Saturday, December 01, 2007

December Meditation

“Calm down, my Sorrow, we must move with care.

You called for evening; it descends, it's here
The town is coffined in its atmosphere,

bringing relief to some, to others care…

“… give me your hand, my Sorrow. Let's stand back;
back from these people! Look, the dead years dressed

in old clothes crowd the balconies of the sky.

Regret emerges smiling from the sea,
the sick sun slumbers underneath an arch,

and like a shroud strung out from east to west,

listen, my Dearest, hear the sweet night march!”
— Robert Lowell, from Marthiel & Jackson Matthews, eds., The Flowers of Evil (Beaudelaire) (NY: New Directions, 1963)

There shouldn’t be sadness in December, just because the sun sets early, beneath an arch of storm cloud overhead, like a long shroud trailing from the east. We had much more than the first gentle rain yesterday. We had downpours off and on all day. Too late to get the rotten logs while they’re dry. They’ve soaked up rain like sponges. Mmmmm, rain-soaked, rotten, wood sponges…

Xmas is coming! And yet. Melancholy lurks beneath the endless new car commercials, with faux snow (snaux) and giant-sized ribbons; behind the toy and game commercials appealing to the need of every one of us to buy whatever it takes to have as much fun as those faux families (fauxmilies) in the desperately jolly toy and game commercials. So, of course the one that makes me quiver like fingernails on a blackboard is the confluence of these commercial topics. The one where the family is reunited by their new family van; the one where they come together from their isolation and loneliness at the beginning of the commercial to an almost holy reunion blessed by the setting sun, watching Regret moving from the sea with a smile.

First, we see teenage daughter on her cell: “Did you SEE what she was wearing?...) Cut to surly adolescent, sitting on porch steps, declining to play ball with still innocent little brother (did the kid’s cowlick actually frown as his big brother absently kicked the ball from his welcoming hands and down the steps?). This action occurs while big brother never once looks up from texting on his own crackberry.

Mom pulls into driveway, honks horn and yells at family to join her. Even preoccupied Mr. Mom drops the dishcloth and troops out with the rest of the grumpy family. Surprise! It’s A BRAND NEW CAR!

Cut to next scene with Mom driving and Dad&Kids laughing in back sitting around a game table. Proceed to idyllic sunset on the beach, family looking out of the open hatchback and eating deep fried mayonnaise balls from the McFood drive-in. Sunset: bringing relief to some, to others care. Which would you chose to be?

The new car saved this family from lives of quiet desperation, shallow distractions, and isolated longings. The secret to happiness is a new van where the family can joyfully reunite, playing old-fashioned games and – between yet more commercials playing on the multiple DVDs inside the car – share a blissful golden sunset, and hear the sweet night march begin. Together again. God Bless Xmas.

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