Sunday, November 29, 2015

November 29: Book Club, Classic Saint Marty, Confessions of Saint Marty

This evening, my book club is meeting at my house.  Our Thanksgiving read was Sherwood Anderson's Winesburg, Ohio.  My wife is at home, making a cream cheese pumpkin pie for the occasion.  Yesterday afternoon, I vacuumed, swept, and mopped the floors.  Cleaned the bathroom last night.  I think we'll be in pretty good shape by 6 p.m.

It has been a dreary day, in keeping with my general mood.  Tomorrow, I go back to work and teaching.  The next two weeks are going to be a whirlwind of grading and school programs and concerts.  Next Saturday is my daughter's fifteenth birthday.  Then, next Sunday, I am performing in a Christmas benefit concert with my band.  We are selling our Christmas CD and raising money for a local homeless shelter.  If I reach the end of the semester without going insane, it will be a yuletide miracle.

At the beginning of the holidays every year, I tell myself that I'm not going to let myself get stressed and anxious.  That I'm going to take some time to relax, enjoy Christmas and New Years without the usual array of anger and worry.  I have never kept that oath.  Ever.

So, on this First Sunday of Advent, I once again make a vow to relax a little.  Bake some cookies, not because I have to, but because I want to.  Not go crazy with gift buying.  Find Christmas presents with meaning versus Christmas meaning with presents.  That is my goal this year.  I don't expect to meet it, though.

Today's episode of Classic Saint Marty first aired one year ago, at a time when I was mourning the loss of a very good friend.

November 29, 2014:  Her Old Web, Joy Harjo, "Perhaps the World Ends Here"

In the days that followed, he was very happy.  He grew to a great size.  He no longer worried about being killed, for he knew that Mr. Zuckerman would keep him as long as he lived.  Wilbur often thought of Charlotte.  A few strands of her old web still hung in the doorway.  Every day Wilbur would stand and look at the torn, empty web, and a lump would come to his throat.  No one had ever had such a friend--so affectionate, so loyal, and so skillful.

Overcoming grief is a gradual process.  Wilbur learns this fact.  He returns from the Fair brokenhearted, and, over the months that follow, he gradually adjusts to the rhythms of barn life without his friend, Charlotte.  Eventually, he is able to experience happiness again.  It takes time, like all healing.

Today, for the first time since Thanksgiving night, I have not felt overwhelming sadness all day.  It overcame me at times, but I was able to have extended moments of grace, where I had pleasant, happy memories of my friend, Ray.  And that's the way that he would want it.  I know that for a fact.  Ray was not a maudlin person.  He always looked for the humor in any situation.

For example, earlier this fall, I was sitting next to him at a poetry reading.  He was speaking to me about his weeping feet.  That is a medical term.  It means his feet were swollen and, basically, leaking blood.  It's very serious, but he laughed and said, "I thought it was stigmata, but then I remembered that starts at the opposite end."  I laughed and said, "Saint Ray of the Weeping Feet."  "You bet your ass," he said.

That was Ray.  In the days and weeks to come, those happy memories will replace the sorrow of his absence.  Healing will take place.  That's what Ray would want, too.  The quicker the better.

I have a sort-of Thanksgiving poem from Joy Harjo tonight.  It's a poem about love and grief, pain and healing.  She gets it right.  Those big things of life really do start in small places like the kitchen table.

So Saint Marty will meet you in the kitchen in a few minutes.  Get out the cheesecake, and we'll have a Golden Girls moment.

Perhaps the World Ends Here

by:  Joy Harjo

The world begins at a kitchen table. No matter what, we must eat to live.

The gifts of earth are brought and prepared, set on the table. So it has been since creation, and it will go on.

We chase chickens or dogs away from it. Babies teethe at the corners. They scrape their knees under it.

It is here that children are given instructions on what it means to be human. We make men at it, we make women.

At this table we gossip, recall enemies and the ghosts of lovers.

Our dreams drink coffee with us as they put their arms around our children. They laugh with us at our poor falling-down selves and as we put ourselves back together once again at the table.

This table has been a house in the rain, an umbrella in the sun.

Wars have begun and ended at this table. It is a place to hide in the shadow of terror. A place to celebrate the terrible victory.

We have given birth on this table, and have prepared our parents for burial here.

At this table we sing with joy, with sorrow. We pray of suffering and remorse. We give thanks.

Perhaps the world will end at the kitchen table, while we are laughing and crying, eating of the last sweet bite.

Confessions of Saint Marty

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