Saturday, 5 January 2019

January 6th and those Wise Men/Magi/Kings

January 6th  -  "Little Christmas" in some Christian traditions -  the end of the celebration of the birth of Jesus.

Many Christians observe it with regard to the story in the gospel according to Matthew when the wise men  (sometimes called the Magi) allegedly presented gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh to to the young child Jesus.

These days it is called the Feast of the Epiphany.  It happens to fall on a Sunday this year.  ("Epiphany"  many of us know that word as referring to those  experiences of clarity about someone, some thing, some experience, some poem etc. which hitherto had been murky or unclear),

In former times the Church of England calendar called it "The Manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles" on the basis of a belief that the wise men were Gentiles.   Matthew does not specify that there were three of them -  but they became "The Three Wise Men" on the basis that they offered three gifts.

Again, Matthew never calls them Kings. This promotion to royal status came about because of a verse in the Psalms  (72:10)   'May the kings of Tarshish and of distant shores bring tribute to him. May the kings of Sheba and Seba present him gifts."

In its context that verse probably is all about King Solomon, but early Christians hi-jacked it to make it refer to Jesus and the gifts he was supposed to have received.


So now that I have de-constructed the story ( a de-construction never to be preached!)  I turn to its poetic beauty.  

None does this better than the St, Louis, MO born and determined Anglophile T.S. Elliot.  I love to hear and read his poem "The Journey of the Magi".

You can hear him reading his own work, and also read the text below.

Marvelous and magical I say

A cold coming we had of it,
Just the worst time of the year
For a journey, and such a long journey:
The ways deep and the weather sharp,
The very dead of winter.’
And the camels galled, sore footed, refractory,
Lying down in the melting snow.
There were times we regretted
The summer palaces on slopes, the terraces,
And the silken girls bringing sherbet.

Then the camel men cursing and grumbling
and running away, and wanting their liquor and women,
And the night-fires going out, and the lack of shelters,
And the cities hostile and the towns unfriendly
And the villages dirty and charging high prices:
A hard time we had of it.
At the end we preferred to travel all night,
Sleeping in snatches,
With the voices singing in our ears, saying
That this was all folly.

Then at dawn we came down to a temperate valley,
Wet, below the snow line, smelling of vegetation;
With a running stream and a water-mill beating the darkness,
And three trees on the low sky,
And an old white horse galloped away in the meadow.
Then we came to a tavern with vine-leaves over the lintel,
Six hands at an open door dicing for pieces of silver,
And feet kicking the empty wine-skins.
But there was no information, and so we continued
And arriving at evening, not a moment too soon
Finding the place; it was (you might say) satisfactory.
All this was a long time ago, I remember,
And I would do it again, but set down
This set down

This: were we led all that way for
Birth or Death? There was a Birth, certainly
We had evidence and no doubt. I had seen birth and death,
But had thought they were different; this Birth was
Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death.
We returned to our places, these Kingdoms,
But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation,
With an alien people clutching their gods.
I should be glad of another death.

Friday, 4 January 2019

Love at first sight in the park.

They were having a lively and  animated conversation, the two woman with their dogs at Arlington Park this morning.

One of the dogs was a magnificent Great Dane.

They were blocking the pathway so I bypassed them by walking through a wooded area.

I was walking clock wise on the half mile loop.  The Great Dane and his owner were walking anti clockwise. 

Came an open grassy area and all unbeknown to us the Great Dane was fixated on Zion, some three hundred yards away.

Then another wooded area leading to yet another open area and there was the Great Dane walking counter clockwise, his eyes fixed on Zion as we walked clockwise.

We inevitably came near to each other.  The owner of the Great Dane asked if the two dogs could go face to face.  Of course we could. The Great Dane's tail was all a-wagging, enough to cause a sand storm. He was drooling a-plenty!

The owner said  "my dog has been fixated on your dog since first we passed.  I have never seen such a tail wagging on his part.  He likes your dog!"

Of course.  Mr. Zion brings out the best in people, and in other dogs.

It was a lovely encounter.

Great Dane, stock photo'

'Twas all quite wonderful of course.

But I was a wee bit envious.  When, oh when will a great Dane have a fixation on me?  Drool not required!  (I'll settle for a Swede or a Norwegian!)

Thursday, 3 January 2019

Outside my comfort zone

I recently read "Unbroken" by Laura Hillenbrand.  As the blurb on the cover of the paperback edition states, it is indeed "A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption".

