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Saturday, December 3, 2016


The magic memories of Christmas that most of us treasure are unique to each of us.

Yet, sometimes clarity comes only upon reflection. 

We get so caught up with the tugs and pulls of the season that we miss the truly priceless people and moments. 

If we but reflect we will see that 

We were blind to the love healing us and holding us tight in the arms, words, and actions of those we too often took for granted.


we were innocent enough to see fairies dancing upon frosted lake surfaces, 

to taste the falling snow, 

and to laughingly make snow-angels.

As adults the world is too much with us. 

Yet, The Great Mystery has given us one month out of 12 to see the world as the child we once were, 

the child we can once again be if only we put down the hates and anguish that only harm us anyway.

If the yellow, green, red, and blue lights don’t twinkle with their normal festive happiness 

and instead glower like warning beacons, it is the mind that views them that has changed.

The magic is still there, waiting for the child you once were to believe in it again.

By years of Hurt and Anger, you have closed the door to it. 

But each time you smile to a hurried face that seems lost in life, 

each time you back up to allow a weary older person in line ahead of you,

each time you pause to look at the snow-layered buildings as the child you once were would see them --

you open the door to that Christmas Magic a little wider.

Every day you live can be magical 
if you work at it.  

The path of least resistense 
is to live in a world leeched of its color and vitality 
by Anger and Hate

Choose to find the laughter and beauty as you live each hour.  

Each laugh, each act of compassion is a brushstroke that adds the color of magic back to your life.

The magic of Christmas has nothing to do with decorations, lights, presents, Christmas trees or anything so material.

It has everything to do with a little girl’s smile 

and a mom who buys real candy canes for their tree 

so she can hear her little girl giggle as they decorate it together.

Give a smile or a laugh to someone.  
The present you will receive will be ... 

The gifts we give that matter most 
are the ones that cannot be 
bought or sold. 

The love we share and the memories we leave behind, 
are the greatest gifts we can give. 

They are the only gifts 
that last a lifetime.

Friday, December 2, 2016


Some say Christmas has never been magical, not even from the beginning.

We tend to overlook that the Holy Birth occurred in Bethlehem because of an act of oppression, and the threat of violence,

 when a man and woman were forced to travel from Nazareth to their ancestral home 

by the decree of an occupying army in the final days of the young woman’s pregnancy.

And, although we tend to be only vaguely aware of it, the massacre of innocents is woven inextricably into the story.

Only three days after Christmas Day, on Dec. 28, the Church’s calendar remembers the other children of Bethlehem,

the ones left behind when Joseph fled with Mary and Jesus to Egypt for safety following an angelic warning, 

the ones slaughtered by King Herod in a fearful rage.

Magic in Christmas? 

No matter how much we might like to make it so, magic was not prominent in these events.

Though we may rarely come to terms with it, 

the Christmas story begins and ends in violence.

We should not be surprised.

We should not be surprised that the incarnation of good, of which the innocence of all children reminds us

is not received either warmly or passively by the presence of evil.

Sometimes that evil finds its expression in armies of violence, sometimes in greed and fear and power,

and sometimes in clouds of darkness that overtake and consume those among us most vulnerable

to delusion left to their own devices by a society deaf to the needs of those without power: the old, the mentally ill, the poor.

The thought that there is no magic in Christmas might even do some good:

Magic too easily lets us off the hook for the role we are called to play in the story,

the story of goodness being birthed in the world, 

the story of light that the darkness would overcome, the story of innocence confronted by evil, the story of Christ.

No, there is no magic.

What there is is an age-old struggle with evil that comes in many forms.

Christmas comes into play, 

not because it represents even a temporary respite from reality, 

but because the birth of incarnate love lays bare the reality 

that it is the evil that does not belong here. 

The birth of incarnate love lays bare that the slaughter of innocents in whatever form, 

child or adult, finds no place, no home, no tolerance, no business as usual in the world of which God dreams.

And once we are robbed of the magic of Christmas, we begin, maybe, to grasp its reality. 

The reality is that the birth of the Christ child does not cast a magical spell rendering the presence of evil ineffectual.

It does not relieve humankind of the hell-before hell we have made of this world. 

Rather, it invites us to participate in its redemption.

The birth of the Christ child is not a tool for us to use, like sorcerer’s apprentices, 

magically relieving us from doing the hard work that needs to be done. 

It is a call to action.

