Glen Hansard, lead singer for the Irish band The Frames, has a long, woebegone face pebbled with a rust-colored beard; his eyes are immense, with the peeled look of billiard balls. He suggests a gangly Gaelic version of the young John Lithgow.
I heard the Irishman on the radio say, only it didn’t sound the way we’d say it: commonplace, like dirt under the nails. He held it on his tongue, “Air-th,” as if it were the best place, like heaven: spacious, intricate, infinitely rich, with swells of color and cloud, forest stipple and patches of swale, the “r” rolling along like the hills. As if it were the best word in the language, better even than love.
I’m not sure why I found it so endearing, the surgeon’s always saying, upon hearing his patient’s slightly hopeful rephrasing or reply just after he’s been told the how and the why of the surgery or recovery, a fine-mineral fear inset in optimism, “From your mouth to God’s ear.” The surgeon said it encouragingly, with a smile. Considering it, it took me only a little while to realize what it signified: “We can’t really know, but it’s good to hope so. Who knows? Let’s hope so. But also don’t mistake my taking of a measure, my neutral explanation. Elsewhere is your treasure or rescue, if any exists. Nothing is promised, either.” By then, I was content to drift in uncertainty’s ether.
For one day in December differences were set aside between Israelis and Arabs in the Haifa region of northern Israel. A soccer tournament was organized that brought together more than 200 Arabs, Jews, and Druze. The event was planned to mark the hundredth anniversary of the Christmas truce that took place on the front lines of World War I on Christmas Day. Legend has it that some German and British soldiers even played soccer. The soccer tournament in Israel came at a time when Israeli-Palestinian relationships were at their lowest point in years (National Catholic Reporter, December 20).