Stars Everywhere

Photo montage: Stars in the DarknessThis world is a dark place. War and strife, fear, hunger, hatred, greed, self-righteousness, and poverty gnaw the bones of suffering people on every continent at every hour. And all of these menaces are, in accordance with early expressions of the idea of Tragedy, nearly entirely the making of our own species.

Little hope, at least in my mind, of that sorrowful truth changing as long as our species continues to dominate the planet. We are deeply flawed. Even the finest among us tend to forget themselves and their mortal limits at time; regardless of how educated, high-minded and genuinely well-meant their attitudes and actions may be, it’s sadly true that underlying those attitudes and actions is a firm belief in their rightness. Only natural that it’s hard, from that perspective, to allow that others might have an equal possibility of being right, or at least as wise and well-meaning, as they themselves are, and to show them the full respect of that acceptance.

What, then, of accepting life among my fellow flawed beings in this imperfect world? No comfort is found in denial or in persistently, aggressively resisting what may not have the possibility of ever changing. But to accept this grimness as an eternal truth and let it lie like lead on my soul is no help, either.

I look to the stars.

Physical stars exist in a surprising number of places, many lower and commoner than the depths of the sky, and I look to them and rally as I realize that they stand, every one, as beacons reminding me of what is good not only in the nature in which we imperfect beings live, but what is good within us as well. Small as our fineness may seem, individually and corporately, at times, it does exist, and if there is to be any hope of overcoming the dark, it must come from the nurturing of every little glint seen starring that darkness.

I look to the stars in the indigo distance of the sky, sparkling like promises of better things as they look back at me. I look to the lesser stars of reflected light that dazzle on earth, the  diamond dashes on every body of water and glimmering in every eye, never mind among real gems and the many things made expressly to be beautiful and good and positive. I look, more than anywhere else, at the multitude of stars that shine from the hearts of good and true people, people who are thoughtful and generous, merciful and hardworking, and kind and loving, sometimes despite and against the dark things of this world, and often, wonderfully, for the sole reason that they were made to be such earthly stars.

Hope Lives in Unexpected Places

photoTo the Astonishment of Angels

Where in the wilderness of life an adumbration points the way

From our benighted place, our strife and sorrows, to the sun of day,

A banner flares out on the breath of some great strength to give reprieve

To wearied lung and heart, from death to lift us to where we believe

Once more that goodness lies within, that kindness is courageous love,

That generosity’s akin to calling stars down from above

And handing them to needy souls to light their way to higher ground,

And that small songs pierce blazing holes in prison walls with their mere sound—

Here in the bitter night and cold, when such a beacon lights a spark

To guide us forward, as of old, let us rise up and leave the dark

And carry all our fellows, too, to those bright, grand palatial places

Where in the wilderness the true angelic joy renews its graces.photo

Light in Dark Places

photoWhat possible purpose can Daylight Savings Time serve in this day and age except perhaps the most mercenary sort? I really dislike the artificial shifting of the daily schedule (time itself being quite independent of our constructs meant to explain and regulate it), with one small but significant exception. That little thing?

Knowledge of the power of the tiniest speck of light against the dark.

When the days become naturally short, night long, because of the turning of the earth on its axis and the change of the seasons, the sense of being trapped in almost-perpetual darkness inevitably begins to creep upon me; add to that the government-mandated spin of the clock to steal yet another hour of sunlight, and I begin to wither and feel a little like sorrow and solemnity, gravity and groaning will also steal my sense of belonging to the day at all. This spell of coldness and heartless eternal night could certainly drive a person mad.

And yet, the smallest spark renews my will and hope. One little star piercing the indigo sky becomes a beacon bright and powerful enough to pull me from the dark and back to day. That winter’s also the season when so many cultures, faiths and kinds of people find new reason to light more than a candle, more than a fire, and call upon the grandest graces of their inner best is no mistake or accident. The contrast with that terrible beauty that is felt and seen in lightless space is something far beyond the sun of day–against the coal mine dark, a pinpoint is all it takes to seem a seam has opened into warmth and goodness once again. And in my little heart, I do believe that any one of us determined enough can learn to be that tiny, so-essential fleck of light.photo

Sleeping Angels, All

drawingThe assertion that ‘if it bleeds, it leads’ is cynical in its assumption not only that bad things will happen and that people will do bad things, but that this is where our greatest interest lies as well. To a certain degree, I will concede it.

And yet.

There is a part of me too that believes in the other having equal weight: the kind and good, the innocent and the pure. Our every moment of disaster, whether natural or human-made, brings out this good in force. It is the sleeping angel inside that emerges on call to offer aid to the suffering, comfort to the weary and food to the starving. I think that maybe, despite all appearances, it’s goodness that is actually the one inexhaustible resource.

I certainly hope so; in this is the promise that our history is not quite at an end.graphite drawing

Noirish

Here Lies a Haunted Man

First thing in the morning a perfect blue sky,

with a few sheepish clouds and a breeze,

gives no indication of what, when or why

we believe we must hide in the trees,

to disguise from what enemy, storm, or what foe,

or to vanish from sight for which reason;

we know none of that, but we certainly know

we have entered a paranoid season.digital artwork

Dreamscape

Out of the leaves of a banana tree

A mysterious Eye is staring at me;

I have some magnetic pull, it seems,

For the kind of stuff that makes up dreams.

