Yet Another Rumination on Memorial Day

It would appear to be that time again, when the United States makes a particular show of honoring those who died in its uniformed service, and I air something of a re-run or a spin-off of something I’ve shown before (here, here, and here). In truth, the situation has little changed across the few years I have been making a point of writing in this webspace, the United States and the part of it in which I live marking the day as it has done so long as I recall, and some complaining, perhaps hypocritically, about the juxtaposition.

Photo by Sharefaith on

I am among the some, of course, and doubtlessly the perhaps.

For me this year, while I’ve not been uprooted again, I have been on the road. My family and I took a short trip up through a part of the state we’ve not visited yet, despite it being only a few hours’ drive away. It has made for a decent enough weekend, and one about which I will doubtlessly have more to say in a future post. I’m given to understand that it’s a fairly common pursuit for the time of year, with people getting out of school and “summer” starting (again, the solstice is a few weeks off, and it’s already been plenty warm here); it hasn’t necessarily been so in my life, but a lot of that is because I am a crotchety curmudgeon who hates fun.

Ask my daughter. She’ll tell you.

It might not be the most fitting observance of the day, as I think I’ve noted. But I’m not going to feel ashamed that I took the time to be with my family. And I can affirm that I’ve made a point, not just here, but with that family, and particularly with my daughter, of noting why the holiday is in place. It’s not enough, of course; what can be? It is, however, a start, and that’s got to be good for something.

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A Rumination on a Birthday Not Mine

I had had the thought that, in discussing what I mean to discuss today, I would borrow from the Gettysburg Address and make some declamation beginning with “Eight square and no more years ago,” because it has been so long and because the word-play suggested itself to me for a moment. I know many would get the joke; I know, too, that I do not have the skills and insight to carry that joke through the way it really ought to be done, and I suspect that the joke would not go over so well as I would like. A great many of my jokes go that way, after all, as most know who speak to me for more than a few moments. Consequently, I shall content myself with but a short comment, knowing that the day needs but little from me said about it.

The birthday girl herself…
Family photo

Happy birthday, Mom!

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A Rumination on Cinco de Mayo

Today marks the victory of Mexico over France at Puebla, and, in the part of the world where I grew up and where I live again, it is spent as a celebration of Mexican culture. (Admittedly, where I am used to be Mexico, but it wasn’t still Mexico at the time Puebla happened. Oh, no, there was another war going on, and this part of the world was on the wrong side of it.) Given how much of the rest of the year a lot of people here spend decrying that culture, the observance strikes me as odd to disingenuous to hypocritical to appropriative and reductionist, at least as many make the observance. But then, that’s hardly unique to this day, as I think I might’ve mentioned a few times before.

It’s admittedly not a holiday meal for me, but just a regular dinner.
Photo by Chitokan C. on

For me, the day is something that attracts attention; again, I live where I live, and, for better or worse, I identify as a resident of that part of the world, so the common observances are part of the identificatory markers. And I confess to some hypocrisy of my own; I do love me some tacos, and they do tend to be on special on Cinco de Mayo. It’s far removed from the origination of the observance, and it doesn’t do me any credit, thought it does contribute to my waistline being what it is.

There is this, too: My wife and child are both Hispanic, specifically of Mexican descent. My wife’s grandmother, though born in the US, grew up south of the Rio Grande; her parents hailed from there, if memory serves, or her grandparents did. So they, at least, have the more direct tie, and I am happy to celebrate their heritage with them, even if I do not share it myself. It is part of who they are, even if it is not the part they necessarily foreground; I am rather quite fond of the both of them, so why should I not laud what contributes to making them who they are, so long as it does not hurt them?

But then, given how things are in this part of the world and many others, perhaps they would come to harm from the acknowledgement of their ancestry. Enough people do so where I can see it, and I look in few places and with poor eyesight; there is surely far more of it of which I am unaware.

Funny how that kind of thing can work out.

