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Posts Tagged ‘myth’

While Bob was gone fetching the Grands, my ears picked up a new word. Yesterday was Day Three of Grandparenting while my daughter works in her ER that is once again filled with Covid. Her shifts coincide with the Groom’s stretch of 24/7 Medical ICU coverage. Our system is that one of us drives to their house at daybreak, and returns mid-morning with the children and a certain puppy. Then the fun begins. We are committed to not making plans, and eating as much chocolate as we like.

But first, over coffee and the CBS Sunday Morning show, I heard a piece about the John Denver song, “Country Road.” The man who wrote the song was actually from Massachusetts, but he thought West Virginia fit the lyrics better. It starts out “Almost Heaven” and is universally loved because it’s about a longing for home, a kind of homesickness that is tinged with sadness – aka the Welsh word Hiraeth.

“One attempt to describe hiraeth in English says that it is “a longing to be where your spirit lives.” This description makes some sense out of the combination of words that describe this feeling. The place where your spirit feels most at home may be a physical location that you can return to at any time, or it may be more nostalgic of a home, not attached to a place, but a time from the past that you can only return to by revisiting old memories. Maybe your spirits home could even be neither of the above, one from which you are not only separated by space.”

https://www.felinfach.com/blogs/blog/hiraeth

There is no other word for Hiraeth in any language except ancient Cornish and Breton. It seems the Celts have a deep understanding of loss, one that transcends time. My immediate thought was that I’d like to be able to hug people again, to shake hands and maybe even give and get a peck on the cheek. I’d like to not wonder if I’ll need to wear a mask before I walk out the door. I’d like to return to a place where a virus wasn’t ruining running my life!

But just then the kids arrived. Could they check out the snack drawer? Who wants to play Mancala? And I swiftly returned to the present holiday/nana/camp routine. After all, we’d collected some fairy bark, moss and feathers and had to start building a fairy house. We even found a gold shell casing from a gun on our Christmas hike. I smiled when the Pumpkin turned it into a vase for some tiny flowers. He was enthralled with Bob’s Dremel tool as they carved notches into sticks.

The Bride’s hospital had so many nurses call out sick, with Covid, they had to merge the fast track into the main ER. The Groom’s ICU is expected to open another unit soon. When will the waves of illness and death stop? What will the next variant bring? I know which neighbor’s child is not vaccinated. We shake our heads and tell the Grands that some people just don’t believe in science. So we have to hang tight, to stay within our pod, again.

Today is Day Four. I don’t know how our “little doctors” (Ada’s term) do this, putting on their N95s and doing battle with a disease of the mind and body. Every day, without glory this time. No pans are banging on rooftops, no dinners are being delivered, not even on Christmas. Still, I believe we will return home someday and the secret route isn’t in memory. Hiraeth is a harmony of the soul and the spirit. Despite all the construction on our street, I can envision myself in our new/old house. We’ve already picked out the plumbing!

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While the drum-up to Christmas and a New Year continues, I thought I’d share my thoughts on filling this school vacation with a little fun. Since the Bride always works on Christmas, and a few days after, and the Groom will be busy in the Medical ICU, Bob and I will be on deck with the Grands. We split our time with the other set of Grandparents who are arriving today.

At first I thought, ‘YAY, now that the children are vaccinated, we can go ice skating/movie watching/golf swinging!’ Or maybe even honky-tonking!

But then my better angel prevailed. I discovered an English website entirely devoted to folklore! And activities that include magic and fairies fall right within my wheelhouse! https://folklorethursday.com/childlore/top-10-fun-folklore-activities-children-grown-ups/

With that in mind, and some local lore thrown in, here are my top seven:

