Christmas time in the Valley of the Moon
No matter that it’s been more than 10 days now, and that it’s clearly not a subject for a Christmas Day column, my heart still aches for those 20 children and six adults who were murdered in Newtown, Conn. How can we forget them? Will we? Never!
The only possible resolution to this deep and painful ache is to begin today to work on legislation that will eliminate guns in personal hands. It’s not merely a mental health issue, as so many have stated. This is a gun issue and the clarion call that guns must now be eliminated.
Culture of make-believe
Will Shonbrun, my neighbor in Sonoma, put it clearly and succinctly in his recent email, “Here’s another part of the gun industry and how we arm the world. Is the picture of who we really are and what we do here and elsewhere getting clearer? If we don't start looking at our ‘culture of make-believe’ as Derek Jensen labeled it, we will learn nothing, and the mass killings will persist, and get even worse and more frequent. We, with few exceptions, have all created and permitted this psychosis because we create the culture of violence as we manufacture and sell the weapons that perpetuate it.” See more on this topic at sonomanews.com.
A look in the mirror
As a friend said recently: “Want to see who’s to blame for what we have become? Look in the mirror. What did we do when a handful of terrorists killed 3,000 people in New York? We bombed the people of Afghanistan and Iraq. Civilians. Men, women and children. Wholesale slaughter. And some of us felt justified in doing so. This will never stop until we change. Is this the time to alter our course? Are the bullet-ridden bodies of 20 of our babies enough to awaken us? If not now, when?”
That note above was a follow-up email from Will. Here is an email from his friend, Mark Morford, titled, “On guns; finally somebody saying it outright.” Mark’s letter begins, “Guns are, socially and ethically, devastating. Worthless. They add nothing of positive, intrinsic value to a culture, a people, a country. They only diminish, destroy, display an awesome sense of malformed ego and disastrously warped humanity.”
All of this is a sad and spiritually vacant view of our society. With suggestions about what we can and must do to see change.
Just like the old Catholic hymn that I so love, “Let there be peace on earth; and let it begin with me.” A hard sell, I know … but it’s been a long time coming and this train’s not stopping now.
There is no way that we as a sane and caring nation can mourn the deaths of those 20 dear babies, and then not banish guns from our lives forever. That is the horrible tragedy that will put an end to all war; war within our own country, against other nations and especially, the war within ourselves. Goodbye to guns; goodbye to violence. Let us begin this New Year 2013 with renewed hope for a better world.
Two midwinter poems
As for my Christmas offerings to you on this fine day, a celebration for the birth of the God of Love. First, I wish for Peace on Earth, a simple heart-felt sentiment whose time has come. Next, I wish peace in your own life. As the Bible offers, “The peace that passeth all understanding.” We’re ready for that, too.
For now, we give you a couple of Christmas poems that we particularly love. Peace and joy to you on Christmas Day. I present my annual gift today that comes via Bill Hall. Bill lives in San Francisco but has a long family heritage in our town. His great-grandfather was C.J. Poppe, a Glen Ellen pioneer who ran our first general store.
Today’s gift poem is one written many years ago by C.J.’s daughter, Edna Poppe Cooper, and comes from her book, “Songs From the Valley of the Moon,” published in 1926, six years after Edna’s death.
When Bill first brought me a copy of the book containing this poem, he said his whole family was so proud that for many years Edna’s poem was published in The Sonoma Index-Tribune each Christmas. Somewhere along the way, the tradition ended, no doubt merely an oversight. Bill requested that I revive it, and so, in the mid ’90s, I did. Bill’s mother died a few years ago and it is in her honor that we continue to print the poem.
The poesy that Edna penned is not high verse, though it shines with a certain Valley of the Moon nostalgia that is pleasant to recall, especially now on Christmas Day.
Let’s set the scene: Imagine if you will a Christmas spent far from home in a lonely, snow-covered wasteland. That is how Edna begins her verse. I often think that it was in response to one or another dear friend far away during World War I. Thankfully, her initial vision is just a dream and her poem continues with images of our village that still apply today, over 90 years after she wrote it. And her hope that we all share our bounty still applies, as well. Enjoy.
Christmas in the Valley of the Moon
By Edna Poppe Cooper
Last night I had a dream: it seemed I wandered far away/
Before were fields of trackless snow – above were skies of gray/
No cheery voices greeted me; no hearth-fire sent its glow/
No light gleamed o’er the pathless plain, whose wastes I did not know/
Then, in my lonely heart there stirred an old, familiar tune/
And something said, “ ’Tis Christmas in the Valley of the Moon”/
My fondest fancy painted, then, the valley that I love/
I saw the green of stately pines, the blue of skies above/
And there, the old Sonoma Creek was calling me to go/
Where brown and golden woods were decked with fern and mistletoe/
And glowing Christmas berries, bright as roses are in June/
The emblems of the Yuletide in the Valley of the Moon/
In fancy, then, the night came on ~ the soft moon glimmered bright/
I saw the open doorways in floods of golden light/
In every home a Christmas tree with candles all aglow/
And sweetest music playing songs whose words I used to know/
“How fair it is,” I murmured low, “if I might ask a boon/
I would be home ~ ’tis Christmas in the Valley of the Moon”/
Then I awoke. It was a dream; my own home sheltered me/
And Christmas time was coming on; each heart was full of glee/
A mystery was in the air, the breath of pines was sweet/
And every home was bright and fair with life and love complete/
Oh, may the angel voices hear our hearts to love attune/
That all may know ’tis Christmas in the Valley of the Moon/
For where, from Bennett’s misty peak to Wingo’s marshy land/
Is there a heart, is there a soul, that cannot understand/
The message of the angels on that first glad Christmas night/
Appearing to the shepherds in a glow of heavenly light?/
’Tis “Peace on earth, good will toward men,” Oh listen and commune/
With thankful hearts. ’Tis Christmas in the Valley of the Moon/
’Tis Christmas: we must cast away all prejudice and pride/
And share our bounty with the ones who wait our gates beside/
’Tis Christmas: fruitful lands are ours; our homes are warm and bright/
Oh, Lord, forbid “the least of these” should want this day or night/
May angels light the way for us, by blessing and by boon/
To make a heartfelt Christmas in the Valley of the Moon.
Our final bit of poesy, to use the term that Edna Poppe Cooper preferred, is a contemporary song written by Gordon Bok, a Maine man who is talented with folk songs, a lover of the sea and the sea of words. The folks of the Bouverie Preserve Choir, known as the Quercus Quire, like to share this melody during their Solstice Celebration. It brings to mind a warm family Christmas for me and hence my sharing it with you.
“Hearth and Fire”
Hearth and fire be ours tonight
And all the dark outside,
Fair the night, and kind on you
Wherever you may bide.
And I'll be the sun upon your head,
The wind about your face;
My love upon the path you tread
And upon your wanderings, peace.
Wine and song be ours tonight,
And all the cold outside;
Peace and warmth be yours tonight
Wherever you may bide.
Hearth and fire be ours tonight
And the wind in the birches bare;
Oh, that the wind we hear tonight,
Would find you well and fair.
A blessed Christmas Day to each one of you my dear readers. I appreciate your attention, fully or partially given, to these once-a-week missals. May peace be with you.
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Share your good news with friends and neighbors in Glen Ellen. Call or write me at 996-5995 or P.O. Box 518, GE 95442. Or email me at Creekbottom@earthlink.net. Glen Ellen chatter rarely requires timeliness; however, if your news does, please be sure to contact me at least three weeks before the run date.