Showing posts from November, 2012

Heading for the Holidays

There are astronomical reasons for the similarities among celebrations this time of year.  Despite differences of culture or religion, there are common elements because we share a world.  Here in the Northern Hemisphere, we are on the verge of winter, with days growing shorter until the solstice turns the tide.  We have a sense that we are going down into darkness, and that has influenced our holidays.  Winter holidays, and those of late autumn, tend to be about light, family and tradition.  Winter holidays are about making it through to the next Spring.

     As days grow short, we crave the light.  Twinkling bulbs, flickering candles or roaring fires all remind us of brighter days and make the darkness a little less bleak.  Even the use of gold and silver in holiday decorations may be an unconscious attraction to the glints of light they reflect.

     We also recognize that the cold, dark months ahead will be more bearable if we gather friends and family around us.  We seek home…

Home Remedy

Just about every family has its own special cure for the common cold.  Mention your sniffles, and you'll get suggestions from all sides.  Some are as simple and predictable as chicken soup, and others are more arcane.  Perhaps this is the natural result of not having an official medicinal cure for the problem.  We have to fight, so we try all sorts of things and hang onto what makes us feel a little better.  At least we feel like we've done something about it.

     The primary reason science has had such a hard time with the common cold, as I understand, is that it is as good at adapting to new conditions as the human beings it infects.  Colds change.  They resist attempts to wipe them out, and medicine that might have worked in the past isn't guaranteed to work again.  Fighting a cold can't be done by putting on your heavy armour and reaching for a big sword (metaphorically...or literally, I guess.)  It's more like learning to dodge and keeping your pockets f…

The Baker's Daughters

"They say the owl was a baker's daughter.  Lord, we know what we are, but know not what we may be."
     William Shakespeare, Hamlet (Ophelia) Act 4, Scene 5

     In school, I was surprised to encounter this quote and not need the teacher's explanation.  Not only did I know what Shakespeare was getting at, but also his original source.  I had read the story of the baker's daughter many years before in the folktales I read for entertainment.  That I could share some common knowledge with an Elizabethan poet (some would say The Elizabethan poet) was interesting, but it shows how these stories, told again and again to children, are a thread that runs through time.  Shakespeare's reference may have contributed to keeping the story alive in my age, but that doesn't negate the significance.  It reinforces it.  We lift up the stories from our childhood and throw them forward for future generations to discover.  That's how folklore works.

     In the sto…