Monday, December 29, 2008

Green Grow The Rushes

Counting songs are in every culture.

They are used to categorize the world around us, keep track of useful things, remember events in history and enumerate our religious beliefs. There is even a modern song that lists the elements of the periodic table.

At Christmas time, we sing "The Twelve Days of Christmas" and mostly roll on the floor laughing at the crazy image of receiving all this strange loot from a lover. Inevitably, someone puts forth the theory that this song is a coded instruction about

  • Judaism, used during a time when Jews were persecuted in England
  • Protestantism, from a time when Protestants were persecuted in England
  • Catholicism, from a time when Catholics were persecuted in England

  • has pretty much put those theories to bed, as the song actually predates Catholic and Protestant persecutions, and the Judaic theology link is pretty tenuous.

    It COULD be a menu.

    The "Twelve Drummers Drumming" might refer to a game dish. "Drummer" is the colloquial word for "rabbit" in the south of England. And a brace of drummers, as many as you could hold in one hand by gripping each upside-down by the hind leg in a sort of grisly bouquet, is about six. So two braces of drummers would have been a respectable contribution to a Christmas feast.

    Given the British passion for announcing the pudding dish with a bag-piper, Eleven Pipers Piping could be the figgy puddings arriving with due ceremony and "piping hot"!

    The "Ten Lords a-Leaping" could refer to "stags" or male deer. It's a pagan reference to the Cernunnos, Lord of the Wood, a god who appeared as a stag. Venison! Yum! (alas, Cernunnos also appears as a man with antlers. Semi-divine cannibalism! Yum!)

    "Nine Ladies Dancing" seems straightforward enough: it could easily refer to the serving women. But in Denmark there is a trifle dish called a "Veiled Country Lass" which uses a delightful excess of clotted cream, just the type of over-indulgence for a mid-winter feast. And it jiggles nicely, like a plump dancing girl.

    "Eight Maids A-Milking" is nice alliteration and leaves the door open for interpretation of any number of dairy products. It's better imagery than "Eight Cheese a-Stinking".

    "Seven Swans A-Swimming" brings up the unpleasant Medieval custom of cooking a beast and then posing it in a lifelike pose for presentation to the guests. People used to eat swans, but it would not have been outré at the time to pose them swimming in their own gravy. Ikk.

    "Six Geese A-Laying"....see previous comment, although there was also a vogue for presenting poultry and eggs in a common dish. For real excitement look up balut.

    One of the more ancient versions of this rhyme substitutes "ringed pheasant" for "Five Gold Rings". There actually is a rather gaudy pheasant called a "golden pheasant" which is also rather tasty.

    The Four Calling Birds is a corruption of 'coally birds", or black birds, which as we know from "Sing a Song of Sixpence" were at one time an acceptable addition to a menu.

    The "Three French Hens" are self-explanatory to those of us who eat a lot of chicken. Christian apologists have substituted the Three Great Virtues of Faith, Hope and Charity, but sometimes a chicken is just a chicken.

    Two Turtle Doves may seem unusual for lunch, but in fact the turtle dove is listed as one of the birds acceptable for temple sacrifice in Leviticus.

    "A Partridge in a Pear Tree" is a fetching image, with the lover presenting to his beloved a potted fruit tree, having invested HUGE amounts of money and time to force the captive tree to bear leaves and bloom out of season. However, in French, to say "a partridge" you would say "une perdrix" or "oon pair-dree". So it looks as though the last line is a bilingual doubling.

    And a partridge: une perdrix.

    So, we have :
    Two brace of rabbits
    Eleven figgy puddings still steaming from the pot
    Ten servings of venison
    Nine trifles
    Seven roasted swans in gravy
    Six roasted geese, with some sort of egg dish
    Five roasted pheasants
    Four Roasted black-birds (perhaps in a pie?)
    Three roasted chickens
    Two roasted turtle doves
    and a roasted partridge (une perdrix)

    If the venison is roasted whole, the entire series of birds and game can be handily inserted one inside the other to produce a dish reminiscent of the "turducken", a chicken inside a duck inside a turkey all roasted together.

    Lest you think this is a lot of meat for one meal, in those days is was not uncommon for a wealthy person to serve MUCH more than the modern person would countenance, both as an expression of conspicuous consumption and as a way of preserving the festive food against spoilage during the "Twelve Days" of celebration, a time of chaos and lax housekeeping.

    Another counting song I rather enjoy is "Green Grow the Rushes", just because it is similarly weird/obscure.

    It begins with one:

    "I'll give you One-oh
    Green grow the rushes-oh.
    What is your One-oh?
    One is one and all alone and ever more shall be so.

    and progresses by increments, always repeating the peculiar call-and-response litany

    I'll give you Two-oh
    Green grow the rushes-oh.
    What is your Two-oh?
    Two, two, the lily-white boys cloth-ed all in green-oh
    One is one and all alone and ever more shall be so.

    I'll give you Three-oh
    Green grow the rushes-oh.
    What is your Three-oh?
    Three, three the rivals
    Two, two, the lily-white boys cloth-ed all in green-oh
    One is one and all alone and ever more shall be so.

    and (according to Wikipedia) the song culminates with this twelve-fold stanza:

    I'll sing you twelve, Ho (or oh)
    Green grow the rushes, Ho
    What are your twelve, Ho?
    Twelve for the twelve Apostles
    Eleven for the eleven who went to heaven,
    Ten for the ten commandments,
    Nine for the nine bright shiners,
    Eight for the April Rainers, (or April Showerers)
    Seven for the seven stars in the sky,
    Six for the six proud walkers, (or brown walkers)
    Five for the symbols at your door, (or my door)
    Four for the Gospel makers,
    Three, three, the rivals,
    Two, two, the lily-white boys,
    Clothèd all in green, Ho (or Clothe them all in green, oh or Dressèd all in green, o)
    One is one and all alone (sometimes One is one and one alone, One and one is all alone, or One is one and stands alone)
    And evermore shall be (it) so.

    It turns out that this is an astronomy lesson! Well...with some bible stuff tacked on at both ends.

    Twelve apostles there were, even after the loss of Judas, because Matthias was elected to replace Judas. This might actually be a hidden astrological reference, as there are also 12 Zodiacal constellations.
    Eleven of the original apostles "went to Heaven" because Judas, the 12th, sinned and presumably went to Hell. However, this might also be an astronomical reference as the Bible refers to "the sun, moon and eleven stars" in the dream of Joseph, but properly translated "eleven stars" refers to "eleven constellations". Libra was a late addition, at about 700 BC.
    Ten commandments, seems a no-brainer, but the ten brightest stars in the sky seen from the Northern Hemisphere are
    Alpha Centauri A
    all of which can be seen with the naked eye and were well known to middle eastern sky-watchers.
    Nine "bright shiners" are often thought to be the nine choirs of angels but could also just as easily be the same stars as the previous line without Sirius, which cannot be seen south of the equator. (If you believe in prophecy, it might also indicate that a planet hitherto unobserved would be added to the six seen with the naked eye.) I'm a little cranky about the "choirs of angels" thing.
    "Eight for the April Rainers" refers to a cluster of blue stars, in the constellation Taurus, called the Pleiades, which are also called the "Seven Sisters" (there are actually up to 14 observable with the naked eye), and appear above the south horizon just in time for the rains of early Spring.
    "Seven for the seven stars in the sky" probably means the five observable planets plus the sun and moon. It might be the Pleiades again ("Seven Sisters"?) showing that the cluster is variable depending on the weather.
    "Six for the six proud walkers" is obscure. The "brown walkers" version may be a late reference to the "underground railroad" for escaping American slaves. There being six stars in Ursa Major, which escapees used as a heavenly marker for North, and freedom. It might be a corruption of "waters", representing the known seas of the time: Atlantic, Mediterranean, Black, Baltic, Caspian, North and Indian (in the Middle Ages the Europeans had yet to encounter the Pacific).
    "Five for the symbols at your door" could mean any of:

  • the five easily observable planets (i.e. "at your door" because you can just walk out and see them)
  • the planetary signs of the Zodiac, which people still use as mystical protection
  • five vowel runes of the Nordic alphabet (the number of vowel runes varies from four to seven, depending on when in history and where in geography one looks)
  • the Pentateuch (i.e. "at your door" because of the Jewish custom of encasing scriptures in mezuzahs over each door of the house)
  • the five points of the pentagram, sometimes used as a "hex" or protective symbol on the door

  • The Four Gospel Makers,
    of course, are
    and John.
    (Don't be gettin' in my face about the Gospels of Thomas, Barnabbas, Mary and the like. I don't defend canonical scripture choices, I just acknowledge them). However, there are also four points to the compass, thus four winds personified in popular mythology, also four seasons that define weather and star patterns.

