Christmas Eve

Yesterday afternoon the rain changed to light snow, which continues as flurries this morning. The ground is lightly coated in white.

In the late afternoon, a neighborhood family came over to make peanut butter pine cones for the animals.

The kids had been asking about this activity for a couple of weeks. Jennie began the tradition the year we moved here. Yesterday we the 5th edition. The participants change, yet the tradition continues.

The idea is simple: one ties a loop of string tightly around the base of a pine cone, lathers the cone with peanut butter, and rolls the entire thing in bird feed. The string loop allows one to hang the cones from tree branches. Yesterday, we added a few cranberries to the mix. We also cut up oranges and bananas to create hanging fruit bowls for the fruit eaters. As dusk settled, one of the neighborhood kids accompanied us into the field and woods, where we hang the cones and bowls. (Earlier in the week we had held a Solstice party and guests had brought bird food which we used to make the cones; we carried the remainder with us into the woods.) As we fee the animals, we also feed the spirits of the land.

As the darkness gathered, our young friend asked whether we might best head home – a few hundred feet. We agreed and started back. Just as we reached the trail, a flock of geese flew overhead, calling out to us and one another. I feel some kinship with geese, and accepted their passing as a blessing. One of my companions, wanting the geese’ passing to be significant, but not quite sure, expressed some doubts. Moments later, a single goose flew overhead and called.

In the early evening we attended a Burundian Christian concert by my members of the local African diaspora community.

The music, much of it written by the performers, chronicled their lives, and their journeys through war, refuge camps, and the immigration system. Outside, snow and the temperatures were falling. A glaze of ice covered the sidewalks and parking lot. Inside, African rhythms and melodies carried praise songs to the Creator in four languages.

The event was sponsored by the New North End Studio, an organization that extends itself to the refuge community. The small cafe in the performance space was open, selling drinks and cookies for $1. When families struggled to afford those prices, the owners just slipped in extra food and drink.

There were few European looking persons in the audience, yet we felt very much at home. We could just have easily been at a Native gathering, in Bangladesh, or India. Most striking were the familiar stories of war, displacement, and genocide, and the heartfelt gratitude expressed to the Creator. Amongst the praise songs were interspersed songs about suffering and redemption. There were songs about the lives of orphaned children, making their way on the streets, and about friends and family members who were murdered. Good and Evil, kindness and horror lived, for the evening, as so often in life, side by side.

We felt our own sense of immense gratitude for being, on the eve of Christmas Eve, thrust so deeply into the human condition.

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