Tuesday 25 December 2018. Morning

Cambridge is frozen by the cold Christmas night and the absence of people. The moon is still high and almost still full, as white and bright as the crystallised trees, cobbles and colleges. It’s not quite 8am when I enter Great St Mary’s Church, and let the wooden pew warm before Holy Communion and the Gospel. It’s a brief service, and by 8.30 I return home along the river, where an orange sun attempts to climb and warm the frozen lands. My fingers ache, my lungs breathe shallow sharp breaths and tears begin to run as I watch the mallards and moorhens in the water where I too swam in summer. The landscape is beautiful in its death, while some life still goes on, searching for survival.

Frost and fog over the Rover Cam, Christmas Day 2018. Photo by: Jessica Zarins, 2018.
Frost and fog over the Rover Cam, Christmas Day 2018. Photo by: Jessica Zarins, 2018.

It’s not the message in church, nor the landscape that moves me the most this morning. It’s T. S. Eliot’s Ariel Poems that have lingered since yesterday’s read. ‘A cold coming we had of it’, says one of the Magi remembering the journey to behold the newborn king. A bittersweet memory it is; there is gratitude for having born witness, but torment over its meaning. For the birth, means death. The coming of a new lord and era, means the end of the old ways and the old kings: ‘this Birth was/ Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death.’

For winter is the death of nature, so that it can be reborn. The heathen and pagan beliefs upon which Christianity structured itself celebrated the darkest time of the year at the winter solstice, and the return of the light and life of the sun, which this death allowed. New life is born out of the dead soil of the old.

But age and death are still painful. To let go, to give way, is not easy, even when one knows it’s right: Hard and bitter agony for us. And hard and bitter agony it is for me at the death of this calendar year, when I must let love and anger for people I’ve lost die, and the me who loved and angried die too, in order for new love and a new me to be born and live. The autumn was spent wondering who I am if I don’t love him, who am I if I don’t have her to hate? Now in the season of death, it is time to find out. It is time to let them die, despite the hard, bitter agony, and let new love live. A cold coming I’ve had it of it, but I would do it again. Walking through Cambridge on Christmas morning, I should be glad for another death.

'Journey of the Magi'. From The Ariel Poems, by T. S. Eliot. Page 8, Faber & Faber, 2014.
‘Journey of the Magi’. From The Ariel Poems, by T. S. Eliot. Page 8, Faber & Faber, 2014.
'Journey of the Magi'. From The Ariel Poems, by T. S. Eliot. Page 9, Faber & Faber, 2014.
‘Journey of the Magi’. From The Ariel Poems, by T. S. Eliot. Page 9, Faber & Faber, 2014.

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