    "Three, three, the Rivals" has for generations been interpreted as representing the holy Trinity of the Christian God-Head, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. But the Trinity are not "rivals" in Christian dogma, they are the same Person. The three "rivals" are probably the Sun, the Moon and the planet Venus, which are by far the brightest heavenly bodies we can see, and they often appear in the sky at the same time in the early morning or just at dusk.

    The Two "Lily-White boys" is sometimes thought of as representing

  • Holly, which is an evergreen and has white flowers, and mistletoe, which has white berries and is sacred to pagan cultures.
  • a nasty bit of post-pagan political manipulation in which local Jews in Britain were accused of murdering two little Christian boys. It wasn't true, the murders probably never happened, but that didn't stop the locals from killing most of the local Jews, taking possession of their property, making local saints of the non-existent martyrs and selling their fabricated relics as nostrums for various Medieval diseases.
  • the stars Castor and Pollux, named for the semi-Divine sons of the God Zeus, represented in the constellation Gemini (the Twins). Gemini becomes visible from the Northern hemisphere in Spring. hence "clothed all in green-oh".

  • "One is one and all alone and ever more shall be so" is usually thought to be a re-statement of the Jewish declaration

    "Hear, oh Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord: He is One".

    It might also be a reminder that the Sun is the center of the solar system and we only have the one.

    Which all goes to show that even when we don't agree on the nature of the universe, we still like to keep track of the stuff in it.

    Sunday, December 21, 2008

    Non Angli: Sed Angeli!

    Pope Gregory, who brought "Gregorian Chant" into use in the church, is said to have been astonished to see blonde-haired, blue-eyed slaves in the marketplace in Rome. He was informed that these were Angles, captured in Britain. "Non Angli, sed angeli!" he replied, "Not 'Angles', but angels" commenting on their ethereal beauty. Since that time, any brunette child who wanted to be an angel in the Christmas pageant has been out of the running.

    People believe pretty much what suits them. Dogma follows popular opinion more than we like to admit. Such is the current teaching on angels: wings, halo, hierarchies and all.

    When the Sadducees challenged Jesus on the resurrection of the righteous, he said that their interpretation of Scripture was wrong, in that an afterlife in which they did not believe was clearly supported in the Torah. They jeered at him suggesting that a widow who marries seven brothers in succession must, at the resurrection, have seven husbands. Jesus replied that they had misunderstood the nature of the resurrection: that men and women after death are not bound in marriage but are like the angels.

    Note that Jesus did NOT say that people become angels after death. He said they are like the angels, in that they are no longer bound by marriage. Nonetheless, popular theology has seized on this to perpetuate a sort of ancestor worship in which our loved ones are, upon presentation at the Pearly Gates o' Heaven, equipped with stork's wings and a halo and perhaps even a harp on which to strike hymns of praise, and then hover around us giving aid in times of trouble.

    I do not say that we are not surrounded by the messengers of God, or that angels are not helping us in times of trouble. I am only saying that there is scriptural evidence that dead people do not become angels. And certainly there is NO support whatever for the maudlin concept that dead people work their way to the higher echelons of angelhood by the performance of Good Works. Please do not quote ZuZu from "It's a Wonderful Life"! It is to gag....but there is ample evidence in popular literature from the 19th and 20th century to show that people generally think of their departed loved ones as being on the way to becoming angels. In fact, Emanuel Swedenborg (1688-1772) claimed that a soul of a man and a soul of a woman who are happy in marriage enter heaven and become an angel. This despite the testimony of Jesus that men and women are not given in marriage after death.

    Ezekiel encountered some pretty fearsome creatures in the presence of God. They looked, from Ezekiel's point of view, like giant wheels, like things with six pairs of wings, like animals with four faces on one head, like men. Cherubim, for example, are shown in sculpture as being part cow and with wings. Saint John Chrysostom suggested that angels could be portrayed in art as having wings to show that they are capable of rapid translocation throughout the world. This is not to say that angels are ever considered to be winged human beings. One might just as logically show angels as being equipped with divinely-fueled jet-packs.

