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Sunday, December 31, 2017

Friday, December 22, 2017

Fir Trees Sing in this Swiss Fairy Tale



The Singing Fir Tree

In Switzerland, a story is told about a man named Hans Kreutz, who lived with his wife on Thun Lake in Ralligen. In the year 1555, a thick black fog descended on the village and it would not dissipate. The alarmed villagers retreated to their homes, closed doors and sealed the windows tightly. But a light blue vapor crept under the window sill and the wife breathed in this vapor and in the evening she lay in bed motionless. Hans looked into her eyes and saw no reflection there and in the morning she was dead. Many villagers died that year and the survivors buried their loved ones in the church yard at the outskirts of town, where the mountain and forest swept down abruptly into the valley. While the bells in the church tower were ringing, Hans buried his wife and returned home. For days he did not leave his house. He neither ate nor slept but could not forget the vacant stare of his beloved wife and the sound of the church bells as he lowered her into the grave.

One evening when Hans sat by the fire, he heard the church bells ring out the Ave and they rang and rang and he lost track of the time. He raised his head, for he thought he heard wonderful and sweet singing up high in the Hohlbach Forest near the tree line. But when the church bells stopped ringing, he heard it no more. The next day he sat with longing and waited for the evening church bells to ring out the Ave. At first he heard only the faintest sound of distant singing, but then the melody grew stronger until there could be no mistake. A woman’s voice sang a mysterious and beautiful song, the words of which he could not quite decipher.

But Hans spread word among the townspeople. At night the entire village listened while the church bells rang and soon everyone heard the wonderful singing daily. The singing was soothing and the villagers listened at the edge of the village until the snow began to fall and then they returned to their homes. All but Hans, who wanted to know where the singing came from. The next night when the church bells were ringing, the villagers assembled in the church yard. Hans lit a torch and climbed the mountainside, following the mysterious melody. He did this every evening until one night he finally found a giant fir tree, and its voice was sweet and clear. He shyly gazed upon the tree and in amazement listened to its gentle song.

But Hans could find no rest. The singing fir tree occupied his waking and sleeping hours and he wanted to be in the presence of its song always. In secret he climbed up the mountain during the day and spent long hours near the tree. Some time passed and Hans was called away to visit his family in the next valley.

While he was away, a wood carver from among the villagers, who had seen the beautiful fir tree, decided he needed it to make a wood carving. Because the tree was so magnificent, tall and straight, with perfectly formed branches and trunk, he had it felled and brought down to the valley. From the wood, he selected an enormous block of the trunk that had no scars or branches. From this piece of wood he began to carve an image of the Virgin Mary. He worked day and night on this carving and saw nothing more beautiful than the image of the Virgin growing out of the wood. And after some time, the villagers came to his workshop and marveled at the beauty of the image, its heavenly countenance and mild authority.

When Hans returned to the village after some months, he climbed the mountain and went directly to where the singing fir tree had stood. In its place was only a stump and Hans was gripped by such melancholy, that a loud moan issued from his lips. It was like the howling of a wounded wolf or the shriek of an eagle flying overhead. The loud cries filled the valley, echoing off the cliffs and rocks. When the villagers heard the loud cries from above, they gathered below near the church. And soon in the distance they heard the beautiful, long-missed song. They turned and saw the woodcarver, carrying his statue and saw that it was singing. He placed the statue in the church, where it stands today. And some say, they have heard it singing when a loved one dies. The place where the tree once stood is now called Marienstein. There is a smaller rock nearby, where Hans once gazed upon the fir tree. It is said that in his grief, Hans turned to stone and the place is now called the Kreutzantisch.



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Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Happy Winter Solstice


From The New York Times:

Give Thanks for the Winter Solstice. You Might Not Be Here Without It.

The scientific start of winter offers a moment to reflect on how we might not be here to witness the changing seasons without Earth’s particular tilt toward the sun.

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/20/science/winter-solstice-december-21.html 

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

David & Bing Sing a Christmas Carol


Peace on Earth: Henry, David & Bing Sing

December

Riding upon the goat, with snow-white hair,
I come the last of all, this crown of mine
is of the holly in my hand I bear
the thryus, tipped with fragrant cones of pine
I celebrate the birth of the divine,
and the return of the Saturnian reign --
my songs are carols sung at every shrine
proclaiming "Peace on Earth Goodwill to Men."

