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Carol Bossard

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About Carol Bossard

  1. Joy - Wonder - Light...

    Now, in mid-December, the days are short. Our part of the earth has tilted nearly as far as it can from the sun. But never fear, the darkness is about to be overcome by light once again. The winter solstice will occur in another week. Sociologists suggest that primitive tribes were so terrorized by the vanishing light that they performed rites designed to propitiate the gods into bringing back the sun. But could our assumptions be wrong? Perhaps the early people knew well the earth’s cycles, and possibly the rites were more in the nature of thanksgiving for the regularity of those cycles. One story that I have from Dragons In The Water by Madeleine L’Engle*, has the Elder from a Venezuelan tribe as part of this conversation: “When the great golden disc raised itself clear of the mountain the chanting became a triumphal, joyful song………………..She asked, ‘Are you here every morning?’ He nodded, smiling. ‘It is part of my duties as the chief of the Quitzanos.’ ‘To help the sun rise?’ ‘That is my work.’ ‘It would not rise without you?’ ‘Oh yes, it would rise. But as we are dependent on the sun for our crops, for our lives, it is our courtesy to give the sun all the help in our power ----and our power is considerable…..We believe’, the old man said quietly, ‘that everything is dependent on everything else. The sun does not rise in the sky in loneliness; we are with him. The moon would be lost in isolation if we did not greet her with song. The stars dance together, and we dance with them.’” Currently some people have Solstice parties for fun, but perhaps also still in gratitude, to celebrate that in the dead of winter, light begins to return. I know that I am really glad when it does. We are a week and a few days away from Christmas. The evergreen wreath is on the front door, the tree is in process, a mix of Christmas and winter music is on the CD player and the aroma of baking cookies permeates the house. The fruit cakes are finally baked, (I can hear from afar, the moans of the fruitcake Grinches), doused with B&B Liqueur and stored away for a few weeks. Christmas cards have been coming ---- a few every day. Ours are not ready and I’m guessing they won’t find their way to most mail boxes until after Christmas Day. Since the twelve days of Christmas follow the 25th ---- it’s still Christmas when we finally get them out ---- usually, that is. One year it was well into January. Most patient people give us until Valentine’s Day before calling to see if we are OK. But to those of you who read this essay: MERRY CHRISTMAS and HAPPY HOLIDAYS. It is interesting that there is currently so much controversy over “Merry Christmas” and “Happy Holidays”. I think it comes from a fear that Christmas might be lost amid the diversity of other holy days. But the early Christians basically stole the Christmas holiday that we celebrate at this time of year, from the Roman Saturnalia. It seemed to the early fathers (mothers had nothing to say about anything, in Rome) easier and more acceptable to use a holiday already in existence than to create a new one that would only confuse those they were trying to persuade. They did this same thing with several holidays. Since Christmas, Hanukkah, the Solstice, and Kwanzaa all happen within the month of December, it seems both courteous and fitting that we respect and rejoice in any holiday that encourages a connection with a Power greater than ourselves. Christmas doesn’t need to be defended; it only needs to be celebrated in the loving spirit that brought us Christmas over two thousand years ago. That much love will never disappear. Actually, there are numerous December holidays one might observe. St. Nicholas Day is celebrated by Orthodox churches here and in western Europe on December 6th, in the Netherlands on December 5th, and in eastern churches, on the 19th. This year, the first day of Hanukkah was December 13th.. In Sweden, St. Lucia Day is celebrated on December 13th, and some young girl is chosen to wear a white robe and the crown of candles (electric ones now, for safety) symbolizing light coming to brighten the darkness in that far northern land. A friend tells me that in Stockholm, there is a Santa Lucia parade similar to NYC’s Thanksgiving parade. Quite a lot of years ago, my niece, Megan, wore the white robe and St. Lucia crown of candles for her church celebration. And of course, the Winter Solstice in 2017 is December 21st. The day following Christmas, in England is Boxing Day --- a time to provide for the needy, and in the U.S. it is the beginning of Kawanzaa. By the time Christmas Eve comes, I am usually exhausted from the running, wrapping, baking and trying to remember everything on my lists. Our Christmas Eve service comes with a welcome spirit of calm. There is candlelight, with much music; many familiar carols, and this year the choir will be singing the Hallelujah Chorus (an awesome assignment for a small women’s choir). The Advent candles will be lit, including the center Christ Candle, and the ambiance is breath-taking and very meaningful. Of course, we all are alert for candle mishaps; one year someone’s hair was briefly on fire ---- no actual harm done --- but the smell of burning hair is not an incense fragrance one would choose. When we return home, we light candles in the windows; symbolic of welcoming the Christ Child, and also our family members who come very late. As December deepens, there is something about this time that ignites a little bit of magic in all of us no matter what our backgrounds might be. Perhaps this season of Yule -- --Christmas --- Hanukkah is so very special because it is a continual reassurance that the darkness, no matter how dark, never has, nor ever will, put out the light of God’s goodness. With so much darkness in the world, even here around us, we need to remind ourselves frequently that Light will always triumph --- eventually. A favorite Peter, Paul and Mary song is “Don’t Let The Light Go Out”. It reminds us that we each are created to be light-bearers; that we too have a responsibility to carry light with us in whatever way we can. “And, so, Christmas comes to bless us! Comes to teach us how to find the joy of giving, happiness and the joy of being kind.” Gertrude Tooley Buckingham *-Madeleine L’Engle – American writer of fiction, non-fiction and poetry. 1918-2007 **-Gertrude Tooley Buckingham—American poet and musician. 1880- circa 1964 Carol may be reached at: cpeggy@htva.net.
  2. It's A New Year

    “Listen……With faint dry sound, like steps of passing ghosts, the leaves, frost-crisp’d, break from the trees and fall.” Adelaide Crapsey* This weather reminds me of an autumn quite early in our marriage when we couldn’t go home for Thanksgiving. We lived in central Pennsylvania, and a baby was due any time. The doctor laughed when we mentioned leaving for New York State and said: “You’ll stay right here if you don’t mind”. Well – of course, we minded, but we did stay. We had a serene Thanksgiving Day (with pizza, I think), and took a stroll over country roads, on what was a mild day just right for walking. And a few days later, our first child was born. I also remembered another Thanksgiving, with one baby and one toddler, when we transported a live turkey from that same place to my parents’ home in New York State. Kerm had won this creature in a raffle, and neither of us felt competent to dispatch, dress and cook a turkey. So ---- he lived in a cage in our cellar for a few days, and then, still caged, rode in the back of our station wagon for five hours, to meet his demise in my parents’ back yard. Sometimes I wonder what we were thinking!! Now that we’ve had some nippy days with wind and a few snow squalls, the song birds are slowly returning, but still not in the usual numbers or varieties. The squirrels haven’t come back at all. I’m not missing those seed-guzzling rodents, but it is unusual to see no twitching, fluffy gray tails leaping from birdfeeder to tree. I was out today and noticed that the comfrey I had chopped down to roots is sending out green shoots. Not good; I’m sure that tender growth will soon find itself iced into oblivion when the weather reminds us that winter is a fact of life in the northeast. All of the food and fun of Thanksgiving is behind us (hopefully the gratitude remains), and Advent is upon us. The hanging of the greens at church was this past Sunday and the four weeks of Advent begin this coming Sunday. We have an annual tradition of inviting the Candor Community Chorus from the next village over, to present Christmas music at our church on the first Sunday in Advent --- which is December 3d at 6:30 PM. They perform some of their concert music from the night before, and lead a carol-sing with people in the audience choosing their favorites. It’s a community event with goodies afterward. Then, with our senses sated due to beautiful music, yummy food and the fragrance of evergreens, everyone comes away feeling the Christmas season is off to a good start. The Sunday before Thanksgiving, our community had a combined service with almost all churches participating. The largest