Goodbye and Hello

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The name Assisi contains memories of narrow streets and flower baskets, stone buildings, and the Piazza del Comune. One night in the piazza, I recall moonlight shifting, gelato dense and tart, the summer breeze welcome, and a language rich in vowels and made for song. Next to us, a lady with auburn ponytail and flowered skirt joins her friends. “Ciao,” she says and sits with them at a small table. Off by the fountain a man in a red shirt waves goodbye, and his friends shout “Ciao.”

While Italians have the same word for greeting and farewell, like the French “Salut” and the Hawaiian “Aloha,” English speakers use distinctly different words for arriving and leaving, and never use them in the same message. Oh, I take that back. Too long ago for most of us to recall, the comedian Groucho Marx sang, “Hello, I Must be Going.”

toni snow 1-2“Ciao” is on my mind because this blog is my last one. I’m writing it on a day in February when the birds ought to be chirping and the maple outside my window should be sprouting red growth. Instead, we have snow. Fitting, though, because I began the blog in the winter of 2017 and am closing it in an unexpectedly late winter of 2019.

“Starting from Anywhere” has been a unique journey, one that has meandered through treasured life experiences and favorite literature selections. Week after week, season after season, I snapped photos, searched out themes, and wrote until one day, not too long ago, I knew it was time to say goodbye.

Where is the hello? What happens next? I need to think about this, but over a cup of hot coffee laced with chocolate.

maple snow-1Three days later I am back at my desk, pushing sentences and paragraphs together, pulling them apart, and in the midst of this process, the weather has changed. The maple reveals scarlet growth and the sky is blue—for an hour or so. Time to return to my question. What arrives after the blog goes?

I certainly have enough reflections for another book. To purify and condense my thoughts into poetry also tempts me. Maybe I could spend more hours accomplishing nothing. Who knows? Like green sprouting from drenched earth, I have the freedom to start from anywhere.

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Over two years ago, my blog began with the opening of T.S. Eliot’s Little Gidding. It seems only right to complete this final entry with lines found toward the end of the poem:

What we call the beginning is often the end
And to make an end is to make a beginning.
The end is where we start from.

To those who have traveled with me as visitors and followers, thank you. May the future give you what you need for arrivals and departures, whether unexpected or planned.

Pace e bene.

Ciao.

Golden Point

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The butterfly lands carefully enough on nature’s midpoints. What an art. Lately I’ve been alert to the word “enough,” probably because now its common use rarely balances in the middle. It lacks the hard consonants of other well-worn words like iconic and complicit. Yet, when spoken, the word often finds itself at one extreme or the other. Writers warn us of not enough sleep, fiber, or mindfulness. Pundits cry “enough is enough” of deceptions, polluters, or accumulated wealth.

The Brothers Grimm display both ends of the spectrum in “The Fisherman and His Wife.” As we would expect in a fairy tale there are the shared elements of an enchanted nobleman, magic wishes, and moral reckoning.

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The fisherman snares a flounder, a bewitched prince, who bargains for his release by promising to fulfill wishes. The man may be content, but his wife covets a cottage instead of a hovel and a castle instead of a cottage. The man pleads, “Isn’t the cottage good enough?” He returns to the fish again and again as his wife’s desires escalate: to be King, Emperor, Pope, and God. The last wish becomes too much—even for a cooperative fish—and thus the couple find themselves back in the hovel. From one end of the “enough” spectrum to the other.

Turning to Merriam Webster for the meaning of the word “enough,” I find no extreme synonyms or phrasing, but simply a statement about a degree or quantity that satisfies, that suffices.

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Over forty years ago, I studied the primary documents of St. Francis of Assisi at St. Bonaventure University. Of all the prayers of Francis, my favorite is “The Praises of God,” an exhilarating catalog of the Creator’s beauty and goodness. And then, when I least expect it, comes this acclamation:

“You, [God] are moderation,

You are all our riches unto sufficiency.”

Francis of Assisi will never be considered a moderate saint. He is the saint of extremes, able to cup in his hands both a wounded bird and the miraculous stigmata. Yet, there also exists the Francis of the middle ground, caught between earth and heaven, a poor man with an extravagant heart praising a God of the Golden Mean.

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The virtue of moderation does not find its origin in a Catholic saint, but In a Greek philosopher. Aristotle’s writings on “The Golden Mean” define that priceless midpoint: not too little, not too much, but just right. Gold with its connotations of splendor and possible excess seems a poorly chosen color to define balance, but that is what Aristotle maintains.

Edith Hall’s newly released Aristotle’s Way offers a clear rationale for following an ancient wisdom. Aristotle’s shining middle way is where I find expression for the right amount of indifference and arrogance, cowardice and courage. At this moment, the book serves as a relevant examination of conscience.

shutterstock_611667404-2Teeter tottering between withdrawal and outrage, I’d like to experiment with an in-between space far from tipping points. Maybe for a day or two I could balance myself on The Golden Mean. Or better yet, be a butterfly. Should be easy enough to rest long enough and feed just enough—before I catapult once more into the fray.

Soaring Down

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My sister Mary’s First Communion photo with my brother Mike and me reminds me of my Catholic heritage. In awe of rituals—and pretty clothes—I entered fully into a religion grounded in contradictions: no joy without sorrow, no fulfillment without sacrifice, no resurrection without death.

While the Church’s teaching was a solemn guide, my everyday life possessed its own set of upside, inside-out experiences. My mother taught me how to carve a bird out of ivory soap, a lasting treasure to be dissolved in water. From age ten to eighteen, I swung a club too many times to count, but kept coming back because of a memory of one great golf shot. And for my friends and me, the delicious nonsense we recited aloud:

I stand before you to stand behind you
To tell you something I know nothing about.
This Thursday, which is Good Friday,
There will be a mothers’ meeting
Fathers only.

My father’s interpretation of paradox was the joke. And what a repertoire he had. Jokes to share on the golf course, the funeral gathering (whoops), and the dinner table. I laugh at the recollections. Why the punch lines didn’t grow old is a contradiction in itself:

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A lion pounds through the jungle. He snarls at the snake, “Why aren’t you King of the Jungle?” The snake slithers away. The lion eyes the elephant. “Why aren’t you King of the Jungle?” The elephant escapes through the underbrush. When the lion pounces close to a meandering mouse, he asks again, “Why aren’t you King of the Jungle?” The mouse looks up, “Who me? I’ve been sick.”

This February has been packed with paradox and joke. The old family photo reminds me that “once a Catholic, always a Catholic,” even for those of us who no longer attend church. The month itself is the longest shortest month of the year, but at least Ash Wednesday (a time of Catholic penitence) does not land on Valentine’s Day (a time of candy and roses) as it did in 2018.

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The rose pot holder and Valentine cookies for visitors reminded me to prune the rose bush. And I did that, pruning so that no wounded branch thrived, no straight growth crisscrossed the bush’s empty bowl. Strange how celebration and clipping mixed and contradicted one another; guilty sugar now and green shoots later. Then, after an unexpected snowfall, I watched the anti-social bird of spring summon a “round of robins.” They pecked for fruit in icy soil.

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Returning once more to Catholic roots: in the early 1960’s, my professor, Sister Theona, read Gerard Manley Hopkins’ “The Windhover” to us young nuns, waiting for us to “get’ what it means to soar down into resurrection.

No wonder of it: sheer plod makes plough
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Shine, and blue-bleak embers, ah my dear,
Fall, gall themselves, and gash gold vermillion.

She reminded us, too, of God’s sense of humor, the juxtapositions found in nature. Why else the giraffe and hippopotamus? I’d add the sloth.

Contradictions do not necessarily result in waving placards and screaming “Liar!” across red and blue barriers. Maybe one Lenten resolution (March 6 this year) could be to admit that since I am both puffed-up, silly lion and clueless, wise mouse, better to enjoy absurdities that tickle my funny bone and pull my leg, but also confound me.

Maybe carve a robin in ivory soap, but keep it away from water.

Joint Exercise

shutterstock_500911915-2Saturday morning and it’s time to write. I would prefer reading, but Tchaikovsky chides me: “Inspiration is a guest that does not willingly visit the lazy.” I sit, pen tapping. Angel growls, camel leg in mouth. Prompted into action, I chase her around the house until she settles into her pillow. She’s my constant companion—whether I’m reciting poetry, playing my dulcimer, doing yoga. “Do you think you’re in charge, little girl?”

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An idea: why not write about yoga from her point of view? After all, Shih Tzus have Asian roots. Angel knows how to stretch one back leg and then the other. Carefully she watches me lift and twist. During the relaxation she also lies on her back.

