wishes for a wonder-filled winter solstice

Just a little bit of Christian history some might not know about:

The book, The Sun in the Church reveals that many medieval Catholic churches were also built as solar observatories. The church, once again reinforcing the close ties between religious celebration and seasonal passages, needed astronomy to predict the date of Easter. And so observatories were built into cathedrals and churches throughout Europe. Typically, a small hole in the roof admitted a beam of sunlight, which would trace a path along the floor. The path, called the meridian line, was often marked by inlays and zodiacal motifs. The position at noon throughout the year, including the extremes of the solstices, was also carefully marked.
Holy Blood, Holy Grail discusses the pragmatic political motives of the fourth-century Roman emperor Constantine, who first moved the celebration of Christmas to December 25. The authors claim that Constantine followed the cult of Sol Invictus, a monotheistic form of sun worship that originated in Syria and was imposed by Roman emperors on their subjects a century earlier.
In the interests of unity, Constantine deliberately chose to blur the distinctions among Christianity, Mithraism [another Sun cult of the time] and Sol Invictus. This is the reason why Constantine decreed that Sunday — “the venerable day of the sun” would be the official day of rest. Early Christians before that time celebrated their holy day on the Jewish Sabbath, Saturday. That’s also why, by his edict, the book further claims, the celebration of Jesus’ birthday was moved from January 6th (Epiphany today) to December 25, celebrated by the cult of Sol Invictus as Natilis Invictus, the rebirth of the sun. The cult of Sol Invictus (Unconquered Sun) was a comparatively late (3rd century BCE) arrival from the East (Syria). It became the chief imperial cult of the Roman Empire, until it was replaced by Christianity. In the old calendar the winter solstice (Bruma = shortest [day]) fell on Dec. 25, so this was the day on which Sol proved Himself to be yet unconquered.
The 12 Days of Christmas — The midwinter festival of the ancient Egyptians celebrated the birth of Horus – son of Isis (the divine mother-goddess). The celebration was 12 days long, reflecting their 12-month calendar. 12 Around 1 The Alchemy of Time
This concept took firm root in many other cultures. In 567 AD, Christians adopted it. Church leaders proclaimed the 12 days from December 25 to Epiphany as a sacred, festive season.
This winter holiday/holyday season is rooted in almost every culture. It’s too bad that some religions insist on taking credit for it all.

a small span of safety

There was something odd about the view out our kitchen windows this morning. It’s funny what you notice even when you don’t think you’re noticing anything. I look out that window several times a day, but I didn’t think I was ever really seeing what was there.
Apparently I was, because this morning I eventually realized that there were large mounds where there weren’t any yesterday — various sizes, the color of winter earth, still as stone, embedded in the glistening snow.
And then one moved.
And then another.
Eight in all, the herd of deer rose, one by one, and slowly left our property, stopping still in unison every now and then to listen.
Three miles down the road is hunters’ territory, but the deer know that they won’t be hurt here. After all, didn’t I let them eat from my meager garden all summer?
If had a young child here, maybe I would have said, “Look, Santa’s reindeer are going to meet him and Rudolph at the North Pole. Look there are all eight of them.”
If the child were my five-year old grandson, no doubt he would have said, “But they don’t have any antlers.”
And I might have said, “Well, maybe they put them on when they get to Santa’s.”
Or maybe I would have just said, “Look at the herd of deer — a whole family, with fathers and mothers and children. They are looking for a safe place, and they stopped here for a while because they know it’s safe and we won’t hurt them. Now let’s go put out some food for the birds.”
And when the deer were finally out of sight, I put out some food for the birds.

