Sunday, January 19, 2014

You Say You Want A Revolution

Once a year I find myself thrown into the crucible of one the great debates of Protestantism.  Getting the Christmas tree down out of the attic is easy, but getting it back up is something like one of the labors of Hercules.  The steep stairs, the narrow opening, the weight and irregular shape of the tree itself, and the law of gravity create the laboratory in which I test the doctrine of eternal security.  When at long last both the tree and I are lying sprawled in our particular states of disarray and exhaustion on the attic floor and I have not lost my religion, the annual experiment is concluded and I can proclaim, in a voice weakened but not vanquished, that God does exist and he is gracious.

 This year, however, I decided that once the Christmas tree came down it was not going back up.  My days of testing both myself and God, at least in that particular way, were over.  The tree would, I asserted loudly and often, sit downstairs, its pieces in a pile, until I could obtain a storage shed.  Sandhill is not a large house and I knew that it would not take long before the presence of a bristly green heap of faux evergreen became too irritating to endure. Last week, after only four days of stepping over said bristly green heap in the dining room, I watched as a very large truck delivered a 10 x 12- foot prefabricated barn to Sandhill.  The gentleman driving the truck asked me where I’d like the barn deposited.  Having carefully scouted the location beforehand and having ascertained the spot of optimum levelness within reasonable distance of the back door, I walked briskly across the yard and, like Captain Kidd showing the pirates where to dig, declared, “There!”

He’d been gone about 15 minutes when I realized that I really would have preferred to have the doors of the barn facing the road rather than the driveway, a 90-degree difference in orientation.

I mentioned the changing of my mind to Daddy and, within a couple of days and not in the least to my surprise, he and Keith had a tractor hooked to the barn and were rotating it so that the double front doors with the big wooden x’s on them and the two little windows on either side of those doors could be seen from the road.  I wasn’t there to observe the operation, but Daddy says that it really wasn’t all that hard.  It was just a small turn.  And it made all the difference.

January is the month for resolutions, but, after seeing how significant that small turn was, it occurs to me that we might all be better served if we, like the little boy on the AT&T “It’s Not Complicated” commercial who got his words confused, made New Year’s revolutions instead.  What if, instead of resolving, that is re-solving, solving over and over and over again, we choose revolving?  You know, like the planets.  What if we finally get over ourselves and figure out that orbiting is something you do around the center of the universe and that the center ain’t us?

And what if we figure out that when you revolve, that is, when you turn, even slightly, it gives you an entirely different perspective?  Turn the corner.  Turn the page.  Turn the tide.  Turning turns things, inside out and upside down.

Turn around and the shadow in which I’ve been walking becomes invisible.  Turn loose and my hands are free to catch hold of something new.  Turn my attention away from the driveway that leads always to me and I can see the road that leads to everywhere else.  A small turn.  It will make all the difference.

Copyright 2014

Sunday, January 05, 2014

For Want of a Fire

The wreath is still on the back door.  The jingle bells tied to its branches reflect just enough of the floodlights at the corner of the house to make tiny blue and green starbursts.  The ends of the big peacock-colored bow move only slightly in the night breeze.  Christmas is over and I really should have taken it down.
My arms are full.  I am struggling to find the key on the ring that holds too many.  Once found, I am trying to fit it into the keyhole without dropping my purse, my briefcase, the box with the leftover lunch pizza.  It slides in with some reluctance and I feel all my weight, physical and psychic, push against the door.  Just get me inside.  
I lean forward to let gravity pull the leather straps of purse and briefcase over my shoulder and down my arm to the floor.  As I do, I feel something brush past my face, sweep lightly across my eyelashes.  Too soft to have been the wreath or the wire-rimmed bow, too substantial to have been an errant curl.  I reach for the light switch.
On the smooth white floor lies a tiny sphere of dark feathers.  A baby bird.  I gasp, knowing immediately that the tiny thing has been either hiding or sleeping inside the wreath and that I have rousted him from his haven.  “Please!”  I entreat the creature, crazily trying to loose myself of my coat and find someplace to deposit the pizza box before figuring out how I will get the visitor outside again.  “Fly away!”
And he does.  He obediently and politely flies away.  Out into the December darkness.
I catch my breath and think, That was too easy.  It did not follow the pattern of my history with birds.  And I do have a history with birds.  Birds have made nests in my mailbox and my dryer vent; they have flown into and not been able to find their way out of my car and my house, the latter infesting my couch with a theretofore unknown insect, the bird mite, an unfortunate parting gift that cost me an exterminator’s visit. 
What I have learned about birds, lovely and melodious though they are, is that they can be troublesome.  Challenging.  Problematic. Gathering up the discarded burdens at my feet I am relieved that this bird, this singular member of the avian community, has deigned to leave me alone this night before New Year’s Eve, this evening when all that is left of Christmas is cardboard to be hauled to the recycling station and leftovers to be dumped into the garbage and remnants of ribbon to be swept from the corners of the living room.
But he has not left me alone.  He will not leave me alone.  I keep feeling the light touch of the feathers across my cheek.  I keep seeing his little body swell like a yeast roll rising in a warm kitchen, wings lifting him just high enough to get over the threshold.  
And now I am thinking of the legend of the Christmas robin, the bird in the stable on the night the Christ child was born.  I am thinking of how it is said that the wind blew hard and cold and the fire was about to go out when Mary began calling to the animals for help.  The ox was asleep, the donkey was lazy, the sheep with all its wool was warm enough without a fire.  Just as the fire was about to die, Mary heard the flapping of wings.  A robin, it is said, heard the young mother’s cries and flew to the stable to offer help.  He flapped his wings at the dying embers until the fire was rekindled. To make sure the fire stayed alive, the bird used his beak to gather some twigs for the fire which rose abruptly and burned his breast.  The fire did not go out that night and the breast of the robin remained red forever as a sign of his valor and selflessness.
I catch my breath again.  This time I let it go slowly.  My visitor has come in response to my call for help, the call that falls from every person who has ever woken up on December 26 tired or disappointed or just a little uncertain as to why she went to all the trouble or why he can’t maintain the feeling of joyfulness all year long.  The little bird has come to remind me that it is in giving that we receive, that it is in the presence of courage and sacrifice that love is born, and that the story will never end for want of a fire.

Copyright 2014