Three hundred words later, the piece is done. Now, what? I have skilled writing companions, but I knew where to turn. My brother Alan and I are separated by three thousand miles—he lives outside Boston and I live outside Portland—but what unites us is our love for books and writing. And dogs.

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Sending my work to another is not my favorite exercise. How humbling to see beloved phrases sliced away. How painful not to justify why I inserted that particular paragraph. Our phone conversation, however, was fun from the start. Did I mention that my brother has a keen sense of humor? Collaboration occurred between two writers: replace the almost right word with the precise one. His challenges to me: stay consistent with the dog’s POV, let the dog be initiator, highlight yoga’s sublime aspect, and don’t lose the humor. Because of Alan, brother, published writer, and editor, the final piece is as follows:

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Downward Dog

I am Shih Tzu, Lion-Dog, whose ancestors enhanced Chinese Palaces. While I placate my human companion by playing tag in the living room, she recognizes that it is of my nature to favor Sacred Quiet and Blessed Repose. No wonder she honors my role as Yoga Guru.

Each night we begin with the Staring Posture. I sit, forepaws together, eyes fixed on her. She sits, legs crossed, eyes fixed on The Invisible Point. 

To direct her in the Twist Posture I lean into the carpet (tail towards the Heavens) and twist my muzzle north and south (advantageous for neck muscles and itchy eyes). She, mimicking me, leans her hand against the wall and twists her head one direction and her torso another.

 For the next Position, we face east. I crouch in the Downward Dog Position, and my companion rises in the Cobra (she’s much improved).

When it is time for The Corpse Position, we lie on our backs, my paws lifted, her arms extended. We breathe in Perfect Rhythm.

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Too soon, my companion settles into her rocking chair, book in hand. After initiating such Celestial Activity, I ought to be content with my three pieces of kibble, pillow, floppy orange tiger, and yellow camel. Instead, a primitive energy seizes me.

No longer am I Lion Dog in sea of silk. No. I am Wolf in mountain lair. My muzzle extends, my paws expand and take hold. Dig, dig! Dirt flies. I prepare my bed, pushing beneath layers, deeper, deeper. ‘Round, ’round I circle before huddling close to my pack. I sigh. I close my eyes. 

Sleep pulls me. I whimper in relief, eager to journey back in time, dreaming far beyond Palace, Quiet, Repose, and into Wilderness, Howl, and Chase.

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My writing life is complex: at once self-satisfied and defeated, dynamic and stymied. Perhaps that is why I sit at this desk each day, sometimes battling the blank page or succumbing to monologues with Angel. Miraculously, editors appear, like my brother Alan, like Molly Best Tinsley who helped me craft my memoir Far from Home. Readers like these believe in the beauty of the word, in the possibilities of a manuscript, in objective criticism, and joint endeavor. The result? Fresh ink muscles through my bone-dry pen.

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This for That

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A few weeks ago I was in the kitchen, singing along with Emmylou Harris, mixing up a batch of muffins, popping them in the oven, filling the house with cinnamon-apple aroma. Twenty-three minutes later out came my creations: poor, diminished little edibles. That’s what happens sometimes if a baker interchanges ingredients. This powder for that soda did not work.

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Exchanges on any level can prove tricky. One example plays throughout William Trevor’s short story “The Piano Teacher’s Pupil.” Miss Nightingale, the dreamy, idealistic teacher, knows her shy, delicate student is a musical genius, capable of “symphonies unwritten.” She continues to teach him even when she discovers that after each lesson, a personal possession goes missing. Snuff-box. Swan figurine. Rose-petal paperweight. But for her, the exchange is worth it. As long as he enriches her life with music, she lets him be thief in her home.

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The Scripture asks, “What would you exchange for your very soul?” In Robert Bolt’s award-winning Man for All Seasons, Richard Rich exchanges perjury for a promotion and thus ensures Thomas More’s death. And his reward? Attorney General in Wales. The doomed Thomas says to him, “Richard, it profits a man nothing to give his soul for the whole world. “But for Wales?”

When I ask myself the question of profit and exchange, what comes to mind is the inexorable stripping accompanying old age. Now, there is nothing worth my soul.

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Last night I re-read Rudyard Kipling’s “If,” a poem I link to my father. Seventy years ago, the words were his life lesson to us (my sister, brothers and I were so young). Strange how I just noticed that while the poem challenges the reader with the “If” of endurance and humility, the poet waits until the very end to describe the resulting dignity and honor that makes the exchange worthwhile.

If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds worth of distance run—
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son.