    Winged supernatural guardians are actually a pagan image. The Goddess Ishtar (she of the Festive Evergreen Tree) was attended by winged genii. These genies became part of Muslim tradition and a cherished part of Western mythology, not to mention vintage television.

    There is one odd prophetic vision in Zechariah 5:5-11

    Then the angel who was speaking to me came forward and said to me, "Look up and see what this is that is appearing."
    I asked, "What is it?"
    He replied, "It is a measuring basket." And he added, "This is the iniquity of the people throughout the land."
    Then the cover of lead was raised, and there in the basket sat a woman!
    He said, "This is wickedness," and he pushed her back into the basket and pushed the lead cover down over its mouth.
    Then I looked up—and there before me were two women, with the wind in their wings! They had wings like those of a stork, and they lifted up the basket between heaven and earth.
    "Where are they taking the basket?" I asked the angel who was speaking to me.
    He replied, "To the country of Babylonia to build a house for it. When it is ready, the basket will be set there in its place."

    It is one of those Biblical word puzzles. The wickedness that most often afflicted Israel was the secret worship of Ishtar. In this vision, she is taken away for imprisonment by her own ministering genii. This is the ONLY place in the Bible where angels are described as female and having big wings, and they have the specific task of jailers for a pagan goddess.

    Cherubim are sometimes confused with putti in popular literature, shown as fat babies with wings. This is because Jesus said that the angels of children are always before the face of God. (Matthew 18:10) Jesus did not, however, say that children BECOME angels who are forever before the face of God; he said not to despise children because there are angels associated with children who are intimately associated with God. This is as clear a reference to Guardian Angels as Scripture ever gets, at least in the Official Canon, except for Psalm 91: 9-12

    1. If you make the Most High your dwelling—
      even the LORD, who is my refuge-
    2. then no harm will befall you,no disaster will come near your tent.
    3. For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways;
    4. they will lift you up in their hands,
      so that you will not strike your foot against a stone."

    5. When Jesus was confronted by Satan during his 40-day fast in the wilderness, the devil used this Psalm to tempt him to test whether God keeps His promises. Jesus replied that one shouldn't test God, implying that the angels have a rather different agenda than what human nature might prescribe for them.

      Lots of different cultures believe in angels.
      • Latin "angelus" which means "messenger"-
      • Greek "angelos" which means "messenger"
      • Ancient Greek: ἀσώματοι, the bodiless ones.
      • Hebrew and Arabic "Melakh", meaning "messenger"
      • there is another Hebrew word used in association with angels: "Gil-Gulim", meaning revolving, like a wheel.
      • Taoists pray to angels and offer them veneration in exchange for protection

      The various mystical cults of Judaism and Christianity have elaborated extensive genealogies and hierarchies for angels, and the Bible does intimate that there are different kinds of servants of God. However, the Apostles warned about giving too much attention to these theories.

      Collosians 2:18
        "Do not let anyone who delights in false humility and the worship of angels disqualify you for the prize. Such a person goes into great detail about what he has seen, and his unspiritual mind puffs him up with idle notions."

      Titus 1:12-14
        "Even one of their own prophets has said, "Cretans are always liars, evil brutes, lazy gluttons." This testimony is true. Therefore, rebuke them sharply, so that they will be sound in the faith and will pay no attention to Jewish myths or to the commands of those who reject the truth."

      Christian tradition has given rise to nine "Choirs" of angels, which categories are derived from words used in various parts of the Bible to describe spiritual warfare, ministering spirits, angels and fallen angels. I am pretty certain this is what Saint Paul was calling "idle notions".

      Scripture almost always describes the messengers of God as resembling humanity, although people frequently immediately recognize that these are NOT people, but angels. Sometimes people in Scripture who encounter angels are terrified, and sometimes they invite them to lunch! There is an admonition on hospitality from Hebrews 13:2
        "Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it."

      Buy a homeless person a burger, then, even if he or she doesn't have wings, a halo and/or a harp.

    Saturday, December 20, 2008

    Jolly Old Saint Nicholas

    We were concerned, as young adults, that our children might be confused and ultimately hurt emotionally, by the discovery that Santa Claus "isn't real". Also, I didn't want the children thinking that some costumed stranger at the mall is giving them gifts.

