Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Not All Is Cozy As We

I hope everyone is enjoying as peaceful and cozy Christmas as I am. It started last night with a beautiful meal of portabello mushooms over Basmati rice shared with my friend E while listening to fiddle tunes and enjoying catching up. I topped that off when I got home by playing a few tunes and starting to learn a new one, "Old Bunch of Keys," before settling in with some rum-laced hot chocolate and about 30 minutes of the Big Show at the Vatican (honestly, the looks on those faces. Did anyone catch it? The Pope looked like all he wanted was to go home and have an eggnog.)

This morning, I woke up warm and cozy in my own bed. I had my favorite hot cereal for breakfast, made a batch of my family's favorite holiday cookie, and managed to get everything and myself cleaned up. My kids and my sister all called to wish me a merry day, and I enjoyed hearing what their mornings had brough (my niece got up at 4 AM). While my laundry tosses warm in the dryer I'm about to enjoy a bowl of cheese tortellini with smokey sauted pecans. The sun is out so I'm going to lace up my boots and hit the trail. Later today after I put away my warm fluffy laundry, I will take in a movie, and come home to make a lovely indian dish for dinner before settling in for an extreme busy two days in the office.

When I woke up today, I realized how lucky I am. I have a good home, beautiful healthy kids, more clothes and linens and cups and dishes than I need, good food and the desire to cook it (this pasta with pecans is delicious, btw), wonderful friends and family, a second career that I love with people who are amazing, a car that runs most of the time, and my health. That makes it Christmas every day.

I also realized that far away, there are lots of people all over the world who aren't so lucky. For one thing, this war in Iraq just seems ceaseless, and as the race for President continues to heat up, I just don't see a lot of hope on either side for putting an end to it. If not there, then inevitably there will be war somewhere, because humans seem incapable of living with differences.

There's no better song for today than this beautiful classic by John McCutcheon, Christmas In The Trenches. It's based on true events of World War I, when German and Allied troops in France called a halt to the fighting just long enough to celebrate Christmas. But then it was back to the business of killing. Known as The Christmas Truce, it's celebrated in McCutcheon's ballad.

I wish all of you peace, joy, love, and the time for reflection on all the good things life has given you, all the lessons you have learned, and all the temerity to push forward into the New Year. Please also take a moment to send a peaceful thought to all soldiers of every nation, who find themselves far away from their families and some with no hope of return.

Christmas in the Trenches
by John McCutcheon

My name is Francis Tolliver, I come from Liverpool.
Two years ago the war was waiting for me after school.
To Belgium and to Flanders, to Germany to here
I fought for King and country I love dear.
'Twas Christmas in the trenches, where the frost so bitter hung,
The frozen fields of France were still, no Christmas song was sung
Our families back in England were toasting us that day
Their brave and glorious lads so far away.

I was lying with my messmate on the cold and rocky ground
When across the lines of battle came a most peculiar sound
Says I, "Now listen up, me boys!" each soldier strained to hear
As one young German voice sang out so clear.

"He's singing bloody well, you know!" my partner says to me
Soon, one by one, each German voice joined in harmony
The cannons rested silent, the gas clouds rolled no more
As Christmas brought us respite from the war

As soon as they were finished and a reverent pause was spent
"God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen" struck up some lads from Kent
The next they sang was "Stille Nacht." "Tis 'Silent Night'," says I
And in two tongues one song filled up that sky

"There's someone coming toward us!" the front line sentry cried
All sights were fixed on one long figure trudging from their side
His truce flag, like a Christmas star, shown on that plain so bright
As he, bravely, strode unarmed into the night

Soon one by one on either side walked into No Man's Land
With neither gun nor bayonet we met there hand to hand
We shared some secret brandy and we wished each other well
And in a flare-lit soccer game we gave 'em hell

We traded chocolates, cigarettes, and photographs from home
These sons and fathers far away from families of their own
Young Sanders played his squeezebox and they had a violin
This curious and unlikely band of men

Soon daylight stole upon us and France was France once more
With sad farewells we each prepared to settle back to war
But the question haunted every heart that lived that wonderous night
"Whose family have I fixed within my sights?"

'Twas Christmas in the trenches where the frost, so bitter hung
The frozen fields of France were warmed as songs of peace were sung
For the walls they'd kept between us to exact the work of war
Had been crumbled and were gone forevermore

My name is Francis Tolliver, in Liverpool I dwell
Each Christmas come since World War I, I've learned its lessons well
That the ones who call the shots won't be among the dead and lame
And on each end of the rifle we're the same

© 1984 John McCutcheon - All rights reserved

German and Russian soldiers together on the Eastern front, Christmas 1914.



At December 25, 2007 10:17 PM, Blogger Anne said...

Merry Merry, Sister!

At December 25, 2007 11:17 PM, Blogger Shameless Agitator said...

Merry Quiet Christmas...


At December 26, 2007 10:36 PM, Blogger Mando Mama said...

Hello my sisters,
While I thought of my children as I always do, the day was amazing. Even though I spent it alone except for the loved ones I spoke with on the phone, it was really, truly one of the best Christmases I've ever had. Everyone needs a day like that to appreciate how good life is and to celebrate it.

At December 29, 2007 5:12 PM, Blogger DrDon said...

Belated wishes Mando. Hope New Year's is as pleasant.

At January 08, 2008 10:44 AM, Blogger dollard said...

Merry Christmas -- two weeks late! I was at my in-laws with GLACIALLY slow email.

Love the piece on the Christmas truce, and the song as well! There's a great piece on this in "Rites of Spring" by Modris Eksteins (Chapter 3), if you're ever bored & looking for a read.


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