It is the story of Louis Zamperini

a teenage delinquent, an Olympic athlete, a WWII airman in what was then the U.S. Army Air Force, a survivor of forty seven days adrift on a raft in the Pacific, a prisoner of the Japanese in hellish conditions - being subjected to cruelty beyond belief, and post war sufferer from what we know call P.T.S.D. until his conversion to Christ at an early Billy Graham Crusade, leading to Zamperini's own crusade for justice and Christian reconciliation.

It's not my usual kind of book.  The accounts of life in Japanese POW camps are so ghastly that I could scarcely read more than three or four pages each day.

But despite that I recommend the book and its ultimate story of redemption and reconciliation. Be prepared to bite your knuckles. 

Pre-owned paper back editions (Random House 2010) are readily available from internet based vendors.

For better or for worse here is the Wikipedia version of Zamperini's  life.

Call me Israel

Call me Israel

The joys of my daily walks with Mr. Z. in Sarasota's Arlington Park include the meetings and greetings I have with people of many ages (small children in baby strollers through old farts of my generation).

Most are white skinned like I, but it's also great to encounter brown and black skinned walkers - unusual in de-facto segregated Sarasota.

I walk with hope in my heart and a smile on my face, looking for other walkers who are also filled with hope and smiles.

That's how I came across Israel, a young man with a ready smile,  (yes Israel is his first name).

He and I have two things in common:  - we both smile a lot; we are both mono-lingual.

My best guess is that Israel is about 17/18 years old. Despite our language barrier I have learned that he is from Guatemala and that he has a job in a Sarasota restaurant (probably as a dish washer).

My heart has gone out to this young man.  I wonder "did he walk through Mexico to reach the U.S.A.?"  and if so "such determination".  

I have no idea about his immigration status and I don't care.

What I  do know is that young men of his age in countries such as El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala often face a Hobson's choice, viz:

"You can join our gang but if you refuse you will see your sister or mother raped, or mutilated, or murdered".

Decades upon decades of American economic, political and military colonialism in countries such as the ones I have mentioned above have created dystopian societies in which the uber-rich live in their well guarded and high walled compounds and the poor endure miserable and hard scrabble lives merely to survive.

No wonder that the  families and single young men who have an ounce of ambition and a pound of hope risk everything to make the arduous and dangerous journey to the United States, which for them is still a land of hope and opportunity.

I salute young Israel's ambition, courage and determination.  I hope that my smiles and gestures have given him the message that this old man  (himself an immigrant)  who walks his dog  in the park is saying  "welcome to America!"   May your dreams of a job, a home, a wife and a family be amply fulfilled.

Wednesday, 2 January 2019

Misty and Moody

We walked at Sarasota's Bayfront Park soon after 7:00 a.m. on New Year's Day.

I so much like misty mornings.

There is a mast of a sunken yacht leaning at an angle in the middle of the photo'.  The orange netting was for crowd control on New Year's Eve.  Early morning walkers had trampled it a bit. Zion looked at it, then took one delightful jump -  a steeplechase dog!

A little pink in the cloud, but the condo buildings are scarcely visible.

This is how the bay front looked on New Year's Eve  Photo' by local T.V. news, posted by my friend Barbara to her Face Book Page.


Zion and I left Bay Front Park  and drove immediately to Arlington Park for a walk there.  (We are overachievers!)  This sign was posted in many places.

Maybe the owner should look near Gatwick Airport!

Monday, 31 December 2018

Begin your New Year with beauty.

This beautiful photograph was posted by my very dear friends Derrick Jackson and Dr. Michelle Holmes for the New Year.   We grew to love and respect each other in Cambridge, MA 2000-2006.

It is my honour to share it with you.

Michelle is a breast cancer researcher at Harvard Medical School, a valued truth-teller, and an Appalachian Trail walker.

Derrick is a storied newspaper columnist, a skilled photographer -  I have four of his signed and framed photo's on my walls -  

(1) Nelson Mandela receiving an honorary Doctorate at Harvard;.

(2) Barack Obama in Chicago the night he was elected President when we had hope, and a truth telling future Chief Executive,

(3) Half Dome at Yosemite

(4)  A red shouldered Hawk taken at Myakka River State Park when Derrick visited me in SRQ

Derrick is also the photographer for the restoration of Puffins to a Maine Island.



My friendship with Michelle and Derrick is making me a better person.

I look forward to seeing them next March when we'll be together in Austin, TX to celebrate the marriage of their younger son Tano to his beloved Clarissa.


Meanwhile -  Happy New Year and rejoice in Derrick's Hog Island photo.



Dec 31st midnight silliness

Thanks to the person who posted this on my Face Book time line.