2008-12-04 / Editorial

Island Lookout

By Stephen Heffner

These are dark times for many Americans - especially those who have lost jobs, homes, and peace of mind to the colossal Ponzi schemes that suit-and-tie criminals thoughtlessly planted like bombs under the American economy. And, with the coincidence of the many religionbased activities this holiday season, it's likely lots of folks will be turning to prayer for solace.

Me, I think it's an excellent time to go pagan - and I'll tell you why shortly.

First, however, let me acknowledge the holiday just gone by - Thanksgiving. It was a particularly special day for me, for as I sat at the table, sharing traditional calories with my family, I was overwhelmed by how much I had to be thankful for - especially for Sarah Palin.

I wasn't exactly surprised by the emotion of the moment, for I'd started feeling it when Miss Congeniality first was rumored to be the GOP Vice-Presidential candidate. In fact, I recall exactly when I recognized what a personal blessing she was. It was a few days after she had been introduced to the national press, and I was standing in my kitchen, chopping broccoli and watching CNN news. And there was Sparkles herself on the campaign trail, yakking a mile a minute in that inimitable style of hers, herding flocks of wayward phrases around the sparse meadows of her mind, connecting them with freeform gerunds in place of conventional subject-predicate patterns, and hardly worrying that she was spitting out non-sequiturs in lieu of facts or actual answers as fast as her lips could form them.

I was an Obama supporter - but, despite his increasing successes, I couldn't shake the worry that closet racism and other fearful strains among voters might tip the scales. But that evening in my kitchen, with a pile of broccoli bits on the cutting board and a lettuce-headed woman on TV, everything changed. A tear formed in my eye, an oath rose in my throat, and, although I was alone, I found myself speaking aloud.

"Thank you, Santa Claus," I said, addressing not the jolly elf from the North Pole, but the short, cranky guy from Arizona, who had arrived early this year, delivering to our democracy the most encouraging gift we've gotten in a long time.

The bad news is that Baracklin Roosevelt won't actually be in charge of anything until Jan. 20. Even then, it will take him a while to rudder our lumbering ship of states away from the financial and diplomatic icebergs his predecessor, Captain Mountain Bike, has driven us into.

Meanwhile, we grab hope where we can. In proper pagan tradition, I'm looking toward a star in the east - but not the one hovering over the manger. Mine is a less exotic variety, merely our old sun - specifically, the one scheduled to rise on Dec. 21. And to guide me on the journey that begins that day, I've equipped myself with the heathen version of the Bible: the Old Farmers Almanac. Got a fresh copy the other day at Baker's Pharmacy.

You see, in the long centuries of the BEC period (Before Electrical Convenience), late December was a big deal. Other than campfires and candles, the sun was about all the light those folks had. It fueled their crops, warmed their bodies, and kept the dark spirits at bay. People were as attuned to it as a modern teenager to her cell phone, and they knew its comings and goings with precision. So, when what we now call the winter solstice arrived - the shortest day and longest night of the year - it was huge. Even with months of cold, dangerous winter looming, from that day forward, days would lengthen, nights would shrink, and the encouraging daystar would shine ever brighter.

And people celebrated. Study ancient cultures and you'll see all manner of feasts and festivities happening at that time of year - dancing, drinking, human sacrifice, all the good stuff. Officially, the events were aimed at honoring the celestial deities, while telling the forces of darkness where to stick it - but there also was a sense of just wanting to go a little wacky before the impending ugliness of January, February, and March.

Today, with weeks, perhaps months, of meteorological and economic slush in our future, I propose a similar course. Go with the usual revelry at Christmas (a pagan holdover, of course, repackaged by the early church), and also on New Year's Eve and Day. But let's not quit there. Instead, we will open our Farmer's Almanacs to the celestial charts and begin tracking the increasing amount of sunlight we receive each day. And we will party accordingly.

The Almanac says, for example, that Jan. 1 brings us 9 hours and 9 minutes of sunshine. That jumps to 9 hours, 10 minutes on Jan. 2. That's worth a glass raised in toast. Same increase each of the next few days - until Jan. 9 gains two minutes on Jan. 8. That's a pair of cocktails. Then, it's a drink or two a day until the 27th gains three minutes on the 26th. "Tres cervezas, por favor!"

We could form a club. Maybe call it: "Sons of the Sun." Except, we'd want girls in it. How about: "Rah! Rah! Ra!" Or: "The Happy Helios." Also, we need appropriate drinks. Tequila Sunrise works, but I'd like something new. How about: the "Sun Spot" (vodka, dash of Galliano, in a shot glass). Or: the "Solar Flare" (gin on ice, under a wheel of freshly sliced orange). Suggestions welcome. Cheers.

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