Monthly Archives: December 2013

On Christmas Eve

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How swiftly the years fly!

So many Twenty Fourths gone by–

So we remember back in time,

Listen and smile by firelight

As little footsteps scurry past…

The children never sleep this night.

 
Outside the snow has fallen deep,

The stars are bright, the wind is harsh

Yet hands are warm to clasp and hold

Here there is no room for cold.

 

 

Fast forward time to some years past;

And watch our baby grandson play

Then pause a while and look again

There are three toddlers round the tree!

 

 

Some gentle shadows whisper names

They are gone, but love remains.

Our family grows  and we grow old,

Life’s a river that carries all;

But our room is warm, the stars are bright

And we still hold hands by the fire light.

 

 

And soon a new tomorrow comes,

With talk and laughter, fun and food

All that is wanted, all that is good,

All that is needed by the heart.

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Meeting A Grateful Man

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“May your days,” crooned the store speakers, “be merry and bright…” but I, at least, was not feeling the joy. It was late, and we were in a hurry. It had been a hectic day filled with mailing packages, addressing cards and wrapping gifts, and now we needed to pick out a few last minute purchases before we could go home.

Other people seemed to be in like case. The store was crowded with shoppers who hurried purposefully up and down aisles, heads bent over nearly full shopping carts, muttering as they scanned lists. They looked, as we must have looked, weary and ready to call it a day. But toys, games, packages of perfume, or jewels, or chocolate sat on the shelves seeming to reproach us: “Have you given enough? Shouldn’t you shop for more?”

A woman with a loaded cart strode  past us, turned a corner too sharply and collided with a display of boxed toys. Without a glance at the disarray, she  stalked on. No one seemed to notice.

I had bent to pick up a box of miniature cars that had skittered into our path, when a voice hailed us, and a white-haired man with an employee’s badge came hurrying up.

“Don’t you worry, let me do that. Happens all the time,” he said. I handed him the box I had picked up, and he smiled and thanked me and wished us a merry Christmas.

“And the same to you,” Mike said. “Hope Santa brings you something special.”

“Oh, he already has,” was the beaming reply. “It’s going to be a wonderful Christmas. My wife is with me to share it.”

As he worked, he  explained that his wife was on dialysis awaiting a kidney transplant. “We’re on the list, and we’re hopeful,” he said and then told us that they had met and fell in love in high school and had been married for half a century.  He was working, he said, to help with the medical costs.

“That’s hard,” I said, but he shook his head.

“No, ma’am, I’m glad to be working.” And his smile told me he meant every word he said.

That evening I thought of that smile and how, amidst a sea of shoppers, the white haired man alone had seemed genuinely happy. His wife was sick, he needed to work in his latter years, and still what he had was all that he wanted. No gifts, no promises for tomorrow, only the moment in which he could work and be with the woman he loved.

And perhaps that was the only thing that mattered. I thought of all the Yule-tides I had seen and remembered few of the many gifts I had been given. What I did remember clearly was the laughter and the happiness and the glow of firelight on the faces of family and friends. Some of those friends and many family members were gone, now, but the memory of them still shone so bright—not with the glitter of tinsel but with the enduring beauty of the stars.

I light the candles,

start to unwrap ornaments

and remember you.

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What Color Is The Night Sky?

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The other night as I stood outside on the porch and looked upward, I thought of color. Usually we think of the night sky in deep tones… midnight blue, navy blue, ultramarine, with perhaps some velvet black thrown in. But gazing upward I saw the silver pinpricks of stars, and a trace of misty white as clouds floated across a finger clipping of pale moon. And, yes, there was a plane returning from some faraway destination, its lights blinking red.

The English language can be frustrating, contradictory and often peculiar, but it really is a wonderful one in which to describe color. There are so many ways to define any hue—red never has to stay a prosaic red but can morph into scarlet or crimson or ruby or magenta or even, if so inclined, go pink. Green, on the other side of the spectrum, can slide into emerald or lime or fern green, forest green, jade green, hooker’s green, shamrock green, teal, or olive. And so it goes.

Just as an artist uses brush and paint to find the exact color wanted, writers use words to get the same effect, and indeed poets would be at a loss without it. Sylvia Plath’s “Sheep in Fog” and  Robert Browning’s “Meeting at Night” rely on color to create image-filled verse. And those are only a few. I vividly recall Frost’s “Nothing Gold Can Stay” and Basho’s simple but very powerful haiku:

Slender, so slender

Its stalk bends under dew…

Little yellow flower.