pets, part 3

The following post is by MYRLN, a non-blogger who is Kalilily Time’s guest writer every Monday.
PETS (3)
Finally, after Biscuit 1 and Biscuit 2, there came Saffron. “Saffron?” you say. “What kinda name is that for a dog?” And you’d be right. It’s lousy for a dog, but it perfectly fit a yellow-furred cat. And that’s what Saffron was.
For someone whose only pets had been of the canine variety, the sudden presence of this spice-named feline (long before the Spice Girls came along) was disconcerting and puzzling. How do you relate to a cat? “Here Saffron,” got no response, not even a fleeting glance. Whistling got even less than nothing (oh, maybe an occasional minor ear perk). He had no interest in anything its human family wanted of him. His was a wholly imperious manner. But when it wanted, then a yowling, meowing, or scratching made clear the “King” wanted what he wanted. No canine give and take at all. You had to wonder who was the dependent pet. This distant yellow entity certainly wasn’t.
Until…some time later, after a kind of mutual disregard was established. Then the Saffron King changed his tune. Say you’re lying on the floor, maybe watching t.v., or better yet, taking a snooze. There then comes a light poking at the side of your chest, and at first you ignore it, thinking it’s one of the kids having fun. But the touch persists, so light as to be almost tentative, like an uncertain inquiry. So you peek and discover the imperious one standing there, one paw softly on you. His gaze fixes on yours, and when you raise a hand, scratch between his ears, he blinks and climbs fully onto your chest, settles himself there — face to face — kneads your chest lightly with both paws and begins to purr. And you feel it over your heart, the barest vibration, and you watch as his eyes slowly, slowly close and you feel yours follow suit until all becomes a grey ease directed by the steady purring. And you know a wholly new relationship has been created. And you find y ou like it. You’ve been made a cat-lover.
So it becomes a kind of ritual. Lie on the floor and Saffron is there: a gentle poke always used by him. He never just climbs aboard. He has acknowledged the territory is yours and requires permission to enter. And every occurence becomes a period of total and peaceful relaxation. As if cat has become an entity of quietude.
It doesn’t always occur at ritual time. It erupts at any time. With no forewarning, the cat becomes a furry flurry of mad action. Up he leaps, stretching upward on tip-toes, then off he goes — racing wildly and without objective in any and all directions. He races living room to kitchen to dining room, back to the starting point, then wildly up the six stairs to the bedroom hall at breakneck speed and abandon, spinning back with a yowl and leaping down the stairs. He repeats the pointless journey 2 or 3 more times then stops abruptly and sits quietly at ease near the fireplace, preening himself before settling and curling into a long nap.
In their most extreme moments, neither pet of old — the 2 Biscuits — ever produced any such display. It’s as if cat — this Saffron — sends out a message with his mad romp: I can get crazy, too.
No kidding.
Good Saffron.


Saffron and friend, circa 1975

a sad missing piece

There once was a woman whose web site, Mandarin Design, provided all the help I ever needed in terms of formating posts on Kalilily Time.
I took her website for granted, long after she had left her difficult real life behind. Her legacy still existed in the virtual world, and I greedily took for granted that her creative codes would always be there for me.
But no more. Her domain name expired, as you will see if you click on the link above.
It’s as if she died a second time.

hats of our fathers

I remember my father standing beside the open grave, his head bowed, his hands clasped low in front, as the priest prayed for my dead uncle’s soul. My father was a funeral director, and he often wore a black fedora when attending that kind of scene.
I still have that hat. I used to wear it back in the late 80s (he passed away in 1984), although I had to pad the inside circumference so that it fit my head. Aside from a few lapel pins, it’s the only tangible thing I have left of my Dad’s. I’m not sure why it was his hat that I chose to keep. I think I saw it as a symbolic of all he was.
And so I was moved by the following poem, one of Jim Culleny’s daily poetry emails.

My Grandfather’s Hat
in memory of basiliso Morot Cordero
Judith Ortiz Cofer
I cannot stop thinking of that old hat.
He is wearing it in the grave; the last gift
of love from his wife before they fell
into the habit of silence.
Forgotten as the daughters chose
the funeral clothes, it sat
on his dresser as it always had:
old leather, aromatic of his individual self,
pliable as an old companion, ready to go
anywhere with him.
The youngest grandchild remembered
and ran after her father, who was carrying
the old man’s vanilla suit — the one worn to bodas,
bautismos, and elections — like a lifeless
child in his arms: No te olvides
del sombrero de abuelo.
I had seen him hold the hat in his lap
and caress it as he talked of the good times,
and when he walked outside, place it on his head
like a blessing.
My grandfather, who believed on God,
the Gracious Host, Proprietor of the Largest Hacienda.
May it be so. May heaven
be an island in the sun,
where a good man may wear his hat with pride,
glad that he could take it with him.

an a-theist notebook, part 1

Since I’m not a theist, then I guess I must be an atheist. Actually, I call myself an atheist, an eclectic atheist.
Several months ago, after I blogged about that, I got a call from the BBC and wound up being on one of their talk shows, the subject of which was “bringing up children to be atheists.” I didn’t do badly, considering there were some very well-known atheist/writers also on the show.
The other day I got a call again from the BBC. This time the subject was “is Christianity retreating.” As fate would have it, as I was supposed to say my piece, my mother appeared at my side, nudging the way a child does for attention. My mind immediately slipped out of gear, and what I said, I think, was entirely off the wall. It must have been because they certainly didn’t ask me to say any more.
But I do have more to say, triggered by my overhearing some staff in my dentist’s office ordering buttons that say “You can wish me a Merry Christmas.”
Oddly enough, an article in the conservative Heritage Foundation’s web site reflects, in a kind of mirror-image way, what I see going on, especially during this Christmas/Holiday season:

