The Better Angels

In these late days of civilization, the internet provides us with an opportunity to connect the words we speak and write with their sources.  For instance, when I titled this blog post “The Better Angels,” I was curious to know where Abraham Lincoln sourced this phrase in his 1861 inaugural address.  Like many expressions in the English language, it goes back to Shakespeare (Othello) and then passes through Dickens’ Barnaby Rudge.  In the novel, published in 1841, Dickens wrote: 

“So do the shadows of our own desires stand between us and our better angels, and thus their brightness is eclipsed.”

Christianity offers a mixed bag when it comes to angels.  Generally, angels are presented as darling and cherubic images with only an occasional nod to the fierce and multi-eyed creatures of the Book of Revelation.  Angels wax and wane in home decorating although I have never seen any at a decorator show house.

I have two ceramic Christmas angels in my house, sentimental relics from my childhood.  They will not make an appearance on the blog today.

Here in Maine, the decade ended peacefully in anticipation of New Year’s Day.  I heard a few fireworks in the distance as I drifted off and I was excited and anxious about the first day of the new decade and another first for me.  Ice fishing!

2019 was a first-filled year…I rolled out a flaky homemade pie crust, I went deer hunting (took two shots), I drove an ATV, learned how to operate a snow blower, navigated a small boat, and drove a decorated golf cart in a parade.  2020 looks promising, with ice fishing added to the list of “firsts.”

What a glorious day it was on Upper Narrows Pond in Winthrop.  The sun was bright and the sky was cloudless when we got there with our traps and started zooming around the pond on a Yamaha Rhino.  Record that…my first time driving a Rhino on a frozen lake.

Here’s my first snow angel of 2020…

Snow Angels 2020

The angel was my totem of peace, safety, and good will for the day, the New Year, and the decade unfolding.  It turned out to be a busy day on the pond, with red and black flags popping up every time we considered sitting down and enjoying the sun.  We caught our bag limit of brook trout before we ate lunch and the clouds started rolling in.

As wonderful as the bright day was, clouds made the pond more magical as they cut the glare and sent many of the fishermen home.  Snow swirled in around 2:00 p.m., creating a shadowy snow globe-like feeling.  I spent a lot of time walking on the frozen pond, contemplating the day and the upcoming year.  Two eagles soared in circles overhead, eyeing our now-frozen fish.

The shadows of our own desires…if they are for good, can they really eclipse the brightness of our better angels?  Perhaps there is a compromise between the shadows of our desires and the brightness of our better angels, all working towards something wonderful for everyone involved.

Much of my 2019 energy was focused on cultivating “good vibes” in my life.  I kept coming back to this notion that I could choose to be happy.  I could choose to be grateful.  That faith could not co-exist with fear.  And that walking on a frozen pond on New Year’s Day felt a little bit like walking on water and I had no fear and no doubt that 2020 was starting out exactly as it should.

As one of the kindest people in my life often reminds me “how lucky are we?”

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