North Pole

Monday

  • All place names are collective fictions, even though the modern world likes to believe that naming magically makes real.  No bird or fish recognizes “Huntington”.  Imaginary lines outline legal jurisdictions, but a guide is needed to locate “downtown.”  The North Pole is a dimensionless dot over drifting ice with no boundaries at all. 
  • When I was a kid, the North Pole was both magical and real.  Santa worked there.  Now, I suppose, children realize he has been displaced by eminent domain and natural disaster, his outmoded factory dismantled, his elfin workforce _ unable to use iphones let alone make them_ laid off.  He’s probably lounging on a beach somewhere in Costa Rica, while Mrs. Claus reminisces over old photographs of the polar domain.

Tuesday

People strode their dimpled flat world thoughtlessly,
Then Thales conjured up his sphere
Which Newton with Copernicus cutely placed,
Circling sun, spinning on a handy stick
Jammed through North and South poles.
My childhood knew exactly what was what.
North Pole on top, just like us.
Cold icy remote as hell
Unreachable, forbidden
Finest place for Santa Claus to work.
Now, science claims it isn’t where it was
North switches sometimes south, like magic
Overhead each day fly jets, subs lurk underneath
Someday soon dark prophets scream
The few surviving kids might row right by on rafts
All “truth” is conscious mystery:
No real North Pole exists at all
Never did, just in our minds,
Our many models, maps and maths,

And, on occasion, myths

Wednesday

  • Various names were applied to this hill by native American tribes, by colonists grazing sheep on the South Down, by wealthy Mr. Brown who never got to use his gold coast estate, and by priests remembering Father Coindre.  Nobody pausing here to enjoy the view cares. Come a few hundred years, this may well become Huntington Reef in the Gulf of Connecticut.  By then, the North Pole too may be long forgotten. 
  • All is transient and personal.  My Huntington, my North Pole, is not yours.  Whatever we may share of the conception of each is further restricted to our time and place.  This scene changes, its name also changes, and we are brief but important visitors.  Yet somehow I also think it natural that Coindre Hall, like the North Pole, like I myself, has always been and always will be as it is this moment.

Thursday

Little wreaths sparkling white lights hang from each street lamp in the middle of the day.  By the soldiers and sailors memorial at east end of town I find Ed disconsolate on a bench.  “Oh, come on,” I kid him, “get some Christmas spirit.”
“Sure ain’t what it used to be,” he complains.
“Nothing is,” I smile.  “Weather’s good.”
He ignores me, “Back when, we didn’t get any toys from at least June on, ‘Wait for Christmas.’  That was a big thing.  We all believed in the season.”
“It’s festive now,” I argue.  “People believe in the season, if nothing else.”
“Well, when I grew up kids at least bought into the whole thing, Santa, toys, life always working out for the best.”
So that’s what’s got into him.  “We had our share of cultural chauvinism.  All kids do.  We thought what was around us was around everybody, obviously all the same.”
“Oh, you’re right about that,” he says.  “Santa was a visible manifestation of God _ omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent, and good.”
“He’s still pretty omnipresent, at least ….” I could see five pictures of him from where I stood.
“I liked the innocence of the old days,” he almost whines.  “Now everything is relative this and r
elative that and nothing is simple any more.  I want simple again.”
“I think it was just as complicated back then,” I tell him.  “Everybody didn’t get presents, lots of people didn’t celebrate Christmas at all.  We just ignored them.”
“So what.  I liked it better.  It was more fun for the kids.”
“Grump, grump, grump,” I tease.  “Merry Christmas anyway.”
“Happy whatever to you, too,” he growls.

“Bah, Humbug!” I move on towards the dimly sounding traditional songs echoing tinnily from speakers, ignored by everyone.

Friday

  • No touch of North Pole around here.  It might as well be May, roses still blooming, the migratory ducks somewhat confused by the unnatural heat.  Most seniors quite happy for the delay of snow and ice _ all the romance went out of white Christmas with the blizzards of last year.  Some no doubt regret putting their boats away, but the buoys are safely stored as always.  Hard to tell if it is climate change or just a nice unusual December.
  • I’d lay bets on climate change.  I appreciate the warmth and the chance to stroll in light jacket without heavy hat and gloves, but I keep looking behind my back.  I feel like one of those naïve folks rushing out onto the newly-exposed glistening sea bottom to gather treasures, ignoring the ominous murmur of the distant but onrushing tidal wave.

Saturday

  • Our world expands as we grow, sometimes too much.  The certainty of the North Pole and all it implies, complete with Santa Claus, gives way to provable knowledge or a willingness to accept lack of knowledge.  We find, along with that, that others do not share our legends, backgrounds, hopes, and goals.
  • Nostalgia is in some ways a desire to become once again as certain in knowledge and belief as a child.   Everything was much easier when things were clear.  We may not recognize that the changes are in us, in how we perceive.  I wonder why everybody cannot be just like me. 
  • Some claim we have, as a culture, become too sensitive, too aware, too relative for our own good.  That is certainly the fundamentalist creed in any religion or politics.  Traditionalists shout that hanging on to the myth of the North Pole, objectively true or not, has social value. Such myths help bind tribes together, and make us civilized, at least within our tribe itself. 
  • Unfortunately, leaving childhood is exactly like leaving Eden.  Colorations and differences in the world and its peoples are real, whether we choose to be aware of them or not.  Ignoring our differences is not useful to survival, but trying to understand and accept everything and everyone is equally destructive.
  • Once upon a time I knew, as surely as I visualized Santa’s workshop at the North Pole, what was the right way to live and how to be.  Now, I am less certain, and even less sure I will ever find any certainty at all. 

Sunday

  • This sleigh at the Halesite fire department looks like it may have trouble getting out of the rapidly growing grass.  The real one up at the North Pole is probably facing slush, pothole puddles, and crevasses into the arctic sea.  If any of them do get airborne, they will surely be stuck the first place they land, dry roof or muddy field.  Unless of course _ always possible _ a polar express wind whips in by month end.
  • I’ve had a lot of fun with the North Pole this week, probably because it and Santa Claus are some of the least controversial of subjects.  For or against, few seem to believe anything striking at the core of their being and beliefs.  It’s too bad we do not have more neutral topics like that  _ sometimes every conversation seems a potential minefield.  I guess irritation just goes along with being fat and happy.

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