    Following the suggestion of our child's nursery school teacher, I dressed up as Santa on Christmas Day and did the entire Santa schtick, from wakening the children with bells to handing out the presents with plenty of stereotypical "Ho-Ho-Ho" ing. Then, at a pause in the action, I removed the costume to show that it was really Daddy. There was some confusion and then delight and laughter.

    This, of course, also back-fired, as we now had a Family Secret which the child must never reveal to her friends. What damage that caused to our child's social development is incalculable, although the child did, in fact, brag to class mates that Daddy is Santa, which caused a brief flurry of irate phone calls from parents of confused and hurt classmates.

    Santa Claus should not be conflated with the real Saint Nicholas, although the traditions are historically pretty solid, as religious traditions go. There really WAS a Nicholas who loved children, gave generously, and even punished the wicked. He was bishop of Myra in what is now Turkey, appointed to the post as a young man. I notice, however, that Saint Nicholas of Myra and Saint Nicholas of Bari (who are traditionally the same person) are NO LONGER LISTED as saints in the Catholics On-Line Saints and Angels reference database.

    "Santa Claus" is supposedly a corruption of "Sinter Klaus", supposedly a curruption of "Saint Nicholas", and apparently there are places where it is pronounced "Sant NEEklaus". That notwithstanding, there have been plenty of jolly gift-givers in other theological and mythological traditions that preceded Christianity, and legend of jolly gift-givers persist in non-christian cultures world-wide. In almost every case, the jolly gift-giver is also the implacabale judge of the wicked.

    "He's makin' a list,
    Checkin' it twice,
    Gonna find out who's Naughty or Nice..."

    In India, the goddess Durga rides a tiger and dispenses blessings and gifts, conquering your personal demons and always jolly. Durga is also Kali, the implacable destroyer.

    In Sicily, there was a pagan goddess known as "The Grandmother", or "Bastrina"a sort of fertility/agriculture/hearth-and-home deity who at midwinter would leave gold coins in the stockings of good children but a lump of coal for the naughty ones. Well....the grandmother doesn't want to encourage bad behaviour, but she doesn't want her little ones not to be warm on cold nights....this tradition dates back before Saturnalia of Roman times and has "infected" Mediterranean Christianity as an enduring Christmas tradition. Interestingly, La Befana (as Bastrina is now known in Sicily)is thought to ride the world on Christmas Eve ON HER BROOMSTICK, with which she cleans the houses of the children she visits. Gah. Don't get me started....

    In 1087 AD, Sicilian sailors stole the relics of Saint Nicholas from the church in Myra and interred them in Bari, Sicily, probably in an attempt to create in Bari a pilgrimage site to attract tourists. A consequence of this was that the cult of the grandmother morphed into the cult of Saint Nicholas, who acquired many of her idiosyncracies, such as the coal in the stocking and the flying around the world on Christmas Eve.

    In Austria the pagan cultures expected at midwinter a visit from the Krampus, a magical troll who would spirit away (in a sack, no less!) naughty children to work in his toy factory under the mountains. Apparently it isn't just the birth of Our Lord that inspires children to unfortunate behaviour at mid-winter. Despite centuries of Christian domination, the Krampus still visits in some parts of Europe. (As a bizarre segué, the secret police in Haiti, who spirit people off the streets never to be seen again, are called in Haitian Creole the "Ton-ton Macoute" or "Uncle Knapsack". Alas, they are not restricted to midwinter in their predations, and I do not think their victims are making toys anywhere.)

    Odin was the Norse god fertility god, full of the sap of spring, jolly and mirthful, wise and helpful, with a long white beard and a magical flying horse. Odin brought blessings and joy, but, in his persona as Nikanor, also doom for the wicked. Nikanor was the alter-ego of Odin. His skin was black, which among the pale Norse meant he was scary, but also implies living underground. Pagans who were mining tin and copper in those mountains were wary of Nikanor whom they sometines called "Old Nick", which you may recognize as one of many cultural cognates for "Satan". On occasion, for example, miners would find a mineral that looked like copper ore but when smelted would yield only slag and a bad smell. They called this mineral "cupfernickkel", or "the devil's copper". The metal we now can derive from this ore is called "nickel", a fine sturdy and useful metal named after the Devil himself.