But this is about more than Christmas, whose real meaning can certainly get lost in the orgy of gift giving and parties. It is Judeo-Christian culture itself that is under attack as the religious foundation of the Western World, be the example du jour legal challenges to the Ten Commandments on a wall in a courtroom in Alabama, protests against the Pledge of Allegiance with its reference to “one nation under God,” or the banning of religious groups meeting in public schools. The issue of gay marriage became a symbol of these trends in the November presidential election.

In Europe, framers of the new EU constitution, after much debate, agreed to remove Christianity from the preamble. Amazingly, the Archbishop of York this month told the BBC, “I’d be a bit hard pushed to say we were a Christian country.” (Opinion polls actually indicate that 60 percent of the British consider themselves Christians.) A new study, “Muslims and the Future of Europe,” by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, writes that Islam is the fastest growing religion in Europe. “The centrality of Islam in the lives of so many European Muslims is hard for increasingly secular Scandinavians, Germans and Frenchmen to understand.”

Well, yeah
While the Heritage Foundation article thinks it’s making a case for Christianity somehow being persecuted, it’s actually making a case for why Christianity needs to accept and adjust to it’s lessening role in the religious scheme of things.
Is Christianity retreating? If so, not willingly. It’s retreating because it’s being forced to by current reality; Christians are circling their wagons because they are feeling threatened by the increasing visibility and vociferousness of those who are non-religious or non-Christian. They seem to view the assertiveness of non-Christians as an assault on them rather than an effort of these “others” to finally hold their own space.
With the increasing visibility of Islam comes a painful awareness, on the part of Christians, of the existence of at least one another major religion (besides Judaism, of course).
According to the U.S. Defense Department website: :

Islam is the second-largest religion in the world, counting more than 1.3 billion believers. Americans have the misconception that all Muslims are Arabs and that all Arabs are Muslims. In fact, less than 20 percent of the Muslims in the world are Arab, and all Arab countries have populations that believe in other religions. The nation with the world’s largest Islamic population is Indonesia — 88 percent of its 280 million people are Muslims.

In the United States, Islam is the fastest growing religion, a trend fueled mostly by immigration. There are 5 million to 7 million Muslims in the United States. They make up between 10,000 and 20,000 members of the American military.

So, now it’s Christmas, and Christians are feeling defensive and possessive about their “holy day,” always forgetting, of course, that not only does this winter holiday have ancient non-Christian roots, but also the fact that December 25 is NOT the day that Jesus was born.
Do I wish people Merry Christmas? I sure do. I’m in perfect agreement with the sentimentss posted on this blog, which include the following:

I used to have a very good friend who became an aggressive, in your face Christian. He once told me that an Atheist who celebrated Christmas was hypocritical. I’ve been told that Atheists can’t even CALL the holiday Christmas because they don’t believe in Christ.

Hogwash! Midwinter celebrations existed long before Christ was invented. The midwinter Solstice, the shortest day of the year was seen as significant. The Roman festival of Saturnalia was celebrated before the birth of Christ. Christmas symbols are older than the supposed birth of Christ. Gathering together with friends, over food and gifts is a tradition that precedes Christmas.

And why shouldn’t I call this holiday Christmas? Just because I do call it Christmas doesn’t mean I’m being hypocritical, any more than I would be in naming the days of the week.

Wait, you didn’t know? Every day of the week is named after a different God.

In order, they are: Mani – Moon God, Tyr – War God, Woden – aka Odin, Thor – Thunder God, Fringe – God of Beauty (and 5 ‘o Clock Friday IS beautiful!), Saturn – God who ate his children, and Sunna – a Sun Goddess.


The current “War Against Christmas” rhetoric by those few on the loudly squawking right is working against the best interests of Christians. And it is definitely undermining the spirit of Christmas.

I trust that any non-believer would whole-heartedly support the true spirit of Christmas – “Peace on Earth, Goodwill toward all.” A very worthy, human sentiment.

May your Christmas be merry – what ever that means to you.

