2 January 2014

A Coat, a Wig and a Roving Star

Having being born the day before the traditional Epiphany, squeaking in just before the Twelve Days of Christmas are officially over, I’ve grown up being aware of stars and wise men out wandering.

And while I can imagine The Magi at this time of year on their singular journey, busy looking towards the heavens, my own eyes seem to be more firmly on the ground tracking wise men.  Any wise man or woman.  The kind of person on whose door you can rap, who will invite you in, speak in riddles you must untangle, ladle out warming broth, sit and listen to your woes, dust you down, then set you back on course, clearer and more focused.  

I realise that wise people rarely heave into view looking like Gandalf and more often come across your path heavily disguised – often in the garb of a person you’re too instantly prepared to dismiss.  I thought of one yesterday as I was cleaning the bathroom for visitors.  In fact, I think of him every single time I wipe down a basin, and hear his voice saying: immer fliessend, Katie, immer fliessend.  He was a barrel-bellied Croatian gastarbeiter in the Hansa Hotel in Wiesbaden, where I was a chambermaid for the summer I was nineteen, and he taught me everything I now know about turning round a bathroom in minutes – especially, although not necessarily economically, by keeping the water continually running while swooshing around the taps with a cloth.  His words, which were originally meant simply to communicate a knack, have transformed over time into a nugget of wisdom,  and the instructions immer fliessend, meaning always flowing, have become a mantra in my head, not just about water in a basin, but about a way of living that aspires to be easy and fluid rather than rigid and stuck.  

Yet I am still drawn to the notion of a wise and wondrous magical character, stepping out of the gloom attired in home-spun but mystic raiments.  As you can see in the photo above, I’ve laid out his/her coat in readiness (a Kashmiri embroidered dressing gown that my mother brought back from India when she was twenty-seven) and I've provided a flowing mane of hair and a hat graced with the proverbial star.  We used these props in a recent You Tube release of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star reworked by the A Woman in Goggles band.

For this traditional song of looking, wondering and seeking is nothing if not a song for Epiphany.  

And the pictured clothes are waiting to be inhabited and spring to life.


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