Monday, December 31, 2007

Breaking Up Christmas

Our family tradition, inherited from my maternal grandmother, is that it's bad luck to have the Christmas tree still in the house on New Year's Day. So I've spent all day deconstructing the ten foot fir that only a few weeks ago we were adorning.

It's a slow and contemplative process and gives me time to reconnect with each ornament as I remove it from the tree and lay it on the dining table to await the final boxing up and stowing away for another year. Old friends, these decorations, from the blue glass ball with my brother's name staggering across its surface, the glitter long gone, to the somewhat lurid pink and blue globe -- the last of a box of ornaments my mother purchased from my then boyfriend, now husband, in 1959 when his high school club was selling ornaments as a fund-raiser.

There are the simple stuffed fabric hearts that were a mainstay of the decorations when our boys were young and our dogs and cats rambunctious and there are two boxes of fragile glass ornaments inherited from my mother. A green wooden curtain ring with the figure of a baby on it marks our older son's first Christmas in 1972 and simple felt cutouts sprinkled with glued-on sequins commemorate our younger boy's stint as a Clover Buddy (FFA for the grammar school bunch.) There's a plaster Santa, carefully painted with tempera paints by my husband when he was a cub scout, and a wooden angel that was a gift from the homeroom mother when I was an eighth grader.

The satin ribbons are untied and taken upstairs to be ironed; the cranberry and popcorn is slid off the thread into a bucket for the chickens; the strings of lights are pulled off and the tree is toppled and dragged out of the house. Only a slight fragrance of fir remains -- and we are safe from bad luck for another year.
Posted by Picasa

Sunday, December 30, 2007

The Little People

This gorgeous boulder lies at the edge of our orchard and things live under it. Possibly a groundhog or two, maybe some rabbits or there could be snakes. But whenever I see that long dark opening, I think of Little People -- not the Munchkins of Oz but the really little people - Shakespeare's English fairies small enough to use a shed snake-skin as a wrap and his elves who make jackets of bats' wings. Or maybe the Yunwi Tsundi.

It was the Cherokees who once hunted in this area that told of the Yunwi Tsunsdi - a race of Little People living in caves of rock here in the mountains. Handsome and well-formed, with flowing hair reaching almost to the ground, they were reckoned to be kind, helping lost people and especially children to find the way home. But, the old legends warn, the Little People value their privacy and if any traveler attempts to follow the sounds of their drumming to their dwelling-place, the Little People will cast a spell that will send the wanderer even further astray, turning him around and around and bewildering him forever.
Posted by Picasa

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Thoughts at year's end

The word pansy comes from the French pensee, meaning thought, and on this overcast, slightly melancholy day, my thoughts are turning to losses of the past year. My neighbor Mearl, a strong mountain woman who was the inspiration for many of my characters, left us in April. Her house is empty and lonely-looking, though her children keep the yard and pastures as tidy as if Mearl were looking over their shoulders -- as she probably is.

The author Madeleine L'Engle is gone -- and I bitterly regret that I never got around to writing her a fan letter to say how much joy her work has brought me over the years. Death can be so final for those of us left behind with things undone.

Rennie, another neighbor, but unlike Mearl, far too young for this final passage, fell ill while a group of us were working on a long-postponed friendship quilt for her and her husband. She had treatment and seemed to be holding her own so, though the quilt was completed, we waited to surprise her with it at a time when her daughters could be with her. Her sudden death caught us all by surprise; the quilt was presented to her family at a memorial service.

Years ago when my father died, my brother and I were cleaning out his home. In the back of his refrigerator was a bottle of very good champagne which my husband and I had given my parents for an anniversary some ten years before. "Oh, it's so expensive," they said. "We'll save it for another time." A few years after that anniversary, my mother died and my father moved, taking the champagne with him, still waiting for the right moment.

My brother and I decided not to let this go any farther. That evening we opened the expensive champagne, poured it out into my mother's crystal and prepared for a treat.

Of course it had turned to vinegar.
Posted by Picasa

Friday, December 28, 2007


"Poor man's fertilize," our
neighbor Clifford used to call rain and snow, greeting with wise approval the same weather that city folks might deplore.

After last summer's near-drought, we are thirsty for gentle soaking rains -- the patter of drops on our metal roof today is as welcome as the sound of Santa's reindeer. Just beyond the dining room window, crystal beads deck the crabapple's bare branches and a male cardinal flashes scarlet thanks.
Posted by Picasa

Thursday, December 27, 2007

A Time Out of Time

Because I have the luxury of not having to leave home for my work, these days between Christmas and New Year's always have an odd, timeless quality to them. And this year, with the temperature unseasonably in the fifties and green things pushing through the not yet decomposed autumn leaves, it's particularly neverwhenish in feeling.

It's a time out of time, a lovely breathing space before the New Year and all those stern resolutions. Time to peruse the books that were my Christmas gifts, to eat another piece of shortbread, to look for pictures outside in this mild weather . . .

. . . and time to write a haiku.

Italian arum -
Nudging up through gray-brown leaves,
Unfurling --Ahh! -- green!

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Something New

After my recent failure to send a holiday album of pictures to all recipients of my newsletter, The Goodweather Reports (too many, too large pictures-- some servers choked on them), I'm experimenting with this blog which seems to promise to let me add pictures at will. We'll see.

The picture above (taken from my bedroom window) is sunrise at the winter solstice. The sun has gone as far to the south as it can and now will begin its journey north, bringing with it longer days.

"Growing up in Florida and in the suburbs, she had never realized how the sun paced back and forth during the year, like a restless dog on a tether. During the winter it rose far to the southeast and skulked along the ridgeline, disappearing in mid-afternoon." ( from Signs in the Blood, the first Elizabeth Goodweather novel.

Posted by Picasa