When I grow up, my lofty goal is curmudgeondum. A cute crotchety old man I’d say. Grumpy, yet endearing. Is that possible? My wife and kids often underline me as adorable. Adorable is okay and all, but I’m looking for a bit edgy.
Yes, my aspiration is to grumble away while bent over wrangling loose shoelaces, forgetting to breathe. Just like the news, negative narratives sell, so a crotchety old fossil will gain more notoriety than simply being “nice.”
In the meantime, is there enough time to be mean? There’s enough time. I’ll start with bullying myself, I’m pretty good at that. But to be experienced as a frumpy relic with a negative aura, work is involved. The keeping of the goal must be sticky noted to the mirror, and written on the back of a business card shoved in my wallet.
I’ll begin by going around the house mumbling while flipping off light switches. I’ll put other people’s spent dishes in the washer, but in a clanking, cantankerous air of self-righteous purse-lipped distain.
I’ll pick up what they left lying around like some Cinderfella. I’ll be the king of projection, pointing and sighing while my own socks and underwear decompose near the laundry basket.
The next step is to mouth words to those who hunt and gather food from the kitchen but leave carcasses wherever they please. Instead of butlering the splayed crusty dishes and etcetera, I need to make the extra effort to tell the infractioneers to take care of their own messes. This isn’t my idea. My wife keeps telling me, “Hands off; leave it lie; walk on by.”
And where have all the laundry baskets gone…long time passing? I thought they were carrying aids to the folding area. Folding? Bah. The refresh button on the dryer equals wrinkle riddance. Wrinkle spray equals the unfolding of lines and creases. What is an iron? I can hear a college prof asking such a question in a philosophy class.
I won’t mention the toilet paper roll…okay, I will, since you asked. How many rolls does it take to change a lightbulb? Uh, who changes lightbulbs, I mean, seriously? That will mean filling the trash can a bit more. Trash can. Trash can what? Garbage sits and sits as the can mimics Mt. Saint Helens in her third trimester.
Is it easier to do it for them? Yes, on an emotional scale it avoids glares, huffs, slumps, and non-responses. But in the long run, if I ‘do for’, they ‘don’t for’ just keep nice ole dad responding to their irresponsibility. No. No. And No. This does not edge me toward my goal.
I must see and say. I’m going to repeat and point. I will ignore their hem and haw. My adorable self will be transformed into a despotic psychotic man of means. The meaner the better. I’m not aiming to receive the red badge of discourage. The metal of courageous curmudgeon will be slipped around my neck before I am unable to scale the podium.
Around this time of year, I make a point to listen to George Frideric Handel’s Messiah. He wrote this monumental piece in 1741, long before the fray of our modern monetized version of Christmas. Did you know it was first performed during the Easter season?
Written in three parts it covers the entirety of the impact of Christ’s coming. “Part I corresponding with Advent, Christmas, and the life of Jesus; Part II with Lent, Easter, the Ascension, and Pentecost; and Part III with the end of the church year—dealing with the end of time.” Wikipedia.
When I grow up, I will study Handel’s Messiah in total.
November and December is referred to as “Peak Season” at UPS, where delivering glad tidings to doorsteps morphs into a drone-like activity. Out of 29 holiday hustles there were only two years where my heart didn’t freeze over eventually. One was when I tweaked my back and was benched during the two busiest weeks of peak. The other is this present season. This year I’m mostly pushing a broom and emptying the trash inside the building. The schlepping of parcels I mostly watch from a distance.
All this to say, a baroque, eighteenth century musical masterpiece on the centrality of Christ was almost overlooked. My heart seems more intact this year. My mind is more mindful if redundancy isn’t a hang up for you. I feel more present amidst the presents. Why did I almost dis The Messiah?
One reason is I didn’t feel the need to jump-start my heart like one of those electric paddle thingies. Maybe, unconsciously, I could Handel this season on my own power. Perhaps “Jingle Bells” was enough to fill the spiritual void. Why ruin a Bing Crosby mood drift with a classical oratorio of God’s rescue plan in Christ? Because that’s why.
I could dip my Jack Frost nipped toes in the Hallelujah Chorus and call it good.
But that aria-like symphonic anthem isn’t a stand-alone song. It’s imbedded. Simply serving the Hallelujah chorus like an entrée isn’t enough to satiate the wandering heart. One isn’t supposed to eat the Turkish Delight before slicing the ham. By that I mean there is context and history in the hallelujah.
If you’ve ever attended a Messiah performance, everyone stands for the Hallelujah chorus. It’s not because of sore bums; a seventh inning stretch of sorts. King George stood up in one of the early performances and the rest of the theatre followed his lead. The honor is due through story of Christ. The music and lyrics build a framework where the rafter lifting strength of the almost shouting of singers forces an ovation of standing proportions.
“Git yer duffs off them thar pews and honor God,” said Festus from Gunsmoke. (He really didn’t say that, but for some reason his demeanor came to mind.)
