day of the wren

December 26th, day of the wren:

The wran, the wran, the king of all birds,
On St. Stephen’s day was caught in the furze.
His body is little but his family is great
So rise up landlady and give us a trate.
And if your trate be of the best
Your soul in heaven can find its rest.
And if your trate be of the small
It won’t plaze the boys at all.
A glass of whiskey and a bottle of beer
Merry Christmas and a glad New Year.
So up with the kettle and down with the pan
And give us a penny to bury the wran.

Wrens have a special place in my heart. All winter, a tiny one hunts just outside my study window first thing in the morning, hopping along the railing of the little porch there and then darting in and out of the rush birdhouse hanging under the eaves. It’s looking for spiders and other food, I know, but I think of it as a muse. A few years ago I sat at my desk most mornings, working on a novella I called Winter Wren, set on the west coast of Vancouver Island; its structure explores the lore associated with the hedge king, the king of all birds. I re-read Sir James Frazier’s The Golden Bough which I’d first encountered as an undergraduate in the last century. Its detailed descriptions and contextualizations of the rituals of life, death, and rebirth, and the variant myths in every culture fascinated me as much the second time around.

So imagine my pleasure yesterday morning when I opened this gift from my daughter Angelica:

P1110013And from Forrest and Manon, in Ottawa, came this beautiful little Anishinabe basket, bought when Forrest visited Manitoulin Island in the summer:

P1110010It’s birch bark with sweetgrass woven around the rim and base and the decoration is dyed porcupine quills. (The flower on the lid looks like blue flax to me.)

From John, silver earrings as delicate as spider webs, a wonderful new atlas (he said, “You spend such a lot of time looking at the old one and so much of it isn’t accurate any more!”), and an android tablet which has me kind of nervous — I’m not good at learning new things — but also relieved to know that I can load up library books on it to take on travels. One of my greatest fears is running out books to read when we’re away from home and as we like to travel light, filling my suitcase with books instead of clothes doesn’t make sense. It took me awhile to acknowledge that an e-reader might just be a good idea so check in again, in March, when I’m in Portugal and I’ll report how it’s going…

And tomorrow, another gift: the arrival of Brendan, Cristen, and grandbaby Kelly. It will be Kelly’s first visit to her paternal grandparents and we are so happy they’re coming.

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