  1. Animal Stories. Look to Aesop’s Fables, or make up an animal story of your own. Get all comfy with some hot chocolate, and read aloud. Follow-up with questions and ask your children to draw the story. We plan on giving our Grands an animal to adopt at the Nashville Zoo, they get to read all about it, follow its adventures, and also receive a stuffed version of said animal. https://www.nashvillezoo.org/adopt
  2. Go For a Hike. You may remember that one year we made a fairy house with Great Grandma Ada. On this stroll, to a park or wilderness area, look for a fairy trail! A clearing with mushrooms (their chairs) may appear; collect feathers which are fairy brooms; and look for cobwebs. Did you know that fairies teach spiders how to sew them? I’ve been known to create dream catchers out of found feathers!
  3. Dig Into Hogwarts. Are your children into Harry Potter? Despite JK Rowlings recent controversy over LGBTQ rights, we plan on taking the kiddos to California next year to visit The Wizarding World of Harry Potter! Their Uncle and Aunt Kiki already have tickets so Omicron better be done. Did you know that the “…screaming mandrakes grown by students at Hogwarts are based on the real-life mandrake plant that has long been associated with medicinal magic?” 
  4. Baking. Create a tradition by baking something that is unique to your family. So not the usual Christmas cookies, unless you have a specialty of course. I have a plan to try baking the Flapper’s “Boiled Cake.” This is a recipe from the Great Depression when yeast, butter and flour were being rationed, so you can also throw in a little history lesson too.
  5. Take a Cruise on the Cumberland River. The showboat General Jackson has midday departures from the Grand Ole Opry to a round of applause! It may be a bit pricey, but the singing and dancing is everything FUN for ages 4 to 94! It’s a “…downhome showband of pickers, fiddlers, and singers will be performing heart-warming versions of Christmas favorites by Reba McEntire, Alan Jackson, Elvis Presley, Rascal Flatts, and more!”  https://generaljackson.com/
  6. Livestream a Magic Show. The Nashville Public Library has an amazing website called Kids Out and About with loads of free things to do with your children and grandchildren. Check out your library and sign up! On December 27 at 2 pm Eastern, WonderPhil will be presenting a magic show. Unfortunately it looks like it’s only through Facebook, but hey, maybe Facebook isn’t so evil after all? https://nashville.kidsoutandabout.com/content/livestream-magic-show
  7. Explain the Calendar. We gave our Littles calendars for one night of Chanukah this year – a Star Wars version for the Pumpkin and an origami desk calendar for the Bug. I heard that a certain little redhead wasn’t sure what it was, so now is a perfect time to dig deeper into customs that appear on calendars. For example, The Winter Solstice is happening tomorrow, that’s a good pagan way to start the day! And what exactly is Boxing Day?

So Merry Christmas to All and may your school vacation be filled with Joy and not too many action/adventure/activities this year. It’s best to relax and rest and keep a little of that lockdown mentality intact for everyone.

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It’s the happiest season of all, right? But what to do if you’re not Christian, or even a lapsed-Catholic or Christian-light, or maybe Jewish or Muslim? Well, child psychologists can always tell us what to do, and lately they’ve been taking all the fun out of December.

First it was, teach your kids they don’t have to hug Aunt Fannie – that relative you see maybe once or twice a year who insists on a hug and a kiss. And now, we are being told to spill the goods on Santa – don’t lie to your kids about Santa!

“Do you believe in Santa Claus Mommy?” the Love Bug asked my daughter in the car the other day. Why do they always come up with such earth-shattering questions in the car? Of course I wanted to know what she said, but the Bride only said she stalled, making me feel like somehow I’d failed. Because even though Bob and I were raising our children in the Jewish faith, I never gave up on Santa Claus

I mean I didn’t leave him milk and cookies. We didn’t have any naughty elves sneaking around our bookshelves. There were no blinking trees in our living room either. And they never knew when Santa would arrive, silently gliding down our chimney – it might happen during Hannukah, or maybe on Christmas morning. But I felt it viscerally, that memory of a big, kind guy in a red suit visiting children all over the world to fulfill their wishes. And I wanted to keep that magic alive in my family.

But according to this BBC article, if a child is old enough to ask about Santa, they are old enough for the truth. No, Virginia, there is nobody.

“You shouldn’t lie about Santa because you are encouraging your children, usually with made-up proof, to believe a morally ambiguous lie. I’m not alone in being devastated learning of my parents’ elaborate deceit about Santa, leaving me to wonder what other lies they had told.

Santa supposedly encourages imagination but, as noted in this article, and others, you’re really asking children to suspend criticality and believe a fiction. As this piece suggests, fantasy and imagination work because we choose to believe what we know isn’t true. Far from promoting wonder, the Santa story encourages children to be consumers of others’ ideas.” http://www.bbc.com/capital/story/20181211-why-you-shouldnt-lie-to-your-children-about-santa

Today is the sixth anniversary of the shooting at Newtown Elementary School. Those children, who were the same age as my grand daughter, will never have the chance to ask about Santa Claus. They will never go caroling again with their parents. When our government failed to pass any meaningful gun control legislation after that, long before Sandy Hook, I lost my faith again. Only this time, it was with our country.

Last night we read about a 7 year old Guatemalan girl who died of dehydration and exhaustion at the border of New Mexico. She was in OUR custody with her father for more than 8 hours before seizures began. This actually happened last week, according to the Washington Post:

“The ACLU blamed “lack of accountability, and a culture of cruelty within CBP (Customs and Border Patrol)” for the girl’s death. “The fact that it took a week for this to come to light shows the need for transparency for CBP. We call for a rigorous investigation into how this tragedy happened and serious reforms to prevent future deaths,” Cynthia Pompa, advocacy manager for the ACLU Border Rights Center, said in a statement.”  

So maybe we should tell our kids the truth, always. Because buying into a fairy tale, quasi-religious belief that leaves Mrs Claus at home in the North Pole while her husband gets all the credit for one night’s work does seem antiquated. Maybe we must be brutally honest with ourselves first. And not expect falsehhoods to turn into facts simply because a great, orange-headed beast keeps repeating them…

It’s almost like selling someone a bill of goods about fossil fuels, and promising to fulfill all your wishes, just because you have your name on a few buildings.

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“There are only two or three human stories, and they go on repeating themselves as fiercely as if they had never happened before.”                

Willa Cather

I wonder about the Star Wars hype this weekend, will Star Wars: The Force Awakens live up to its name? To be honest, I was enamored of the first trilogy. In fact, we took the Bride to “see” her very first movie when she was six months old, 1980s The Empire Strikes Back. She was enthralled with the lights for the first half hour, then fell promptly asleep in my arms.

We know that this is really an old fashioned morality play, a fight between good and evil. George Lucas and writer/philosopher Joseph Campbell were friends, and we know that Campbell’s book, “The Hero with a Thousand Faces,” helped Lucas flesh out his sci-fi plot. But the story is as ancient as Aristotle. A young hero arises, is given a test, finds a mentor, must go into a cave to fight the dragon, returning victorious. Of course in each telling, the journey becomes infused with different details, but the story remains the same.

Carl Jung also detailed creation myths and archetypes of universal characters from around the world long before the internet helped to flatten it. The Swiss psychologist wrote about “… constantly repeating characters who occur in the dreams of all people and the myths of all cultures (and) suggested that these archetypes are a reflection of aspects of the human mind – that our personalities divide themselves into these characters to play out the drama of our lives.”

Jung spoke to our “collective unconscious.” A place where every culture invents its own religion and set of rules in order to make sense of the vast universe, to answer some old existential question like how did we get in this mess?:

” A young hero, the wise old man or woman, the shape-shifting woman or man, and the shadowy antagonist.”     http://www.thewritersjourney.com/hero’s_journey.htm

Listening to the GOP debate this week, it all sounds too familiar. ISIS is the Evil Empire, and for some reason it will take one of these conservative hawks to defeat it. But they are not the heroes in my playbook. Because they can’t see what’s happening right here at home. The bloodshed our own home-grown terrorists have caused, our own mentally ill with guns – killing themselves, accidentally killing their children, murdering unarmed people on the street. Killing a nine year old boy for the “sins” of his father.

When the whole LA County school system has to shut down because of a threat, we may be too late to the battle. One thing Campbell’s hero would have done, he would have recognized these GOP tricksters for what they are. He OR She would have found a way to change our collective perception of Evil.

I heard a refugee from Syria on NPR say the jihadists are all young men buying candy bars and Cokes with American dollars. We need to fix our American dream, in order to sell it to them. We need to reawaken the hero in us all.

Here is my hero in the aviary. He just got a new iPhone, after years of refusing to come over to the Light Side of Apple. May the Force be With You!  IMG_3616

 

 

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