"Getting klo'd Kreem," as my friend John Carroll used to say back in the 70s, when it seemed more common to keep a collection of made-up sayings than it does nowadays. That one was a kind of melted-cheese version of the observation that it's getting close to Christmas. Which doesn't get much closer than right now, as we enter the daylight nosedive of 4:07 p.m. on the bewreathed day of December 25th, a big address, a trademark, a soundtrack, a destination, and also another day that starts at midnight and ends at the next available midnight. But it is uncommonly quiet out when you take a walk (especially in the cold) and it carries good freight, not the least of which is a kind wish that the day be merry, a brimming bowlful of a word suggesting good smells, flavors, music, and above all, laughter, which snuck away from slaughter to rhyme with rafter, to which it rises on big fat ticklish helium bubbles. Meh Kreem, John.
Today is the final hatch to open, on traditional advent calendars, the one that reveals the angel or ¡Feliz Navidad! or whatever the big payoff is. But I think I go through the last day. If not sail on into the Neues Jahr, maybe make this an adventure calendar.
To open a few more old hatches...
Thursday, Dec. 19
Unclear Thursday fortunes, if you redivide the words, becomes Uncle Arthur's day for tunes.
This magic trick made me very happy when I discovered it years ago, and still does. Similar to the smile I once derived from "Gideon sighed, giddy inside." It's called a charade, this kind of word redivider. (And redivider is a palindrome!) The most elegant charades are a pair of redivided sentences that rhyme, like this example I found on a couple of pages on a remote website.
Flamingo: pale, scenting a latent shark!
Flaming, opalescent in gala tents - - hark!
There's even a charade that redivides backwards as a palindrome:
Doc, note, I dissent. A fast never prevents a fatness. I diet on cod.
Charades—or any prodigious feats of wordplay, really—are a little scary (check out the poem on the second page of the charade link), but at heart they're deeply entertaining, like a street musician who can't help it if she's extravagantly talented. They remind me of what's called lenticular printing, which is the technical name for those Crackerjack prizes I treasured when I was a kid, the ones with a little screen of ridged plastic, where you turn it one way and the animated magician gestures with his wand, turn it the other way and he pulls out a rabbit.
You can find lenticular videos on YouTube, of things like the Aukland NZ skyline or a vineyard changing through the four seasons, but they're not nearly as thrilling as those little plastic prizes were.
One open door I wandered into, though, while I was browsing lenticular gimcracks, was a video about another Old Hatch—Hatch Show Print— an old-fashioned letterpress poster print shop in Nashville. A vanished craft that can possibly turn unclear Thursday fortunes into Uncle Arthur's day for tunes. So that's my hatch of the day.
Fri., Dec. 20
I don't really remember what the prize in the Crackerjack box was for this day. It might be dragons. I've been thinking about dragons a lot lately, researching for a classroom unit around Beowulf. Most people think of the title character's combat with the monster Grendel and Grendel's mom (played in the movie version as a hottie in skintight gold lamé by Angelina Jolie!), but in the end, fifty years after the Grendels, Beowulf dies from a wound he gets in slaying a dragon who, like most of its kind, was guarding a treasure-hoard.
So why are western dragons, like the ones in Northern European folklore, mean and incendiary, while eastern dragons, like Chinese dragons, are helpful and inspiring? Something to do with people's different attitudes toward nature? Combative in the west, harmonious in the east? And what about Fafnir in the Old Norse saga? He was a guy who killed his father and was turned into a dragon, only to be slain by Sigurd, a notable dragon exterminator, who ended up with the treasure-hoard Fafnir was guarding. What's with these dragons coveting goblets and coins and jewels? Irony? Is the dragon the price of greed? Did we make up the bad dragon as the ultimate in-your-face: got fire, got flight, got your gold, got you!
Sat., Dec. 21
Winter solstice: a long yodel from June, but it's a start. Winter, the ultima thule of cold and dark, invented fire and candles worn like a hat by flaxen-haired maidens on St. Lucia's Day (Dec. 13) in Sweden,
and the idea of Yule lights twinkling on a tree inside a house, or one light burning for eight days on, like, zero oil. Winter invented people getting together to warm a long night, telling stories, having sweet potato and coconut soup, brown rice balls and pinot noir, then going home to hibernate, for a while.
Sun., Dec 22
I'll go with an aural hatch, not to be confused with Orrin Hatch, the senior senator from Utah, though I believe he'd approve of this portal: Christmas carols; to be precise, James Taylor's At Christmas CD, which was intended to be a Christmas present for Carol, but became a solstice present instead to maximize playing time, and indeed the sound of JT's soothing baritone filling the kitchen is the aural equivalent of the aroma of baking gingerbread. Who'd have guessed that James Taylor back in his strung-out days would later on hop aboard the Christmas standards bandwagon? But he makes 'em feel like smooth, sanded wood.
Mon., Dec 23
A new calendar in the waiting for 2014: what'll it be? French Impressionists? Birds? Irish landscapes? Nope, it's Georgia O'Keeffe's solemnly ecstatic flowers and red hill and white shell and birch and pine tree that will grace the months and maybe even influence the daily revelations of each gallery of hatches.