Sunday, December 17, 2017

Cloud and Majesty and Awe

Perhaps, just a little, I'm getting a sense of the season. As is so often the case, art helps; in this case, the ineffable and magisterial art of Miss Leontyne Price.

Miss Price is, I think, at the moment the best argument I can think of for the United States adopting a system of titles: is there anyone still with us more deserving of being addressed, at the very least, as Dame?

Here she takes - and at a surprisingly brisk clip, when you really listen to it - the kind of Christmas song almost guaranteed to pull me in, as full of richness as a good Christmas cake, stuffed with language that is evocative and mysterious and magnificent. As a child, I used to sit in the darkened church at carolfests and evening services, wondering just what all this language meant: thou Dayspring, Lord of Might, death's dark shadows put to flight, the path to misery closed, opening wide a heavenly home... it all sounded most impressive, especially set to the insinuating, modulating old tune. It's what we want from Christmas, isn't it? A blend - mystery and majesty, but the promise of safety and familiarity - the king of kings, in something as ordinary as a stable, on a cold winter's night; lights on trees and something warm in the oven, all of it made even more precious by the darkness and the veiled, half-hidden intimations of mortality and something very like fear: herald angels, yes, but a heavenly host as well, a potent admixture, as noted above, of cloud and majesty and awe.

And so, as Miss Ono and her husband once observed, this is Christmas. Let's hope it's a good one.

It's a busy one, enough, in these parts. The Mister is very preoccupied, right about now, with year-end sales and achieving a heretofore-undreamt-of record in the that respect; if things are quieter at Golden Handcuffs, there's still a certain amount of bother and bureaucracy to be gotten through before the old year passes. At the moment, I've a meatloaf in the oven and the prospect of getting the decorations out this evening, if all goes well.

It's also the birthday of My Dear Sister; last year she vaulted past 70, which seems quite ridiculous, but the idea of having a 71-year-old sister doesn't do a thing to make one feel youthful, I'll tell you that.

I've also been rather interested in the various goings on in regard to funeral ceremonies of the late King Michael of Romania. His dear grandmother, Queen Marie, has of course always been a favorite, and there's something melancholy in seeing yet another, however eccentric and minor, landmark of the last century pass away. We're left at the moment with only one other living head of state from the Great War. Can you guess whom? You might well have thought of Queen Elizabeth, but of course, while very visible during the war (in her fetching mechanic's uniform), her father was still on the throne in those days; it's actually her distant cousin Simeon, King of Bulgaria. They may have been quixotic and ill-fated inventions, those Balkan monarchies, but the world is a little duller without them, and really one can't argue they were any worse than all that's happened since...

I've realized that I now have something of Svengali thing going on in regard to Kevin-my-Trainer, who is as stinting on praise as he is lavish with improbable exercises (the highlight of today's workout involved balancing on one leg whilst swinging a kettle bell, and let me tell you, it wasn't pretty). As the year ends, he actually has, grudgingly, admitted that I'm not the least fit client with whom he's ever worked, and that I've actually surprised him by keeping at it (lots of heart patients, it seems, have a good run of a year or so and then give up; not me. I'll do whatever it takes not to have that happen again). So that was nice, but then he immediately returned to form by sharing with me his goal for me for 2018: losing 20 pounds, as much of that as possible before I have my next annual appointment with the Dishy Cardiologist in February. We shall see; a little has crept back on, I do admit, but 20 would take me back to something like what I weighed at about 18, which seems a tad ridiculous for one nearly halfway through his sixth decade.

But I suppose if my septuagenarian sister can - as she plans to in the next few weeks - head off to sail around the Croatian coast, at a decade-and-a-half less I can work on both my balance and my waistline. Kevin wouldn't have it any other way, and who am I to say him nay?


  1. The Great War was the first one - I would have been hugely surprised if Francis Joseph the First [Emperor of Austria, Apostolic King of Hungary, King of Bohemia, King of Dalmatia, Croatia, Slavonia, Galicia and Lodomeria and Illyria; King of Jerusalem etc., Archduke of Austria; Grand Duke of Tuscany and Cracow, Duke of Lorraine, of Salzburg, Styria, Carinthia, Carniola and of Bukovina; Grand Prince of Transylvania; Margrave of Moravia; Duke of Upper and Lower Silesia, of Modena, Parma, Piacenza and Guastalla, of Oświęcim, Zator and Ćeszyn, Friuli, Ragusa (Dubrovnik) and Zara (Zadar); Princely Count of Habsburg and Tyrol, of Kyburg, Gorizia and Gradisca; Prince of Trent (Trento) and Brixen; Margrave of Upper and Lower Lusatia and in Istria; Count of Hohenems, Feldkirch, Bregenz, Sonnenberg, etc.; Lord of Trieste, of Cattaro (Kotor), and over the Windic march; Grand Voivode of the Voivodship of Serbia], or His Imperial and Royal Majesty Wilhelm the Second [German Emperor and King of Prussia, Margrave of Brandenburg, Burgrave of Nuremberg, Count of Hohenzollern, Duke of Silesia and of the County of Glatz, Grand Duke of the Lower Rhine and of Posen, Duke in Saxony, of Angria, of Westphalia, of Pomerania and of Lunenburg, Duke of Schleswig, of Holstein and of Crossen, Duke of Magdeburg, of Bremen, of Guelderland and of Jülich, Cleves and Berg, Duke of the Wends and the Kashubians, of Lauenburg and of Mecklenburg, Landgrave of Hesse and in Thuringia, Margrave of Upper and Lower Lusatia, Prince of Orange, of Rugen, of East Friesland, of Paderborn and of Pyrmont, Prince of Halberstadt, of Münster, of Minden, of Osnabrück, of Hildesheim, of Verden, of Kammin, of Fulda, of Nassau and of Moers, Princely Count of Henneberg, Count of the Mark, of Ravensberg, of Hohenstein, of Tecklenburg and of Lingen, Count of Mansfeld, of Sigmaringen and of Veringen, Lord of Frankfurt] were still with us...

    Thankfully Dame Leontyne Price still is! Adore her. Jx

  2. I couldn't listen to Leontyne (do you think her friends called her "Teeny"? I know I would have.) Because I had Bonnie tyler's "holding out for a hero" rocking and reading your description along with that was the highpoint of my day.

    1. Those I've known who've known her were more than a little in awe. I suspect her nickname is most likely "Miss Price."

  3. Perhaps it is just my perception - but to my mind Miss Price's presence is so astounding that the phrasing of "Rejoice" seems more a command than an adjuration?

    1. Indeed. It's pretty clear that when Leontyne Price tells you to Rejoice, you'd best rejoice, pronto.