{december lights: burn it as fuel, for light and warmth}

From the fantabulous Lev Grossman’s speculative fiction novel for adults, THE MAGICIANS:

Lynedoch Crescent D 140

“I have a little theory that I’d like to air here, if I may. What is it that you think makes you magicians?”

More silence. Fogg was well into rhetorical-question territory now anyway. He spoke more softly. “Is it because you are intelligent? Is it because you are brave and good? Is is because you’re special?

Maybe. Who knows. But I’ll tell you something: I think you’re magicians because you’re unhappy. A magician is strong because he feels pain. He feels the difference between what the world is and what he would make of it. Or what did you think that stuff in your chest was? A magician is strong because he hurts more than others. His wound is his strength.

Most people carry that pain around inside them their whole lives, until they kill the pain by other means, or until it kills them. But you, my friends, you found another way: a way to use the pain. To burn it as fuel, for light and warmth. You have learned to break the world that has tried to break you.”

Burn it all down. Then, arise and shine.

{december lights: the dove is never free}

I didn’t grow up with Leonard Cohen songs, but poetry friends have been urging an acquaintance upon me for some time. His “Anthem” from the 1992 album The Future has words that reverberate today.

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in
That’s how the light gets in
That’s how the light gets in.

If you’re cracked, damaged, imperfect? Arise and shine. That’s how the Light gets in.

{december lights: citron}

Buddha's Hand Fruit 4

citrus deities

fragrant hand blesses
wafting godlike essences
breathe, breath of heaven

Fruitcake with plain dried fruit and fresh spices and no weirdly colored cherries (or whatever those green things are) is actually quite tasty. If you’ve never used a citron medica var or fingered citron or Buddha’s hand in cooking before, you owe it to yourself to try. Wait for a day when you have a few extra pence lying about, and splurge. It smells glorious, and tastes like… well, lemon peel with essence of lemon blossoms.

We left slices of this lovely fruit in our sugar bowl, and in the kitchen, and now our tea tastes magical, and the whole downstairs smells of flowers. May light infuse and suffuse your being in just this same way.

{december lights: sing your song}

“…When you do not sing, you keep the rest of us from getting to know you—know your voice, a voice that has never been heard ever before in the immeasurably vast history of the cosmos and will never be heard again after you die, which could be any day, any moment. How can we love you fully unless we know you, know your voice? If you choose not to sing, we are left with your silence. We have to do the work of filling in the gaps, guessing at what you’re song might’ve been if you’d chosen to sing. Who are you, all of you? We want to know, those of us who recognize the tragedy for what it is.

There’s more, so much more. When your song goes unsung, you keep yourself from knowing yourself—knowing how your voice can sound, what it can do. You become a stranger to certain parts of yourself, certain sounds and the emotions those sounds can carry.

When you abort your soul’s longing to sing, you are choosing to distrust us, the ones surrounding you, distrust that we will love you and accept you and be grateful for whatever your song turns out to be. You are living as if we wouldn’t honor you and celebrate you exactly as you are. You are choosing to believe that we are not capable of holding you in the way that you deserve. Please, give us the chance.When you believe that you cannot sing, you are hoarding yourself. You are not giving your songs away, freely, unconditionally, those songs which only you can give, those songs which someone might be desperately needing right now. Creation needs your songs just as much as you need the air, the water, the earth and all its bounty. Creation does not deprive you of that which you need to survive. Why do you deprive creation of your songs? Why were you given a voice if not to sing yourself back to that which gave it to you?

– Andrew Forsthoefel, “The Tragedy of Believing You Can’t Sing.”

One of my favorite songs Jules introduced me to from Lost in the Trees is “Artist Song” from the 2012 album A Church That Fits Our Needs. In the song, there’s this poignant, repeated phrase which reminds me of this essay.

A fearful song
Played by trumpets for our heart
Oh, oh — I have a fear of darkness.
So sing
Your hymn of faith cause I have none
Oh, oh — Your song is my fortress.

What would we do if we needed to hear your song, but you’d decided not to sing it? Don’t worry that it’s not good enough for anyone else to hear… The song you have may indeed be whetstone for a sword, armor for a battle, faith, and fortitude, and fuel for a lamp. A song. A fortress. So, sing out.

Arise. Shine.

{december lights: little fires}

This past weekend, our chamber group had a night show and a matinee show, and were able to take advantage of the gloriously bright, but bbbrrrrrisk afternoon to wander about during intermission and before call time (as long as we were within earshot. Our Director is calm, but the section leaders are a teeensy bit on edge). We were singing at one of California’s historic missions, and so the landscaping was gorgeous, dotted with ancient olive trees, fountains, and… well, graves. The original building collapsed during the 1909 earthquake, and a chapel was built in front of the ruins (and somewhat over them) and they used the churchyard as a regular churchyard, until the church was dismantled and sold to the Episcopalians. The families wanted their departed loved ones to remain in situ when they rebuilt, so… there are graves everywhere, even inside the mission chapel.

But, I digress – I was talking about the lovely grounds. I have no idea what kinds of leaves these are, and I came upon them reading gravestones… they were a nice counterpoint. In the midst of life, we are in death, but hey — in the midst of death, these leaves glow like ruby flames.

Sing a song of seasons!
            Something bright in all!
Flowers in the summer,
            Fires in the fall!

-Robert Louis Stevenson

Arise and shine, friends.

{december lights: a new annunciation}


Blessed, blessed

are you, for


will make you weep

when the light hits the grass

in the morning.

I will make you crave

conversation like red

meat, lay you

weak, at the feet

of strangers. I will open

lives like vistas

before you

that you will never



beautiful thing

will come to you and press

against your flesh.

There is nothing

that will not call

your name, nothing

that you will not long

to possess, nothing

that will not offer up red

kisses, coupling,

seeping into the roots

of the world.


will deceive you,

tell you all you need is a

mouthful, but in truth,

I know the desire

I infect you with is


See, how the red shoes

I bind to you prick

your feet,

hungry for the beat

and sway

of word upon word.

Blessed, oh! blessed

are you.

~ ©2007, all rights reserved, by Sara Lewis Holmes