farm. We kittens especially liked to visit the farms as there were always lots of kittens for us to play with while the older cats sat around lapping from the bowl of milk that the farmer's wife set out for good luck - our good luck I'm sure. They talked about how the year and been: sunny days for naps, how many mice they caught, how big the rats were, friends that 'passed on' - adult things. We'd play with each other and then surprise Mother by jumping on her, though she didn't always approve of that. Some times the older cats would tell stories from many generations ago, like when that nasty man lived in the big house they call a palace in the village. But he isn't there anymore and the big house is all in ruins. That's what happens to you when you aren't good mother used to tell us. There were even stories about men who came in the long boats from out where the sky meets the sea and lived on the island out in the bay. But that was long, long ago. We loved to listen to the stories though we really didn't believe them. Now when I tell my own kittens those stories, I think I do believe.

Well after a nice long visit we'd stroll along the burn toward the village stopping at Walkerhouse along the way. There was a nice tabby who lived there. She was sort of shy, getting along in years and always stayed out of sight. She caught lots of mice and used to line them up on the step outside the door, hoping the folk inside would think she was one of those 'good trows' her own mother had told her old folk used to believe in. Visiting with her deep inside the barn was always fun. First we had to find the opening to the tunnel under the hay to get to the back in the corner where she lived. But she always had a little 'nip' to liven up our visit. We kittens would curl up next to her and listen to her wonderful tales of what it was like long ago. Sometimes her purring would put us to sleep and we'd dream of adventures of slaying sea dragons, catching giant rats and of seals dancing on the shore.

After tabby's visit we'd continue down the burn to the village. We never really got farther than the village that first night. Most of the cats in the village would gather by one of the houses where they were out of the wind and out of the way of the many feet that seemed to be travelling along the garden walls. By now we kittens were usually very sleepy and we could curl up in a corner in a pile while Mother visited with her many friends. Being winter and the sun so sleepy himself, visiting went on for a long time. Eventually the lazy sun would rise and everyone had to start for home again. It may be a special day, but the farmers family still had to take care of their animals. So we'd hurry back to the barn and byre to make sure any mice or rats that were around knew we were still in control.

But, times have changed. I heard the miller the other day talking to someone who had stopped in for beremeal. They were saying it's hardly worth making so much home brew any more as people don't come calling like they used to. There was to be a big party at the Hall again this year and we thought we'd go, but then all the lights went out. Don't know why people are bothered by that. We can see in the dark. Why can't they? Anyway, we didn't wait for the miller and his wife to leave. We just slipped out through the cat flap and headed across to the Mill. There were no cars on the road at all and we thought maybe we had the wrong night. No, the cat from Wattle Cottage told us, it was indeed Hogmanay. She was planning to go 'first pawing' with us and had on the strangest hat with bells and flashing red lights. "Too windy," she said as she padded back to Wattle. It wasn't long before I had to grab two of my kittens with my teeth as they were being rolled around by the wind. Cat o'Wattle was right. It was too windy for the peedie ones and back to Mill Cottage we went. So, if we didn't get to wish you a 'Happy New Year', we wish you that now.

Mrs. Levi Furblack, C.A.T.

*ariticle from a church newsletter in the U.K.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Old Poems

I've got
Stax volt armor
as insulation against
all things cold and chilly
and moods so aloof you can
cut the room with a butter knife.

And I've got neon bright
lettering on store fronts
in red and gold at the
beginnning of dusk on my way

I've got my bondings, my dogs
my cats, my favs... my purpose,
busy days and the importance
of care.

I still have music and words,
inspiration in empty trees,
hearing calls upwards in the
v-formations of geese on course;
a short road trip of sorts.

And I know sometimes
old poems don't fade away
sometimes they just abruptly

Tuesday, December 27, 2005


As though standing
somewhere else on assurance
of feeling, that notorious
spell that robs the pleasure
of simple things,
the understated,
all the subleties...
Look here, that sound
was no car on the road
it was the wind
blowing closer by degrees
an unknown new year.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Merry Christmas!

