Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Merry Christmask 2020

That's no typo in the title!

I'll be home at Christmas; You can`t call on me.

Please don't ask, and wear a mask; It's just my trains and me.

Christmas Eve will find me, in basement quarantine.

I'll be home at Christmas, To wait for my vaccine.

My annual Christmas song and Napanee's streetscape (above). 
My wife's Christmas tile (below)

And now...my Christmas Address

Well, besides staying home at my address, I figure if the Queen can broadcast a Christmas Address, so can I. The inspiration for it was an article entitled Ode to Finding Joy in Loss, about Beethoven. (Get it, Ode..to..Joy?) Written by the Washington Post's Arthur C. Brooks here are some excerpts:

The world is now marking Beethoven's 250th birthday. By 1800, his hearing was in full decline. But what happened as a result changed the world of music. For a long time, Beethoven raged against his decline, insisting on performing, with worse and worse results. His friend and fellow composer Ludwig Spohr wrote, "I was deeply saddened at so hard a fate". In the last decade of Beethoven's life (he died at 56), his deafness was complete, so music could reside only in his imagination. 

During that period, Beethoven wrote the music that would define his unique style, change music permanently and give him a legacy as one of the greatest composers of all time.  Entirely deaf, Beethoven wrote his best string quartets. It seems a mystery that Beethoven became more original and brilliant as a composer in inverse proportion to his ability to hear his own - or others - music. He was less influenced by the prevailing compositional fashions and more by the musical structures forming inside his own head. 

Have you lost something that defined your identity? How might this loss set you free? You might finally define yourself in new ways, free from the boundaries you set for yourself based on the expectations of others. As you age, what if you lean in to the 'declines' - really, just natural changes - and use your wisdom more? What if you turn your energy from impressing strangers to being completely present with the people you love? You might not revolutionize music, but maybe you will discover joy in the freedom that can come from losing something, but allowing yourself to grow.

It was probably a bad idea on my part to try to summarize this article during my second coffee of the day, watching the Will Ferrell Christmas classic Elf, in the midst of a pandemic on my sofa. If you came for the train pictures, you'll probably want to show yourself out at this point - (but I don't think you did, or will!) Here's how I 'heard' the above article by Mr. Brooks:

Beethoven died (cue the de-composer joke here) at the same age I am now. Coming up on two years retired, I know a lot of folks don't want to retire because they don't really know what to do with their time. (I think of Richard Scarry's classic book of my childhood, What Do People Do All Day?) Neither do I. Just like the pandemic, a major life change offers us the gift of a reset. Working is pretty mindless. Get up, go to work, save the world, come home. (Or, if you're female, get up, go to work, come home, save the world). You mean I have to actually figure out what to do each day now?? C'mon, you can do it!!

As author Brooks suggests, I've never felt terribly bounded by boundaries I set for myself. A lot of people say 'I don't care what other people think of me', and to a large extent, I really don't. Be yourself - everyone else is already taken. I remember going to a buskers' festival and hearing one busker use the same 'bit' as another busker just down the street. That told me they've been watching each other's schtick. Any artist should not do that - Beethoven definitely didn't, moreso after he lost his hearing. If we do, we merely imitate others. We pick up their schtick. We model other model railroaders' layouts. We replicate other bloggers' blogs. We should be Beethoven-like, using the music that resides in our imagination, and by choice, not by necessity as he had to. When I nominated 2020 as the year to Model & Railfan Local, little did I know just how local Local would become in March!

I'm tired of hearing how awful 2020 has been. There have been good things that happened to me this year. I gained a miraculous new grandson and a new son-in-law. My wife hasn't killed me yet despite our extended time together. I have endured the death of my remaining parent. I have a sibling who can't escape the U.S.A., largely due to questionable political rhetoric there. My other sibling continues to document and disseminate history for the masses. Life goes on. 

We fight against the negativity of the pandemic. My wife and I stayed safe. Our kids work in healthcare. Remember, they are not in the front line of an attack.. They are actually in the last line of defence. We continue to define ourselves in new ways. We continue to define our elves in new ways this Christmas (Christmask!) The season of Advent, Latin for 'coming' or 'arrival' gives us an annual opportunity to prepare ourselves and order our thoughts. Perhaps the pandemic, the advent of vaccines and the advent of getting back to 'normal' gives us an opportunity to prepare for that.