You can wish me a Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Merry Yule, Happy Solstice, or any other greeting that reflects your own wishes for Peace on Earth and Good Will Toward All. And I will offer the same wishes in return

pets, part 2

The following post is by MYRLN, a non-blogger who is Kalilily Time’s guest writer every Monday.
PETS (2)
Many years after the Gordon Setter, a Labrador/Collie mix in a coat of shiny black fur came along. He was christened Biscuit as a tribute to the long-ago dog originally so-named. This one shared with his namesake an insistence that people, above all, were friends to be cultivated. He like to achieve that by bumping standing legs or seeking to be a lapdog on sitting legs, ignoring the fact that his size and weight precluded that approach even with a willing human.
This Biscuit’s hunting prowess was restricted to following scents over the entirety of his hillside property and occasionally listening intently in the direction of the woods on the rest of the hill behind the house. Such listening saved him the effort of a steep climb. Overall, the notion of capturing anything other than a good belly rub or ear scratching from his human companions always seemed of no real interest.
But in deep winter, this Biscuit excelled. No, he had no ability to shovel a path or help clear the steep and rutted dirt driveway, but he loved being out with anyone charged with those tasks. And the deeper the snow, the higher the drifts, the more he enjoyed it. For it was then that he, in effect, morphed from dog to something best described as a 4-legged arctic seal.
Yes, seal.
Turned loose in the frigid environment, he began his usual scent-searching. But on the snow’s surface, he clearly had even less luck than usual. Then every so often, he stopped sniffing and stood as if listening, and then in a flash, thrust himself head-first into the snow. He didn’t dig into it. He dove and kept pushing with his legs until, often, half his body penetrated the drift, and he stayed down in it a bit, twisting side to side. Then, snow-coated, he’d withdraw, snuffle loudly or sneeze his nose clear of snow, move a short distance away and repeat the thrusting dive. From a distance, he indeed resembled a seal (save for the waving tail) surfacing then plunging into the sea, albeit a frozen one.
As with his non-snow hunts, he caught nothing. But then again, he never at any time seemed to want to. There was plenty of game around — field mice, moles, squirrels, rabbits — but for him, the fun was in the search, and the diving, not the capture. But in the deep snow? What was he thinking? Then years later, long after he was gone, a t.v. documentary showed how, in winter, wolves hunted: by thrusting themselves headfirst into the deep snow, just as “Seal” Biscuit had. The wolves could hear and feel movement at the point where snow and earth met. There they would dive.
Must have been a genetically ancient memory Biscuit obeyed. But he might have starved had his human family not fed him well.
Or maybe he understood that point all along and knew self-preserving capture was irrelevant. Again, it was the fun of the diving that mattered, particularly when his human family laughed and praised his antics.
Good dog, Biscuit, good dog.


Biscuit 2 and friend, 1968

so much like a child

She eats on her own schedule and doesn’t each much. She doesn’t like the foods she used to relish. I’m still trying to figure out what she will agree to eat.
She sleeps on her own schedule, getting up and down all night long and then napping during the day. When she gets overtired during the day, she cries, develops pains where tests have shown there should be no pain, whimpers that she’s scared, she’s scared.
I don’t remember my kids as infants requiring as much care and attention as she does. Or maybe it seems that way because we could distract them with toys and games.
But there is no distracting my mother’s dementia from it’s intent. She fears that she’s going crazy. I fear that I am, too.


I’m feeling my entropy (4th definition.)
Earlier this week, I had my hearing aids tuned. Today I had to have another tooth pulled. My acid reflux is back in business. And my opthomologist has strongly suggested that I get my cataracts removed sooner rather than later.
And Ronni Bennett has closed up shop at timegoesby.net
For the past four years, Ronni has been tirelessly exploring the kinds of issues that confront elders — those of us older than 60 or 65 who have to deal, not only with the physical results of aging, but also with some of our society’s attitudes about those of us who are now in the last third or last fourth of our lives.
I suppose that there are ways in which “older is better.” If we have learned from our experiences, we might have accumulated some wisdom. If we can still learn and stretch our minds, there is much we can enjoy that we might not have had time for, before. But getting old often does mean that, while the spirit is willing, the flesh is weak. As are the bones, the eyes, and the joints.
We are each entropy in motion. Slow motion.

you don’t have to be there to be there

Last Christmas, I sent out a card with a picture of my mom, in a Santa hat, sitting at her Lowry organ.
This year, I decided to send out a family picture, since my cousins and other relatives never get to see my kids. However, I don’t have a photo with all of the family together, since we don’t live near each other and never seem to be in the same place at the same time. So, with the digital magic of my photo program, I’ve brought us all together for the holidays. At least virtually.