Saturday, December 31, 2016

Breaking Up Christmas

As always, I'll spend the last day of the year deconstructing the Christmas tree. According to my maternal grandmother, it's bad luck to leave the tree up in the New Year. I don't actually believe that -- I know folks who leave it up much longer and they seem to be doing okay. I know of others who put the tree up Thanksgiving afternoon and take it down Christmas afternoon.

But I enjoy following my grandmother's tradition -- and not having to make the decision of just when to take the tree down - the 6th of January? before February? March?

Easier just to get it down and keep my grandmother's spirit happy.

Since I wasn't here when the tree was put up, I'll enjoy handling the ornaments and remembering their stories . . . and John will haul the bare tree out before sundown and we'll be have a modest little New Year's Eve celebration. 

Happy to be here!

Friday, December 30, 2016

Crow Waits

High above the world,
Air-wrapped, twig-balanced, crow waits.
Clouds build; crow abides.

Somehow I see this crow as a guide for the coming year . . . 

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Miss Birdie Comes Home

Why, good morning, Lizzie Beth! Come right in and get you a chair.  Reckon you was surprised to find here. Dor'thy said she'd call and let you know I was back home but I told her you'd be headed out this morning and directly you saw smoke coming out the chimbly you'd stop to see who was here.

Did you uns have a fine Christmas with all the young uns there? I reckon it was a houseful -- law, what good times!

No, I didn't expect to be home so soon. When you come to the nursing home on Christmas Eve with all them nice Christmas gifts, I told you it was like to be another week before they'd let me go.  And my, how I hated that but there weren't no way around it till I could make it on my own. Then lo and behold, not ten minutes after you'd left, here come Dor'thy and Bernice and Bernice's boy and they had got hold of the head lady there and told her how they'd fixed it so's I could come home. 

You saw that ramp --Bernice's boy built it to make it easier for me to get up to the porch -- I can hobble about with a walker but steps is another thing -- and Dor'thy is going to stay with me as long as I need her. She's out hanging the wash on the line right now and can you smell that soup she's got bubbling on the stove?

Howsomever, they whisked me out of that place like one thing and as we drove back along the highway and I could see the mountains again, I felt like I was brought back to life. Then when we was crossing the bridge and I could see the river once more, oh how my heart swelled in my bosom! I'll confess that there was a time or two in that place when I was so low I wondered would I ever see the river again. 

It was growing dark when we come past the church and there was cars and trucks parked all along the road. Bernice said they was having the Christmas play tonight. I tried to catch a glimpse through the windows but we whirled by so fast I couldn't see a thing. 

And then when we come down along the branch and I saw my own little house and colored lights a-twinkling in the window, why I don't mind telling you I was just about to bust out crying. 

They turned across the bridge and how good it was to hear them old boards rattling like always. I looked over at where I fell when that old bull knocked me down and ran over me and, law, honey, how I escaped being flung down in the branch or knocked against them big rocks, I purely can't make out. Seems there must be a reason I was spared . . .

But I didn't have much time to think on it for they helped me outten the vehicle and up the ramp and when they opened the door, what do you think, there was the folks of the Ridley Branch Freewill Baptist Church all crowded into the house and all of them lifting up their voices in song. Bernice and Dor'thy got me to my recliner and set me down and the folks just kept on singing. 

There was a little cedar set on a table under the window and it was covered with lights and red bow ribbons. And there was plates full of all manner of cookies and cakes and when the folks finished their singing, the preacher said Welcome back home, Miss Birdie, and than Eveleen Davis come out of the kitchen with a paper cup of punch for me and told folks to go help themselves while she fixed me a plate of cookies.

You never saw such a party -- and all them folks coming up to say how glad they was I was back and to offer everwhat help they could. Dor'thy let them know she would be staying with me till I could manage on my own and one by one they said goodnight and started out the door to walk back to the church.

They was singing as they went -- that lonely sounding song about the Three Kings --  and I found my eyes blurring up some . . . just like yours are, honey.

So here I am, back again, thankful for friends and neighbors, and looking forward to another new year in this place I love the best. I tell you, Lizzie Beth, ain't nothing like a little adversity to make a body appreciate what all she's got. But still I ponder on why I was spared . . .

What's that you said? I still have stories to tell? Law, honey, now that I do.

Monday, December 26, 2016

A Gallimaufry of Christmas

Full tilt Christmas . . .

From Aileen's homemade spinach ravioli on Christmas Eve . . .

To mimosas, ambrosia, cranberry cinnamon rolls, croissants and sausage for breakfast on Christmas morning . . .

To opening presents with the help of dogs (that's Ethan and Aileen's Tally)

To pushing back the furniture to make room for a larger table to accommodate us all .  . .

