Overwhelming force of violence or evil makes powerful reading for some. For some, but not for me. Powerful reading for me is in tension of struggles between opposing forces in the narrative. When one of these forces is love your story becomes cosmic within nature, no matter how exalted or mundane.
The last sentence lacks clarity because it’s unclear what “no matter how exalted or mundane” is referring to. I leave that configuration because it sounds better than any way I might think to clarify. But, no matter what’s referenced in that sentence, the phrase fits: “Opposing forces?” “Story?” “Within nature?” Each, within the story, might be exalted or mundane.
Our series of three, on working xmas, begins HERE.
…There is a cold breeze outside the car, though nothing moves but a plastic rag knotted on a tree limb — the tree one of those slender naked beauties above the car. Just so light, the rag floats on an otherwise nonexistent breath available to any eye passing or peeping out the nursing home window. I’m parked below the Church between it and the nursing home, waiting for Mass to begin. I don’t recall ever being in a Catholic Church before.
All over New England, in old once-successful mill towns, one finds these astonishing structures in brick or stone. One day this granite mass before me will be christened a basilica. Now it is a reminder that those coming across the border, the French-Canadian immigrants, gave unstintingly out of a bounty of labor not well-paid. For these workers, especially, often were not well treated… and in Yankee communities they were often despised.
Our 3-part working Christmas series begins HERE.
I arrive in Auburn down route 4, glide past the empty parking lots and deserted stores of Center Street and down into the inner business district, pull to a stop at the traffic light and wait for it to change. A young happy-looking man in a red windbreaker walks in front of the car… now looking like reaching for the doorhandle, so I stretch out a forefinger and press the lock, averting my gaze from his smiling face, ashamed. I suspect he’s developmentally disabled and feel ungenerous for refusing to share even a smile with what could be an angel in disguise. Neither of my sons, I think, would have refused him. My hard suspicious nature has robbed me of a telling moment. It is Christmas Day.
He passes away down the main street toward Lewiston and, more waiting, then the light changes and I turn that way myself. I cross a bridge over Maine’s Androscoggin River and enter the old textile milltown, stopping to make another collect call on the pretext of determining whether I unplugged the coffee pot before leaving earlier. During the exchange JD and I wish one another Merry Christmas again and I’m listening for a tone, a timber in his voice to determine if he’s unhappy about being alone. His tone is light, uncomplicated, content. I hang up and sigh.
The morning’s coffee has triggered the bodily system and I find myself in need of relief: but where can one find a public toilet in a deserted city on Christmas Day?
Working Christmas. 4:45 a.m. make coffee, plug in the white-lit wreath, turn on the radio to the Mt. Washington station playing Christmas carols.
Marginalia: read Brault’s French-Canadian heritage in New England for info on Sts. P. & P. and the people, remember theme of despised and rejected. Here in Maine the French were so treated in the established Yankee culture.
Relate when I’m inside; interspersed with service. Something on the language – the need to retain it. The Québécois newcomers retained their agrarian small-town mores and language in the mill towns of Maine. “Lose your language, lose your faith,” went the saying.
The House that Jacob Built (New York: William Morrow, 1947). Maine, as everywhere, is in transition but this gives a solid reading experience of the Maine way.
Some books I’ve enjoyed, not in order of preference:
The Walk Down Main Street; and also The Spoonhandle, by Ruth Moore.
Empire Falls by Richard Russo. I disagree completely with this Maine play on the Columbine shootings. Schools in each situation are not comparable, nor does he get the socio-economic level right in regards to the shooter. I do not think it would happen so in Maine, even today (18-21 years later). But other than that he gets much right and this, as HBO production, is good, I think. I’m fairly sure I read the book, too, but the show images are much stronger in my memory. Take care in these kind of media passes.