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On the thirteenth day of Christmas,
my true love gave to me
the challenge of integrating
all the cra ... er ... gifts she’d given to me.
The partridge, we’d long before roasted,
with a plum sauce en souffle.
The turtle doves still cooing,
day and night ... and every blessed day.
The three French hens are found out moping in the yard
after learning we didn’t much care for Heloise or Abelard.
The calling birds lost their cell plans, they say,
for overrunning their data cap in little more than a day.
I’ve now got rings on every finger
of what used to be a functioning hand,
as well as an especially ungainly one
on that adjacent thumb.
As of this morning, I count a full six dozen goose eggs,
with no end to the laying in sight.
And those swans were perfectly happy swimming
until their pond froze overnight.
We’re running a special on freshly squeezed cow’s milk,
we’re considering making cheese,
just as soon as the dancers and the leapers
make us a little more space.
But the pipers and the drummers have
made absolute bedlam out of the place,
I suppose it might be time for us to begin to integrate.

Welcome to the day after Epiphany! I’d not considered until earlier this morning what might come after Epiphany. Perhaps someone already developed a detailed mytholodogy about this, but I somehow doubt it.

Holy Days seem to melt back into ordinary times without leaving much residue, but however wise the gifts received in Epiphany, they will need integrating into the context accustomed to doing without them. That’s the part of change we usually forget to consider when humbly accepting a gift, that the gift might further humble us when we try to find space for it in the cupboard or, worse, in the already overloaded bookshelf.

Thanks, I guess.

You might have known and I really should have anticipated the morning after’s stark light would deliver a greater gift: Integration Day. Integration seems inconveniencing, and those who know me, know that I revere inconveniences above all because they seem to keep me from dozing my way through this life. Wear a pair of new shoes on the first day in Paris, and you will never forget the cobblestones you meet there, though you might not remember anything about Notre Dame.

I might reflect and realize that I’ve expended much more of my life working to integrate the gifts I’ve received than I ever spent anticipating, receiving, or appreciating them. My calendar, like yours, clearly denotes the highest holy days but fails to highlight the days I’ll most certainly most clearly remember; the dates I’ll definitely denote in my journal. Perhaps nobody really needs reminding, the endless surprise being an important element of successful integration. One must first experience an inability, a small failure, to fully appreciate any gift, and Integration seems tailor-made to provide those experiences.

No preparation seems possible. Even should I successfully anticipate Integration Day, I’m unlikely to foresee what will probably face me down there.

Last summer, a friend gave me a box of cereal I knew I would not eat. She was moving, so I took it off her hands, just trying to help. That box sat on a back shelf in my larder until this morning. As I was thawing out the frozen back stoop fountain for the birds, I thought it might be nice to leave a dish of grain for the snowbound birds, too. Call it regifting if you will, but my mind flashed to that unwanted gift box of fibre in the larder, and my benevolence was sealed. Integration time: five full months. Now the boids can integrate MY gift instead of me failing to integrate my friend’s.

A moment of mindfulness, please, for the unanticipatible holy day, the one so danged holy that it might appear to be no more than ordinary times again, though the most extraordinary things might occur, anyway. If you feel inconvenienced today, say a small prayer of thanksgiving, for you might just be receiving the greatest gift of all, the fuller integration of some flashy Frankincense into your otherwise Old Spice world.

Think of it as the thirteenth day of Christmas.

©2015 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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