Today I find myself turning again to those fateful lines from Bertolt Brecht’s Motto to the Svendborg Poems, penned in 1939:
“In the dark times
Will there also be singing?
Yes, there will also be singing.
About the dark times.”
In 2017, we humans (or at least some of us) have managed to do it again, bringing upon ourselves and our planet a desperate darkness that threatens democracies across the globe and our very continuation as a species. The earth is crying out to us to come home to the realization of our profound interconnection with one another and all the phenomenal world.
Alas, it’s all too easy to succumb to despair, hopelessness, and paralyzing anxiety ~ to forget to savor the richness of the gift of life in such dark times.
Most of the folks I know are doing whatever we can to turn the dark tide ~ and blessings to each of you who, in your own ways, are exercising time, thought, action, energy, and prayer on behalf of healing our broken world.
The winter solstice and its many cultural and spiritual celebrations offer us precious opportunities to reclaim the wondrous joy of being alive and the nourishingly transcendent spirit of love. Feasting! Singing and dancing! Celebrating the young and the possibility for new birth in every moment! Testifying that, against all odds, we’re here! Reverencing the miracle of incarnation!
In that vein, I’d like to share with you a little piece I’ve submitted for the upcoming holiday edition of my publisher’s Thomas-Jacob Newsletter. (If you subscribe to the mailing list at the website, you can enjoy the stories, poems, and all-around nutty mayhem contributed by my terrific crew of fellow authors when the new issue comes out.) Here’s my own contribution:
Marrying an Englishman made an instant Anglophile of me, and my first Christmas as a Heath sealed the deal. My mother-in-law Freda, born under Victoria’s reign, was the family queen of all things domestic; her roast beef and Yorkshire pud put a glow on my cheeks as pink as the paper crown I extracted along with the miniature toy and corny joke from my snapped-open Christmas cracker. But it was her sugar cookies, crisp around the edges and heavenly soft in their green-and-red sugared centers, that were her greatest claim to Christmas fame. So here’s the recipe as she wrote it in her own wavery hand, and to hell with your waistbands ~ Christmas comes but once a year!
Freda Heath’s Christmas Sugar Cookies:
1 cup softened butter (2 cubes);
1 cup Crisco oil (I use canola these days);
1 cup powdered sugar;
1 cup granulated sugar;
1 tsp. vanilla;
1 tsp. baking soda;
1 tsp. salt;
1 tsp. cream of tartar;
4 cups white flour.
Cream together the sugar, butter, and oil.
Add the vanilla and eggs.
Sift in the dry ingredients and blend with a spoon.
Roll teaspoon-sized portions of the dough into balls.
Place each ball onto a greased cookie sheet and press down with a glass wiped with oil and dipped in sugar.
Bake at 375 degrees for 10 minutes: no more!
The cookies should be whitish on top and beginning to brown at the edges.
(You may press Christmas cookie cutters onto the flattened balls and use colored sugars at your whimsy.)
Enjoy, and – as the Brits say – a Happy Christmas to all!