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow


And here is the version by David and Bing:




Friday, December 15, 2017

Christmas Insects: The Butterfly in Winter



The Butterfly
A fairy tale by Hans Christian Andersen
 

A butterfly longed to find a bride; so of course it sought a pretty one amongst the flowers. It inspected an entire meadow full but found that each bloom sat quietly and respectably on its stalk (exactly as is fitting for a young maiden when she is not yet engaged). The only problem was that there were so many flowers and the huge selection threatened to become overwhelming.

The butterfly did not like exerting all this effort. That is why he flew to visit the daisies. The French call this flower “Margerite” because they know that the Margerite can prophesy the future. And this the flower gladly does, if a lover pulls out each petal one by one, while asking a question about his or her intended true love: “Does she love me from the bottom of her heart? – Love so deep, it causes pain? – Does he love me truly? – A little? -- Not at all? –“ These and many other questions the flower will gladly answer.

The butterfly came to the Margerite to ask his question. But he did not pull off the petals. Instead he pressed a kiss onto each little bud. He did this because he reasoned, he would get much farther by showing good will.
 “Margerite, best of all blooms!” he said to the flower. “You are the smartest woman among all the flowers. You can foretell the future. Please, please tell me, shall I win her or another? Which one shall be my bride? When I know the answer, I will fly straight away to her and ask for her hand in marriage.”

But the Margerite Daisy did not respond. She was angry that he had called her a “woman”, when in fact she was a young maiden. There is a difference! He asked a second and third time. When the flower remained silent and would not utter a single word, he decided not to linger any longer and flew away to find his own bride. It was the last days of spring. All around the snowdrops and crocuses bloomed. “They are all very nice indeed,” the butterfly thought. But they are all small fish! Then he flew to the anemones. They were a little too bitter. The violets a bit too effusive. The tulips were too proud. The narcissus too domestic. The lime blossoms were too small and had too many relatives. The apple blossoms, they were as beautiful as roses, but here today, gone tomorrow, depending on how the wind was blowing. The pea blossoms pleased him the most. They were red and white, delicate and fine. They were like good domestic help: pleasant to look at and great in the kitchen. He was just about to ask one to be his bride when he spied a dried-out pod standing nearby, from its tip hung an old blossom. “Who is that?” he asked. “It is my sister,” the pea flower replied. “Aha! Later she will look exactly the same!” he exclaimed and fled because her appearance startled him.Spring passed and summer also ended. Now it was autumn, but the butterfly was still indecisive. Now the flowers all appeared in their finest gowns – but it was all for naught! They were all lacking the fresh, balmy scent of youth. A fragrant aroma is what the heart longs for when it is no longer young. The butterfly now flew to the mum and aster, but there were few to be found. So finally he settled on some crinkly mint.“The mint has no blossom, but its entire being is bud! It is fragrant from top to bottom and emits a flower’s perfume in every blade. I will take the mint as bride!” said the butterfly. And so, he asked the mint for her hand in marriage. But the crinkly mint stood there stiffly and listened silently. Finally it said “We can be friends, but not more than that! I am old and you are old. We can live and help each other, even amuse each other. But marry? Never!” 

And so the butterfly did not marry. He had waited too long, and one should never do that! And so the butterfly remained a confirmed bachelor.
 

Soon it was late autumn with rain and dark weather. Then water cam and the wind blew cold over the backs of the old willow trees and the branches groaned. It wasn’t the type of weather to fly about in one’s summer outfit! But the butterfly wasn’t flying outside anymore. He had managed to fly into a house, where the logs in the oven burned so brightly and it was as warm as a summer’s day. He considered whether or not he could live in such a cozy little room. “Merely living is not enough!” He finally said. “Sunshine, freedom and a small flower are what I require!” And he flew against the windowpane. The children all came running, admired him, then stuck him through with a needle and placed him in their box of treasures. Nothing else could be done for the fellow now. 

“Here I sit, pricked through by this needle instead of sitting on a flower!” the butterfly sighed. “This truly is not very pleasant! It must be what it’s like to be married, you are stuck to one spot!” And so he tried to console himself.


“That’s cold comfort, indeed,” said the houseplant on the windowsill. “But,” the butterfly thought to himself “One can’t really trust a houseplant. They spend far too much time among people!” 

