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  • 'Haphazard by Starlight' - Day 23

    Seasonal Ghazal

    By Harry Gilonis


    The silent starts descend to us

    Come angel seraph sheep pear-tree


    O holy o cold

    Dawn come in snow


    Offspring of day

    Light is lily above us


    Glory birds, calling birds

    Sun, the fields shining


    The day, the earth, skies

    Peace, contemplation and music


    Hosanna, no, holly stand

    Suddenly tree displayed


    The yonder star our comfort

    Bring time again


    Joy, excelsis a-leaping

    World and hope embrace


    Lullaby image and sing sing

    A happy new begin

  • Of Christmas Trees and Carol Services...

    If you go into a large department store in any town or city, you will find tall, elegant Christmas trees, perfectly upright and tastefully decorated with matching baubles carefully arranged.  Or you could have a Christmas tree that's a bit like mine - more than twenty years old, a bit skew-whiff and shoogly.  There are matching baubles, those that have survived the years, but the lights aren't quite long enough to reach the top.  Then there are the tiny nutcracker dolls, a gift from my sister, the wooden letter 'C' a gift from a friend, and the squished, glitter laden decoration of dubious descriotion made by a godchild, to name just a few.  It is this latter kind of tree, in its lopsided loveliness that truly says something about Christmas because it overflows with love - given and received - through many years and in different places.

    Our carol service cum nativity was, I ventured to suggest even before it began, more like the latter than the former, delivered with lashings of love.

    At times laugh out loud funny, at others aching endearing, with small children singing solos, and a real live dog to visit the manger, as well as adult and childrens' choirs, poems, Bible readings, advent candles, a parol lantern (looking east) and prayers, it was a brilliant morning, loads of fun, full of life and love.

    Thank you Gatherers and friends for making it such a wonderful service.

  • "Haphazard by Starlight" - Day 22

    Ode to Winter

    By Gillian Clarke


    We hoard light, hunkered in holt and burrow,

    In cave, cwtsh, den, earth, hut, lair.

    Sun blinks.  Trees take down their hair.

    Dusk wipes horizons, seeps into the room,

    The last flame of geranium in the gloom.


    In the shortening day, bring in late flowers

    To crisp in a vase, beech to break into leaf,

    A branch of larch.  Take winter by the throat.

    Feed the common birds, tits and finches,

    The spotted woodpecker in his opera coat.


    Let's learn to love the icy winter moon,

    Or moonless dark and winter constellations,

    Jupiter's glow, a slow, incoming plane,

    Neighbourly windows, someone's flickering screen,

    A lamp-lit page, drawn curtains.


    Let us praise intimacy, talk and books,

    Music and silence, wind and rain,

    The beautiful bones of trees, taste of cold air,

    Darkening fields, the glittering city,

    That winter longing, hiraeth, something like prayer.


    Under the stilled heartbeat of trees,

    Wind-snapped branches, mulch and root,

    A million bluebell bulbs lie low

    Ready to flare in lengthening light,

    After the dark, frozen earth, the snow.


    Out there, fox and buzzard, kite and crow

    Are clearing the ground for the myth.

    On the darkest day bring to the tree,

    Cool and pungent as forest.  Turn up the music.

    Pour us a glass. Dress the house in pagan finery.

  • Displacement

    I should be getting my head round the Christmas Day 'thought' but instead I went out to the supermarket to but stuff to bake angels for Christmas Eve and Christmas puds for Christmas Day!


    As I went through the check-out my six "serves four" (greedy people? pit workers?) puddings and assorted tubes of coloured icing, it prompted remarks from the girl serving me, and sparked a good conversation between us and the female BB officer from 167th Glasgow who packing my bags.

    Six alcohol-free puds should serve the 40+ guests, along with trifles, ice-cream and mince pies.

    The last time I found the Christmas Day 'message' this tricky was the year Woolies went under along with various other retailers, and I felt I needed to address that.  This year has a similar feel as austerity bites hard and the most vulnerable in society suffer most.  I have a feeling the lunch will say more than my words ever could...

  • 'Haphazard by Starlight' - Day 21

    At the Winter Solstice

    by Jane Kenyon

    The pines look black in the half-

    light of dawn.  Stillness...

    While we slept an inch of new snow

    simplified the field.  Today of all days

    the sun will shine no more

    than is strictly necessary.


    At the village church last night

    the boys - shepherds and wisemen -

    pressed close ot the manger in obedience,

    wishing only for time to pass;

    but the girl dressed as Mary trembled

    as she leaned over the pungent hay,

    and like the mother of Christ

    wondered why she had been chosen.


    After the pageant, a ruckus of cards,

    presents, and homemade Christmas sweets.

    A few of us stayed to clear the bright

    scraps and ribbons from the pews,

    and lift the pulpit back in place.


    When I opened the hundred-year-old Bible

    to Luke's account of the Epiphany

    black dust from the binding rubbed off

    on my hands, and on the altar cloth.