Rendered Fat Content


Claude Monet: Snow Effect at Argenteuil [Effet de neige à Argenteuil] (1875)
"nobody ever knows if they even exist … until they manifest on the page."

While I felt myself WindingDownish yesterday, this morning, I sense myself SpoolingUp. WindingDownish mostly involves reflecting while SpoolingUp focuses upon projecting, anticipating, preparing. It's a head-in-the-clouds experience where the future overshadows both present and past. I see the end of Our Grand Refurbish coming, but more compelling, I've started hearing my annual Holiday Poem Cycle calling. The Muse, often ahead, began baking her holiday breads last weekend. I'm just waking up, realizing that I have a dozen or more new poems to write between now and Christmas morning, and that I have not yet started stockpiling possible illustrations to serve as inspirations.

I began this tradition twenty years ago when I became disgusted with the sense of obligation this season wrought in me.
The searching for the present which never quite proved right. The sense of responsibility to make others happy. The winter holiday had become depressing. In a fit of pique in response, I swore to thereafter write original poems which I would duly distribute to family and friends in lieu of giving them presents. That first year, I swore to complete my task between mid-afternoon Christmas Eve and Christmas morning. More recently, The Muse convinced me that I could expand my calendar and write between Solstice and Christmas and thereby recover some Christmas Eve for her and myself, instead of hosting an isolating personal all-nighter for myself.

Shopping might well prove less daunting, but my tradition's set now. I took that vow and it turned into a practice. It's what I do and my friends and family expect it now. It might have become more of an obligation than what I'd started trying to avoid, but that mirrors the way of this world. Whatever one attempts to avoid tends to deliver up double of whatever annoyed. Avoidance inexplicably becomes its opposite, a feature of all negative objectives. Go ahead, try to not think of a Rhinoceros. The poem writing, though, requires no shopping in stores, and I'm no shopper. I'm more the guy who warmly volunteers to sit in the car while The Muse goes inside shopping. I'm the guy they left the chair out for in the women's department at Nordies. Shopping for presents renders me unable to focus. I circle endlessly without finding anything. I'm better off at my desk writing half-assed poetry for my family and friends.

I spend some time browsing various galleries and sources seeking inspiring images. The Library of Congress often proves useful, as does the online New York Public Library, for both have received tons of memorabilia of Christmases past over more than a dozen decades. Christmas cards exchanged during the Gilded Age inhabit the same data base as snowy seasonal photographs of a crowded Greyhound bus station circa the mid-forties and some merchant marines singing carols, all in high contrast black and white like old newspaper photos. I find some fine art, too, an old master or two who dabbled in some holiday subject, often focused upon madonnas and angels. I never know as I collect the picture what story each might inspire. A recipe for Christmas Stew featuring Santa Claus farting showed up on the page one year. I try to keep my subjects elevating. It's Christmas, after all, and holy.

I re-realize again each year that the best antidote against the effects of longer nights and shorter days tends to be some warming anticipation. For me, this becomes the very best gift I receive every Christmas. It's self-inflicted. The expectations I hold for myself tend to enable my inner jolly old elf, and while he might not end up creating anything worthy of lasting through upcoming ages, he was just trying to survive unscathed a long, dark night or two. What else can anyone hope to do?

Christmas cheer ain't too dear,
It comes from giving not receiving,
for me, from writing, never spending,
by extending unlikely gifts
nobody ever knows if they even exist
until they manifest on the page.

©2021 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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