Yuletide Rant (Just A Tiny One)

Well, that's over. And it was splendid, really. But I can see why the Brits have Boxing Day, a day to recover one's wits; a day to lie belching on the couch whilst watching James Bond and eating left-over Roast Beast and Who-Hash.
Christmas at Rosa's was led up to by a frenzy of home-crafting, everything from felted soap to CD mixes & a Christmas poetry anthology. I still can't tell if the soap is crafty & interesting, or crafty and pathetic, the sort of thing you bring home from summer camp, along with the lanyards, God's Eyes, and macrame owls. It was certainly fun to make, if nothing else, although I felt a little bad foisting off my homemade wares on friends and family. I realized this year just how deeply ingrained it is to want to buy something from a store for people I love on Christmas. In the brilliant essay, 'Xmas and Christmas: A Lost Chapter of Herodotus', C.S. Lewis describes the difference between the cultural holiday called 'Christmas' and the holy day celebrated simultaneously of the same name. I recommend this essay; read it here on: 'the weight of glory', an interesting looking blog around which I'll have a poke later...
Keep Christ in Christmas! A.K.A. Keep Saint in Saint Valentine's Day!
This idea of two different holidays happening on the same day is useful to me, especially when I hear people get all up in arms over keeping 'Christ in Christmas', protesting left and right over the expression, 'Happy Holidays' replacing 'Merry Christmas' in the marketplace. I think these people are confusing their holidays. One is the cultural Christmas, which has to do with feasting, family, gift-giving, and loving our fellow man (for this one time a year), aka 'the holiday spirit'. None of these things are bad, in fact, they're good, and they all have an overlap with the other Christmas, the one that is a religious feast day, celebrating the birth of Christ. But there is nothing intrinsically 'holy' about the first holiday, except as far as all acts of goodwill and charity reflect the One in Whom all goodwill and charity have their origin. And you can easily celebrate both, taking the good things from the former and applying them to the latter. But to be railing against those blasphemers at Stuff Mart for saying Happy Holidays instead of Merry Christmas is just a little misguided. I'd like to see that same energy go towards campaigning against slave trafficking, global poverty and eugenics. I am glad to separate the two holidays, I say let the Saturnalians have their day, and I'll have mine.
(But in case anyone wants to felt their own soap, I've included a link here.)


G and I were practicing 'O Come, All Ye Thankful', which she is singing with the rest of the Vintagelings at church on Sunday. The way she was sort of singing sounds instead of words made it obvious that she had no idea what she was singing. We got to the end, and I said, laughingly, "What in the world does that mean?" "I don't know!" she said, laughing. And then a reflective pause. "Maybe it's in Spanish!"


Rosa's Poetry Archives: Luci Shaw, Mary's Song

Mary’s Song
Luci Shaw

Blue homespun and the bend of my breast
keep warm this small hot naked star
fallen to my arms. (Rest …
you who have had so far to come.)
Now nearness satisfies
the body of God sweetly. Quiet he lies
whose vigor hurled a universe. He sleeps
whose eyelids have not closed before.
His breath (so slight it seems
no breath at all) once ruffled the dark deeps
to sprout a world. Charmed by doves’ voices,
the whisper of straw, he dreams,
hearing no music from his other spheres.
Breath, mouth, ears, eyes
he is curtailed who overflowed all skies,
all years. Older than eternity, now he
is new. Now native to earth as I am, nailed
to my poor planet, caught
that I might be free, blind in my womb
to know my darkness ended,
brought to this birth for me to be new-born,
and for him to see me mended
I must see him torn.