My father used Kipling because he wanted us—his sons and daughters– to recognize what comes before the final interaction. He wanted the words, their rhyme and rhythm, to teach us children about decisions and free will. Each time he recited this poem, he let the words ask the question, “What are you willing to do to be the best human being you can be?” This for that. A noble exchange that remains ours for the taking.

Oxymoron

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Afoot and lighthearted I take to the open road,
Healthy, free, the world before me,
The long, brown path before me . . .
     —Walt Whitman                                                          

I’ve wanted to write about pathways, not as some mundane idea, but in sentences wise, maybe even soul-stirring, like the Whitman quotation. I like Shel Silverstein’s promise to children: where the sidewalk ends is a new world of grass, birds, minty air, and oh, adventure. In meditation, with my room darkened and candle lit, I reflect on Proverbs and Aristotle, writers who insist on the narrow, winding, and sometimes treacherous way lit by right choices.

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Yet that is not my everyday experience of pathways. I push my small cart to buy grain-free “Taste of the Wild” and on to Winco for tangerines, broccoli, peppers, bananas, bagels, milk, and (sometimes) low-salt potato chips. I walk to Kohl’s for a sale on socks. And every morning I bundle Angel, my eight-pound Shih Tzu, in her red-plaid jacket and trek through the neighborhood.

The psalm tells me God’s pathways are peace, but in actuality, mine are usually concrete.

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A few days ago, with leash in one hand and camera in the other, I documented my open road. At this time of year, a January morning, it is no fun to rise and shine, especially when the shining comes from rain. Even with a break in the clouds, beige twigs and gray branches dominate, except for berries the color and shape of red-pearls. My task, however, is not for the enjoyment of nature, but the health benefits afforded to one human and her canine companion. We walk straight ahead in our predictable circle: along curved sidewalks, past a pocket park, follow a tangent towards a gentle giant, and then head home.

Thinking about this predictable ritual, slivers of insight cut through: life contains an oxymoron of linear circles, going forward and roundabout. Unbending tedium and spiraling energy converge. A walk can give me circles of laughter from an open window, or the straight ahead surprise of a young woman walking her cat. Coming back home is as familiar as the round plush slippers inside my front door.

Enough grand thoughts. Tonight, hearing rain slash the window, I’m not eager for the morning nor the sidewalk that does not end, though my east-west direction is clear. Like all the winter mornings through the years, I will repeat the cycle: crawl out from warm covers, put on my poncho, attach the plaid coat to Angel, and both of us, jaws set, travel forward until circling back to the place from where we started—one paw, one step at a time.

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Bygones

whmsShould auld acquaintance be forgot,
And never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And auld lang syne?

In the New Year’s scene from the movie When Harry Met Sally, while “Auld Lang Syne” plays, Harry asks, “What does this song mean? My whole life I don’t know what this song means.”

As often as I have hummed the classic melody, I never bothered memorizing the words, but liked the sound of “tak a cup,” and “pu’d the gowans.” If Harry had asked me, I would have answered, “Glad to have the past over and done with.” And New Year’s Day? I was glad to have survived 2018. Let those bygones be bygones. However, to link willful forgetting with “Auld Lang Syne” is to miss the point of the song.

Remember Sally’s answer to Harry’s question? “It’s about old friends.”

In these first days of January, I’ve taken time with Robert Burns’ version of the old Celtic song. Each verse is memory’s celebration: walk into the pubs of the past, hear the fiddle play, let the keg’s drink flow.

And we’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet
For auld lang syne!

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Where kindness thrived this past year, celebration involved food and drink. My sister Mary and I enjoyed tea in her small garden shared by gnomes and clay squirrels. Panera’s booth and Fehrenbacher Hof’s table were perfect places to rekindle old friendships. At my home, friends gathered for foamy coffee and blueberry muffins. This autumn, neighbors and family brought Gala and Granny Smith, Honeycrisp and Fuji apples to my niece’s home for a Cider Mill Party, and together we watched fruit churn into tart juice. For sure, my brother Michael never fails to raise his glass at every holiday meal and say “Cheers.”

ireland-2We twa hae ran about the braes,
And pu’d the gowans fine,
But we’ve wander’d monie a weary fit
Sin’ auld lang syne.

