Monthly Archives: December 2015

Christmastime River

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The days surrounding and including Christmas Day have been full and flowing with love and friendship and good times. It feels like a river in which I am dreamily floating along, but somehow not up to speed, not able to live up to my expectations for myself or participate in all the activities planned by others that I’d like to. For example:

Cookies: I bought almond paste, but didn’t bake any cookies. Instead, I’ve been nibbling away at one log of paste, and thinking of making stöllen with the other package. Pearl and Joy brought plenty of cookies, so no one was lacking in that department.

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Scout gave me nut brittle and chocolate-dipped pretzels he had made, for when the cookies run out.

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Christmas Dinner: I marinated my becoming-traditional leg of lamb for Christmas dinner, with rosemary and wine and garlic. Then on Christmas Day I overcooked it!

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It was a great feast that day, with lots of vegetables: roasted butternut squash from my garden, sautéed mushrooms and sweet red peppers, creamed spinach — plus tamales! I guess we were trying to keep track of too many courses at once. Most people loved the lamb anyway, and I will make lentil soup out of the leftovers.

We ate at the big table using all of its leaves, covered with a new green tablecloth I got on Freecycle, and a new table runner that carried the theme of my evergreen tree with its birds.

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Jamie’s mountain goat

Decorating: I’m tired of some of my decorations; I’d like to get some good quality faux greenery to hang on the railings in the future. This year I hung tiny LED lights on the manzanita branch and they were pretty, but a real chore to manage; I think I’ll just take them down now that the first batteries wore down, and be low-tech with my branch in the future. This year I didn’t put any lights around the kitchen window, so I’ll have to get in touch with other sources of winter cheer.

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Caroling: Sixteen of us were here for our usual Christmas Eve festivities, mostly squeezed into about six hours during which families arrived from other towns, unloaded their cars full of children, food and gifts, and for some, sleeping gear; prepared and ate dinner; arranged ourselves and our presents around the living room and took turns opening gifts in a civilized and grateful manner; re-grouped to eat cookies and eggnog and put some children to bed; departed to our rooms or other houses and towns very late…

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That wasn’t enough time to sing carols, which was a disappointment to many of us, but with the little children’s needs… Just now thinking that perhaps I could plan an easier meal somehow next Christmas Eve, so that we could sing carols before dinner?

The day after Christmas “we” did make giant snowflakes, with instructions from Kit. And we did read Christmas stories, which is something I’ve been wanting to do for years. So it was different, but very nice.  Some of us took a walk on Christmas Day, and others a longer hike the next. Soldier made more finishing touches on my greenhouse and the playhouse, and I began to clean the patio. I held Jamie a lot and he fell asleep on my chest as we sat by the fire.

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Scout loved the collection of rocks he was given.
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Swiss chard in the front lawn this morning
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Maggie gave Jack some treats for Christmas.

Cleaning: This is the second year in a row that I didn’t get around to dusting the living room furniture before the festivities! On Christmas morning when I was alone downstairs I noticed the dust on the piano… I’m lucky to be in a family where probably no one noticed things like that, especially with the humans and torn-up wrapping paper filling the space and all over the piano and other furniture… gl P1030228

 

 

 

It’s been cold, but that didn’t prevent Scout and Ivy from playing in the fountain from which the ice had only recently melted. One night an action figure got frozen in up to his waist — he was the same guy whom I’d seen underwater in the tarps that covered the planting boxes until last week.

I’ve spent a lot of effort morning and evening the last few days covering the lemon tree, melting ice in the fountain, and going out before sunup to survey the estate.

Only concern for my fountain could get me to do that! I was rewarded by seeing the various plants with their frosty crystals. The Iceland poppy shrivels to a bright crisp when it’s 27°, but by midday it relaxes as the thermometer rises, and sways gracefully again.

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Tonight may be the last of the freezing temps for a while; I will go out soon and turn on the fountain to run through the coldest hours in hopes of keeping the water in the pipes from freezing completely.

In this new week we are looking forward to our parish feast day, and to Theophany. It’s good to be carried along on that river, the flow of the church calendar that keeps me centered on my life in Christ. I am thankful this Christmas, for Him and for all His gifts.

Frosty trees and icy fountain.

Early on Christmas Eve rain fell all around, and on my little live Christmas trP1030175ee, so when I brought it indoors on to the doormat it was heavy and drippy. I dried the dear but very prickly thing with a towel and later on Kit trimmed it with all of the appropriate ornaments. That photo on the wall behind is of my late husband when he was a boy.

Today I came across this good Christmas tree poem by Robert Frost. I love the way he plays with the idea of the relative value of friendship, trees, and gifts. About gifts I hope to write more soon.

CHRISTMAS TREES

(A Christmas Circular Letter)

The city had withdrawn into itself
And left at last the country to the country;
When between whirls of snow not come to lie
And whirls of foliage not yet laid, there drove
A stranger to our yard, who looked the city,
Yet did in country fashion in that there
He sat and waited till he drew us out
A-buttoning coats to ask him who he was.P1030173
He proved to be the city come again
To look for something it had left behind
And could not do without and keep its Christmas.
He asked if I would sell my Christmas trees;
My woods—the young fir balsams like a place
Where houses all are churches and have spires.
I hadn’t thought of them as Christmas Trees.
I doubt if I was tempted for a moment
To sell them off their feet to go in cars
And leave the slope behind the house all bare,
Where the sun shines now no warmer than the moon.
I’d hate to have them know it if I was.
Yet more I’d hate to hold my trees except
As others hold theirs or refuse for them,
Beyond the time of profitable growth,
The trial by market everything must come to.
I dallied so much with the thought of selling.P1030174
Then whether from mistaken courtesy
And fear of seeming short of speech, or whether
From hope of hearing good of what was mine, I said,
“There aren’t enough to be worth while.”
“I could soon tell how many they would cut,
You let me look them over.”

