31 December 2011

ringing out the old...

ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,
the flying cloud, the frosty light;
the year is dying in the night;
ring out, wild bells, and let him die.

ring out the old, ring in the new,
ring, happy bells, across the snow:
the year is going, let him go;
ring out the false, ring in the true.

ring out the grief that saps the mind,
for those that here we see no more,
ring out the feud of rich and poor,
ring in redress to all mankind.

ring out a slowly dying cause,
and ancient forms of party strife;
ring in the nobler modes of life,
with sweeter manners, purer laws.

ring out the want, the care, the sin,
the faithless coldness of the times;
ring out, ring out thy mournful rhymes,
but ring the fuller minstrel in.

ring out false pride in place and blood,
the civic slander and the spite;
ring in the love of truth and right,
ring in the common love of good.

ring out old shapes of foul disease,
ring out the narrowing lust of gold;
ring out the thousand wars of old,
ring in the thousand years of peace.

ring in the valiant man and free,
the larger heart the kindlier hand;
ring out the darkness of the land,
ring in the Christ that is to be.

alfred, lord tennyson, 1850.

29 December 2011

the winter sun

this post is more for my reference than for your viewing pleasure, and i hope no one is too disappointed. this is a picture of the sun, taken a few minutes after noontime, when it's at its highest point in the sky. i'm so surprised it's that low and i've never noticed in winters past.

27 December 2011

down time

feeling a bit lazy and nonproductive these post-christmas days. pajamas or sweats and no makeup, taking the time to sleep, sit, watch, read, discover, ponder, dream. and i don't yet feel guilty.

25 December 2011

22 December 2011

solstice 2011

sleepless on the longest night of the year. in the sky no stars, no moon, just adding to the darkness. i light a candle to acknowledge the brief moment when earth begins its journey back towards light, and when i go back to sleep, i leave a single window candle lit to shine on through the rest of the dark night.

21 December 2011

ice storm

the second best place to be during a surprise ice storm is behind a sander. the first best place to be during such a storm is home, which is where i now am and am happy to be.

20 December 2011


time is flying and christmas is nigh. i envy those who are all decorated and wrapped, and the folks who are christmas baking this week. if i bake at all, it will be in a furry on christmas eve day. i still have movies to watch, music to listen to, presents to wrap, and stockings to stuff. but in the meantime, i'm having fun with small people, watching their eyes light up and their voices raise as they talk about christmas with excitement and wonder. even if everything's not all done, it's still all good. hope it is the same for you.

16 December 2011

all that glitter

an impromptu craft session this evening led to a veritable explosion of glitter all over the dining area and kitchen. with great abandon, we glittered gold and silver, the little girl and i, and then tried to clean it up. truly, i had forgotten how persistently clingy glitter can be. to clean our hands, we wiped, we soaked, and we scrubbed, finally resorting to the sticky side of tape to remove the last offending speckles. later tonight, cleaning the table and vacuuming the floor, i chase bright specks, trying to capture them with my cleaning cloths. finally i give up. just for tonight. in the morning, i will try again. but i am pretty sure we're still going to be finding glitter around here well into the new year.

13 December 2011

small visitor

although she lives not far from here, normally i do not see the little girl during the week. my schedule, hers, her parents - all make a weekday visit difficult to arrange. but suddenly this evening she is at the door with her father, a quick stop to put the finishing touches on a carpentry project. in she marches, sheds her coat and hat, and fetches her slippers. she examines everything new since her last visit of four days ago, she gives a detailed update of the goings-on at school, she borrows a few christmas books, and then, she is gone, just as quickly as she came. back to her own home for supper and bedtime, with a promise of a return visit this weekend to help me finish decorating the tree. like a meteor on a dark night, a brief flash of exuberance on an otherwise ordinary weekday evening.

12 December 2011

december 12 of 12: illumination

since we are days away from the longest night of the year, and since light is such an important part of our holiday celebrations, this month i attempted to focus the 12 of 12 on aspects of light, on illumination in the darkness. 

the moon, though waning, is still bright in the sky all night long and illuminates the landscape in the hours before dawn. here's the moon, still looking full and still hanging in the sky, early in the morning as i head in to work.

and by the time i am coming home, the first-star-tonight is out, shining brightly in a darkly blue sky. i'm pretty sure it's a planet, venus or saturn maybe, but i wish on it anyway. 

the tree on our town common. i can see it from far down the road, towering over the houses in the village. this tree is too big, it's too tacky, and it's just too beautiful.

this is a neighbor's yard, decorated for christmas. a single pine amongst the birches, lit with a million tiny lights. in the distance, a homey cabin complete with chimney smoke. i slow down every time i pass this peaceful scene. to me, it looks just like a christmas card. 

candles on all the windowsills this time of year. i light them all, then turn off the rooms' lamps. even if they are electric lights, their warm glow gladdens me. 

this windowsill candle spreads its dim light over the kitchen and the spicy rosehips in the holder, a miniature redware plate, and a special santa the girl made me many years ago. small things i love go on this tiny windowsill because it's the window i look out the most.