My photo albums chart the miles I have walked: braes of Nova Scotia and trails near Lake Louise. In mountain meadows, the gowans—daisies and wildflowers—tempted me, but I left them unpicked. In early September I will once again visit Ireland, not to Galway, my grandfather’s land, but to the Glens of Antrim, my grandmother’s home. May the time be filled with “monie” a mile and with the spirit of Mary McElheran. The New Year, 2019, will be a good time to raise a cup of thanks for old roads traveled and new ones right around the bend.

lamplight-2On an evening walk, I noticed the lamplight ahead shone steady, while at a distance a light flickered in a window; a symbol, perhaps, of the diminishing past and the brightening future. “Auld Land Syne” asks something more from those of us who sing along: don’t forget auld experiences and memories—no matter what form they take. Think of them as embers to blow upon. The flicker becomes a flame and the flame becomes a torch, guiding us from bygones to beginnings.

 

Star Signs

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The forecast predicts more rain, and water pools in the grass—a marshland of sorts in Hillsboro, Oregon. On our evening walk, Angel, snug in her winter togs, sniffs the trees roots while I, eager to be inside, look up beyond stripped branches to see clouds hanging low enough to touch.

I miss the stars.

From 1955-1961 I lived in Pendleton, Oregon, not only where hills undulated with wheat and wind storms left dust in every crevice, but where winter sunsets splayed across the horizon and the Milky Way poured out a pathway of stars. As night unfolded, I’d lie on my back and sing of angels lighting God’s little candles. “We call them stars. They are friends in the sky.”

The night of July 4, 1962, at Our Lady of Angels Convent, we young nuns spread blankets on the lawn and watched the starry universeI knew little of light years and galaxies, travels and vacuum, but we all knew that a few months earlier, John Glenn, cocooned into Friendship 7, spiraled out into weightlessness and entered a world of plummeting stars. Searching the night sky, I wondered what it would be like to be so close to starlight.

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On a bleak November, one year later, I sat in a darkened room with my Franciscan community, the bitter rains of mourning snuffing out the light. Our president was dead. Bobby Kennedy, adapting Shakespeare, eulogized his brother John: “When he shall die, take him and cut him out into stars and he shall make the face of heaven so fine that all the world will be in love with night. . . “  Bobby Kennedy’s words plunged into my heart and carved a new meaning of eternal life..

Except for St. Stephen’s Indian Mission (where the summer and winter sky is a wide open book of starlight), my teaching career had kept me inside, with little time set aside for star-gazing. City, mall, and traffic lights often dimmed the cosmos. In the same year our government scorched Iraq with shock and awe, I bought a star kit. On the ceiling of my bedroom I affixed huge stencil sheets, found the open constellation hole, and dabbed each with glowing paint. In darkness, the universe twinkled, I declared it “Good,” and for three years, slept under the stars.

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This Christmas, tree lights reflected on the patio door. Rains soaked the ground and clouds still hung low, but my tree remained and twinkled on the patio, brick, branch, and air—like star signs. From inside, on a picture window, I found a replica of the universe.

From a vision outside his sanatorium window, Vincent Van Gogh painted The Starry Night. The artwork spirals with exaltation and grief, heaven and earth, light and darkness. His title captures creation’s awesome spin; his words fling one more message into space: “I don’t know anything with certainty, but seeing the stars makes me dream.”

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This coming week the forecast looks like clearer skies. When Angel and I walk, I will make sure to study the sky, look beyond suburb lights and behind flying clouds. That way I won’t miss the stars. I might dream again with the child in awe of constellations; with space travelers and heroes; with poets and artists. Yearn, in ways small and great, inside and outside, to catapult into the universe, race along the Winter Triangle, and hang on (for dear, dear life) from the Belt of Orion.

Finishing Touches

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By Monday, December 3, it was time to decorate the house. Although a hike through the woods or onto a parking lot would have resulted in a real tree, I simply pulled an elongated box from the shelf and fit together three pieces of an eight-foot artificial tree (lights already strung). Unadorned, she is a common, plastic creature, but once dressed in ornaments, she becomes a red and silver beauty.

Some of the ornaments are easy to place. Finishing touches demand a bit more skill: candy canes and pups in socks, musical instruments and miniature wrapped presents. What is missing is the smell of real pine, but cinnamon candles offer an alternative.

The challenge is the village, which every year is situated on ten feet of book shelf surface. Not much of a task to place the buildings, but oh, those little additions that complete the scene. No question that fireman and his Dalmatian stand in front of the fire station, but where to put the people with gifts? They can’t all be coming from the train station.