church in town hosted the gathering and was full to the brim. Afterward, we had a dish-to-pass dinner with turkey, stuffing and all sorts of wondrous foods. As the room filled with conversation and laughter, one comment that I heard was: “Are we supposed to be having this much fun?” This was said in jest, for of course we are supposed to be experiencing joy and delight in each other and our common thankfulness. We’d probably accomplish more good things if we combined efforts as well as worship, more often. Thanksgiving Day, at our house, was quiet. Two friends came for dinner and we had an enjoyable time together. Then Saturday, our sons and their families arrived and we had our usual slightly chaotic gathering with dinner and catching up. As I assumed, there was another foray for deer on the hill, but apparently those creatures were off having their own party, invisible to the hopeful hunter. Following early grazing on crackers, cheese and grapes, our dinner consisted of half a turkey (only one drum stick – TSK!) and a ham, plus delicious roasted veggies (not done by me), potatoes from our garden, salad and two GF pies; one chocolate and one pumpkin. These were new recipes and both were tasty, but the chocolate pie was like eating chocolate ganache --- something one usually does in smaller amounts. Even though we tried to plan for eight people instead of a hoard, we had food left over. Since everyone has now returned home, this has diminished my meal prep for the week. I love leftovers!! Our granddaughters helped with the hanging of the greens on Sunday. Mostly the church is decorated with the warm and simple elegance of poinsettias, greenery garlands, and tea lights. The exception to the elegance is the children’s tree in the social room just off the sanctuary and quite visible from the church pews. That is a ten-foot wild evergreen --- not pruned at all in the manner of commercial trees. Actually, it is often the top cut from a much larger-than-ten-foot tree. This feral cousin of more sedate trees is decorated with a very diverse collection of created ornaments and ropes of tinsel. Elegant it is not, but it is a way to let the children know they are as much a part of the church’s Christmas season as the grown-ups. Hopefully they will develop balance with the tinsel as they grow older, but right now, the effect is quirky and charming (that’s just my opinion and not always shared by everyone ). Our granddaughters, being a tad older than the other children, were a help in making sure the decorations got on the tree versus being on the floor; they were taller and could use the ladder for higher up. They look forward to being here for this event, and I think the children of this church like having them here to help. We have now come to the end of one sort of year. There are many “new years” in our 365 days. Most of us consider that we are beginning a new personal year on our birthday. The school year usually begins around September 1st. The Jewish new year, falling in September/October, is past now and the secular new year is, of course, on January 1st. The Buddhist new year follows in February. The Christian church calendar begins with the Advent season. It should be a time for meditation and thoughtfulness about the year past and the year ahead, but usually is filled to the brim with activities. I’m trying to ignore the full-blast stampede to Christmas. I’d like to enjoy those quiet beautiful days in early December, and my peace does not need to be shattered by the desperate cravings of the retail business to solidify their profits for the season. So we mute the TV advertisements, put into recycling all the catalogs with the scary “You can still order if you hurry” message, and I’ve unsubscribed from all the miscellaneous advertising that pops up in my Email. I hope to actively enjoy watching the landscape with all the red, pink and deep blue berries, the birds as they flit from lilac to feeder (avoiding cats ready to pounce) and listen to good music without feeling harried and hounded. Slow down --- relax ----be aware ---- savor! And as the earth turns toward darkness, perhaps we can all be more inclined to look upward to the stars. “Whatever creates or increases happiness or some part of happiness, we ought to do. Whatever destroys or hampers happiness…….we ought not to do.” Aristotle** *Adelaide Crapsey----American writer, born in Brooklyn and raised in Rochester, NY. 1878-1914. **Aristotle ---Classical Greek scholar and scientist. 834 BC – 322 BC. A note here: the happiness referred to by Aristotle is inner joy, not self-indulgence. Carol may be reached at: cpeggy@htva.net.