the golden lights of this tiny artificial tree in the kitchen reflect in the windows behind it and spread some light in an otherwise dark corner of the house. the little girl and i decided the animals in the woods up back might like to see a little christmas, too. 

and here's the "big" tree in the living room, still small by most standards. for years we've had a set of glasses, worn only at christmastime, to bend and shape the many light sources, turning them into explosions of color, a psychedelic experience for one's vision. but i've never taken a photo through them until now!

a crystal hanging in the window seems to have absorbed all the light in its proximity and, at night, fairly glows with reflected light.

and candles. everywhere candles. i light a few every night all year long, but at christmastime, i light them all. sometimes i even light one in the morning because it's still dark.

here are my new favorite candles. they're plastic and they run on batteries, yet they flicker and glow, and, to my mind, look real. i have many more of these than i ever imagined i would and it surprises me so that i like them as much as i do. a dimly lit room, a few of these candles flickering, and carols playing softly is heavenly on a dark night like tonight.

one last trip outside before bed to experience the moonlight illuminating the yard and up into the woods. again the moon shines, this night with a faint halo all the way around it. maybe it will snow for christmas.

10 December 2011

billions of buds

just look at the buds on these supermarket christmas cactuses! how can they do that!! my plant is ten times that size and i'm lucky if it gets one blossom every year! i had to fight the urge to buy one of these. i figured the minute i got it into the house, all those buds would fall right off!

09 December 2011

the end of gingerbreadmania

each december, for a few weeks, i go into a bit of a frenzy trying to replicate the recipe for the best gingerbread i have ever tasted. the gingerbread i have every first saturday in december when i go to the same ladies' aid christmas luncheon. the secret recipe gingerbread, made by sweet but closed-mouthed little church ladies in a remote village town.

i have blogged about it in decembers past - the backstory, if you want it, is here and here. today my quest came to an end thanks to elizabeth (whose name, of course, has been changed), a genial and warm member of the ladies' aid, who mailed me the recipe in her own hand after i gave her my name and address at this year's christmas luncheon. i made it today - spicy, warm, delicious. surprisingly simple - and, after all that, there isn't even a secret ingredient.

07 December 2011

inside & out

holly inside.
holly outside.
it's starting to look like christmas!

04 December 2011

someone else's santa

look what i found at a consignment shop, priced at only five dollars. isn't it pretty? when i see a handmade item like this one in a resale shop or antique store, it saddens me a bit and i wonder about its history. i know what goes into cross-stitch and how long it takes. someone spent time making this, probably to give to a loved one or a special friend. so how did it end up here? did no one want it? certainly, i do not need another santa, and my walls are full of cross-stitch pieces. but i turned over my five dollar bill and bought this because i couldn't just leave it in the store, on the shelf. so JR '92, wherever you are, thanks for the cute little santa!

30 November 2011

a little surprise

when I was a kid, my father used to travel a lot. when he returned home, he always had small surprises in his suitcase. what I remember most was hotel soap - those tiny lovely bars of ivory and camay, smelling perfumey even through the wrappers. using them in the bath, the bars always lathered so richly and fit so easily in little girl hands.

when she was small, i continued this same tradition for the girl. but i'm thinking about tweaking it a bit for the little girl.

29 November 2011


i am away at a professional conference for three days. i know other attendees go to workshops all day, then party all night. i just can't do that. by the end of the day, my brain is fried. there's so much i don't know, it's just overwhelming. btw, one of the things i don't know how to do is mobile blog. so i'm trying it now!

25 November 2011

guest photographer

imagine my horror at realizing, too late last night, that i had taken not even one picture of the thanksgiving festivities! me, who documents everything! but i laughed when i found this just now on the camera:  the little girl snapped this picture of the traditional fruit bowl soon after she was finished assembling it. our thankgiving tableau. note lowly worm, taking it all in from his perch high atop the centerpiece.

24 November 2011


dinner is over, dishes are done, kitchen is dark, and turkey stock simmers on the back of the wood stove. i sit with the last of the holiday wine and heart full of gratitude, so thankful for all i have. i hope it is the same for you.

23 November 2011

snow for thanksgiving

not just a snowstorm, but a day off from work - and spent doing thanksgiving preparations with the little girl. blessings abound!

21 November 2011

t-day prep

i start in august, i really do. all the cleaning and organizing needs to be done by thanksgiving, so that i can enjoy all the things i love about this holiday. i try to plan ahead, even bake ahead, but i am never quite where i want to be this, the week of thanksgiving. curtains hang in the windows, covering them, waiting for me to hang new hooks to pull them back. windows are washed inside and out - but not the bedroom ones. i have a cabinet yet to paint and then fill with the contents of the old cabinet, which are piled haphazardly in, of all places, the guest room. to add to the stress, i am in week four of a six week online course.

in the end, all i can do is laugh, pin back the curtains with twine, close the bedroom doors, and get my homework done. i'm so excited that thanksgiving's coming.