Blogging continues - it's always been distanced. I created my seventh book. Brooks writes that after conducting his Ninth Symphony, the deaf Beethoven had to be physically turned around to see, if not hear, the thunderous ovation. It's like that with writing. It is said that writers have a desperate need to be 'heard'. Sometimes we have to hear others to truly hear ourselves and be heard. For that reason, I'm grateful for Dave, Steve, Chris, George/Peter/Don, Bernard and Matthieu, whose blogs I read in my right sidebar. Bloggers Edd, Michael and John took some time off, and that was as wise as it was necessary. Believe it or not, there is more to life than blogging. What, did I just type that??

Thank you for reading this, for indulging me with your patience, your comments, your suggestions and the many additions you've made to my life this past year. Your attendance here is not mandatory, though it is valued and welcomed. 

Christmas is most decidedly NOT CANCELLED, any more than we can cancel sunrise, the weather, aging, trips to the bathroom, wanting to eat fruitcake all day (well, maybe that last one). If you feel like someone is trying to cancel your Christmas, just watch this video of the Stanley Park train ride. Buddy the Elf would be proud. The child in me screams 'Wow!' while the teenager in me says 'Cool' as the adult in me evaluates 'Wow factor' and the retiree in me thinks 'That is a lot of lights there. That would take a long time to string them all up. Where do they store them? That is a lot of trips back and forth to the garden shed'. Anyway, truly a winter wonderland!

Wishing you the merriest of Christmases, 

peaceful season's greetings, 

and a huge dose of hopefulness for 2021!


Running extra...

My uncle from Portage la Prairie shared these photos of a westward-facing rail train in the CN yard there:
The Prairies are not known for mountains, but that pile of used ties is approaching mountain proportions!

Here are some of the Christmas greetings I've received this year:

The indomitable Alex Pallo Jr. (above)
Gary Hadfield (above) - Matapedia, QC in 2009 
****The inimitable Bob Fallowfield (above - Bill Miller photo) **** Steve Hoshel:

Lance Gleich by mail:
Two from M A P:
GCPRS's Jason Paul Sailer:
Rapido Trains Inc.
Fellow blogger Steve Boyko:
Fellow blogger Chris Mears:
New Year's Greetings from Ray Farand:


Canadian Train Geek said...

There's more to life than blogging! WHAT? This coming from the fellow who might have more blogs than I do now... ;)

I'm glad you are enjoying your retirement and adapting to this.. unusual year. I know it's become fashionable to talk about how bad 2020 has been. It has been bad, in many ways, but there are bright spots here and there that must be acknowledged, and I'm glad you have.

Merry Christmas and keep on being yourself.

Eric said...

Name of my new blog, "More 2 Life than Blogging".

Let's keep it positive in 2021...that could be my next initiative! We see how well the Local thing did in 2020. I've never been more Local. And possibly Loco!

All the best to you and your family this Christmas and in the New Year!

Thanks for your comment,

LinesWest said...

Merry Christmas Eric, no it's definitely not canceled.

... and I understand writing from the home front, on a couch, in the midst of a pandemic. Chair, I guess, in my case.

Eric said...

Couch potato blogging is a thing. Merry Christmas!
Hopeful thoughts for 2021!

chris mears said...

This was beautiful. Thank you.

I’m trying to write a comment as wise and beautiful as you have written in your post and I’m so moved by it that I just keep scrolling back up to reread it.

I feel richer for this. Usually I default to my “trains connect us without ever even riding them” and to that I’ll add the appreciation of how trains connect us through these blogs and keep us in touch with each other to say we’re still here and to thank each other for what that connection means.


Eric said...

Thanks for your kind words, Chris. I'm a tad sentimental at the best of times but this pandemic period is making my river run a bit deeper than my usual superficial stream!

Trains are for the sentimental, whether it's the Dartmouth Christmas train, a train under the Christmas tree or the journeys home not happening this year.

Hoping you are safe at home, and let's resolve to stay connected through these times! To paraphrase that saying, Tough Times don't last, Connected People do!