Ten past midnight, and all is well

Except that I’m under the nightly spell

That thrusts me onto those strange savannahs

Where pursuers send me stark bananas.

Dangerous Desires

My little retelling of the story of Hansel and GretelYes, I prefer a slightly less virulent interpretation of the tale than the early versions focusing on the stereotype of the ‘Wicked Stepmother’ and a father cruel enough to go along with her determination to abandon the children. After all, there’s still plenty of blame to go around when ordinary and seemingly decent people do thoughtless and stupid and even horrible things without considering the ultimate consequences, and even a fairly charitable interpretation of the story seems to me to illustrate that quite handily. And, lest I be accused of excessive softening of what is, after all, a pretty grim [!] tale, I left off the traditional cozy ending, to keep the pointy parts more firmly entrenched in any conscience that will allow them. Wink, wink.

graphite drawingLaw of Unforeseen Consequences

Late, when the children want to play, When chores are a burden at end of day, Why, what harm can come of it, anyway?

Who would begrudge their choice, this chance To lay down the work and pick up a dance? Who would look on this sweet play askance?

What if their Schottische, when lightning flashed, Upset the pitcher and milk was splashed? Ah, suddenly, their mother’s lashed

At them with her anger in surprise At such wild waste of the poor folk’s prize, And tears are smarting in all their eyes!

The rich folk scarcely would give a fig At spilling milk over one swift jig, But their consequence never did loom so big.

No innocent children ever guess That a tiny slip and a modest mess Will afford their mother such deep distress,

Nor mother foresee that her sorrowed scold Will send, heavy-hearted, into the cold Her little ones, lost to the family fold.

And how could their father know what would fall If they failed to answer his panicked call And foraged instead far from safety’s wall?

Too distant from hearth and garden run, Could the children know that their crimeless fun Would lead to endangering anyone?

So off to the forest’s gloom, replete With wild strawberries, so good to eat, They skip unconcerned, when a wilder sweet

Appears before their young, hungry eyes In the most appealingly false disguise Of a gingerbread palace, whose luring lies

Present irresistibly tempting charms To lead them directly into the arms Of the wicked witch whose most horrid harm’s

The deceptive sweetness her cottage seems To hold in its sugary halls of dreams–What covers in icing the children’s screams!

(How could these tender young cherubs guess That under the sparkling prettiness Was a ravening monster intent to fress On their flesh and bones in a gory mess!)

But the most nefarious in the tale Was also most ignorant that such frail And tender tidbits might possibly fail

To end up feeding her heart’s desire, Instead being fueled by fear and ire To shove her into her own oven’s fire!

The story is old, that in unformed youth We may lack the wisdom to see in truth, That apparent delights may be foul, forsooth

But we still hold on to our foolish ways Of dreaming and hoping in wishful haze And never considering that this daze

Can blind us to sanity–in its mire, Can lead to such unexpected, dire Results–unintentionally, Desire Makes us leap from the frying pan into the fire.

I Mean It. Don’t be a Meanie!

Ebenezer Scrooge was far from alone. And the holidays are certainly not the only time when Scrooge and his ilk get wound up. Still, big events and celebrations are and always have been pretty predictable catalysts and triggers for bad moods and attitudes of any sort. If we aren’t happy, we’re remarkably good at being as far opposite to it as we can figure out how to make ourselves. High horses are not so high that people don’t try to climb aboard them mighty often. High dudgeons are terribly popular dwellings with the general citizenry, who move into them and dig in our heels as though to that manor born.

Add to this our natural gifts for finding clouds obliterating every one of our silver linings, and t’s not much of a stretch to think that many of us are in a cynical competition to see who can be the snarliest, gnarliest meanie in existence. We’re always looking for the way to shoehorn yet more nasty junk and grim excuses for hideous horripilation into the darkest corners of ourselves and the universe. And when one looks for something hard enough, one almost always finds it. We may be a crotchety breed but we’re still good at some things. The latest news reports are always brimming over with greed and violence and hate. We make the news and we eat it up, too. More’s the pity.

graphite drawing

Captain Crankypants, the Crabbiest Creature in Creation

Why even mention it? Because we have choices. And now, in the shadow of the latest awful tales of murder and depravity and betrayal and any sort of human ugliness you can (or maybe can’t) imagine, it’s holiday time once again. Christmas, yes, and Hanukkah, Ramadan, the New Year (westerners and the Chinese, for example, celebrating it in full gear), Kwanzaa, Tet, a birthday or two zillion. So many opportunities for blow-ups and melt-downs and general cussedness. And we don’t have to succumb to any of them. We can be better than that.

And we should. We should, most of all, when it’s time for all that holiday innocence-wisdom-love-light-and-warmth, stuff that can both exacerbate and offset darker things, choose to enhance it rather than the opposite. The greatest possible gift we can give to others and ourselves for any celebration is to be agents of innocence, wisdom, love, light and warmth instead of any passing urge to give in to crass or cranky behavior. Hugs and kisses are the order of the day. Make peace; be nice–it’s a holiday. Give in to it!