To the amazing stuffed pork tenderloin Justin made . . .

To Claui's sauteed Brussels sprouts and sweet potato biscuits, along with salad and roasted root vegetables courtesy the Langners . . .

To friends and family around the table . . .

To a dessert table that couldn't be beat with cinnamon ice cream and mini Bundt cakes by Aileen plus an apple tarte and a 'crack pot pie' from Nancy. . .

Oh, my! What wretched excess!

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Christmas Eve

Looking forward to the arrival from Atlanta of older son Ethan and daughter-in-law Aileen, with their dogs!

Aileen is bringing homemade ravioli and tomato sauce -- her family's traditional Christmas Eve supper -- and now our tradition too.

And tomorrow more family and friends will be here for a Christmas feast!

All the blessings of the season to you and yours -- no matter how or even if you celebrate!

Friday, December 23, 2016


This is just to say that I'm managing pretty well at home. John, with help from Justin and Claui, is doing the heavy lifting here -- cooking etc. -- while I hobble about with my walker or sit with my feet elevated or do my PT exercises.

I have managed to wrap presents, scramble an egg for my breakfast, wash a few dishes, change the sheets on my bed, and do a little dusting (self-prescribed occupational therapy.) 

A home health physical therapist visited on Tuesday and I am beginning to wean from the use of the big, clompy, annoying-to-get-on-and-off boot to an ordinary lace up sneaker. My foot has a tendency to swell after I walk around for any length of time, therefore I do a lot of the aforementioned foot elevating.

But what a joy to do it at home, surrounded by Christmas and family (that includes the dogs and kittehs)!  

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

To Juan at the Winter Solstice

To Juan at the Winter Solstice

There is one story and one story only
That will prove worth your telling,
Whether as learned bard or gifted child;
To it all lines or lesser gauds belong
That startle with their shining
Such common stories as they stray into.

Is it of trees you tell, their months and virtues,
Or strange beasts that beset you,
Of birds that croak at you the Triple will?
Or of the Zodiac and how slow it turns
Below the Boreal Crown,
Prison to all true kings that ever reigned?

Water to water, ark again to ark,
From woman back to woman:
So each new victim treads unfalteringly
The never altered circuit of his fate,
Bringing twelve peers as witness
Both to his starry rise and starry fall.

Or is it of the Virgin's silver beauty,
All fish below the thighs?
She in her left hand bears a leafy quince;
When, with her right hand she crooks a finger, smiling,
How many the King hold back?
Royally then he barters life for love.

Or of the undying snake from chaos hatched,
Whose coils contain the ocean,
Into whose chops with naked sword he springs,
Then in black water, tangled by the reeds,
Battles three days and nights,
To be spewed up beside her scalloped shore?

Much snow if falling, winds roar hollowly,
The owl hoots from the elder,
Fear in your heart cries to the loving-cup:
Sorrow to sorrow as the sparks fly upward.
The log groans and confesses:
There is one story and one story only.

Dwell on her graciousness, dwell on her smiling,
Do not forget what flowers
The great boar trampled down in ivy time.
Her brow was creamy as the crested wave,
Her sea-blue eyes were wild
But nothing promised that is not performed.

Robert Graves

The turning of the year has come again and, as always, I think of this poem by Robert Graves. I encountered Graves' wild magic during my freshman year of college and his The White Goddess -- a historical grammar of poetic myth -- continues to inform my own personal mythology and haunt my writing. And I still love this poem -- with its symbols and images and meanings drawn from many lands and cultures.

(a re-post from 2008)

Monday, December 19, 2016

Two Surprises

I was one of a handful of reading women who didn't adore Gilbert's mega-bestseller memoir Eat, Pray, Love, being a little annoyed with the premise that the answer to a failed marriage was travel -- nice, if you have the time and money but . . .

So I didn't leap on The Signature of All Things which has been around for some three years, till a friend brought it to me to speed my convalescence. 

And I had to revise my opinion of Gilbert -- I loved this densely layered novel. I loved the compelling story, the lush language, the idiosyncratic characters, the beautifully rendered settings -- all of it. 

Barbara Kingsolver's review HERE is excellent.

Another book from the same friend was Ruth Reichl's Delicious!  I've loved Reichl's books about food and was fully prepared to love this, her first novel. It was readable and fun in a predictable sort of way -- awkward girl comes to New York and, after a makeover finds love, along with her inner cook. 

It was a pleasant bit of fluff but a bit more like chick lit than I normally read. There is, however, a recipe for what sounds like a terrific gingerbread cake. 

Here's a review HERE that is harsher than I would have been but that, nonetheless, seems accurate to me.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Sunrise Sequence from October

These have been waiting in my camera since October 1st . . . I couldn't resist sharing them. . .