18 November 2011

week end

leave work as color in the western sky fades. opposite, where the sun had risen, now shines venus, brightly splendid in a tangle of black branches and jagged limbs. the air is cold in my nostrils. my fingers grow numb as i take this shot. my heart is light knowing i'll see the little girl tonight. tgif.

13 November 2011

november 12 of 12: shades of brown

fall's blinding colors have been gone for weeks now. except for the flat green of pines and hemlock, the rest of the november landscape goes to a profusion of browns. time was when i thought it so drab but now i see there's something quiet and calming and restful about this color in all its glorious shades.

by november, the wood is in. oak, maple, birch, beech. it's sat for a year to dry out and is seasoned now and ready to burn. it sits stacked outside the door, a wall of brown, ready to be called upon to take the fall chill off and keep this old house warm well into the winter.

the forest floor is covered in browns, nature's november carpet, stretching far, far into the woods, just as far as the eye can see.

after they fall, most leaves dry up and their edges curl into themselves. not so with oaks. their umber leaves hang on to their branches longer and, when they finally do fall, they are broad and flat against the ground, a ragged piece of brown paper, blowing along end over end in the wind. 

beech leaves have turned a uniform, muted brown but will not fall. they stay on the tree for much of the winter making a dry chattering sound when the winds blow fierce and the snowflakes whirl.

so many pods are dry and opening in november, dropping seeds that will settle into the earth with the hopes of rebirth in the spring. these are the bean pods remaining on the poles after the little girl collected a basketful to split open. she has the purple mottled seeds packed away in their round cardboard box for replanting in the spring, just as she has done for most of the novembers of her life. 

the once vibrant morning glory plants are now spent. i should unwind them from their trellis. but i love seeing the way the brown weaves in and around itself and how the pods are plump with seed. i'll leave them for the winter, hoping that they not only add interest to the snowy landscape in february, but that they also may reseed themselves in the spring. i can hope, can't i?

weeds are lovely and so interesting this time of year. i have no idea what this is but it represents so many common plants that line the roadsides and the edges of the woods. hundreds of tiny brown seeds ready to burst forth airborne when they catch the winds.

and here's another...

look at these maple pods. you can see that the double pod has split, leaving the seeds on either side ready to root themselves firmly in the grass where they will no doubt be run down by the lawnmower in may. good thing there are hundreds of these winged pods on the ground, everywhere.

once a gorgeous blue, the hydrangea are now lifeless brown on the bush. but look at the intricacies in the  oval petals now that the color is not there to blind the observer.

i'm not sure these are pods. i wonder if they may be seeds or even spores. i know they're from a fern that grows in the woods around here. i gather bunches of these in november and scatter arrangements in places where i can admire the stoic shiny brown all winter long.

finally, so many special fall drinks are brown. apple cider. pumpkin spice coffee. hot chocolate. cocoa chai. warm soothing drinks to sip by the fire and chase away the november chill. 


11 November 2011


thanks dad. 
and rick and mark and billy & tommy and both larrys and mike and bruce and john and austin's mom. 
and so, so many others. 

09 November 2011

this old table

early november brings the ritual of readying the kitchen table for the holidays and for the winter season beyond. it gets a good cleaning, then a few deep coats of lemon oil. some dark scratch cover is a futile attempt at making the surface uniform in color. and when the job is finished, this table is still in awful shape.

forty years ago, the oval table was bought brand new in an intentionally distressed condition. new pine, but beaten and gouged to simulate age and wear. the thinking then was that we wanted folks to be comfortable sitting at it, feel at home, and not worry about bangs or dents or coffee rings.

now all these years later, its finish is old and worn, the wood beneath barely protected. i know it's dried out. i know it needs refinishing. but the mars and dings, the scrapes and gouges all represent the activity that's gone on at this table. the holiday dinners and saturday suppers, the candyland and gin rummy games, the homework and the coursework, the cookie decorating and the quilt-making and the letter writing. almost every person i have ever loved has sat at this table. my mother's signature has been here, and the backwards letters of the girl's early attempts at writing. the square patch where the little girl stuck on tape and lifted the dark color. the small stain from spilled wine. the table's finish, or lack of it, speaks to its history and i cannot bear to sand it away. so every fall i clean and oil and cover the year's scratches with stain stick. i strategically place the runner over the matchbox truck scrape. and i ready the table for another season of celebration.

06 November 2011

look to the woods

here's another of november's amazing features: you can see clear into the woods. leaves in spring and summer on shorter trees and bushes block the view. winter snow mounds and shifts with the wind. but in november, the leaves have fallen to the forest floor, they uniformly carpet it, and you can see places you've never noticed before. the horizon shows clear across your view. you can see trickling  streams and wide rivers. crumbled foundations and meandering rock walls. and, if you're lucky, you can see animals.

this is not the best of photos. it was taken at twilight, right after i watched a deer leap across the road and saunter into the forest. i watched him 'til he disappeared.

02 November 2011

frosted oaks

this is what november should be. cold crisp mornings. days warm enough for jackets only. clear calm starlit nights. now if the snow would only melt away...just for a few more weeks...