The Lost Spirit – a Christmas poem by Clara Treat

Meaning of Christmas

The Lost Spirit

I searched for the spirit of Christmas

In a silent, white starlit night,

And then on the city sidewalks

With store windows gay and bright.

I visited Toyland and found there

Happiness and real joy,

In the picture of children with Santa

As he promised each one a toy.

Then I took my babes to the manger

To wish the Christ Child well,

And there by the candle-lit crib

I captured the magic spell.

In the eyes of my own little children

The spirit of Christmas shone,

With love for the child who lay there

He was truly one of their own.

Author’s note:

Our home was the gathering place for our friends and relatives on Christmas Eve.  We exchanged gifts and enjoyed a great buffet luncheon.  With all the work of decorating and cooking and the kids getting restless, I’d lost my Christmas spirit.  I gathered my brood together and headed for the manger in our church.  It was there that I captured the lost spirit that inspired me to write this poem.

~ Clara Treat

Download Clara’s book “Heartland Verses” free at:

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/54111

Use coupon code  YV28T at checkout to get it free – until December 31, 2012.

St Giles Cathedral – Edinburgh, Scotland

St Giles Cathedral

St Giles Cathedral

Photograph © Copyright David Dixon and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

St Giles’ Cathedral, on High Street, is the historic City Church of Edinburgh. With its famed crown spire it stands on the Royal Mile between Edinburgh Castle and the Palace of Holyroodhouse.  Also known as the High Kirk of Edinburgh, it is the Mother Church of Presbyterianism and contains the Chapel of the Order of the Thistle.

This cathedral is prominently featured in my novel DARK LORD, book two of the Dark Birthright trilogy.  (Just a bit of background, Dughall Gordon is the Duke.)

Here is an excerpt from a chapter named “Ominous News“:

The Duke stood and replaced the book in a glass-faced case and then gazed out the window.  Several of his men were away on missions and were expected to return soon.  His spirits brightened.  In the courtyard, he saw Jamison dismount his steed and hand the reins to a stable boy.  The servant helped an unfamiliar woman off a red mare and sent her in the direction of the bakehouse.  Minutes passed as the man traversed the square and entered the castle.  Jamison had been sent to Edinburgh to investigate rumors of religious unrest.  The King was imposing a new prayer book on his Protestant subjects, insisting that it be read in the capital.

The Duke was aware of the gravity of the situation.  Weeks ago, Robert MacNeil paid them a visit, sailing the Bonnie Fay into the harbor.  What he’d thought would be a cordial reunion with his uncle from Whinnyfold turned into an unpleasant confrontation.  Furious at the prospect of religious persecution, Robert expected Alex to accompany him to Edinburgh.  Dughall protested, but stopped short of forbidding his father from leaving.  Worse yet, Robert had been angry that he’d become a Catholic.

The Duke sighed.  Now Alex was gone on a potentially dangerous mission.  Sailing to Edinburgh was risky in a fourteen foot scaffie, not to mention the trouble they might get into.  Perhaps Jamison had news of him.  As he waited, Dughall examined a world globe, tracing the countries of Scotland and England.  He wondered how long the border would be accurate, given the rumors.  There was a knock on the door and his servant entered.  His clothes were musty and his beard was unkempt.

Dughall sensed his concern.  He sat at his desk and motioned for the man to join him.  “Ye’ve been gone a long time.”

Jamison grunted.  “Aye, my Lord.”  He took a seat and cleared his throat.  “Forgive my tardiness.  I have much to tell ye.”

The young Lord was glad to see him, but reserved his welcome for later.  These were strange times when business and politics came before friendship.  “What did ye find?”

Jamison scowled.  “Edinburgh is in an uproar!  I witnessed riots, a lynching, and open defiance of the King’s edict.  It looked like madness, but I can hardly blame them.”

The servant had his attention.  “Tell me about it to the smallest detail.”

Jamison seemed tense.  “When I arrived in the city, I learned that the liturgy book was to be read in churches on Sunday.  The people were outraged and from what I saw, ministers were rousing the crowds.”

“Which ministers?”

Jamison stroked his scraggly beard.  “Henderson and Dickson…  They claimed to have consulted Sir Thomas Hope and Lord Balmerino to get approval for their plans.”

The Duke knew that this meant trouble.  “Do we know this Lord Balmerino?”

Jamison nodded.  “He was a friend of yer Grandfather.  We received a letter from him when ye became Duke.”

Dughall remembered dozens of letters, but he’d been too grief-stricken to pay attention.  “What did the ministers say?”

Jamison took a flyer out of his pocket and leaned forward in his chair.  “These pamphlets were scattered about the city.”  He began to read with passion. “Beware of the new and strange leaven of man’s inventions, against the word of God and the beliefs of the Kirk!  The idolatry of kneeling at the moment of Communion, crossing in baptism, and the obeying of men’s holy days shall not prevail!”

