The first half of the week was a flurry of activity: First a Santa Lucia Eve procession that I was invited to, with a few families I have been getting to know because of my involvement in a homeschool group. With the eldest girl wearing a wreath studded with candles, we processed through the neighborhood singing “Santa Lucia” in Italian — I admit I was only humming the tune because I haven’t become that involved to have learned the words in Italian or even English. Then back at the house, we added “Stille Nacht” (Silent Night) in the original German. Tea and Santa Lucia buns in their delicious quintessential selves finished out the evening’s simple program. I took the picture three days later so the greenery is a bit dried out.
The next night our women’s book group at church got together. Originally that meeting was to be a soup dinner for 10 at my house, but the time and place got changed because of a funeral; it was a big relief for me, because as soon as December arrived, I couldn’t imagine getting ready for a party at the same time I was getting ready for a trip, which this year is the case: I’m headed to Soldier and Joy’s for Christmas.
I made split pea soup, and we had a very festive group and evening, eating fish chowder, pumpkin soup and lentil tomato soups as well — plus accompaniments. Of course, cookies and vegan brownies, too! I don’t think I mentioned before what books we have been reading this time. They were Strength in Weakness by Archbishop Irenei Steenberg, and The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. I’d been wanting to gather my thoughts on The Secret Garden for about five years, so this was the impetus I needed to buckle down. I’ll share more about my resulting amateur analysis in the new year.
Thursday I attended a tea party of about a dozen ladies and girls, several of whom I was meeting for the first time. Many of them are very accomplished, cultured and educated, and there was lots of fascinating conversation about our personal histories, world events, information about our local towns and the architecture of particular houses that were built by a relation of the woman sitting next to me. She was the only one there who is older than I, and she has been involved in our town’s history from way back, and continuing.
It was while this talk was flowing around me that the name of Julia Morgan, architect, made me pay closer attention; a bit more information about the time frame in which she worked, and I began to wonder if my grandfather was one of the contractors that she worked with in the San Francisco Bay Area; she designed more than 700 houses in California. I will be doing more research on that, but in the meantime I show you these photos of the Berkeley City Women’s Club building, in which my grandmother (on the other side of the family) was very active, and where she took us swimming when we visited her. That building has been called a “little Hearst Castle,” referring to the real (huge) Hearst Castle in San Simeon, California, the estate that Morgan designed with William Randolph Hearst.
Since the tea party I have switched gears and stayed home, slowly working on wrapping presents, packing bags and organizing my thoughts in preparation for my departure. One by one little things that need to be done come to mind and I do them, or write them down. It is not very systematic, and the whole process seems to require frequent attention to everyday tasks like building the fire and tending the frozen fountain. I guess it’s because I’m not systematic that I require banks of time for the creative flow to happen. As I am fond of quoting G.K. Chesterton:
“I am not absentminded. It is the presence of mind
that makes me unaware of everything else.”
Even things I’ve been procrastinating on for months must be put off no longer, whether or not they have anything to do with the trip — like making a phone call. My daughter Kate says everyone does the same at the end of the year, finally sending in reports or contacting loved ones, I guess because they don’t want to come back from Christmas break with “old business,” whether it’s work or family related, dutiful or joyful.
Now that I’ve procrastinated enough to get another unnecessary thing done, the writing of this post, I will have to hustle a little bit and fold the clothes I laundered, to figure out what to take with me. Before I know it, these in-between days will have ended and I’ll be boarding an airplane and on my way to a happy reunion with several of my dear family. I hope that on Christmas Eve we will sing “Stille Nacht.”