Sunday, December 14, 2008

Indolence in the Face of Christmas

I have no business expecting to get any sleep tonight as I have just spent the laziest Sunday in human history. The sun did not appear at all. We might just as well have been in the arctic circle for all the sunlight we got today. I left the house once, in search of silver polish (to shine up a silver-plated pitcher that I am soon to bestow on Shackleton's volunteer reading tutor as a "thank you" and Christmas acknowledgment). I came home with milk, fruit roll ups and English muffins. No polish. The general stores in the vicinity don't stock it and I wasn't driving twelve miles to the county seat to the nearest open hardware store. I improvised with some ancient pewter polish. The pitcher was not fully restored to its turn-of-the-century grandeur but it achieved a certain gaudy charm.

The one other thing I managed to do was scan the illustration that serves as today's banner. This comes from an old story book called Tales Told In Holland. I wrote about it here last summer, noting that its strength is found in the fabulous illustrations by Maud and Mishka Petersham. The stories and poems have pretty well lost their appeal (if they ever had any). I was reminded of this illustration while reading Jaywalker's discussion of the Dutch/Flemish (horribly politically incorrect) Christmas tradition of zwart Piet - the Moor who accompanies St. Nick on his horse and who doles out punishment to bad children. I hadn't bothered to read the story accompanying this illustration, although it had caught my eye last summer (I had wondered who the black kid in the ruff was and why Santa had a horse). Today I got only part way through. The "tale" started with something about how a poor Dutch fellow was once on the verge of "selling his three daughters" when someone dropped money down his chimney. His benefactor was the Bishop who became St. Nick. I couldn't focus long enough to find out how he acquired Piet. Oh, the charms of Old Europe. Lovely illustration, though, isn't it?