for 4 December 2022
It is said that nature abhors a garden, among other vacuums. But I think nature really hates holiday decorations. Or maybe any outdoor frivolity. There was that time that I hung 30 feet of juniper and pine garland on the front of my house in New Mexico and woke the next morning to find that it had been vanished from the neighborhood. Not just knocked down and blown a few yards away. It was gone. Nary a trace. Such is the vehemence of canyon breezes against holiday decor…
Today, I put greenery in the porch planters and hung a strap with harness bells on one of the porch columns. I did all this at about 3pm at which point it was cool, but not cold, and drizzling. There was no wind. Until I went inside. I think I might have gone downstairs to get an extension cord or something, but by the time I came back up the wind was howling, so strong I think I could have leaned into it and not fallen over.
The jingle bells I’d just hung were flung horizontal and were repeatedly crashing into the column, making quite a deranged clatter. The wind chimes out there were shrill. My pineapple welcome sign was blown off the wall and destroyed. (I think I can fix it… hope so anyway…) But every last piece of artfully arranged greenery was ripped out of the pots and scattered all over the porch and into the yard. By 3:30pm as darkness was settling over the yard, I was out there swearing up a storm to match the wind, trying to gather all the greens back together. I finally shoved what I could find in the wood storage bin and slammed the front door on the whole fiasco. I’ll try again tomorrow. Maybe.
I’m pretty sure the wind happened only because I had the audacity to try to make my porch look merry and bright. Only… well, thank heavens I opted to not hang lights around the window! Probably would have been a shattered glass nightmare.
Mind you, I’d only just managed to get the pumpkin snot off the floorboards from where the tree rats had eviscerated the large pumpkin I had out there for winter. I’d intended it to stay there by the front door in all its fat jolly orange-ness until the cold got to it, but the rodents had other ideas. And once again, they didn’t even eat much of it. Maybe some seeds. But mostly they just spread pumpkin innards all over everything before knocking the pumpkin off the chair it was sitting on and smashing it. Now, they had gnawed only one rodent-sized hole in the fruit, so there is a small chance that one was inside when the pumpkin fell. I take comfort in that.
In any case, nature does not want me to have nice things on the porch…
For the record, as I type this a few hours after sunset, there is not a breath of moving air out there.
4 December is St Barbara’s Day. Barbara was a beautiful young woman who lived in Nicromedia in the third century when Christianity was still a crime against the empire. Barbara was locked away in a tower by her father, first to protect her then to punish her because she refused all suitors in order to be true to her Christian faith. Enraged at her recalcitrance, her father sought remedy from the higher authorities. He handed over his daughter, as a Christian, to the Roman pro-consul Martianus for the assessment of punishment. When “gentle persuasion” (which included cutting off her breasts) failed, Martianus had her executed as a heretic, one who scorned the state gods, making her a martyr. It is said that her father was her executioner, cutting her head off with his sword.
Shortly after her death, Barbara’s father was struck by lightning.
St Barbara is the patron of Santa Barbara, California, among other places. She protects the faithful from fire and lightning. She gives special aid to miners and stoneworkers, presumably because she found refuge in her stone tower which is also her emblem. She is usually depicted holding the sword that took her life and the palm branch of her martyrhood, though the branch often looks more like a quill. She holds it like a writing tool. In Greece, the faithful believe that she guards against smallpox and other plagues. As protector against sudden death, she holds a chalice of communion wine in one hand, so that those who die unexpectedly will be able to take communion on their way to the afterlife.
In Greece, honey cakes are left at cross-roads, as they were in pagan times for Hecate. Vavára (the modern Greek pronunciation of Barbara), a boiled wheat broth, and kollyva, wheat porridge sprinkled with cinnamon, are also left as votive offerings or eaten in ritual meals on St Barbara’s day. In Greek Orthodox art she is sometimes portrayed in ways reminiscent of Athena, especially as she holds the sword.
Barbara was martyred for her faith in the Christian god and her denial of the Greek and Roman pantheon. Yet, like many saints, she has clear ties to those same archaic deities. One wonders what she would have to say about this.
©Elizabeth Anker 2022