I’m sorry to be an old fuddy duddy, but when an advertiser highjack’s the most famous tune and tone to sell a pair of socks, well, darn.
Seriously though. Hallelujah! The whole of the piece challenges me to focus my attention in this world of distractions. Handel didn’t know what a sound bite was, well, besides a good piece of roast. He neither knew how pseudo-visual our world would become, despite the onset of blindness near the end of his life. He knew music and how to create a texture like a Van Gogh. Live performances are all they had back then, so the effort was directed at experience. Although The Messiah is his signature piece out of many, its depth has reached into countless souls to stir the cold places of the heart.
But not without the scriptures embedded in and through. Mind and heart. Did you know the lion’s share of verses come from the Old Testament? A few famous New Testament Christmas references are represented, including Luke 2:10-11, which Linus quoted in A Charlie Brown Christmas. Matthew 11:28-29, Matthew 1:23, John 1:29, and Revelation 19:6; 11:15; 19:16. I Corinthians 15 scriptures near the end of the piece, and the final verse being Revelation 5:12-13.
All this to say, take time to say woah to the reindeer, and if you need to ease into The Messiah, start with the hallelujah chorus. Don’t forget to listen to the other words in the chorus too. I know it’s a bit late, but maybe next year plan on going to a live performance. In the meantime, Mr. Grinch… Wait. What? For now, soak in the scriptural tunes of redirection and reflection. There’s still time. Immanuel is with us, we need only to turn our minds and hearts his way.
I’m glad I’m not in Buffalo, NY. I’m more like a Bison-stander in Oshtemo, MI. You heard me. I’m an innocent bison-stander exhaling fog and ice while dusted in snow. The snow blower I borrowed really blew. The blowback covered my mane like a mountain peak. I needed to take a break and simply poise like a hunch backed beast.
My glasses served as deflectors of the blizz thrown into the breeze. I really didn’t want to see the reality before me anyhow. My mantra of movement stalled out, so I took a break to watch Notre Dame battle Boston College; two Catholic teams fighting for the approval of touchdown Jesus. The Irish Catholics didn’t need a Hail-Mary to win, they crossed themselves over and over, up and down the field. At the half they were up 37 to ZERO.
Back to work pushing and shoving 15 plus inches of frightful. Thankful that my brother-in-law let me borrow his snow thrower after a belt on mine melted and snapped, I walked another lap. After a while I got a text from my brother.
“It’s a great game if you can see it!! The Boston College players are invisible.” Their white uniforms transformed them into ghostly figures. The snow washing them out of the camera’s ability to receive.
I, on the other hand, kept trying to gain ten yards in my driveway. It seemed like fourth and long ad infinitum. The more I pushed, the more the deep deep winter pushed back. The all-day scrimmage scrambled my will to mush instead of the “Mush! Mush!” of the Iditarod determination.
At this point I can’t even keep my metaphors straight.
I’m about to layer up again and address the accumulation. This time the roof needs relief. It seems I just got done raking leaves…now I will rake the roof. Raise the roof?!?
Autumn has my heart, always. There’s something about a blushing tree that draws my attention. Maybe it’s emotion. Could be a touch of empathy for the forest as it strolls toward dormancy. The maples, especially, gasp with color as their breathing slows. Summer draws down. The sun flattens its course more each day and the leaves, well, they look up to the trees.
Yeah. Beauty is fleeting. Duty calls. It’s the first time in eleven years I’ll have serious leafage. At the last house we had one small tree in the front and one in the back. The house before that had a single, somewhat insignificant, maple in the front. Leaf cleanup consisted of a bit of extra mowing.
This is gonna blow.
If I had my druthers, I’d light ‘em up where they lay, like the controlled burn on the trails around here. It’d get out of hand though. One little gust of wind and Smokey the Bear would wag his taloned digit at me while the neighbors prayed for favorable winds.
I do love the smell of burning leaves though. I wonder if there’s a ‘burned leaves’ candle scent? There is a warm tobacco pipe scented candle, of which I have two. So much easier than loading one of my own.
Leave it be.
A couple of weeks have passed and our little house in the woods appears surrounded by an arbor nudist colony. The sun makes its appearance earlier through the barren branches rather than above them.
Now, on a cloudless night, the moon floats effortlessly in and through the forest. Hide and seek is more like seek and ye shall find. Why, last night, that great warm gray disc in the sky entered my peripheral several times. In an odd way I felt I was being surveilled. Maybe it’s the sun’s way of keeping an eye on us. That’s worth reflecting on, no?
How does God keep all the balls in the air? Sun? Moon? Our Mother Earth?
Leaves. Squirrel! Squirrel in the leaves. My mind seems as scattered as the roaming gang of leaves on a windy day.
Back to the task which took four separate days. A blower and an occasional rake shooed the maddening crowd onto the forest floor. The last of the gripping oak leaves I mulched with the mower. It is finished. Maybe. I survived the first fall here without being a fall guy. The labor was not in vain as my veins felt the rush of a heart pounding a bit harder. Light aerobics might be a good description.