Fall. Now that the small strip of woods between my house and the neighbors on the block opposite is bare of leaves, I can see, from looking up from reading, a sudden spot of red, a blotch of black, a movement of silver-gray. A cardinal, a crow, squirrels in chases and acrobatics. Still color.
Daylight is noticeably less in these days of early dark and later sunrise. The world is moving toward winter solstice and a New Year. I want to treasure each of these dwindling days. I like late fall and winter. I like to see the bareness of trees, their structure. Nature is more basic now. Things become clearer.
Friendship. I have been thinking about friendship this week. My A Fifth Book of Days contains these two quotations about friends and friendship, which I gathered from the past year’s reading:
(1) Just as the sword can cut an arm in two/ Or slice it into bits, dear son, just so / A tongue can sever friendship at a blow. (Chaucer, “The Manciple’s Tale”)
(2) . . . in the case of human beings, friendship is a transitory art, subject to discontinuance without further notice. (O. Henry, “Telemachus, Friend”)
A dear friend who has been dead for decades liked to quote famous writers to support her viewpoints. She often quoted Samuel Johnson, whose exhortation, “A man, Sir, should keep his friendship in contant repair,” she loved and said she tried to keep.
What happens to a friendship when it is not kept “in constant repair”? Words are exchanged. Feelings are hurt. Misunderstandings grow. People become busy. Reparations are not made. The friendship is taken for granted. Another small misunderstanding occurs. And then, sometimes, on a sudden, the friendship–no matter how strong formerly–ends “without further notice.”
It is sad that friendships end. It is sad when they do.
Good people to know. It is a joy to be with people who enjoy their work. There is the piano tuner, who loves the model of the piano, who is proud to bring it to tune, who says, “I will be glad to keep that in good order for you.” There is the art framer, who presenting the job, says “I loved working with the concept of framing the stamps. That’s a great idea for a gift. It was a fun project. Your friends will love this.” There is the dentist, who says, “It was a good challenge to build back that tooth. You’ll not have trouble with it. I’m pleased with my work.” There is the cook, who takes obvious and quiet satisfaction at the expressions of pleasure of the guests.
Advent. December 2. First Sunday of Advent. I realized this summer that I can with integrity retain calling myself a Christian if I think of Jesus and Christ as symbols of love. The three hymns of the first Sunday in Advent at the small town church worked for me.
The first hymn, “Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus” took on a new meaning when I substituted the idea “love” for the name “Jesus”: “Come, thou long-expected Jesus, born to set thy people free; from our fears and sins release us, let us find our rest in thee. Israel’s strength and consolation, hope of all the earth thou art, dear desire of every nation, joy of every longing heart.”
The second hymn, “People, Look East” makes the association with love directly: “Love, the Guest, is on the way.” “Love, the Star, is on the way.” “Love, the Lord, is on the way.”
The third hymn, that incomparable blending of beautiful poetry by Christina Rossetti and magnificent music by Gustav Holst, “In the Bleak Mid-Winter,” along with the other two served as blessings for a start of Advent.
Reading. I am enjoying Christmas at “The New Yorker,” an anthology from writings of the past. The New Yorker has consistently provided good reading from its inception, and I am forever indebted to a friend, who at the end of a visit, sent me home with a stack of them. I soon subscribed and have been a reader since about 1977.
I have just begun what seems to be a good fantasy novel, The Night Circus, by Erin Morgenstern.
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