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In the Matter of Gracie Elizabeth...

And Welcome

This is Dark Cloud on Wednesday, December 19, 2001.

I suppose there could not be a more gracious gift at Christmas time than a child, and I would like to welcome from afar the notable Grace Elizabeth Girard into hearth and home of father Robert and my niece, Jessica, who yesterday or perhaps as long ago as last week was herself a puddleduck sitting on my lap and poking my eyes and ears to orient her own face into the world. Gracie Elizabeth is seven pounds or so, although a minority contrarian view, held exclusively by her first-time mother, is that the briefcase, steamer trunk, and selection of downhill skis Grace arrived with each alone weighed several times more. Gracie is my - let's see - second Grand Niece, and with my four Grand Nephews, another bauble to elevate my rare title of Great Uncle into Stupendous Avuncular Personage. It's all about me. Much love to you Gracie Elizabeth. Calisthenics at six, bed made by seven, assignment's on the board. Merry Christmas.

In league with the season, it might be a good idea to reflect upon all that has transpired in the last year and seek meaningful conclusions easily drawn from the boredom of the Spring and Summer and the horrors of early autumn in New York. I have trouble with this. There aren't any. I talk with people every week or so who were in the World Trade Center when the first plane hit. I have not asked them if anyone in their office failed to toe the line September 12, and they don't volunteer it or use it as an excuse for some business delay. Life goes on, perhaps in tribute to the fallen, but likely because that's what life does despite the fallen. Still, we are stuck with those photographs of hundreds of people peering out the windows above the airplanes flaming below. Some of them, within minutes, apparently made the decision to jump one hundred stories rather than endure the heat. It is a hard lesson, that life can instantaneously change, end. And beyond concluding that we have to make the most of what we have while we have it, so little else seems to matter.

In Boulder we are yet again set upon by images of Patsy Ramsey using her daughter's misdated tombstone as a photo op. JonBenét is Boulder's Little Match Girl, doomed to die every Christmas again and again as the story is retold. God knows what creature waves her forward.

The Winter Olympics, possibly the silliest exponent of corrupt, aristocratic Euro Trash of the last two centuries, will squat down over Utah in two months. A whole bunch of incomprehensible sports played nowhere except at the Olympics, like the biathlon, will finally end. Hockey is the big draw, deservedly, and ice skating - or rather, female ice skating - somewhat less deservedly. It is always something of a shock to realize that figure skating is the second most popular television sport after football. Shocking because it isn't a sport, but an artistic event voted upon by creatures for whom the term "fey" seems too virile. Figure skating, although requiring incredible athletic ability, is no more a sport than ballet, bicycle courier, or jazzercise. It is art, and to quantify art corrupts it. Is Van Gogh better than Cezanne? Van Gogh sells for more, has more votes. Better than Rembrandt? Is this Russian goddess a better skater than, say, an Innuit entrant because she looks better in a tutu, is thin, and interprets Who Let The Dogs Out in ice dance better than someone who chose the Taco Bell theme? Enough.

Enough because these weird gatherings are a target for the incompetent posing as the dispossessed. Whether or not some great evil hits the Olympics this year, it probably won't be because it wasn't attempted. Whether local Idaho militia or Afghani Taliban or just some sadist, it will be something of a miracle if no mass murder occurs. War tensions involving Palestinians, Israelis, Pakistanis, Indians, plus a hundred horrors that Gary Condit and September 11 prevented us from learning about. Does anyone believe that somehow, airport security will rise to the occasion as belligerent dreck from the world flies into the America that just obliterated a group of fanatics and is eying a dozen others?

But in accordance with the wishes of Gracie Elizabeth and all her peers for whom we are responsible, a respite from all that. Have a Merry Christmas, or Pagan Solstice, or whatever celebration in winter's dark strikes your fancy or warms your heart. As Tolkien well knew, fact does not teach as well as myth, rarely elevates, hardly ever inspires, seldom touches the heart. It doesn't matter if it's factually true. A good story needs no defense, only to be told. So Gracie, suppress that inevitably startling burp and listen up: And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed....