Of Monoliths and Mangers

By Kathie Gibboney
Kathie GibboneyBy Kathie Gibboney

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Of Monoliths and Mangers
A Holiday Comic for the Canyon Chronicle Mari Saroka and her family have lived in Topanga for 14 years. She and her daughter, Emi, created this holiday comic to replace the traditional family photo card. “Sadly,” she says, “the comic is true. My kids were sent home from college in March and even though everyone is here in the house, no one has time f
This year it took much longer to put up our Christmas decorations, four days alone to mount the house lights and yard display. Usually, that was something we could knock off in one or two days. Granted, we are a bit older, slower, and colder, and we were attempting a whole new concept for our outdoor holiday display. Originally appearing in 2001 A Space Odyssey, the monolith was a tall, mysterious, oblong structure of unknown origin that hastened the development of human evolution. Inspired by recent sightings of monoliths suddenly appearing around the world, we decided to erect our own, as if it landed right here in Topanga. Vox, an online news site, aptly described their manifestation as: Into the fiery plague-ridden, nightmare-scape of 2020, like a gift from some benevolent higher being, has come a source of true wonder and delight: the wandering monoliths of Utah, Romania, California and New Mexico. These formations seem to appear from nowhere, then somehow vanish overnight, only to reappear somewhere else. Were they art, pranks, or alien erections? Some of the structures may have otherworldly origins (the poet in me likes to think so), but our creation was more homespun, being a large cardboard box obtained from a local surf shop that we spray-painted black and silver. The Beleaguered Husband propped it over a pitchfork for support and there it stood proudly lit up, next to a palm tree, surrounded by a pair of pink flamingos and a large stuffed Santa on a yellow lounge chair. Our son, upon viewing the installation on our hardscrabble barren yard, pronounced it looking a bit like trailer trash. “But in a good way,” he added. Neighbors observed us hard at work day after day, and stopped to cheer our struggling efforts. They made encouraging comments, perhaps out of pity for our labors or in the spirit of the season, such as, “Looks great!” “How fun!” and “It’s really coming together now!” But what was coming together was not easy to comprehend. Now and then we’d try to explain, “Well, see? It’s the monolith.” “What’s a monolith?” asked one friendly neighbor, slightly confused. “I think it’s cool,” commented her nine-year-old son staring at the black configuration. Perhaps he was entering his punk phase, bless him. At night, I’d sometime notice passing cars slow down and people looking, no doubt trying to figure out what was festive about a tall, black, looming rectangle? Some even took pictures with their phones. At times, I was tempted to run out and try to explain the concept to the confounded passerby, but that would mean putting on real clothes. What pleased me the most was driving home at night rounding the bend on Old Canyon and seeing our house come into view. There it stood glowing in the last fading days of a bad year, all filled with light, and the hope that we, the people, of this planet will evolve, or at least advance to the point where men cease wearing shorts year-round. Now in the winter gloom of January, we pack away our decorations inside and out; tinsel, elves, bows and bobbles, angels, tree, and a manger filled with an eclectic group of characters. Once I mentioned to my husband that, “All were welcome in The Manger.” Now, every year, in addition to the traditional creche cast, strange new additions show up. Random magi arrive such as crocodiles, clowns, unicorns, an ostrich, and some plastic Happy Face figures come to worship. Where they come from I do not know, appearing secretly overnight like the monoliths. Sometimes I see a smile cross Mike’s face but when questioned, he denies any knowledge of the new pilgrims. So far, in keeping with the spirt of Christmas, everyone, from dinosaur to little lamb, seem to get along. Sadly, such is not the case with our country on this sixth day of January 2021. As I’m boxing up my treasures, dismantling the manger, there is suddenly chaos erupting in our nation’s Capitol. While innocent birds fly high above, a mob, the anger, hate, and anarchy we feared was coming, arrived, and raised up cheering its own misguided guile. If only I could pack up all the ugly things, all our bitterness and gall and lock them secretly away, safe until Pandora’s curiosity gets the best of her again. Suppose the monoliths are really arriving to de-evolve us. They could well have found mankind sadly lacking, the human race a great disappointment, an experiment gone wrong and hence, we will be returned to some primitive protoplasm. Let the cats take over. I beg one more chance. Oh, brothers and sisters, we are we. And now, more than ever we need the guidance of some benevolent higher being. Let it come in some altruistic human form, or just a guy with a banjo, or a unicorn, or spirit from on high, a strange gleaming cube, or in a sunset so beautiful it would make us drop to our knees and cry. So, the decorations celebrating “peace on earth and good will towards men” are put away, the star on the chimney dimmed, Santa gone from our yard. Yet one cardboard monolith still stands, slightly crooked, shining in the Topanga sun. Somehow, some way, Happy New Year!
Kathie Gibboney

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January 22, 2021

The arts
Thinking out loud
Covid diary
All things connected
My corner of the canyon