“Hmmphh…”

“The new fatherless Service-Book is full of gross heresy, popish and superstitious, without warrant from Christ our savior!  Obey not these bastard canons that come from the Antichrist’s foul womb…”

Dughall took a sharp breath.  It was a serious matter indeed, if they were invoking the Antichrist.  “What happened when the book was read?”

Jamison narrowed his eyes.  “That Sunday, I stood in the back of St Giles, a grand cathedral with four massive pillars.  I’ve never in my life seen such a church.  By dawn, it was so packed that there was no way to get a seat.  Serving women sat on three-legged stools, keeping places for their mistresses.  I spoke with one, a lass named Jenny Geddes, who was determined to stop the blasphemy.  Never before have I seen a woman with such fire in her belly.”  He reddened slightly.  “When the time for services came, members of the King’s Privy Council arrived to show support for the book.  They brought armed guards.”

“To the church?”

The servant frowned.  “Aye.”

“Go on…”

“Dean Hanna appeared carrying the leather-bound book and entered the grand pulpit.  As he started to read the new service, the crowd protested, stamped their feet, and hissed to drown him out.  It might have stopped there but for Jenny Geddes.  She said, ‘Villain!  Dost thou say mass at my ear?’”

“What happened?”

“Jenny threw her stool, narrowly missing his head.  Others joined in, tossing rotten cabbages.”

“Did they injure the man?”

“Only his pride…  Then the Bishop of Edinburgh entered the pulpit.  He tried to quiet the crowd, but as he spoke things got worse.”

Dughall’s head ached.  “How could they get worse?”

“They called him a beast, a false Christian wolf!  The offspring of a devil and a witch…”  Jamison coughed into his fist.  “Pardon the words, my Lord.  They’re not mine.  Some said that it was better that he be hanged as a thief than live to be such a pest to God’s church.”

“Strong words, indeed.”

Jamison snorted.  “I wish it had stopped at words…  Guards forced the parishioners into the streets, where they rioted and threw stones at the cathedral’s windows.”

“They defaced a house of God?”

“Aye.  When the Bishop left, a mob pursued his carriage, hurling stones and curses.  They say that he shit himself.”  The servant’s expression darkened.  “Edinburgh is up in arms.  Nearly a hundred were arrested and thrown in the Tollbooth.”

Dughall’s stomach turned.  “Was my father there?”

“Alex?”

“Aye.”

“Nay.  Why did he go?”

The young Lord gritted his teeth.  “It’s a long story.  My uncle insisted that he accompany him to the reading.”

Jamison frowned.  “He wasn’t at St Giles on Sunday.  Perhaps he was at Greyfriar’s.  Shall I go back for him?”

Dughall decided to trust his sight.  “Nay.  Let’s wait a week to see if he returns.  So, my friend…  What’s yer assessment of the situation?”

“The people are on fire with religious fervor.  It won’t be long before it reaches the Highlands.”

Dughall reflected on this dangerous situation.  Most of his subjects were Catholic, but more than three hundred were Protestant, including his father and mother.  Given Alex’s reaction, he wondered how it would affect them.  Religious fervor was one thing, but acts of lawlessness would have to be punished.  His main concern was about what the King would do.  He had a reputation for stubbornness and cruelty.  “We’re a long way from Edinburgh.  The unrest may not travel this far.”

Jamison paled.  “My Lord.  I am afraid that I have rendered that impossible.”

Dughall’s stomach knotted.  “How so?”

“After the riot, I sought out Jenny Geddes to inquire about the will of the people.  We spent a week together visiting her contacts and discussing the rebellion.  We ate, drank, and slept together.  After that I married her.”

This was too much to bear.  “What!?  Ye brought her here?”  He recalled the lass in the courtyard.

Jamison hung his head.  “Forgive me, my Lord.  Ye did encourage me to marry.”

“Aye, but to bring a rabble rouser in our midst…”

“I can control her.”

Dughall was unsure about that.  The women in his life were not easily controlled…

*****

Read more in DARK LORD

http://www.DarkBirthrightSaga.com

*****

Jenny Geddes - illustration from Dark Lord

Jenny Geddes – illustration from Dark Lord

*****

More about St Giles Cathedral

http://www.stgilescathedral.org.uk/

Trains, Planes, Automobiles, and Motorcycles from the early 1900’s

Train Station - Western NY - early 1900's

Train Station – Western NY – early 1900’s

This photo was developed from a glass plate negative.  It was taken in the early 1900’s in Angola, NY.

To view a video of Trains, Planes, Autos, & Motorcycles from the early 1900’s Western New York…
Click on the link below…
Enjoy!
Jeanne Treat
author of the Dark Birthright Trilogy

Winter Solstice

Winter Solstice a the stone circle

The Winter Solstice is celebrated in my novel DARK BIRTHRIGHT.

Here is an excerpt from a chapter named YULE:

LOUDEN WOOD, DECEMBER 21, 1636

It was the evening of the winter solstice.  A heavy snow had fallen, blanketing the landscape.  Keira fastened her white cloak and went outside to gather pine branches for the feast.  As she walked in the sparkling forest, she pondered the events of the last few months.

Cawley and Florag died after the first snowfall, wrapped in each other’s arms.  It was sad to see the old ones go, but she knew in her heart that they wanted it this way.  Michael chose young Torry as his apprentice, to follow in his footsteps as priest.  She was so proud of him!  Best of all, her friends Janet and Alistair expected a child in March.

Her own future was unclear, frightening in some ways.  She closed her eyes and offered a prayer. “Goddess, hear me. I promised my love that we shall marry within the year.  He is kind and compassionate, with the soul of a poet and a song in his heart.  He knows you not, yet his heart is a reflection of your wisdom.  Mother whispers that our union is important.  Is it the end of the burning times?  Will I see the face of my newborn child or shall I suffer her fate?”

A gentle voice whispered through the trees. “Trust me, child.”

Keira was overcome with emotion as she held her hands to the sky. “Great Mother. I surrender my fear, my hopes, and my dreams to you. My life is in your hands.” At once, she was filled with a peace so profound that it defied description.  Warmth spread throughout her body, as the Goddess’ arms encircled her.  Her path was clear.  The future of her people rested with the handsome fisherman.  Wind whipped snowflakes into the air, stealing her breath, and bringing her back to the moment. “Thank you Mother,” she whispered. “For granting me a piece of the Summerland.”

Snow buntings twittered in pine trees, ruffling their mottled plumage. “Tirrirriripp….. piu… piu…”  Keira reached into her pocket and took out some cranberries, leaving them for the birds.  She gathered an armful of pine branches and walked to the barn.  Outside, a large cooking pot hung over the fire, filled with lamb stew.  Marcia and David West tended the fire and ladled stew into wooden bowls.

Marcia smiled. “Oh, good. You brought more pine branches. They’re almost done decorating.”

The smell of boiled lamb filled the air.  Keira’s stomach growled. “I’m starved.”

David nodded.  “We all are. It won’t be long now.”

Keira entered the barn and saw that it was decorated with holly and pine boughs.  Soft candlelight played on the walls.  Fragrant mistletoe, sacred to the Goddess, hung from rafters.  She placed her bundle on the table and arranged the branches.

Janet squeezed her shoulder. “Thank ye, lass.  Here’s a red ribbon to tie it together and cranberries to dress it up.”

Keira reached out and touched her swollen belly. “It won’t be much longer, friend.  Three more moon cycles.”

“Aye.  What more could I ask for?  I have a loving husband, a child on the way, and the best friend in the world. You mean so much to me, lass.”

Keira’s heart ached.  How could she tell Janet that she was leaving?  She lowered her head and tied ribbon around the branches. Torry pulled her close, kissing her on the cheek.  “Torry!”

“I can kiss ye. You’re under the mistletoe.”

“That I am.”

Janet laughed. “If you stand there, chances are you’ll be kissed more than once.”

It looked like everyone had arrived. David and Marcia brought in bowls of stew and set them on the table. The villagers gathered and bowed their heads in respect.

Michael spoke. “Friends.  We gather this solstice night to celebrate Yule. Let us reflect upon the abundance of the harvest and the gift of this wonderful feast. We thank the Goddess for plentiful crops and her profound love and protection.”

Keira smiled. “Blessed be.”

Michael held out his hands. “Peace be with ye.  Let the feast begin.”

The villagers gorged themselves on lamb stew and sweetened cakes, filled with nuts and dried fruits from sunnier days.  Aileana strummed the harp and George played the Bohdran.  They drank mulled wine and apple cider and retired to their homes to get ready for the walk to the stones…

***

***

Read more in Dark Birthright…

DARK BIRTHRIGHT is book one of an illustrated trilogy that takes place in 17th century Scotland, England, and the Colonies.  It is followed by DARK LORD and DARK DESTINY.

You can read about it and view video book trailers at:

http://www.DarkBirthrightSaga.com

keira

Keira

When Niagara Falls froze – circa 1909

Niagara Falls Freezes 1909

This photograph was developed from glass plate negatives.  It was taken in 1909 when the American Falls of Niagara Falls froze.  A few brave souls actually walked across the frozen falls.  Note the old camera in the picture.

A bit of information: On six reported occasions (1883, 1896, 1904, 1909, 1936 and 1947), the water flow over American Falls has been totally blocked by ice and ceased to fall.  ~ Source: The Weather Almanach

Enjoy!

Jeanne Treat

author of the Dark Birthright trilogy

http://www.DarkBirthrightSaga.com