God has entered the world in a profoundly real, not magical, way. 

And that in this particular child, Light has come into the world,

 and the darkness did not, and will not, overcome it.



This Christmas Season Night as I sit alone with ghosts from my past

it occurs to me that each of us is a Silent Knight ...

A Silent Knight for whatever creed shapes our thoughts and steps.

No matter our words, it is our actions that speak for us.

Have we spoken love and forgiveness to only retort sharply at the harried store clerk who did not respond fast enough for us?

Have we scoured the stores for just the right present, the perfect gift wrap only to snap at the very ones for whom we bought it out of irritation and weariness?

Have we slaved over a king's spread of assorted recipes, only to have no appetite or warmth or patience for those for whom we prepared the delicious dishes?

If we were to glance up and see the flag of the True Creed which our actions proclaim we live by, would we cringe in disbelief?


Today books, films and Internet sites are filled with fanciful tales purporting to tell the history of "Silent Night."

Some tell of mice eating the bellows of the organ creating the necessity for a hymn to be accompanied by a guitar.

 Others claim that Joseph Mohr was forced to write the words to a new carol in haste since the organ would not play.

The German words for the original six stanzas of the carol we know as "Silent Night" were written by Joseph Mohr in 1816, 

when he was a young priest assigned to a pilgrimage church in Mariapfarr, Austria.

The fact is, we have no idea if any particular event inspired Joseph Mohr to pen his poetic version of the birth of the Christchild. 

The world is fortunate, however, that he didn't leave it behind when he was transferred to Oberndorf the following year (1817).

On December 24, 1818 Joseph Mohr journeyed to the home of musician-schoolteacher Franz Gruber 

who lived in an apartment over the schoolhouse in nearby Arnsdorf. 

He showed his friend the poem and asked him to add a melody and guitar accompaniment so that it could be sung at Midnight Mass.

His reason for wanting the new carol is unknown.

Later that evening, as the two men, backed by the choir, stood in front of the main altar in St. Nicholas Church and sang "Stille Nacht! Heilige Nacht!" 

for the first time, they could hardly imagine the impact their composition would have on the world.

And so,

they were Silent Knights for their God. 

As we, too, are Silent Knights for our gods: 

Esteem in the eyes of others, 


Social Status,  

World Acclaim,  

Control over Others, 

Control over Ourselves,


He who sang the universe into being.

We can hardly imagine the impact our actions, positive or caustic, 
will have on the network of fragile souls 
in our world.  

That fact should make us careful and compassionate in the days to come.

May your Christmas Season be magical and healing. 

Me and my Christmas ghosts tip our egg nog to you, 

while we listen to Josh Groban singing "Silent Night." 

(Picture courtesy of S. Ward)

Wednesday, November 30, 2016


I am the Charioteer

A rather grandiose name considering my present occupation.

But here in the ironic dying of civilization's light in the 21st Century's dawn, 

there are precious few ways to to roam abroad on horse-drawn vehicles.

After my days as the Cid, I forswore riding for any king or country.  

My days at Camelot should have taught me better than to think any king worth the blood of his followers.

Once I drove Apollo's chariot across the skies, not that he was worth the deaths he caused in his vain wisdom. 

But I was young enough to sacrifice good sense for the thrill of flying across the heavens, 

my fiery steeds singing their joy at the celestial race in tones that thrummed my bones like tuning forks.

Yes, I contested in the Roman Colosseum races as well.  Not for the thrill of victory nor for the roar of the brutish crowds.

I did not know then for what I raced.

I do now.

I raced in a vain attempt to outrun my mistakes of the past. 

But you cannot outrun regret or the pain of memory.

Pain always catches up.

Perhaps that is why my pace is so much slower now.  

My valiant warhorse patiently pulls my light-festooned carriage, waiting for me to come to my senses and race the moon again.

My passengers chatter behind me, their words becoming more shallow and empty with every passing year. 

Soon their words will become so slight and without meaning that they will fly away on the chill winds before they can reach my ears.

One can only hope.

I no longer turn when a passenger boards my carriage.

I hear the rustle of the worthless paper money go into the slot of the metal box behind Sir's back.


Once his name had frozen the blood of humans ... as had mine.  

He thinks himself a Foo Dog.

I let him.  

After all, do we not all deserve to write our own myths?

Few see his two other heads. They only see death if they should attack me.  

