Sunday, December 21, 2014

The Season is the Reason . . . for Some of Us

Solstice! The day the sun stops its steady crawl to the south and looks northward once again. In the picture below the sun is rising at its southernmost point. The far left margin of the picture (or perhaps a little beyond) is where it will rise on the Equinox and it will travel the same distance again to rise on the Summer Solstice way over there. (Yes, I know it's the Earth moving, not the Sun but this is what it looks like. I'm using Poetic License here.)

Imagine primitive Man, especially in the northern regions, -- watching the days grow shorter and the nights grow longer and wondering where it would all end. Perhaps they thought that a spot of sympathetic magic was in order -- so they lit fires to drive away the dark and recall the sun to its duty. And we still do, in some ways, keep those fires burning against the darkness by celebrating  and giving thanks with light and fellowship and food. 

Though Christmas and Hanukkah and, perhaps, Yule are the holidays/holy days most widely celebrated at this time in my part of the world, there have been and are any number of festivities at the Winter Solstice --  honoring Mithras in Rome, Baldur in Scandinavia, Ameratsu in Japan, to name a few. (See more HERE.) Indeed, many scholars believe that December 25 was designated as Christ's birthday to compete with the Pagan festival of Sol Invictus (the triumphant Sun.)

Here in the Northern Hemisphere, dark December needs all the light it can get. The return of the Sun and the promise of another growing season ahead should speak to all. I say, the more celebrations, the merrier --- whatever your belief (or non-belief.) Solstice time belongs to everyone under the Sun. 

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Christmas at the Bridge

The fella who lives in the little trailer behind the old brick building at the bridge always puts out a quirky little Christmas display. 

This one is more restrained than previous efforts but I am captivated by its naive charm.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Take Time to Look . . .

Another day passed in a blur of Christmas preparations . . . the gifts are wrapped and now it's time for some advance cooking . . .

More candied grapefruit peel, spiced pecans, and even pomegranate syrup -- an ingredient in a really good dip one of my students brought to our last class meeting. (I'll make the dip in the next few days and share the recipe here.)

These pictures are from Tuesday when, towards four or five, I looked up from a welter of wrapping paper and cards to see a bit of a light show going on. The sun was almost behind our mountain and clouds were dodging about, giving a kind of spotlight effect to these last rays, lighting up first one area, then another for a magical few minutes.

It was a reminder, I think, to take time -- even in the midst of holiday busy-ness -- to look up, to breathe deeply, to enjoy the day before it's gone entirely.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The Persecuted and the Persecutors

Hoorah! A Very Nice Guy at North End Computers (Weaverville, NC) brought my laptop back to life -- while I waited. He says something probably shorted out and it could happen again but, for the moment, here I am.

I personally suspect that the short may have been due to all the vitriol that was flowing on a particular page on Facebook, shortly before  the laptop went black. I was horrified and fascinated at the same time -- it was like watching a mob gather with pitchforks and torches.

It happened like this. There's a FB group for folks from the Appalachians. Someone invited me to join several years ago and though I'm "not from here," as they say,  I'm interested in the stories about the old times and the pictures and recipes that are the usual fare of this group.  I rarely comment or post but for some folks it seems to be a daily social event. And people are enjoined to stay away from politics or bad language -- unlike a lot of the FB posts I see (and enjoy.) All in all, a pleasant, G-rated sort of place to visit.

Until.  Until one member posted asking if there were any other members of the group who were atheists, agnostics, or unbelievers who would be interested in a FB group for non-religious Appalachian folks.  (There is a lot of JESUS talk in this group and that's never been a problem as far as I know -- folks in Appalachia are probably overwhelmingly Christian by heritage.)

Well, I think this person was just looking for a few like minds to chat with but you would have thought the Devil Incarnate had just posted -- at least according to many of the responses. (It's a big group --  well over a thousand members -- and certainly it was just a small percentage that got so ugly but still, it was kind of terrifying.) 

The poster was told to leave the group, that she was going to hell, that she had no business asking such a question, that she was fat, that she had ruined the group for others, that she was an example of SATAN trying to lure away believers,  that this was an example of the 'war on Christians,'  that that believing in JESUS was a criteria for being Appalachian  . . . (all done without any cursing or vulgar language, for what it's worth.)

As I said, it was kind of terrifying. But then other comments began to come in: other non-believers who were interested, some who said they'd been bullied by Christians all their lives, and some who were Christians and pointed out that this virtual lynching was far from Christian behavior . . .

Finally, when emotions were at a fever pitch,  the moderators deleted the whole thread and told people to get off this subject. The next day, one of the most rabid of the negative commenters apologized to everyone on the list -- except to the unfortunate woman who' d dared to suggest that not everyone on the list was a believer.

It was, for me, a vivid demonstration of how many people fear and feel threatened by the unfamiliar. And it was sad, to see so clearly the hatred just below the surface -- and all in the name of The Prince of Peace.  (In the thick of the verbal battle, one woman kept posting "Merry Christmas' over and over, feeling, I'm pretty sure, that she was fighting the good fight in the war against Christians and Christmas and really sticking it to the godless unbeliever who was threatening her (the Merry Christmas woman) own beliefs.)

I'm shaking my head and thinking, it seems to me that if your faith is threatened by someone else's non-belief, you never had much faith to begin with.

Monday, December 15, 2014


Computer problems (the black screen of death)  -- atop the holidaze -- have me tied in knots. Hoping to figure this out soon. . .

I'll try to do a real post and blog visit soon . . .