Monday, December 24, 2007

Brief Encounter (A Holiday Story)

Here is a holiday story I wrote in 1994. The story, to me, tells a little of what I hope for in this season. It was also my first experiment in 2nd person narration -- I really wanted the reader to feel the story was happening to him or her. Feel free to share the story as long as you respect my copyright. The version that appears here is almost exactly as I originally penned it. I hope all those who visit my humble blog will appreciate it on some level. Merry Holy Days!
Brief Encounter Not even close. It’s December 13, almost 7pm, and you're not even close to getting done. But then, holiday preparations are never truly over, are they? The lights and the decorations. The tree, the trimmings. The food, the drink. And the gifts. Oh, Gods! the gifts... "If I bump into one more shopper or excited child, or if I have to speak to just one more merchant, I may..." But you never finish the thought. You let it go in favor of something more practical: "I have to get out of here." You make your way through the sea of patrons, dodging and weaving, participating in some complex and ultimately energy-sapping dance. It takes some effort to reach the main doors, but you smile with pride: Didn’t drop a single package. Exiting into the night, you feel a rush of crisp air hurry to your face. Snow tonight? Doubtful, but anything is possible. Anything, perhaps, save what happens next. You notice him emerge slowly from behind a small tree, which is surprising because he is much taller, much larger, than you would have expected, not that you ever expected to actually see him. The trademark items seem to be in place: the beard (though much darker in color) and the fur trimmed clothing, which is not nearly as cartoonish as you have seen in movies or even imagined. And it’s green! He looks right at you and moves to close the distance. No one else notices him, though he comes quite close to brushing elbows with several shoppers. And he makes no effort to avoid being fully illumined in the streetlights; it just happens that way. When he reaches you, you are surprised yet again. His unkempt beard is not only darker than you expected, it is reddish-brown in color! Professional coloring? Maybe, but it does look natural. As he removes his hat, you gaze upon his rugged yet joyful features and wonder why you always pictured him as a balding man. He is pleased that you recognize him; how you actually know that cannot quite be said. You just … know. Once he has your attention, he begins a dialogue. "And so,” says the man in green, his voice boisterous and strangely calm all at once, “how may’st you spend the seventeenth day of this the twelfth month?” You find yourself bowing ever so slightly and somewhat absently. He winks, smiles, and continues, “If you will excuse such a breach of formality.” You begin to form an answer, but it's too much effort to explain. “I just don't know,” you offer flatly. True, your friends are having a little party on that same day. But with so very much to be done this very busy season, how can you possibly commit to any activity save completing the tasks set and accepted as your own? The wind increases its volume such that it blankets all sounds not directly within earshot. You shiver, but your coverings keep you quite warm. He somehow knows what you are thinking. You can’t be certain how he could know, but you suffer no discomfit. He stretches out his hands and gestures toward the mall. “There is much more to this season than the garish consumer’s plague that seems to have conquered the holidays. Long before the obligatory exchange of parcels and packages came to pass, people knew truly how to observe the closing of the year.” He takes in a deep, solemn breath before continuing. “When the darkness of winter lay heavy upon the land, no crops grew, but the people drank, sang, loved and fought in their great halls. Their communal celebrations were a mighty affirmation of light against dark, life against death.” He smiles at his recollection and, for a moment, seems very far away. You feel sad for him, but quickly come to your senses. After all, you have much to do. This old relic may be content to live in the past, but you're much too practical for that. Times do change after all. His chuckle catches you off-guard. Again, he seems to know your thoughts. “Times do not change; people do. Even if thou think’st that all have forgotten, some do yet persist in the memory.” He pauses. His smile seems to broaden, but it’s actually his eyes—great twinkling emeralds—that smile so greatly. Those eyes draw you in closer until you hear him say, nearly whispering, “And the practice!” Practice? What does he mean by that? For the first time you feel both excited and frightened, wishing to flee but rooted firmly in place. “Dear one,” he continues in soothing tones, “Do not become so caught up in doing, and planning, buying and fretting that you forget. This season is for revelry, mirth and spiritual asylum. Love is the only true gift of this season.” You ponder his words. For a moment, you can hear the celebrations of old. The parking lot shifts in your view, replaced by a Yuletide gathering. You feel—really feel—a sense of love and communal connection in your heart. His voice echoes all around you, “I danced with them, and I would dance with you!” As the Yuletide scene fades from view, you blink your eyes and turn to ask the man in green a question. But he is gone. You are all alone in the parking lot. Had he truly been here? You know he doesn’t, couldn’t exist. Right? And if he did, why would he pay you a brief visit in this crowded mall parking lot. In your heart, the answer sings bold and true. “Season’s Greetings!” you shout out loud as you dance to your car. © December 1994, All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

RavenCast: Yule 2007 Episode

I received this notice via one of my mailing lists:
Ravencast has just put up our Yule podcast. We discuss practical ways to celebrate Yule, talk with Rick Oberg about what he does and have a "polite" discussion about the roots of Mr. Claus. You can download it via any podcatcher or at the site at
Dave and Sandi of Raven Kindred North are the hosts of Ravencast, billed as "The Only Asatru Podcast". It's definitely the only one making regular updates. And that's a good thing because this is a quality podcast. By quality, I mean that the hosts are knowledgeable and engaging, and that they cover great topics. Check out their series of episodes covering national organizations (AFA, The Troth, Irminen-Gesellschaft, etc.). Now, the audio quality can vary from 'cast to 'cast, but that is usually due more to the phone connection used for an interview than to anything within Dave and Sandi's control. So, if you are looking for a great podcast covering Asatru in specific and Heathenry in general, definitely give them a listen. If you hear only one Heathen podcast this year, make it an episode of Ravencast!

Monday, December 03, 2007

Recent "Theater Lackey" Updates

Just a quick note (or a cross post) to let folks know that there are some new posts over at my theater blog, Confessions of a Serial Theater Lackey. Recent posts include: