Ten things I don’t like about December

  1. Too dark. It’s not just waking up and going to bed in the dark. Where I live, it also means going to work in the dark and coming home in the same. And that’s coming from someone who’s officially retired.
  2. Too cold. Where I live, we’re just not used to it yet.
  3. Too many shoppers. That means long lines at the cash register everywhere.
  4. And all that shopper traffic. Parking lots are full. Traffic lights are backed up.
  5. Everybody’s snarly. Can’t blame them. So am I.
  6. Santa Claus ditties. They’re coming out of ceilings everywhere. They have nothing to do with the birth of the Christ Child.
  7. Lying to innocent children. These presents don’t come from a fat man in a red suit, for starters. He doesn’t come down a chimney anywhere in the world. And telling them all this blarmy undermines their trust in anything else we tell them, especially about Jesus.
  8. Guilt, paralysis, and panic. For guys, especially, this hits hard about three days before the big event, when we still haven’t figured out what to get anyone.
  9. Everything else stops. Do I really need to explain this?
  10. It’s all about the Holiday Season. Or more accurately, holiday shopping. Let’s be honest and admit that what’s happening has very little to do with what should be happening.

They’re balancing the ring in Petronella

A style of community dance popular in New England since Colonial times, contras start out as two lines of partners facing each other and then the next couple on each side. There’s a live band and callers, and we walk through the sequence of steps before the music begins. The whole point is to have fun, and you wind up dancing with everyone in the line before the piece is finished. This example is from the  Lamprey River Band’s dance series in Dover’s city hall before the monthly event moved to a Unitarian-Universalist church in neighboring Durham. This particular dance is named Petronella.

A different paradigm of family

My novel What’s Left was precipitated by the structure of a book I’d just read – four sections of four chapters each. Somehow, I just knew this was what I needed for the material already floating around in my head, even though at this point I hadn’t been thinking of writing another novel. But this triggered it.

I’d been reflecting on the ending of my newly recast Freakin’ Free Spirits narrative, where the protagonist lands in a circle of bohemian siblings who have inherited a restaurant. At the time, with only a general acquaintance of a few individuals in the tradition, I intuitively identified them as Greek-American, in part, I recall, as an attempt to suggest a bridging of two ancient wisdoms – the Buddhism from the East and ancient Greek teaching in the West – and in part as a vague awareness of the prevalence of this ethnic group’s ownership of restaurants across the country, possibly including the one that provided a foundation for the one in my story.

In revisiting that ending, though, I felt a need for an understanding of how the siblings turned to Tibetan Buddhism in the first place and why they were now actively hippie, which in turn needed a clearer presentation. Viz, as I’ve been arguing, hippies came (and still come) in many varieties, and no one probably ever fit in the mass-media stereotype.

What became clear to me as I considered the issues was that I needed a backstory, one that winds up going back two generations rather than one. This, in turn, presents another challenge: how many named characters can a reader follow? Since my new novel is told by the daughter of the earlier protagonist, this could get very messy. Remember, the restaurant was inherited by a circle of siblings.

I do employ several turns in the plot to keep maintain a focus, but in doing so, I’m reminded of an insight I had my genealogy research when I noted four Hodgin brothers marrying four Ozbun sisters (or some such, it’s the concept that counts here). What I saw here somehow goes beyond our modern isolated, small nuclear family household in which a husband is expected to fulfill all of a set of expectations and the wife, another. Instead, I’ve wondered how much of those expectations could be spread across the siblings. Not that I go quite that far in my newest novel or at least that blatantly. But the daughter is quite aware of how different her extended family is from those of her classmates.

Ten popular Hindu deities

Nobody knows how many gods and goddesses there are in Hinduism. Some say more than 100,000. They’re likely to pop up in places like the ashram in my novel Yoga Bootcamp.

Here are ten of the most popular.

  1. Shiva. The destroyer, especially of evil.
  2. Parvati. His wife. Goddess of fertility, love, and devotion. Also known as Uma.
  3. Vishnu. The preserver or protector.
  4. Lakshmi. His consort and shakti (source of energy). Goddess of wealth, fortune, and prosperity.
  5. Brahma. The creator or self-born.
  6. Saraswati. His consort. Goddess of knowledge, art, music, learning, and wisdom.
  7. Ram or Rama. The seventh avatar (incarnation) of Vishnu.
  8. Krishna. The eighth avatar (incarnation) of Vishnu.
  9. Ganesh or Ganesha. A popular, comical son of Shiva who gained his elephant head as the result of one of his father’s wild rampages with a sword. A kid can’t go headless, can he? Let’s see what we can find as a substitute.
  10. Hanuman. He’s monkey-faced and an ardent devotee of Lord Rama. Some versions have him as a son of Shiva. He’s popular for all kinds of reasons.