Do You Have Time?

November is ebbing (already???), and December will be unfurling its days, tomorrow.   Advent begins on Sunday, Chanukah begins December 8th, and the Winter Solstice will be December 21/22.  This week is the cutting of the greens: pachysandra, pine, holly, and boxwood for the Advent wreath. The multiple activities coming in December will be squeezing themselves into our too-full calendars.  We can join in the fray, the rush, the glitz, the tintinnabulation. Or we can make different choices and consider this a time of restoration and quiet celebration. I have always looked longingly toward the latter but have not always succeeded. I have high hopes for this year!

“Let us all with joy and mirth

All the clocks upon the earth

Holding time with busy tocking

Ticking, booming, clanging, clocking

Anxiously unravelingTime’s traveling

Through the stars and winds and tides

Who can tell where time abides?”

That is one stanza from Madeleine L’Engle’s* poem about time. We humans view time from varying perspectives. There is no handed-down-from-heaven, universal rule about hours and minutes, nor days, weeks, and years. We have invented our clocks and calendars to make some kind of order in our earthly lives. You may observe that some people are in a continual race against the clock; time is their enemy (ala the White Rabbit – “I’m late, I’m late…for a very important date…”**). Others have a skewed concept of time; they always think they have more of this precious commodity than they do, or at least, can get more done than a block of time realistically allows. My To-Do lists are good examples of that.  Then there are free spirits who prefer to move at their own unique pace through life; they can be two hours late for an appointment and see no problem with that. They are an utter inconvenience to others, but are quite serene in their own little worlds.  

The Greeks used two different words to define time; Chronos and Kairos. Chronos is the time we usually live by, the clock, the calendar, birthdays, holidays, vacations. Kairos is immeasurable. I can only explain it by my own observations; time spent in the garden, a painter at the easel, friends around the dinner table, sitting by a woodsy stream on a mellow fall day, reading a very good book. We get lost in the moment; time is fluid, golden, and infinite.     

Our eldest son had a birthday, two days ago. Of course, I know his age; after all, I was there when he arrived in this world, but his actual age hasn’t seemed quite real to me these last few years. I clearly remember having to spend Thanksgiving in Pennsylvania that year.  The weather was mild, so Kerm and I took walks on our country road and we had pizza for dinner.  But, the years after that flowed by so quickly!  I think that I might not mind my own aging, if the people around me stayed their preferred (my preference, of course!) ages.  Really, our only choice for using time well, is to live fully each day instead of constantly looking backward or forward.  And we’d be happier if we would learn to balance the wonder times of Kairos with the practical demands of Chronos. 

 I am hoping to enjoy all the fun and memorable moments this season can provide.  Joseph Campbell*** said “Sacred space and sacred time and something joyous to do, is all we need.”  Thanksgiving was a good beginning and I’d like to feel that timeless happiness right through Twelfth Night! When the boys were little, we had a short time of reflection every evening during Advent. We re-purposed a chunk of fence post that was nicely weathered, and drilled enough holes to support florist’s candles; one for each day of Advent. Every night, we lit a candle and read a story, and enjoyed watching the lights grow.  It was a serene moment in our day, and made Advent, truly, a special preparation time.

In this rather dank, late fall, my gardens are also in preparation time. Their bones are clearly revealed now that foliage is mostly gone. The last daffodil bulbs were planted only two weeks ago. I know weeds are lurking down beneath the soil, planning to emerge with the first warm breezes, but I feel an optimism; just a little tweak here and there, and all will be well next spring.  It is easy to dream and plan during the fallow season. I would like to do two new, small corner “granddaughter gardens”.  I’ve found statuary that represents each of them, and then would add plants that seem appropriate. It is a good thought and even if I don’t accomplish it, it is fun to plan.

The nuthatches, juncos, woodpeckers, and Carolina wren are cruising the feeders for seeds and suet.  The squirrels have returned from their Fall retreat into the woods- maybe because it is deer-hunting season.  One son has a tree stand and a blind on the hill. I expect, to the squawking blue jays and scolding squirrels, hunters are orange-clad, big-footed trespassers.  Certainly, the deer, who are being hunted, must be a bit twitchy. So, if I were a squirrel, chickadee or any other small creature, I’d leave for safer climes too, especially when sunflower seeds and suet call from just down the hill.