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St. Joseph in the Forest




Fairy Tales for Christmas:
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St. Joseph in the Forest

Monday, December 11, 2017

Saint Joseph in the Forest, a Christmas Legend

Grimm’s Children Legend



No. 1
Saint Joseph in the Forest

There once was a mother who had three daughters. The oldest was naughty and mean. The middle child was much better, although she, too, had her shortcomings. But the youngest was a pious and godly child. The mother was so peculiar that it was precisely the oldest daughter that she loved most and she could not suffer the youngest one. That is why she often sent the poor girl into the big woods to be rid of her. She thought the girl would get lost and never more return. But like every good child, this girl had a guardian angel, who did not desert her. The angel always brought her back to the correct path. However, one day it seemed that her guardian angel was not guiding her by the hand for the child could not find its way out of the forest. The girl ran and ran until evening fell. Then she saw a light burning in the distance, ran toward it and came to a small hut. The child knocked and the door opened. Behind it, she found a second door, where she knocked again. An old man with a snow-white beard and venerable appearance opened the door. It was none other than the Blessed Saint Joseph. He spoke kindly to her “Come dear child, sit next to the fire on my little footstool and warm yourself. I’ll bring you a little clear water if you are thirsty. I don’t have anything for you to eat here in the woods except a few roots. You must first peel and cook them.”

Saint Joseph gave her the roots: the girl scraped them clean, then she took a piece of the pancake and bread her mother had given her and put everything in a little pot on the fire and cooked porridge. When it was finished Saint Joseph said “I am so hungry, give me a bit of your food.” The child was obliging and gave him more than she kept for herself. But God’s blessing was there and so the child’s hunger was satisfied. After they had eaten, Saint Joseph said “Let us go to bed: but I have only one bed. You lay down in it; I will lie on the straw on the ground.”

“No,” answered the child, “you stay in your bed; the straw is soft enough for me.”

Saint Joseph took the child in his arm and carried it to bed. The girl said her prayer and went to sleep. The next morning when she woke up, she wanted to say good morning to Saint Joseph but did not see him. She got out of bed and looked but could not find him in any corner. Finally she saw a sack with money behind the door. The sack was so heavy that the child could not carry it. On it was written that this was for the child who had slept there that night. The child took the sack and jumped away and returned happily to its mother. Because she gave her mother all the money, the woman had to be satisfied with the child.

The next day the second daughter also had an urge to go into the woods. The mother gave her a much larger piece of pancake and bread. The same thing happened to her. In the evening she came to the little hut of Saint Joseph, who gave the girl roots to make porridge. When the girl was finished the Saint said “I am so hungry; give me some of your food.” The child replied “Both of us can eat from the porridge.”

When afterward Saint Joseph offered his bed and wanted to lie down on the straw, the child replied “No, lay down on the bed, we both have enough room there.” Saint Joseph took the girl in his arm, laid her in bed and slept on the straw. In the morning the child awoke and looked for Saint Joseph. He was gone but behind the door the girl found a small sack with money. But the sack was only as large as the girl’s little hand. On it was written “For the child who slept here this night.” The child took the sack and ran home and gave it to its mother. But secretly the girl kept a few coins for herself.

Now the oldest daughter became curious and wanted to go into the woods the next morning. The mother gave her a pancake and as much bread and cheese as her heart desired. In the evening the girl found Saint Joseph in his little hut, just like the other two had found him. When the porridge was finished and Saint Joseph spoke “I am so hungry, give me some of your food!” the girl replied “Wait until I have eaten my fill.” Whatever I have left you can have.” But the girl ate almost everything and Saint Joseph had to scrape the bottom of the little bowl. The good man offered the girl his bed and wanted to lie on the straw. The child accepted this without hesitation, lay down in the little bed and left the hard straw for the old man. The next morning when the girl awoke, Saint Joseph could not be found. But the maid did not worry: she looked behind the door for the sack of money. She thought something was lying on the ground, but because she couldn’t really tell what it was, she bent over and hit her nose on the floor. Something stuck to her nose when she got up. To the girl’s horror it was a second nose sticking to her own. The girl began to scream and howl, but id didn’t help. She had to look at her nose and see how it protruded so very far from her face. She ran away screaming until she found Saint Joseph. She fell down at his feet and prostrated herself. Finally, in his mercy, he took away the nose and what’s more, gave her two Pfennigs. When the girl returned her mother stood in front of the door and asked “What presents have you received?”

The girl lied and said “A big sack full of money, but I lost it on the way home!”

“Lost it!” the mother cried. “We sure want to find it again.” And she took the girl by the hand and wanted to go out searching. First the girl started to cry and did not want to go. But finally she went along. On the way, the two were overcome by so many snakes and lizards, that they could not save themselves. They stung the child until she was dead, but the mother they stung in her foot because she had not raised the girl better. 




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