            Describing color can be a challenge, too. Take a misty morning like the one that enveloped us at Emerald Isle yesterday. As I walked on the beach, mist hung about sand and ocean giving everything an effect of translucent gray. But amidst the gray there were variations. The breakers cresting near shore were pale, almost silver. A flock of pelicans, flying low, were gunmetal gray shadows, and a lone fisherman was an ash gray silhouette. Sand, always contrary, obstinately clung to beige tones.

After the subtle shades or gray, I returned with some relief to my work in progress, a study of three trees, one of them cut down with a new green shoot to symbolize rebirth. I have collaged the two standing trees in bold colors which probably would never appear on a tree in nature. Yet the colors have blended, strongly suggesting the vigor of the Life Force.

Collages are fascinating things, and the process usually takes me days and many snippets of fabric. There is always that moment when I find the perfect bit of fabric and also when nothing seems to fit. But eventually, the work is done.

Whether we work with brush or with words or camera or simply enjoy the natural world around us, I believe we all, in our own way, are artists. We enjoy the bold or subtle colorations of that world— and we all look up with wonder at the night sky.

Can you taste moonlight?

Does warm  sun shimmer on  leaves?

Magic surrounds us!

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Pleasures (And Pratfalls) Of Dancing

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Since this is the time of year for Sugar Plum fairies, dancing comes to mind. Ballroom dancing, for instance: to watch a pair of dancers who have mastered the craft glide across the floor—well, it’s beautiful. No other word for it. And  Dancing With the Stars notwithstanding, ballroom dancing is something  that everyone can do.

Why else would dancing have been around for a long, long time? Besides, it has another added attraction— romance. Partners dance together. I suspect that romance must have been in the air when Mike and I went dancing on our first date more than a half century ago. To wit—he didn’t step on my feet; I didn’t try to wrestle the lead away from him; and the rest is history. I mention feet because it really is a romantic deal breaker if a dancer treads heavily on the toes of his/her partner.

Yes, romance is palpably in the air when the orchestra plays and couples swirl about the room in each other’s arms. It fosters a moment such as the one we witnessed not long ago: in the middle of a waltz a man dropped to one knee and presented his wife of twenty five years with a diamond ring. The lady was surprised and delighted and everyone on the floor applauded wildly.

Interestingly enough, the waltz was once considered a scandalous dance. What? gasped matrons in 1812 England. A man holds a lady in his arms? What is this world coming to? Eventually, the Victorian code of dancing twelve inches apart came into being and the waltz survived—fortunately for Hollywood, which has introduced swirling couples in some of its iconic films—remember the waltz in Gone With the Wind? And  lucky, too, for our friends married for three score years, who took a solo dance to the ‘Wedding Waltz’ within a ring of happy well wishers.

There’s no question that dancing can be hard work. Just ask anyone, novice or skilled, who has just learned a new step and is trying to commit it to memory. The mind might be willing, but the feet don’t seem to get it. I can tell you from experience that there might be bruises, sore toes, gritted teeth and a hundred sheepish “Oops!” before anything like gliding can be accomplished.

There are hazardous moments, too when dancers forget the line of dance—the counterclockwise motion around the floor—or when they wax too exuberant, throw their arms and legs about, and either collide with another couple, smack an unwary passerby in the face, or deliver a sharp kick to someone else’s shin.  A case in point is the gruesome case of the Dancing Doctor who liked to kick his legs high in every direction and who collapsed and expired one night in the midst of a particularly vigorous kick. For weeks afterward, someone would take ghoulish delight in escorting newcomers to a spot on the floor and whisper, “Right here  is where Doc dropped dead!”

High kicking might not be the best way to go, and there are other potentially dangerous moves—deep dips, for instance. Believe me, those take a lot of practice. The other day we were at a dinner dance when the man seated behind us turned around to say, “Know what? The test of successful dancing is when you manage to remain upright on the floor.”

How so? He was asked. “Well,” he explained, “the other night my wife caught her heel on something and started to fall. I tried hold her up—but then she grabbed hold of my tie and dragged me down to the floor with her!” He shook his head. “I asked her why she did such a fool thing and she said she wasn’t going to be the only one on the floor!”

Which proves my point—dancing is something you do together!

Gracefully they swirl

Around the crowded ball room…

My feet are aching.

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