Monday, November 28, 2011

The Gift(s) of the Magi

This is a piece I tried to track down for years. It was on a Robert Shaw Christmas album (vinyl), but not on any known CD. Finally I found it on a tape, but it was a different version. I'm not sure who the conductor is here, or which orchestra it is because when people post classical music videos they don't ever mention these things, and it seems to me that nobody minds very much. It's just nice music, "relaxing" (which is what most people say about classical music).

I was born and raised in it (not on it, that’s a different thing), and while it may have been pitched at me like a religion, I nonetheless learned something about the fine but crucial distinctions between different artists and conductors and orchestras. My Dad, who was for the most part a son-of-a-bitch who didn't love me, did seem to care if I knew something about music. Most of it I learned just by having it around me all the time, dinner music and the music he played every night as he sat in his reclining chair with a vibrating pad on his back.

Strangely, this wasn't one of the pieces I heard then. I discovered it much later, when the Magi still meant something to me. I also dug up, just now, some information about the deluxe nativity scene which adorned our mantelpiece at Christmas. The figures were probably made by someone named Fontanini. At least there's a strong resemblance. The camel was marvelous, about 7 inches high, and I always wanted to play with it. I see now why my parents wouldn't let me.

As for Respighi's Magi, I respond to this sort of music almost excruciatingly, as if my brain is somehow wired wrong. Well, I might be convinced of that today, having just received ANOTHER rejection for Harold from a publisher that hadn't read the manuscript. It was based on my query alone, which I guess didn't sufficiently condense 300 pages into one or two.

I think I can write, but sales? The whole thing escapes me. "Just get an agent," I am told, but that's kind of like saying, "Just win the lottery, it will solve all your financial problems." Which it probably would.

I think this is Advent now. I'm not with the church any more, which sometimes causes me considerable melancholy (but not enough to go back). It's weird how many things suddenly dropped out of my life around 2005. I used to be a semi-professional astrologer, studied it from about age ten, used to cast individual birth charts for people, and now I can't see any use in it at all. It's just a bunch of hooey. Christianity is almost never truly lived out by anyone, least of all clergy. I don't know if I've ever seen more emotional hangups concentrated in any other group of people.

So this time of year is, well. . . But hark, there's better news, for I have four small children in my life now. So the Christmas projects are in full gear. This week we made felt stuffed animals (I found my tiny battery-operated sewing machine in the closet, and it actually works), snowmen and gingerbread men and teddy bears. Very messy and labour-intensive, but absorbing and fun. But I find I feel overwhelmed these days. Underwhelmed, too. Funny how those two often coincide.

If this year is like all the others, in the next few weeks I'll receive most of the rejections I get in a year: the most succulent one is usually reserved for Christmas Eve. Most likely the one I had prayed for, or at least fervently hoped for. This can trigger a sense of futility that is downright embarrassing. All out of reach, though just barely, like a balloon that keeps popping up above my fingertips. 

I'm not supposed to want this so much. What do I think it's going to do for me? I don't know, solve all the problems in my life, I guess. Why not?

Next weekend, gingerbread. I hate making gingerbread and have never been successful at it. Last Christmas Caitlin and Ryan convulsed when I threw the dough at the wall (it stuck). I hate cooking with molasses, molasses is the devil, dark and sludgy and evil-tasting, but the recipe calls for it.

What if my life ran out next year? What if 2012 is the last year I will ever live? Oh, stop it, Margaret.