    People who were considered Odin's friends acquired some of his divinity and were called "alfs" or "elves". These were real people who were connected to the gods in a special way. Over the years, though, they acquired more and more supernatural attributes and became smaller and smaller, supposedly to account for how the elves could enter through locked doors, small windows or chimneys.

    The real Saint Nicholas was pious and wealthy, giving abundantly and anonymously to the poor. He also stood before Emperor Constantine to criticise policies that were injurious to Christians. He was known to also be courageous and quick to correct people he thought we on the wrong track, to the point of punching in the nose a person he was debating at a church synod. He was NOT a toy-maker nor a fabricator of any kind.

    The poor guy has been conflated with all kinds of mid-winter traditions that predate Christianity. Santa has often been described as an elf, a clear harking back to the pre-Christian traditions. Martin Luther attempted to distract Christians from the St. Nicholas muddle by telling children that the Christ Child had brought the Christmas gifts. The German for "Christ Child" is "KrisKindle", which became Kris Kringle, now synonymous with "Santa Claus". According to Stephen Leacock, early Canadian Protestants told their children that the angels brought the presents. This may be why Canadian children have an abiding distrust of angels....

    One cannot rant about Santa without noting that the Coca-Cola company, noting that Christmas is celebrated with the colours red and white, co-opted Saint Nicholas as a corporate shill in a red and white suit. This despite Clement Moore's poem that clearly states that St. Nick was "dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
    And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot", more like a furry chimney sweep than a shopping mall Santa.

    And we must never forget what comedian Dana Carvie pointed out: that "Santa" is an anagram for "SATAN"!! Old Nick, himself....

    Monday, December 15, 2008

    Evergreen in the Parlour

    We had a fake tree for upwards of fifteen Christmases. We got it at a Garden Centre of all things, in a year when when the price of a real tree was close to a day's wages and the fake tree was only a bit more. We figured the fake tree, with its ten-year warranty, would work out to about $10 a year, and of course it lasted much longer than that. We got our money's worth. And the tree was reasonably realistic looking. And it collapsed neatly into the original box for easy storage.

    But a couple of years ago, with toddler grandchildren learning new ways of wreaking havoc on our non-baby-proofed doodads, we opted to send the good old fake tree to Good Will. And we just didn't have a tree for Christmas. We decorated minimally, put some light on the outside of the house, what with the children being grown, it was a nice break from hectic Christmas preparation.

    In the nearly twenty years since we last had a real tree, the tree industry has really brought the price of Christmas trees down to where one can hardly afford not to have one. IKEA sells them for $20 and gives you a $20 coupon for IKEA stuff. So this year we have a seven-foot balsam sitting in our great room, festooned with all the sentimental items we have accumulated over the thirty-three Christmases we have had as a family, like the gold-painted pine-cone two of our children each swear they made in grade three, and the lamb one of them made at age two in Sunday School with a roll of cotton bats and two black pipe-cleaners. There are also some pretty coloured spheres hanging from random branches, and some fake icicles made of lucite.

    I had forgotten how nice a fresh evergreen smells. And the new-fangled LED lights look very festive.

    The midwinter custom of bringing an evergreen goes back WAY before Martin Luther used it as an allegory for eternal life. The Norse decorated their houses with evergreens for the Solstice, as did the Romans, the Etruscans and, believe it or not, the Philistines, whom we now think of as the Phoenicians. It may be that these intrepid sailor-merchants spread the custom up the coast of the Iberian Peninsula to Denmark and points north. But they definitely observed the mid-winter with a domesticated pine tree.

    See, their Goddess Astarte, or Ishtar, or Isis (also Semiramis) , was kind of a fickle lover. She flirted with a human named Attis who was so devastated by her failure to reciprocate his unconditional love that he committed suicide by self-castration, dying under the branches of a perfect pine tree. Ever after, priests of Cybele would, as a symbol of their celibacy, castrate themselves in a more sanitary manner and hang the removed organs on a pine tree. Kind of the prototypical festive nutcracker. In commemoration of this weird tradition, the Phoenicians would , give each other gifts as we do now, and decorate their festive evergreen with coloured round things.

    I try not to think of that heart-warming story as I enjoy the tall, stately balsam next to my fire-place. I hope I can remember to water it during its sacrificial stay in my home.