130 Days to Christmas!
The replies generated by “13” prove that I broke my own promise not to whinge. Worse: it was dangerously close to that antisocial transgression: a miserable whinge! But I won’t apologise, because even if I overstated my own case, there are others who could claim those words. That’s the thing you see; in the Lucky Country (and probably in much of the 1st world) the language of lament has been expunged, and anyone not ‘Living the Dream’ sounds like a poor looser.
I know, I know, I’m on the downhill yet again! Why is the villain the easiest part to play? In our school days Shakespeare’s good guys always seemed so dull (I played Theseus, or was I Lear?). Far better to be cast as Caliban, or Puck, or Bottom. Or as a Witch! The human trait keeps negativity so close to the surface makes complaint more readily voiced than, ….well, …anything.
This week I want to contradict myself, and say for all to hear that my life is as rich today as it has ever been. My life is as full of pleasure, as textured, as adventurous, and as happy as ever. A bit like Shakespeare’s heroes, this view of my life will be tricky to stage, but I really want you to see it as I do.
130 Days to Christmas!
Spring is living up to the promise in its name: bouncing out of its grey, dank camouflage to startle our unaccustomed senses with the forgotten brilliance of wide blue skies, the intimate kiss of sun’s warmth, and the welcome whiff of wattle. Inside the house another heady thrill is playing out this week with the arrival of a brand new, fire-engine red lounge. Besides comfort and striking good looks, this piece of furniture has its own spring hidden within: an entire queen sized bed, complete with an inner-spring mattress. It’s just a “thing”, a material possession; but it is our first tangible step towards a long-planned Christmas! With four of our children married we now have a biennial Christmas cycle, alternating between the various in-laws one year, and us the next. This year it’s our turn, and in this morning’s early hours our family grew by one, a precious baby granddaughter, bringing the Christmas total up to 16! Hence the fire-engine-red, fold-out lounge.
130 Days to Christmas;
and we are beside ourselves with anticipation. I’m sure a growing number of our friends are heartily sick of our single track of conversation.
Most days, but especially crisp, bright days, have many pleasures. The first pot of tea, ideally before sunrise, is superb. We drink our tea together, my Favourite Wife and I, in what we call the Quiet Room; home to the best furniture with a single wide doorway at one end and a glorious, northerly bay window at the other. The theory of the Quiet Room was (and you’ll note the past tense) that it contained none of the electronic gadgetry, plugged in chargers and glowing LEDs that have strangled every other 21st century room. Recently though, an inheritance allowed us to fill the Quiet Room (and well beyond!) with music of such quality and volume that we frequently find ourselves stopped in mid-whatever, spellbound by a clarion choir or pounding piano that you would swear was just around the corner in the hall. This is my favourite room, quiet or otherwise. We often light a candle with our morning pot of tea; a wordless witness to the prayers which, depending on the business of the day, we may or may not have time to voice. Sunrise itself is thrilling when first needle-rays slice through gums that string along the ridge above our home. Like as not that early glow will catch on the twitching ears of a mob of kangaroos browsing for their breaky on the hills. When I call our home Paradise, I’m simply stating a fact. How we came to live here is a long story, layered with extraordinary chance and coincidence, but here we are. This wonder of it catches me unawares time and again, daily in fact, but here we are.
Hidden within the wordy tome of the Old Testament are many gems. One that I particularly love lies in the book of Ezra:
“No one could distinguish the sound of the shouts of joy from the sound of weeping, because the people made so much noise. And the sound was heard far away.”
After long years of exile, Israel’s Temple was finally being rebuilt. While some rejoiced as the foundations were laid, others wept for their distant memory of Solomon’s temple; the incomparable treasure sacked and burned decades before. The noise was strident, tumultuous; mournful and exultant; a sound that carried both the grief of the past and tomorrow’s hope. This as an aspect of true spirituality: the ability to laugh and to weep in the same moment. If any faith can contain this tension it must be faith in Christ: the God who suffers while promising eternal joy. “Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep.”
Are the valleys which I now walk deeper? Or is it just that the hills are higher? I realise that thought merits inclusion on a desk calendar, but I put the question seriously. People who cheat death of one sort or another often speak of a heightened experience of life; and I feel something akin to that. I don’t know quite why, but small pleasures are often sheer delight; and reciprocally a minor disappointment can be gut-wrenching. As for achievement, I crave the Everest-worthy satisfaction I can derive from almost any endeavour, just so long as it is strictly single handed! Which leads me to last week’s train expedition to a family gathering, a school reunion, and a flying visit to our five day old granddaughter; but that will all have to wait for another time.
P.S. You won’t let the fire-engine comment get back to my Favourite Wife, will you? She’d be mortified.
P.P.S. The maths around our little new arrival’s age won’t work (if you read closely) because I began writing in one week, and finished in another.
P.P.S. On the same basis there are now only 93 days till Christmas. I can’t wait!