Monday, December 31, 2012

This is the last day of December, the last of 2012 and we are still here. Not so surprising. There have been many predictions of the end of the world. Each one has come and gone with no particular change except that many of them have made money for some people and have caused a lot of others a great deal of mental anguish. Others are simply amusing.

Often, practical considerations prevent a total belief in end of the world prophesies. When I was in college in the late fifties, there was a belief that the world would end shortly. The prediction had been made by someone with many followers and was widely publicized. I was dating a girl (who would later become my wife) who had a curious interest in the event. The prediction was very specific. The world was to end at exactly 10:14 AM on October 23rd, or something like that. As the date came closer, Mariellen talked more about it. Finally the day dawned and the fateful hour came and passed. I knew Mariellen’s schedule and waited for her as she came from class. “Well?” I asked her as she approached. “Well what?” she answered, genuinely at a loss as to what I meant. “It’s past 10:14 and the world didn’t end,” I reminded her. “Oh my gosh,” she exclaimed, “I had a Spanish test and forgot all about it.”

But all that is in the past. This year is different. At least I think so. It feels different. It’s difficult to explain. There’s a presence of something lighter. It might be called hope. That’s odd in view of our nation’s current fiscal trauma and the miscellaneous troubles present in the world. Perhaps that change in things is what the Mayan calendar predicted and what I am experiencing. Of course it might be just me, my own personal attitude that has taken an upswing for some unexplainable reason. But that’s the way I feel and it’s probably not a bad attitude to have for the start of the new year. So Happy New Year to you all. We survived. Now, let us survive well.

Monday, December 24, 2012

This is Christmas Eve. There is something very warm and magical about that. In the past I’ve written quite a bit about all the things I find to be objectionable about the holiday of Christmas, the fact that there is more emphasis on the business aspect of it than the peace and love that it should inspire. This year is different somehow. It’s not that I’ve changed my mind about the commercialism. I guess it’s my perspective on the matter. That is it. It just occurred to me as I write this piece. That explains my putting up the Christmas tree early, my feeling good, my warm feelings toward others.

I am tempted to go on writing to explain my feelings about this in more detail, both to you and to me, but I feel that is totally unnecessary. I’ll leave that for another time. A Christmas wish should be very brief and to the point. I’ll simply repeat that there is something very warm and magical about Christmas and despite all the hype and commercialism that has crept into the holiday over the years, that magic remains.

So—have a Merry Christmas and a Very Happy New Year. All of us. We all deserve it.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

I didn’t post anything on this blog last week. I’ve been working on writing a novel and not making too much progress lately. There have been too many things interfering. Last week I got a chance to work on it rather steadily and I just didn’t want to stop to do anything else—therefore my not posting on the blog. The novel was going well and I didn’t want to interfere with that. I hope to have the first draft done by the first of the year or shortly thereafter.

Drafts is the correct term to be used when referring to the stages of writing through which a novel goes—draft 1, 2, 3, etc. . . . final (or is it?).  Lately, I’ve been thinking that layers is more descriptive of the process. It’s rather similar to the way one does a painting, laying out a base of some sort, sometimes sketching out the entire work, or sometimes just starting, then going over with subsequent changes, adding this, removing or overpainting that, and all the while facing the possibility of losing the spontaneity of the work.

In the movie, Finding Forester, an author is giving a young writer advice on writing. Don’t think in setting down the first draft, the young man is told. The time for thinking will come later. I think that’s pretty much the way it is. The first draft or layer comes from inspiration—one’s muse. Subsequent drafts or layers are the place for correcting or refining. Then comes the problem of knowing when to quit. When is a work ‘finished’? When you’re satisfied with it? Does that ever happen?

Much on the same subject, I was once asked which of my pieces of writing is my favorite. The answer to that is easy: it’s the one I’m working on. After that comes another one, another favorite—for a while, anyway.

Monday, December 3, 2012

I put up my Christmas tree last Friday. That is the earliest I have ever done that. I put Christmas candles (electric) in the windows, too. Why? I’m really not sure. It might be because I think that the end of the world via the worst theories inspired by the Mayan prophecies will cause the twelve days of Christmas to be non-existent this year. No, that’s not it. Maybe I have been scarred by the merchant portion of our society that moves the season of Christmas spirit to an earlier place in the calendar every year, but I don’t think so.

For a great deal of my life I was of the opinion that the twelve days of Christmas was a pretty good way to celebrate the holiday. My wife and I used to put our tree up on Christmas Eve and take it down on January Sixth. I thought that worked pretty well and carried that tradition on for years.  Our friends had their own ideas and the season saw trees being set up and decorated at all times. For most of our friends it was whenever they had time. The commercial establishments, as I mentioned before, made their own rules. The earliest I ever saw Christmas displays was one day when I stopped into a store near Meadville PA on the day after Labor Day and found them being installed. I wasn’t a resident of the Meadville area so I never had the opportunity of finding out whether the store’s merchandising efforts were successful or not.

On the other end of things, the longest I ever heard of a Christmas tree being left up was when a friend of ours had an argument with her husband. She wanted him to take the tree down and he procrastinated. If he didn’t take it down, she vowed, she certainly would not. The tree stayed up, I recall, until June. I don’t remember who finally did take it down. I guess someone did. Maybe it was the new owner of the house after the divorce. As far as other Christmas decorations go, I believe another record was set by a neighbor of ours. After going to the trouble of putting outdoor lights on the eaves of his house, he left them there. He simply installed a switch for convenience in following years.

But back to the question of why I put my tree up so early, I’ve been trying to puzzle that out as I’ve been writing this piece and I really haven’t reached any conclusions. Perhaps I just felt like it—felt like enjoying them. I can watch the blues, greens, reds and yellows of the lights glitter as I walk past or look up at them from a book or magazine. I just felt like doing that this year. I’ll take the tree down in accord with my old schedule. I’ll do that on twelfth night. And as for why I put the tree up for December first? Why not? After all, is five weeks or so too long to enjoy something?