Few do attack.  And none twice.

Snow drifts like dreams' echoes around me and Sir.  I feel my carriage shift from the slight weight of another passenger.

No paper money.  The heavy thudding of gold coins.

Sir rumbles a greeting, something he has not done for centuries.

"Good to see you, too, Cerberus."

The Voice whispers icy tingles through my blood.  Tender, cold fingers feather the back of my neck.

I turn.

Turquoise eyes laugh into my very soul.  

A face, its beauty terrible and haunting beyond any singing of it, study me with wry amusement.

"Oh, Helios, how often I beckoned to you, but always you raced faster than my words."

"I move slower now, Gaia."

Her whole face glows in a smile.  Snow flurries swirl around us.  

"Perhaps our nights will no longer be lonely."

Nor were they ... ever again.

Perhaps on Christmas Night, miracles still happen.

I wrote this flash fiction to this tune:

Tuesday, November 29, 2016


Photo courtesy of Frank C. Grace -- any of his prints may be purchased at

"It is my heart-warming and world-embracing Christmas hope and aspiration

that all of us,

the high, the low, the rich, the poor, the despised, the admired, the loved, the hated, the civilized, the savage

(every man and brother of us all throughout the whole earth),

may eventually be gathered in a heaven of everlasting rest and peace and bliss --

except the inventor of the telephone."

- Mark Twain, Boston Daily Globe.


Journal of Captain Samuel McCord

(December 24, 1874)

Sammy Clemens looked at me and sighed,

"Captain Sam, if you live long enough,

the approach of the holiday season can stir up sad memories as well as happy ones."

His blue/grey eyes sparkled, "So I aim to make the happy ones sizzling!"

He was dressed as the most fur-layered Santa Claus I had ever seen.

He held up the telephone in his right fur-gloved hand and glared at Nikola Tesla at my side.

"I might as well make use of this danged instrument you forced me to invest in, Nikola.

Why I declare I would have made twice as much money if you had let me invest in that Paige typesetter."

Nikola huffed, "Oh, go suck on your false beard! What do you know of science? I, the far-seeing genius that I am ---"

Sammy snorted, "And humble, too!"

Nikola happily ignored him and continued,

"I saw the design flaws in that machine and saw the potential in Mr. Bell's invention -- since he stole it from me!

Besides, it was Captain McCord who forced you to invest in the telephone. Why berate me?"

"Because you can't turn me into a turnip, you jack nape, that's why."

He turned to me. "Can you do your Apache hoodoo and set me at the foot of Susy's and Clara's bed?"

"Yes, Sammy, but it's the middle of Christmas Eve night."

"That's the whole dang point! I put this fancy telephone gadget on their night stand to wake 'em up on this very night."

I smiled sadly. 

On the outside, Sammy was all humbug. 

But there was nothing he would not do to hear the happy squeals of delight from his daughters.

He dialed the telephone number of his daughters' phone.  

It was 7. 

 Sammy had one of the first telephones to be installed in a home.

He literally danced in place, waiting for one of his daughters to pick up and answer. 

 "Dang, little heathens sleep as heavy as damp logs!"

His eyes lit up, "Hello, Susy! This is the Man in the Moon. "

(That was Sammy's nickname for Santa.) 

I heard the girl's sleepy voice, "Oh, Papa, I know your voice!"

"You accuse Santa of swearing false?"

He pulled out a piece of coal from his pocket and winked at me. 

 "For that, I will hand-deliver a lump of coal!"

I sucked in a breath I didn't need and folded the fabric of distance as I wanted. 

Sammy disappeared with a yelp and a rush of air going with him to his daughters' room.

Nikola shook his head as we heard distant screams of shock and delight from the girls' room. I counted to three. I re-folded distance again.

Sammy reeled to the wall, laughing so hard he held his pillow-fattened stomach with both gloved hands.

"Oh, Captain Sam! You should have seen their faces! No Santa-naying for them gals from this day on!"

Nikola turned to me with one raised eyebrow. "Thankfully for his daughters, I hear good things of a Dr. Freud in Vienna."

{And that's the way it was at Christmas in Hartford, 1876 -- give or take a lie or two.}
For more of Mark Twain, Nikola Tesla,
and Sam McCord

- This time in 1895 Egypt -

Read or Listen to 




Here is a photo of feisty Mark in Nikola's lab:
{Notice Nikola in the background}