“But don’t expect I’m going to let you have them.”
Pasture they spring in, some in clumps too close
That lop each other of boughs, but not a few
Quite solitary and having equal boughs
All round and round. The latter he nodded “Yes” to,
Or paused to say beneath some lovelier one,
With a buyer’s moderation, “That would do.”
I thought so too, but wasn’t there to say so.
We climbed the pasture on the south, crossed over,P1030062
And came down on the north. He said, “A thousand.”

“A thousand trees would come to thirty dollars.”

Then I was certain I had never meant
To let him have them. Never show surprise!
But thirty dollars seemed so small beside
The extent of pasture I should strip, three cents
(For that was all they figured out apiece),
Three cents so small beside the dollar friends
I should be writing to within the hour
Would pay in cities for good trees like those,
Regular vestry-trees whole Sunday Schools
Could hang enough on to pick off enough.P1030167
A thousand Christmas trees I didn’t know I had!
Worth three cents more to give away than sell,
As may be shown by a simple calculation.
Too bad I couldn’t lay one in a letter.
I can’t help wishing I could send you one,
In wishing you here with a Merry Christmas.

–Robert Frost

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Yesterday and today the bowl was full of ice, and the flow slowed to a trickle. This morning I added some hot water from the kettle and that got things moving better. Somehow I neglected to take a still photo of the ice crust, with an action figure frozen to his waist in the moat. Tomorrow I will have another chance, but I want to post this tonight.

Here’s hoping all of you in the northern spheres are staying cozy indoors or are dressed appropriately for winter wonderland walks. May your warm Christmas spirit endure!

strange surprises and delights

Many things are strange about this Christmas, flowing from the fundamentally odd and GL IMG_1347new situation of my husband not being with us in the flesh. I keep remembering that he is with us in Christ, and in the Holy Spirit, and he would say, if he could speak from the grave, “Christ is born! Glorify Him! Rejoice evermore! And again I say, Rejoice!”

Mr. Glad loved Christmas. He loved buying presents for people, and wrapping them, with special notes and hints on the gift tags. He liked to dress up in his best clothes, to eat oyster stew, and to sing carols around the piano or while strumming his guitar. He would want us to carry on in that tradition; so we won’t be glum.GL IMG_1362

When I headed out to church yesterday, a block from my house a rainbow appeared and stayed with me all the way. I kept stopping (sometimes just in the middle of the street) to take its picture, and it was still there when I reached my destination and walked up to the doors. I could see the whole bow, but not encompass it with my camera. I felt God speaking from the image, “Good things are ahead for you.”

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I’ve been wrapping presents like mad, and not baking cookies. Maybe my cookie art, of which I have written many times on my blog at Christmastime, will be superseded by GL IMG_1369creative wrapping? I haven’t made any cookies at all this year! And I’ve had to wrap all the presents by myself, which has been fun, actually. I’m making just as much of a mess as I normally would in the kitchen.

But amazingly, I had time to go for a walk this morning, too (or did I?) and I saw this manger scene with very folksy and friendly animals who wanted me to take their picture.

GL IMG_1375 GL IMG_1379 When I got back I inspected the greens in the front yard…the smallage, chard, kale and collards are all doing famously. As I bent over to snap a picture, Whhoosh… a mighty breath exhaled nearby, and I thought, Did the neighbors just deflate their front-yard Santa? But when I looked up, it was a hot air balloon!

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One delight of this week was being able to attend the Christmas play that the church children put on, a story of the betrothal of Mary and Joseph, and the birth of Christ, written by one of our teens. After the children changed out of their darling costumes they had a visit from “St. Nicholas,” who told them stories about his life and gave out presents.

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Another strange and new thing has been shopping and cooking, cleaning and decorating, singing and eating, not alone, but with my housemate and friend Kit. Kit is a young woman who just moved to this area to be part of our parish. She had her own reasons for coming here, and I invited her to live at my house without a glimmer of foreknowledge, just because it was something I could do, while I was still somewhat paralyzed with grief.

But within a month, I came to believe that God brought her here just to be a comfort and joy to me. I thought I would want to live alone, even while I believed that it’s generally not good for people to live alone. This whole arrangement, with Kit and Susan living here (Susan is house-sitting elsewhere this week) has been a great surprise and gift.

Glory to God for all things! Christ is born! Glorify Him! And may your Christmas be merry.

On behalf of Eve she repaid the debt.

I don’t think many of us will be reading blogs on Christmas morning, so I offer this meditation a little early, from a Christmas homily of very long ago, found here.

It was fitting that the Giver of all holiness should enter this world by a pure and holy birth. For He it is that of old formed Adam from the virgin earth, and from Adam without help of woman formed woman. For as without woman Adam produced woman, so did the Virgin without man this day bring forth a man. For it is a man, saith the Lord, and who shall know him [Jer. 17:9]. For since the race of women owed to men a debt, as from Adam without woman woman came, therefore without man the Virgin this day brought forth, and on behalf of Eve repaid the debt to man.Nativity.0

That Adam might not take pride, that he without woman had engendered woman, a Woman without man has begotten man; so that by the similarity of the mystery is proved the similarity in nature. For as before the Almighty took a rib from Adam, and by that Adam was not made less; so in the Virgin He formed a living temple, and the holy virginity remained unchanged. Sound and unharmed Adam remained even after the deprivation of a rib; unstained the Virgin though a Child was born of her.

+ St. John Chrysostom, “Homily on Christmas Morning”

Do you wonder where Joseph is? Orthodox icons don’t show him in the typical western setting of the birth of Christ. You can find out about any unfamiliar elements of this picture from Iconreader in his post about the Nativity icon.