Sunday, December 31, 2017

At Year's End


You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.

Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air, are heading home again.

Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

from DREAM WORK by Mary Oliver

Friday, December 29, 2017


So this is what dirt daubers did before there were houses!  Must be a traditionalist queen -- all the others have built their nests on our basement and porch walls.

Even a tiny waterfall is pleasant to see and hear . . .

The Star Magnolia has covered itself with fuzzy buds. Invariably they'll open early and be blasted by a freeze.  Still, it's nice to see a token of Spring.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

More Books . . .

More books -- someone (Mario? Carolyn? Jayna?) recommended News of the World and I put it on my wish list. I also asked for Gaiman's Instructions -- which I'd had briefly and given away. And I look forward to learning about Pratchett's Discworld from the beginning in The Color of Magic. Baby Signs was a gift to Josie's staff so I'll  have a go at teaching the two of us some simple signing.

But all the post Christmas reading has been put on hold briefly. Yesterday John announced that it was going to be Very Cold by Saturday and, as the Christmas tree was blocking the heater in the living room, perhaps we ought to take it down rather than wait for my traditional New Year's Eve breaking up Christmas.

I always enjoy the leisurely putting away of the ornaments, taking time to remember the origin of each -- the little wooden angel the homeroom mothers gave us in 8th grade, the glass ornaments that were my mother's, the little porcelain bells from John's grandparents, the garish pink and blue ball that is the sole survivor of a set John sold my parents  back in our senior year of high school. (One of those 'projects' undertaken by the service club he belonged to.) 

There are the ornaments we made for my grandparent's last tree, ornaments made by our boys and by other children's hands, ornaments that were special gifts, ornaments that remind me of those gone . . .

I lingered over one in particular this year -- made back when my Girl Scout troop personalized ornaments with glue and glitter -- a faded blue glass ball with straggling letters that say SKIP. 

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Christmas Bounty

Books are always on my wish list and thanks to various book pushers among my blogging and Facebook friends, I'm never at a loss as to what to ask for.

Martin in England told me about Lost Words  and how glad I am that he did! It's a visual feast accompanied by magical writing.

The lost words in question are words used to describe the natural world, words that seem to be disappearing from the language of children, words like acorn and adder, fern and king fisher. Words that have been replaced by the vocabulary of the internet, the smart phone, the television.

"You hold in your hands a spell book for conjuring back these lost words. To read it you will need to seek, find, and seek; it deals in things that are missing and things that are hidden, in absences and in appearances. It is told in gold -- the gold of the goldfinches that flit through its pages in charms -- and it holds not poems but spell s of many kinds that might just, by the old strong magic of being spoken aloud, unfold dreams and songs, and summon lost words back into the mouth and the mind's eye." 

Saturday, December 23, 2017

The Dark is Rising

In spite of the flurry of holiday preparations, I found myself feeling the need to re-read Susan Cooper's magical stories.

Quoting Psychology Today: "Susan Cooper is one of the few contemporary writers who has the vivid imagination, the narrative powers, and the moral vision that permit her to create the kind of sweeping conflict between good and evil that lies at the heart of all great fantasy. Tolkien had it. So did C.S. Lewis. And Cooper writes in the same tradition."

These are children's books -- though I didn't discover them till I was in my late thirties. And at this time in our country, when it seems that the Dark is indeed rising, they are particularly relevant and deeply comforting.

The series begins with Over Sea, Under Stone. Three children, on holiday with their parents in Cornwall find a copy of an ancient map that mentions King Arthur and Logres. With the help of their mysterious great uncle Merriman, they find themselves on a quest and in combat with the forces of the Dark. 

As their uncle tells them: "'. . . you have heard me talk of Logres. It was the old name for this country, thousands of years ago, in the of days when the struggle between good and evil was more bitter and open than it is now. The struggle goes on all around us, all the time . . . And sometimes one of them seems to be winning and sometimes the other, but neither has ever triumphed altogether. Nor ever will,' he added softly to himself, 'for there is something of each in every man.'"

The second book, The Dark is Rising, begins at the Winter Solstice when " the snow lay thin and apologetic over the world."  This book is where the Sequence really hits its stride,  revealing the Old Magic on every hand in a commonplace world. A hero arises to combat the Dark -- a hero who is the last of the Old Ones and the heir to the Pendragon.

Perfect reading for these gray and apologetic days . . .

Friday, December 22, 2017

Hidden Light


Yesterday midmorning and the sun had barely broken through the clouds. (Yesterday's sunrise shot was taken a few days before.) It didn't shine on our little piece of the world but I could see it illuminating the mist in the distance.

That patch of brightness caught my eye  -- it looked almost like an eruption of light -- and I grabbed my camera.

Then it was back to laundry and making granola and wrapping presents and making clues to accompany the presents . . . and so the day went. Too busy, but it's all almost done -- just a few desserts to make and the Christmas morning ambrosia to prepare and I'm ready -- unless I've forgotten something.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Welcome Solstice!

The season turns and the sun stands still, having reached the limits of his south-easterly crawl.

Tomorrow he will rise a little northerly, bringing us more light.

A welcome thought in these dark days . . .

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Monday, December 18, 2017

A Christmas Story-- Reposted by Request

The beginning of the Christmas season brings back a sweet nostalgia for the days when the air trembled with magic and I really, truly did listen for reindeer on the roof. 

 I think I was probably five or six and I was at my maternal grandparents’ house.  It was a few weeks before Christmas and the decorations were up and stockings hung. (Rather spoiled only grandchildren, my brother and I had stockings both at home and at Ba and Hudy’s as we called these much-loved grandparents.)

Ba was in the kitchen, making cookies just like a proper grandmother. As I have always remembered it, no one else was in the house that day except for Annie, the taciturn cleaning lady.

I was ‘helping’ Ba and lamenting the fact that all her implements and pans were too big for me. “I wish I could have some little cooking things just my size,” I said.

Just then, again, as I remember it, a door slammed somewhere in the house. 

“Run see what that was,” said Ba, and off I went to investigate.

And in the living room, on the hearth, right under where my stocking hung, was a set of little pots and pans – just my size.
Amazed and delighted, I ran to show them to Ba. 

"I guess Santa must have heard you wishing and decided to make an early delivery," was all she said.

Years and years later, I asked Ba how she managed this surprise and she claimed not to know what I was talking about.

It’s just as well.  I like to believe in magic.  May there be some in your holiday season!
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