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A Rumination on Good Friday

Around this time last year, I posted a translation I did of The Dream of the Rood. It’s been on my mind again in recent weeks, partly because it is the time of year that it is, and partly because of some other things going on about which I might comment at some point or another; I am not yet certain. Today, I have some leisure to attend to it, having been given an unexpected day off from my regular job, something for which I am grateful; I rather enjoy writing, however good or otherwise I might be at the task, and the thinking that undergirds it has its charms, so that the opportunity to engage in both is a welcome thing.

From about this time last year…
The Ruthwell Cross by JThomas is licensed under CC-BY-SA 2.0

For many, especially in this part of the world, the day serves as a reminder of sacrifice and the necessary costs of salvation, prepaid for those who, like the dreamer in the poem, are aftercomers “stained with sins, / badly wounded with sins.” (I think I could polish the translation more, but that is another project for another time, one of many that might be imagined.) Much is made of the magnitude of the sacrifice, of the agony that was endured by those crucified in the Roman style, and better theologians and historians than I can speak more eloquently and accurately to the same.

For my own part, as often, I find myself coming up with questions that I expect would be heterodoxies to voice–if not more. Ideas about their answers abound for me, offering other projects that might be undertaken; there is never a shortage of them, although there are shortages of my time and talents to attend to them all. (I would seem to have internalized humilitas to some extent, both sincerely and otherwise.) But if I were to voice one idea, one that might not be so divergent as all that: the story so widely celebrated today, the self-sacrificial sin-taking for others’ redemption, speaks to many to say that there is some hope, and that even amid those who would abuse laws to persecute those whom they perceive as threats to their power, there is some sympathy to be found.

I am not sure, certainly, how far to follow that idea, how far it can be followed. That there are limits to any such thing, I am well aware; indeed, one of the standard questions I pose in the lesson plans I still write is to find the point of failure and interrogate it. But I am no longer at the front of the classroom, so it is not for me to push others to such contemplations. It is for me, however, to conduct them myself, and a solemn observance–even in advance of a joyous occasion–offers opportunity for such things.

I remain grateful for such things.

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A Rumination on St. Patrick’s Day

There was a time that my family made much of this day, noting that one of the roots from which they and I spring stretches back across the Atlantic to the land where Brian Boru played and ruled (though I did not learn about the harpist king until far later). The shape of the merrymaking was less important than the fact of it, although I look back on it now with a mix of longing and loathing–the former for the usual reasons, and the latter, as well.

Do you feel lucky?
Photo by Djalma Paiva Armelin on

Anymore, though, I find myself less and less inclined to do much on holidays. Even the “big” ones find me…hesitant, forcing myself through for the sake of Ms. 8–and today’s observance is not one of the “big” holidays. At least, it is not for me; I imagine that it is for others. I do not begrudge them their joy, although I have not always been fond of its demonstrations; I remember experiences of it in New York City that I would rather not. But drunken asshats are in many places and times; it’s not something peculiar to today…

The day may come again when I find delight in things I once did, when I can allow myself the space in which to do so. For now, though, I have yet work to do, and so such celebrations as I might undertake will have to wait a while again.

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Who suffers from the
Words in a wonderful talking book written at the top of its reverse page
Let that one beware
The two-faced month matching the betrayer’s number on the hangman’s day
Surely no good omen for those who believe

Dear friends, we have a winner!
Photo by Aliaksei Semirski on

Even those who give less heed
To portents put up in the past and handed down
Dowries and remembrances of days gone by
Tend to nerves

For me, it’s just another day
My fears all run another way
And I have not the time to play
The credulous

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On the Winter Solstice, 2022

As this post emerges into the world, it is the moment of the winter solstice in the Northern Hemisphere, or close enough as matters to very few. Concomitantly, today is the shortest daylight of the year here; it’s uphill for a while, until the summer solstice comes, and then the downhill slide resumes. It is Sisyphean, really, although I am not aware of the myth-makers connecting things in such a way. Perhaps they did. Perhaps I do because I have far more time to think about such things–about things, generally–than is good for me to have.