"The Christmas season is domestic; and for that reason most people now prepare for it by struggling in tramcars, standing in queues, rushing away in trains, crowding despairingly into teashops, and wondering when or whether they will ever get home. I do not know whether some of them disappear for ever in the toy shop or simply lie down and die in the tea-rooms; but by the look of them, it is quite likely. Just before the great festival of the home the whole population seems to have become homeless."
G.K. Chesterton, 'The Thing: Why I Am A Catholic

For thus said the Lord God, The Holy One of Israel:
in returning and rest you shall be saved;
in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.
But you refused and said,
"No! We will flee upon horses"-
therefore you shall flee!
and, "We will ride upon swift steeds"-
therefore your pursuers shall be swift!

Therefore the Lord waits to be gracious to you;
therefore he will rise to show mercy to you.
For the Lord is a God of justice;
blessed are all those who wait for him.
Isaiah 30:15,16,18


Hope You're Not Eating Whilst Reading This One......

"D took me to see his parent's grave. As I stood there the soil began to move and I saw something digging up from the middle of it. It looked like four fingers coming up out of the grave. I was terrified. And then I realized it was a crawfish." -L, Lake Charles, Louisiana.

This story was so gruesome that I hesitated to even retell it here. I guess I'm getting it out of the way. Anyone who knows me will know how hard it is for me to even look at this picture, and I am a little surprised that I could handle posting it. I know I'm being unreasonable, but somehow I just don't look at this and think, "Yum, dinner!" I think, "Ack! Run!" But truly, one of the reasons why I avoid eating shrimp/lobster/crab is because they seem like the insects of the sea. And apparently the crawfish is the missing link between earth and water. I always thought that crawdads live solely in fresh water creeks. At least that's what I blithely imagined when I heard tell of crawfish etoufe, or jambalaya; just one more funky crustacean that somehow passes for human food, never dreaming that they actually come from out of the ground. Apparently they're locally known as 'mudbugs'.

Oh, and then there's this one: "You got to suck de head on dem crawdads!" This was from a keychain B and I found in Opelousas, Louisiana. It featured audio files of various popular Cajun sayings, including this one, instructions on what to do with one of these little critters. (Although I would have said, "You got to t'row dem crawdads back!") It's actually useful information-if I was faced with one of these on my dinner plate I would have no idea how to begin. Apparently, the head also contains the pancreas, which has a lot of fat and somehow makes for a tasty dish. Mmm-Mmm!

When we visited 10 years ago we actually came across a family that was fishing for crawdads using leftover Thanksgiving turkey neck. They were on the little bridge that separates Avery Island, home of tabasco sauce, from the mainland. It was about as iconic as you could get without circling alligators and the soundtrack from 'Deliverance' playing in the background.

I don't know what's creepier about this story, the bottom feeder digging around in someone's grave or the fact that crustaceans can just bubble up from the earth. As a gardener, I was appalled, and newly resolved never to live there. Can you imagine? Merrily mucking about in the garden beds trying to get the spring's seedlings in the ground and who comes up for air? Mister Mudbug! Blech. I was told this story over Thanksgiving dinner, and my skin prickled and crawled for hours after....

(and thanks to jciv for this pic from a flickr photostream; it's the subject matter, not the composition that are hard to stomach!)


