The past year of lockdowns included the memory of “I Got You, Babe” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OyBSrBqogPY playing on a cheap bedside alarm clock on Ground Hog’s Day. Then along came the shots that were heard but not felt by all ‘round the world. Color me lucky, like my Irish forbearers. Due to an abundance of acquired birthday candles, I’ll celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with a second shot.
Opening numbers begin the march toward a performance’s finale – whether grand or humble – they set the tone for what follows. Tennyson saw weeding the past as, “the old order changeth yielding place to the new”. The old Roman calendar kicked off the new year with March, by honoring Mars, the god of war. Romans evidently believed prosperous years were won with spirited conflict and juicy battles. We’ve spent a year under siege, battling mortality and wrestling with morality. I’ve had it with this existential duel and enlisted with warriors in a campaign to defeat a viral enemy. I’m not gonna waste my shot regretting what we couldn’t do for the past year or refusing to make peace with people whose beliefs I do not share. I’m aiming to work for things I believe and playing nice with others. Like Hamilton, I’d like to create a legacy of fortitude and passion.
Today we sprang forward and left behind a bear of a winter. When our son was a wee lad he observed, “you know its spring when it smells like worms outside.” Whether March crowns with a lamb or lion, spring will commence with the Full Worm Moon. After a long winter burrowed deep into our homes let’s wiggle our way through spring out in the open and take a few chances with birds. Aim to make the best of the bears, lions, lambs, and worms in your life. Or as my dear Irish Mom (who we laid to rest on a St. Patrick’s Day) would wish, “May your troubles be less and your blessings be more, And nothing but happiness come through your door.”
Winter crossed the starting line last night. Shiver ye timbers – stoke up the hearth – we’ve set course to sail through the seas-on of very long nights. Many folks think of winter as the doldrums of the year; a monotonous period of waiting for warm spring breezes to fill our sails. That’s not the best approach to this Winter Solstice. We’ve been stuck in irons for far too long to diddle away the next dozen weeks.
Time and distance are relative. It’s somehow fitting that the longest year in memory, not counting pregnancies and freshman classes, is a leap year. It’s been 800 years since Jupiter got close enough snag Saturn’s rings. Back then, here on Earth, Emperor Phillip founded the University of Paris to offer a liberal education while Genghis Kahn was tweaking the recipe for gunpower. Blue and red medieval pennants rallied rival troops with promises of eternal glory. If we jump back another 800 years we find ourselves marking the first Julian calendar. It too was a leap year (400 AD) when we could settle by the fire to read the Roman physician, Caelius Aurelianus’ best seller, Concerning Acute and Chronic Illness. The world was ripe with contradictions and possibilities for changing our ways.
The contrasting forces of nature are best explained through stories. Take for example the Roman myths behind the two seemingly merged bright spots in last night’s Solstice sky. Saturn and Jupiter were Greek/Roman gods who had eternity to wax and wane together. It’s no coincidence that their namesake planets never come closer than 456 million miles of each other while humming Cats in the Cradle. According to legend, so it’s probably not fake news, Saturn was exiled from Mount Olympus. Something about eating his own kids irked the people. Fortunately, most Romans lusted to be Greek-like. They welcomed the great god Saturn. And so it came to be that Saturn wisely ruled the Roman Empire during an age of peace and prosperity. With no wars to fight or babies to eat he had plenty of time to dabble with viticulture, the art of grape production. It’s unlikely that Saturn ever shared a bottle of red with Genghis Kahn though because he was devoted to ridding Rome of barbaric customs like sacking and pillaging. Saturn had reset his moral compass, a millennium later he was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Humanities by the University of Paris.
Then, by Jove, along came Jupiter, Roman god of heavens and sky, ruler of laws and social order. Jupiter was an enormous god so it’s no surprise that the hugest planet in our solar system is his namesake. Jupiter’s mother saved him from his father’s heinous habit of devouring his sons at birth. Eventually, Jupiter overthrew his father, a gentle ruler but a down right scary pater familias, and reigned supreme over the universe. Who’s his Daddy?
Saturn. The son wanted to be just like his Dad who unfortunately was busy making wine and had no time to play. To this day their relationship ebbs and flows as young, mighty Jupiter briskly circles the sun once every 12 years and his old man shuffles along making the circumnavigation in 29 years. It’s hard for a kid to be that patient waiting to get together, so Jupiter makes off with his dozens of moons while Saturn lags behind and spins his rings. Every 800 years they have a family reunion and sample Saturn’s vintage wine.
If a Father who rules the sky with peace and his son, known for a jolly, optimistic world view, are able to spend eternity apart but together, we can endure a dark season of social distancing. This Christmas Eve falls on a Thursday – that’s Jupiter’s day when he makes a cheery toast to his father. Take a moment to raise a glass as the father and son climb the heavens. It’s okay to call it the Christmas Star of 2020. Christmas is the day the Son will light the way for our next circle around the sun.