Friday, January 29, 2010

7 Quick Takes Friday, smog and Candlemas edition


The recent rain washed all the smog out of L.A.'s sky, for a day or so. It reminded me of this well-known incident: An L.A. man had some out-of-town friends visiting him, and he took them on a drive up into the mountains. The car climbed the winding roads until they were above the smog line. They parked in a turnout with a nice view of the valley and ate their lunch while looking down on the dome of brownish haze that enfolds all Los Angeles in its smoggy arms. Suddenly the L.A. man began to have difficulty breathing. He wheezed, gasped, clutched his throat, whispered, "I need air... please..." and then collapsed to the ground. Fortunately he had quick-thinking friends. One of them ran to start up the car, and the other seized one of the brown paper lunch bags. He held the bag over the car's tailpipe until it was full of exhaust, then rushed to the side of his unconscious friend and held it over his mouth and nose. The L.A. man inhaled and revived.

In L.A. we don't trust any air we can't see.


In this video a soccer player collapses from cardiac arrest. After four seconds, an implanted defibrillator restarts his heart-- you can see his legs jerk when it happens. He got up feeling fine and asked to get back in the game!

What awesome stuff humans invent! God made us in His likeness-- He is creative, and so are we. Okay, some of us more than others. Okay, I never invented anything. Except some brownie madeleines I'll post about sometime.


On my nightly walks I'm still seeing about four houses around the neighborhood with Christmas lights on. Can they not bear to let Christmas go? Are the lights set to go on automatically and no one's noticed yet? Or are they deliberately waiting for the traditional end of the Christmas season on February 2?


Remember when Christmas was the only holiday we had colored lights for? Now I see orange and purple lights in October, and last night I saw a house all lit in red and white and realized the lights were little hearts.

Hurry and buy some all-green lights at a post-Christmas sale! You can market them as St. Patrick's Day lights in March. I want a ten percent cut for giving you that idea.


The Jewish law in Jesus' day was that every son had to be brought to the temple in Jerusalem when he was forty days old (girls at eighty days-- no one knows what the difference was about), and the parents had offer sacrifice for him. So Mary and Joseph offered two doves for their baby son Jesus. This is the Feast of the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple, and it falls on February 2, forty days after December 25.


The feast is also called Candlemas becaue of the custom of blessing candles on that day.

"Down with the rosemary, and so
Down with the bays and misletoe ;
Down with the holly, ivy, all,
Wherewith ye dress'd the Christmas Hall"

— Robert Herrick (1591-1674), "Ceremony upon Candlemas Eve"


February 2 is also Groundhog Day, when the groundhog sticks his head of his burrow and if he sees his shadow, we'll have six more weeks of winter, but if the day is cloudy we'll have an early spring. It's no coincidence that Groundhog Day is the same day as Candlemas. Check out this old rhyme:

If Maries purifieng daie, Be cleare and bright with sunnie raie, The frost and cold shalbe much more, After the feast than was before.
[1584 R. Scot Discovery of Witchcraft xi. xv.]

Mary's purifying day is February 2, same feast. By Jewish law the mother was considered ritually clean and able to enter the temple forty days after the birth of a son. There's an interesting echo of this in the old but not extinct custom of the churching of women... but I've already gone on too long for quick takes.


Pam H. said...

My next-door neighbor does the Halloween and Valentine lights. I'm not sure if I've seen green ones, though.

I wonder when Eastern Orthodox Christmas ends? It doesn't start until the first week of January.

Rachel Gray said...

I've heard that the Orthodox celebrate the Presentation on February 14 instead of February 2, but I don't know if that's the end of their Christmas season. Apparently they say their Christmas is December 25; it's just that their ecclesiastical calendar is a bit behind the calendar that the Catholic Church (and the secular world) follows.