My Wobbly Bicycle, 162

Posted by on Dec 24, 2018 | 16 comments

I remember series-wired Christmas bulbs, waiting in my youthful despair as my father crawled around on his knees, testing one after the other to find the bad one so the string would come back on. I remember bubble lights (same story), and large round pink lights (my grandmother’s idea of being contemporary), and then strands of tiny lights. Our current tree came pre-wired with hundreds of tiny white lights. Actually, we have three trees in our condo: the big one, a tiny one made of sticks, and a medium size one, a cone that I put baby lights on. Everything is so sparkly. And so dark outside. I write this early on Christmas Eve morning. It’s snowing.


Of course in the darkest part of the year, humans thought of lights. Christian or not, the natural metaphor is that a light in the darkness represents hope. Alas, there is so much that’s dark besides the skies! Last night I was reading an essay by Jonathan Franzen that I had to put down and change books. Considering my tendency to be depressed at Christmas, I wasn’t going to go to sleep with that much despair filtering though my system. He was cataloging birds, describing the loss of our birds, of our planet, basically.


What sort of hope shall I have? That something apocalyptic will turn things around? It’s too late for humans to restore the planet without divine intervention.  All we can do, at best, is to slow the destruction. (And I am deeply grateful for those who are giving their lives to this effort.) I could rage with anger at the blindness that’s led to this mess, but mostly I’m in mourning for our grandchildren.


But it’s Christmas Eve! Let us bring back the light, let us rejoice in the rotation that returns light to the planet! Let us learn from African Americans who sang the most glorious gospel songs in the middle of their torment. I think the most human thing we can do is sing—or dance, or play music, or write poems, or do any sort of art—in the dead center of our grief. Consider the musician who played the violin as the Titanic sank into the waves.


Will we erect enough solar panels, windmills? Will we stop the mining of coal? Will we be able to continue along the path of the Enlightenment, or will we sink into a dark age of superstition and fake news?


One of the wisest people I’ve known said to me once, when I was in despair, “Fleda, nothing lasts forever, does it? The earth itself will burn up eventually.”


Does that sound unfairly gloomy, to recall at Christmas? I’m sorry. Actually, I was just at this moment feeling pretty cheery. I was thinking of how amazing humans are, with our sparkly consciousness. I don’t know how long we’ll last on this planet, but then, I don’t know if anyone will read a thing I’ve written after I’m gone. That doesn’t stop me from writing.


It’s the unnecessary quality of art that matters. Is that a contradiction? it flies out of us like angels. It is the spirit of us, made visible, made tangible, made audible. Aliveness is made of the transitory. It IS the transitory. They are one in the same, no separation.


So, with that in mind, I have to say I’m actually feeling really happy right now. Merry Christmas, or Merry whatever name you like to fasten to the return of light!


  1. Just what I needed this Christmas Eve.
    Thank you
    Merry Christmas.
    You attic friend

    • Thanks, attic friend. Sorry to just now see your comment. Happy New Year to you.

  2. Sitting quietly beside a Christmas Eve fire, i feel your words as a gift. We need light and hope now more than ever. Thank you, Fleda, and Merry Christmas.

  3. Fleda: Maybe the best part of Christmas is the memories and the reality of good friends in our lives – like you.
    We will spend today working at the community dinner for which Martha has done most of the deserts and I am designated as “the official photographer” and table busser. It will be a fun and long day with 400 of our closest friends and neighbors.

    We wish you and Jerry all of the best.

  4. Bless you, dearest Fleda. I love the comment on uselessness, which is so on the money. The utility of art –Zeno would be proud –consists in no small measure in its inutility. Merry Christmas to you and Jerry. Lover always, Syd

    • Just saw this. Merry Christmas to you, my dear friend.

      • Same to you, of course. I’m late responding, too.

  5. Dear Fleda. I too find the holidays difficult. I’ve gotten halfway through The Overstory and find myself avoiding it as if it were a dreaded school project. A friend said she felt manipulated by the book. Reading about these dire circumstances is like hitting a wound over and over. These are wounds that will never heal. I can relate with having an autoimmune condition: pain that doesn’t fully heal. My solution is to make things and commit to learning how to love better. Your phrase “nothing lasts forever, does it? The earth itself will burn up eventually” goes a long way to soothing the pain of this wound. We are not in control! This is the deep grief of letting go I think. For me it points to some greater force that we in our limited outlook cannot comprehend fully but must surrender to. Wah.

    • Yes, I find I put some things down that are too depressing to do me any good. There is facing reality, and then there is bludgeoning yourself over the head with it. Thanks, Nancy.

  6. Forgot to say that I love you and your work. Thank you!

    • Woo, woo. Thank you Nancy. I love you, too, and your work. Chicken, vegetables, whatever it is. 🙂

  7. You most likely know this poem:David Ferry

    from The Art of Poetry of Horace

    . . .

    My aim is to take familiar things and make

    Poetry of them, and do it in such a way

    That it looks as if it was easy as could be

    For anybody to do it (although he’d sweat

    And strain, and work his head off, and all in vain).

    Such is the power of judgment, of knowing what

    It means to put the elements together

    In just the right way; such is the power of making

    A perfectly wonderful thing out of nothing much.

    • I didn’t, but it’s also much like Yeat’s poem, “Adam’s Curse,” doesn’t it? Thanks, Ruth.

  8. Yes, those strands a single light unlit all is dark. Search to find. Replace. Creations’string.
    Yes, we acknowledge we each will end. But, care is declared. World without end.
    Your poems, pieces of sparkle, stars glimmering long ago. Thank you.

    • Thanks for your comment, Elon. I would hope the poems sparkle, but all one can do is try. 🙂

  9. “divinely superflous beauty…”

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