Yes I said it... I'm not "politically correct" or in touch with the consensus of the masses, so maybe I should say Happy Christma-Hahnna-Kwanzika! I hope Santa is good to all of you this year.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

So I'm walking home from work tonight, near the last intersection I have to cross... and I pass this guy on the sidewalk. Even from a distance he seems to be saying something (to himself?) But as I get closer I hear he's doing some kind of rap, but its not rhyming, so it has to be a poem... a def poem, maybe. But he's all into it and keeps right on going even as I pass. Come to think of it, it sounded a little like Poetri. Who knows? What would Poetri be doing walking the sidewalks of Cherry Hill two days before Christmas? Lol!
I've been extremely busy at the Pet Shoppe the past two weeks. We've been selling dogs right and left... omg, keeping up with all those dogs! The big dogs wear me out, they're so heavy... 30 plus pounds is one thing by itself, but when the weight is unwilling to be picked up and squirming around, its another thing altogether... But I swear some of them have an extremely high intelligence. I struggled with the Akita trying to get him on the scale to get his weight recorded and when it was all over, he didn't want to come back to his cage, instead wanted me to chase him... so I threw up my hands, "I don't have any more energy left, now." And he looked at me like he knew exactly what I was saying.
From now on when I weigh the big dogs, I've decided the scale's going on the floor. It works it theory, anyway. Today the Great Dane was just as goofy as always... got her on the scale, but then she'll lean to one side. When I finally get her to sit straight, I pulled away. And she immediately fell right over, and then sprawled out on the floor for a belly rub. Geez, the longer they're there, the harder it is for me when someone finally comes to take them home. But, that's business.
There's been sinus headaches, allergies, and a bit of the flu bug going around. I think I may have had a touch of it this past week. Just a complete run-down feeling, where all I want to do is go home and sleep... and I signed on to work half a day Christmas... what was I thinking?

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Breakfast of champions

When my grandma
was still alive he used to
moan and complain
(his perceived bragging rights)
on not receiving disability
he'd say
"I starved for two years."
but then
apparently not enough
he was still around
to tell about it.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Santa Lucia

The night goes with weighty step
round yard and hearth
round earth, the sun departs
leave the woods brooding
There in our dark house,
appears with lighted candles
Saint Lucia, Saint Lucia.
The night goes great and mute
now hear it swings
in every silent room
murmurs as if from wings.
Look at our threshold stands
white-clad with lights in her hair
Saint Lucia, Saint Lucia.

The darkness shall soon depart
from the earth's valleys
thus she speaks
a wonderful word to us
The day shall rise anew
from the rosy sky.
Saint Lucia, Saint Lucia.

Tomorrow is December 13, Santa Lucia Day... I repost the following article by Anthony Parente...

As legend states in the city of Syracuse, on the island of Sicily, a child by the name of Lucia was born in the year 283 to a wealthy Sicilian family. As she grew older she choose to live her life like that of St. Agatha, who was a revered saint in a nearby town. With that she vowed to remain a virgin and give her possessions to the poor and needy.

Lucia, which means light, lived during the time where Christians were persecuted for their belief in God. This didn't prevent her from bringing food to the many Christians who hid in underground tunnels. To find her way she would wear a wreath with candles while carrying a tray of food. As custom would have it a suitor was chosen for her to wed, but marriage was not in her plans especially to a pagan. It was this same pagan who told authorities that Lucia was a Christian. Once they heard this they ruled that Lucia should be sent to a brothel, but this is where her will and belief in God took over. When it came time to take her she became impossible to move. Once this happened they opted to burn her at the stake, but the blazing fire did not harm her. Finally, she was struck down by the sword to the throat on December 13, 304.

Long after her death there was a great famine that spread throughout the land. In 1582 the prayers of the people of Syracuse were answered when a boat appeared in the harbor, on December 13, filled with grains. Instead of making flour from the grain they decided to boil it and eat it.

Like most saints, there is always more than one legend surrounding their life. Another legend states that she was blinded as a result of her faith, but God restored her sight. She was later persecuted for her belief in Christianity. No matter which legend you believe in, Lucia was a brave, caring and special woman whose popularity spread throughout the land. She is portrayed in many paintings holding a plate that has a pair of eyes on it. This is why she is the patron saint of the blind.

The Feast of Santa Lucia is celebrated differently throughout Italy. In Sicily they have a bonfire to commemorate her name and they abstain from eating bread and pasta. In northern Italy you will find that children leave carrots and hay for the donkey that brings Santa Lucia and her bag of gifts for the kids.