We live in a region where hunting deer can be a warm to hot topic. People who have been country-dwellers for generations consider deer-hunting a no-brainer; low-fat meat and a way to keep the population from exploding. Deer can wreak havoc on crops and gardens!  Adult deer in our area, have very few predators, so nature is rather out of balance. More and more houses are taking over field space where the deer roam, so one can hardly blame the deer for this situation. But in much of suburbia, people new to rural areas, view deer as beautiful creatures (which they surely are!) who shouldn’t be hunted at all. They are rather awed to find such a creature in their yards.  

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One of my three brothers, and one brother-in-law, hunted deer every autumn. My mother used venison in her mincemeat (thankfully nowhere else, since I don’t really care for it).  But the controversy, between those who hunt, and those who consider animals should have all the rights of any other creature on earth, remains. I am often of two minds, but I’ve temporarily settled the argument with myself by admiring the practice of Native Americans regarding respect for their animal brothers. When they killed an animal for food, they thanked the animal for its sacrifice and the Great Spirit for provision.  

While I have very little trouble with hunting for food, I do have trouble with trophy-hunting, and appreciate the Far side cartoon about the elephant, whose leg was taken and made into a wastebasket by a safari hunter. The elephant waits in the hunter’s basement, dressed in travel clothes and prosthesis (as the Far Side animals were) and confronts the hunter from the dark corner: “Remember me, Mr. Schneider?  Kenya 1947?  If you are going to shoot an elephant, Mr. Schneider, you better be prepared to finish the job.”****  Hunting just to say one has killed a magnificent beast, I find difficult to understand — especially when so many are  endangered.

Speaking of difficult, I speak of ladders! My balance isn’t what it used to be. As a kid, I happily climbed out my bedroom window onto a roof and down the cherry tree.  But now there is vertigo. Hanging the greens in our church or lights in our trees up the driveway, ladder-less, demands creativity. Our lights outside are up now, using a long-handled lift.  At church, the ladder for hanging garlands is VERY tall, and because our congregation is composed of people whose balance is, like mine, less good, we should decide, very soon, that less greenery is definitely more tasteful and safer.    

In this country, we have multiple cultures with delightful traditions for decorating.  Mistletoe, for example, is hung in many homes, especially at parties.  This practice comes from Scandinavia. Mistletoe is a parasite, growing on a host plant, often a tree.  Its pale green leaves and greenish-white berries are found in “kissing balls”.  Ancient Scandinavians believed if enemies met beneath a tree where mistletoe was growing, they would lay down their arms and not fight that day. Perhaps we should spread mistletoe from sea to shining sea and around the world.  Diplomats could carry it in their brief cases!  Congress-people could each have a sprig on their desks!  A cease-fire, of not only blazing bullets but hurting words, world-wide, would be a blessing.

Another good preparation practice that would be a blessing for you and me would be taking the time for whatever brings us personal serenity; seasonal music, watching the birds outside, meditation or a daily nap.  Find something to start your December off in a way that makes your heart sing. We may be chained to our phones and ticking clocks, but we can make choices that move us from Chronos into Kiros, adding light and balance to our lives.   A famous Russian opera singer**** described his idea of Heaven in this way: “There will be five thousand sopranos, five thousand altos, ten tenors — I don’t much like tenors — a thousand baritones, and I will sing bass.”  Delightfully whimsical!!  Unless you are a tenor! 

Everyone has their own vision of what makes a time good for them; something giving us increased and wonderful presence in Kairos!   Have a blessed December.

Carol Bossard writes from her home in Spencer. She may be reached at: carol42wilde@htva.net.  

 

*Madeleine L’Engle — from The Irrational Season by Madeleine L’Engle.  American poet, novelists, theologian, writer and all-around fun person.  1918-2007.

**from Alice IN Wonderland by Lewis Carroll.

***Joseph Campbell — American mythologist, writer, professor.  1904-1987.

****The Far Side by Gary Larson — American cartoonist, born in 1950.

*****Feodor Chaliapin —- Russian opera singer and writer.  1873-1938.

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