Photo by Pixabay on

Living when I do and where I do, the seasonal cycle matters less to me than might be thought. Central Texas does not have the “typical” progression. Our plants put on their prettiest in the spring rather than in the fall; the colors that come out for autumn are of football teams and marching bands, and brilliant though they may be, they are as nothing against the wildflower fields that stretch to the sky. No, for the most part, the colors of the fall now gone are brown from where the summer drought remains and green from the touches of rain that have fallen. And the colors of the winter now begun are not as often white as, well, brown and green. We freeze sometimes–the Hill Country, I am told, is in for a sharp snap of it this week, Jack cracking a bullwhip to announce his coming and assert his dominion where Aestas more commonly holds sway–and sometimes see the snow, but more often, it is a chilly rain that marks out winter weather than a soft snowfall.

Perhaps that is why so many decry “snowflakes” here, that they have such limited experience of them as they do. But as someone who has had more of snow than many in the Hill Country, I think I like it less. Shoveling it tends to remove the romance.

Still, the night will roll back, little by little, now, and the light increase its hold. I am sure there is some symbolic statement I could make about it, but I am also sure it would be badly clichéd. I get to deal with that kind of thing enough without having to add to it, and there is still more than enough work for me to do, whatever the season, however the weather may be.

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In Honor of National Llama Day (#llamaday #nationalllamaday)

Offer up praise to the llama!
Punctuate holiday drama
By hanging up wreaths
And crawling beneath
And playing the viol da gamba!

I should have used this as a writing prompt when I had students…
Photo by Magnus Martinsen on

Strike up a llama-themed tune
And dance in the light of the moon
Hoping thereby
To bid it pass by
That beast that else besets us soon

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A Rumination on Pearl Harbor Day

As I was talking with coworkers, I was reminded of today’s observance, something that had otherwise slipped my mind amid the other things I do day to day to day. Normally, I’m reasonably good at marking such events, having grown up in the family and part of the world that I did, so to have had the Day that Shall Live in Infamy escape me in such a way is…surprising and unsettling. For a moment, I wondered–had to wonder–if I was losing something else, the progress of my years slowing recall. (The old joke applies, I think, about not remembering what goes away as you get older.)

Here it is.
Pearl Harbor, Hawaii by NASA Goddard Photo and Video is licensed under CC-BY 2.0

In the event, though, as I talked with my coworkers more, we hit on the idea that it is simply a matter of the passage of time. The attack on Pearl Harbor remains in living memory, yes, but less firmly so than before; eighty-one years is longer than many live, and many of those who were alive then cannot remember it–either because the memory is lost or because they were so young that the memory never formed. For me, it is a thing of my grandparents’ days–and I’ve only one of them remaining. For my daughter, it is even more remote, and I know that many of my contemporaries have children old enough to have children of their own, for whom the event is yet more distant.

Admittedly, I remember and mark many things that are older yet than the Second World War. I do not seek to excuse the lapse in attention. Thus I write this, recalling the perfidy perpetrated then and what it has led to, for good and for ill. And I note to others that they might well do the same.

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The War Resumes More Quietly

Year after year
The call came
Claiming with increasing dudgeon that
Our way of life is under attack
Although never saying whose it is
Making sure we all already knew

Shots fired…
Photo by Nick Collins on

This time
The thunder of the guns is muted
And the banners not unfurled so often
Propagandists not hawking the tawdry wares
They have been paid to sell

Is it that there are no buyers for them anymore
Those who would purchase already owning
“We’ve got it at home already; we don’t need another”
Those who would not being unconvinced
They will ever need to lift up arms in the war
Some have claimed has been on since
They got ideas about what they deserve?

Or is it the case
That the front has crossed me too far now
And I am so far back that
Struggle is but rumor?

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