Teri Orr: Anticipating clarity if not the Magi
January 3, 2014
I am looking forward to Monday. I grabbed my Daytimer (yes, I am that old-school) to write an appointment down for next week. And there, already printed on the page, in ALL CAPITAL LETTERS was the word EPIPHANY. It appears the universe has some great message, or perhaps more than one, coming to me (and since it was pre-printed, possibly, also, to you) on Monday, Jan. 6th. Yes, I know this is the 12th day of Christmas. And yes, I know in Christianity there is a belief this is the day the three wise men (who I suspect had been given directions by a woman "just follow the star guys, can’t miss the manger") came upon the baby Jesus and declared him the son of God. It is a sweet story of bearing gifts and wonder.
In a literary sense, an epiphany is the "aha" moment, the element of surprise/discovery perhaps all other moments led up to the, now/wow, of this VERY moment, unveiling, revealing and explaining the heretofore, unexplained. I love epiphanies of any size and shape and emotion. And honestly, one could come none-too-soon for me.
My fall has been rather muddled/befuddled. I’ve been scattered, as a source once told me for a story, "from hell to breakfast." And though I never quite understood his comment, I did have a visual of how messy and long that scattering would be. I have lost my ability to discern which mail is immediate and which is meant to be informational and which simply entertaining. So, mostly, I try to shift through and find the bills and then place the rest in various lovely bags I then place in different closets and corners of my tiny house. This system, by the way, is not working.
I am a reader or at least I remember being a reader, so I have books stacked upon books to be read and magazines that form columns under tables. Articles, someone has clipped from a publication and sent on to me. Or that I have torn from the pages of one of those millions of magazines. In my study are more papers and documents that number many, many pages and so I placed them in various baskets (slightly more visually appealing) and some fabric covered boxes. They mock me and taunt me and rustle among themselves in cheerful disorder.
So I shouldn’t have been so surprised, saddened, disoriented when Sweet Baby Jesus went missing this year. I unpacked from my too full garage, the many, many boxes of holiday decorations and unwrapped from yellowed tissue paper, ever so carefully, Mary and Joseph. They are lovely, simple, clay figures I purchased decades ago when the Kimball Art Center had that fabulous gift shop and handmade treasures there for sale. The set contained three more pieces, a kind of water jug, a curly woolly sleeping sheep and Sweet Baby Jesus, asleep in his miniature manger. I dug through every box. I swear I did. But those pieces were nowhere to be found. I even told my adult daughter of my distress. She told me not to worry, in her sensible way, and noted it was still a week before Christmas. Jesus, she reminded me, doesn’t show up until Dec. 25, he had days to appear.
And as I decorated the tree I realized I was also missing the ornaments I have cared for so lovingly for decades — the glass-blown, faded, colored ornaments which had appeared on both my mother and father’s first Christmas trees. I never put them in the garage. I always put them somewhere special in my house. But this entire season I have been unable to find them. I have torn through bags and drawers and boxes and found strange and forgotten trinkets and stray earrings and missing pens. But there has been no joy of discovery for the missing ornaments.
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I have come to the only logical conclusion — the ornaments and Sweet Baby Jesus are hiding out together somewhere. Taking a holiday from the holiday. Reminding me that though I profess not to care about material possessions I miss terribly those talismans that tie me to tradition. None of these items would be valuable to anyone else. They are abstract and in the case of the ornaments, faded almost beyond recognition. The clay jug and the sleeping sheep look to be rather rough folk art if don’t have the right eye. And the baby in the manger? You need to be in the season to understand that free form piece of baked clay is more than a sleeping baby.
On the first day of this new year I drove over Brown’s Canyon and turned toward Rockport and found a road that had a path along the river and horses outside their barn. I walked along the frozen ground in the clear, bright sunlight and felt a tiny breeze on my face and I soaked up the silence that was all around. I could hear the horses foraging for food. There was an occasional bird song but certainly no chorus. And no cars passing. The quiet was huge.
When day two of the new year dawned I dug out my little book of days and started to put in the little boxes, those duties I knew were looming. And when I saw Monday with the pre-printed message, in ALL CAPS, there was a noticeable sense of relief. Perhaps order will be brought to my life, perhaps the mystery of the missing Sweet Baby Jesus will be revealed just to me, perhaps other curiosities and puzzles I can’t solve will, on Monday, seem so surprisingly obvious, I will experience the epiphany and not just read it in print. I’m going to stand ready, because sometimes the anticipation can be as sweet as the reveal. The "aha" might arrive early, despite what it says in the calendar. We live in fluid times and Monday printed on the page might just start on Sunday in the Park…
Teri Orr is a former editor of The Park Record. She is the director of the organization that provides programming for the George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Center for the Performing Arts.
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