Even though Santa Lucia is the patron saint of the city of Syracuse, Sicily she is probably more celebrated in the country of Sweden. The legend of Santa Lucia made its way to Sweden by missionaries and seamen who passed through Italy. Like the miracle of the boat in the city of Syracuse a similar fate happened to the people of Sweden. During a terrible famine a boat filled with food was spotted sailing across Lake Vannern. At the helm was a woman dressed in white with a glow above her head. It was believed that Santa Lucia had come to save them from the famine.

Tradition has it that the oldest daughter in the family will wear a white gown, a red sash and a crown of lights. She will then carry a tray of lussekatter, pepparkakor and coffee to her parents. If there are any boys in the family they may be dressed in the traditional starboy costume, which is a white gown with a cone shaped hat that contains gold stars. In addition to the family traditions there are many parades held throughout the country. They also have a Lucia competition, which has young women from all over trying to be crowned Santa Lucia.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Everyone has their memories, their recollections. A lifetime ago, really... the span of time is actually a lifetime. A generation. And its funny how you can gauge events in your own life in terms of "before" and "after." Why? Because Lennon's death was so much a turning point, at least it was for me. Why? Because from then on, nothing was ever quite the same again. Something more than a human life was lost that night. Whatever you'd want to call it. A spirit snuffed out too early, a collective dream unrealized, a sense of innocence stolen by a madman's gun. And if even if it wasn't lost completely, a major part of it was left damaged. Gone missing. All because of some messed up attention seeker. After 25 years, it still hits hard.
I was working third shift at a printing company in the south at the time... and we had all just clocked out for lunch. And after some time in the break area, some guy (a known practical joker) came back in from outside. "Hey I was sitting in my truck just now listening to the radio... somebody just shot John Lennon. Yeah they just shot his lights out." This guy was laughing, I looked up and saw him sitting there at the next table looking very smug and pleased with himself with a smirk on his face. I remember thinking - God... this is pretty morbid, even for him. So I'm telling everyone at my table, "Don't listen to him, he's making all this up." I was so sure of it, not a doubt in my mind that this was just another one of his bad jokes. Imagine my shock when I got home that morning, and it was all over the news, nearly every channel. My jaw just dropped... "Oh my God, its true." I remember that feeling.. it came with a chill and the realization that nothing would ever be the same.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Well the storm came and went, leaving behind a few inches of the white stuff... the roads weren't all that bad, since they were out most of yesterday with the salt trucks. It's been cold but not unbearable... Just wait till it gets down to the single digits and stays there.

Not a lot of new goings-on today. I think we're all waiting for the mad rush to hit along more towards Christmas. It should be interesting all the way around.

I came across a little article in the local paper the other day. I've been keeping an eye out for current news on the West Jersey Animal Shelter and I thought I'd share it with you here.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Alms For A Bandit

The world outside
is a snowglobe
well past dusk with the dust
collecting lightly on
everything below,
privacy fences, patios, tables
and benches... The hood of that
red Mini-Cooper from under which
a solitary shape ventures
in search of table scraps
from a rusty barrel fifty feet away.
So here's to the unmistakeable
masked one, chilled to the bone and
stealth-logged through intent stillness
of a late night landscape of
exhausted iron giants at rest.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

This morning marks the first actual snow of the season here in the east. When I go outside I can still hear the edges of crystalization hitting the surface or colliding with each other in mid-air. It won't last long, its scheduled to turn to rain later on in the day. But the major one will be here Monday night... That should be an interesting trek to work Tuesday morning. At least I'll be able to say I can always get to work, I won't be dealing with skidding into a ditch and getting stuck along the way, haha. Only thing I have to worry about is being the pedestrian getting hit by an out-of-control driver who's unable to stop. Other than that, it should be fine!

I stayed up late last night to watch SNL, my daughter said I had to watch for the host, Dane Cook... I caught most of it then fell asleep sometime after the Weekend Update. It goes with the territory of being such a morning person, I guess.

The Pet Shop has been busy, at least it was yesterday. We sold both Labs, and the Shih-tzu... the labs went home together, which I'm glad for, they're from the same litter and it just seemed an added bonus to keep them together. However, they must have been anticipating the change in scenery and schedule, and the resulting nervousness made them a little more productive in the plumbing dept. Translation: they were two of the most shittin-est dogs I've seen since I've been working there.

Well the holidays are fast approaching. I'm sure there are loads of you out there more ready for it that I am. Its all kind of snuck up on me this year. I am doing my baking this weekend though... That means if you're on my list, you'll be getting a cookie package soon!