And how to stack tuna and tomato paste cans underneath that white flannel so that the children slide down a snowy hill? Or place the hydrants where a dog can stop and sniff and be sure to keep the mailman moving right along to deliver letters and packages? Like the final stroke on a painting, tiny details finish the annual project and leave me with a sense, not only of satisfaction, but completion.

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Within this home enters a new spirit because my sister Mary bequeathed me her holiday banners: JOY TO THE WORLD spreads across the space above the piano, and PEACE hangs over the small ceramic tree. The Magi on one wall point to Bethlehem and the star hanging on another. The Angel floats above the village. I love my sister’s banners: exquisite designs, made perfect by curved edges, beaded crowns, and fringed garments. No need to add a final flourish to any of them.

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All the while I sing along with Sissel, James Taylor, and Rene Fleming. They sing of snow drifting on rooftops, birth in bleak midwinter, and city sidewalks dressed in holiday style.  Another weary year slips away into a new Christmas. And then comes Fleming’s haunting version of the Sandy Denny song:

Across the evening sky, all the birds are leaving
But how can they know it’s time for them to go . . .
For who knows where the time goes?
who knows where the time goes?

tree-3Turning a small skater at one angle and securing the pastor who keeps falling in front of his church, making sure that identical ornaments are spaced far apart is a metaphor, I suppose, of peace: the finishing touches I seek in folds of fabric, orbs of shining glass, and the cascade of lovely music. Winter holidays never possess that completion my heart desires, but at the end of the year when the shadows and night deepen, when the wind and rain slice the air,  rituals promise that perhaps this Christmas will be the most wondrous of all.

 

Nestling Things

Today has been one of those miraculous twelve-hour-periods for a writer: wake up in the morning with what has the potential to be a bright idea and watch in surprise as it bursts into kaleidoscopic pieces that by the end of the day nestle into place.

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The Oregon Historical Society emailed their Holiday Cheer flyer and offered, by way of a technical, personalized click, to insert my book into my media postings. I could now send news of the event with my very own Far from Home on the shelf—and quite close to best-selling author Philip Margolin. “How nice to be tucked in with other books,” I thought, and decided that maybe my next blog might explore the theme of “tucked in.”

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What a surprise to see some berries tucked under the leaves. Although most stuck their heads out on twiggy necks, the hidden ones demanded that if I wanted to snap them, I had to angle the camera, move in close, and sacrifice a clear focus on green.

Unexpected as well was seeing bushes stripped clean, their branches like a wooden bowl whose task is to collect the dying.

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Autumn’s brilliant color that burrows deep into the earth happens every year, but never ceases to amaze me. I love this little poem of Adelaide Crapsey, woman of the strange name, but whose “November Night” captures with classic simplicity what I tried to describe with the bushes:

Listen. .
With faint dry sound,
Like steps of passing ghosts,
The leaves, frost-crisp’d, break from the trees
And fall.

Since the recent death of my sister Mary, mortality is never far from my thoughts these days. I have the olivewood crucifix she held before she died, her antique rocker, and her wall plaque that holds a vigil candle. I also have a battered family Bible (copyright 1914) she kept.

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And it was in this Bible that her daughters, Andrea and Lisa, slipped a photo, taken in 2016, a photo I had not seen before. There it was, tucked into Tobias. How many scriptural stories tell of nesting thing? Moses in the bulrushes, a sleeping Jesus burrowed deep inside the boat, and Corinthians reminding us that our spirits nestle deep in earthen vessels.

The day was almost over, and still there was one more piece of the idea to fall into place. At 5:00, the world turned dark and the rains came. A walk outside with the dog, but not too long because Angel and I were eager to head back into the warmth.

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And then I remembered that this time of year remains a favorite, not just because of hot cider and flannel sheets and a comfy throw in which to burrow, but the memory of childhood, when I was bundled warm and cozy beneath the covers, listening to my mother read from Eugene Field:

Wynken and Blynken are two little eyes,
And Nod is a little head,
And the wooden shoe that sailed the skies
Is a wee one’s trundle-bed;
So shut your eyes while Mother sings
Of wonderful sights that be,
And you shall see the beautiful things
As you rock in the misty sea.

Before sleep comes I want to remember how red berries hide in emerald nests and tired leaves fall into wooden bowls. I’m ready to be grateful for the day’s surprises. I am ready to discover, for a few brief moments, how to tuck myself, like a good book, into the shelf of the night.