Louisiana Lagniappe

Well, we are back. And Susan Harwood is right, it is the land of myth and story. It's not for the faint of heart, or the vegetarian. Or the PETA supporter. But it has its own elixir that beckons and delights. On the evening of our arrival, as we drove down Highway 22, the fog was so opaque it was all but indistinguishable from the Spanish moss that hung from the oaks. We crept along, and signs would appear out of the mist, highlighting different aspects of the country we were entering: signs pointing to Rosaryville, signs advertising pirogue rentals (swamp boat), wayside pulpits by the truckload, signs for live bait and fried catfish. The swamps were full of thick, sluggish water and tupelo trees that were already gray-limbed and barren. The gators were all down in the mud, so we didn't see any in situ, only poor ole' Hardhide, who looked bored and irritable in his cement pond, the westbound train rattling past every few hours. G tried to entertain him by getting her finger stuck in the small gauge chicken wire surrounding his pond; she obligingly cried and wailed, and he looked like he might have perked up for a minute, but then B gave said digit a yank and the moment passed. I thought it was nice of her.
My neck was hugged by countless cousins on Thanksgiving Day, a humid day when the tables heaved with food, the turkey was deep-fried and the mosquitoes were sluggish with our blood.
I learned many things, and collected many stories, which I hope eventually to share here.
The whole week was amazing and bizarre and surprisingly full of sweet moments, literally (strawberry-filled beignets covered in mounds of powdered sugar) and figuratively (B's cousin casually tells us after dinner, "Y'all should come outside, there's something very interesting in the front." We dutifully file outside, I'm expecting some sort of critter: gator or swamp rat, but instead from around the side of the house comes a child-size ATV driven by a barefoot 3 year old, G is hanging onto her neck from behind and hollerin' at us, a huge grin on her face. They speed past us, wheels churning in the muddy clay.)
The racism was always there, just under the surface; although it did seem a little deeper under the surface than the last time I was there. Someone brought his black friend to the Thanksgiving celebration, something B said he had never seen before. B's mom drove us through her childhood neighborhood which included what had been the black school in her day. B's ancient and lovely Aunt Bernice taught in rural Louisiana from the 30's until the 70's. I asked her about desegregation and she told me some tales, voice lowered as if we were talking about something not quite nice. And apparently Obama won because, "all those black people voted for him." I'll try to share more stories when I get a chance.
A Family On The Verge
Unfortunately I am on the verge of a cold, as well as being on the verge of an Advent Party this weekend. Not to mention on the verge of a baby, next May. B is on the verge of a play that he is way heavily involved in, it opens next week. I don't know what G is on the verge of, besides literacy and then running for public office (actually, we're holding her back from that until she's at least 5.)

Oh, and visit Susan's Advent Blog! Pictures for Advent
And tell her Rosa sent you.

Read Your Way Through the Garden: Choice Tomes From Garden Literature

  • A Book of Salvias by Betsy Clebsch
  • Botany for Gardeners by Brian Capon
  • Making Bentwood Trellises by Jim Long
  • RHS Encyclopedia of Plants & Flowers
  • Rose Primer: An Organic Approach to Rose Selection & Care by Orin Martin
  • Start With the Soil by Grace Gershuny
  • Sunset Western Garden Book
  • Sunset Western Landscaping Book
  • The Book of Garden Secrets by Patent & Bilderback
  • The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Botany
  • the Gardener's Table: A Guide to Natural Vegetable Growing and Cooking by Richard Merrill & Joe Ortiz
  • The Gardener's Year by Karel Capek
  • The Hutchinson Dictionary of Plant Names: Common & Botanical
  • We Made A Garden by Margaret Fish

lotsa latin: rosa's botanical & etymological ruminations

  • vespertinus: flowers in the evening
  • vernalis:spring
  • veni vidi nates calcalvi: we came, we saw, we kicked butt. This was printed on a T shirt I bought at Abbot's Thrift many years ago. It encircled the NEA symbol. I wish I knew why.
  • superciliaris: shaped like an eyebrow ex: sturnella superciliaris, the White-browed Blackbird
  • rosa-sinensis: species of Hibiscus: Hibiscus rosa-sinensis. Lit. Rosa of China, so named by British plant hunters.
  • placentiformis: shaped like a cake ex: discocactus placentiformis
  • nudiflorus: flowers before leaves show ex: flowering quince, magnolia
  • nivalis: growing in or near snow ex: galanthus nivalis (common snowdrop)
  • muralis: growing on walls
  • mirabilis: marvellous, wonderful
  • formosa: beautiful ex: dicentra formosa, a.k.a.western bleeding heart/dutchman's breeches/lady in a bath
  • carpe vitam: get a life
  • Carolus Linnaeus: Latinized name of Carl von Linne (1707-1778), Swedish naturalist considered the father of plant taxonomy. Whatta guy.