The Circle of Life

The rituals of life are wrapped in cloth.
Louise Todd Cope

Swaddling clothes, receiving blanket, christening gown

Hand-me-downs, Easter bonnets, first high heels

Prom dress, graduation gown, hope chest linens, wedding veil, satin sheets

Cocktail napkins, Thanksgiving tablecloth, Christmas tree skirt

Maternity top, “mom” jeans, apron strings, easy-care clothing, sensible shoes

Electric blanket, moth-nibbled cardigan, hospital gown

Coffin cloth

. . . . . .

Swaddling clothes . . .

Advent, My Way #23

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In my month-long pondering of the winter holidays, one of the things that has pleased me is how many random, but really strong, memories I have of Christmases past.

I have a lot of vague and amorphous, warm and fuzzy memories of posing for pictures with family members who were only together once a year and of opening Barbie dolls in that yellow and blue parlor at the farm.

But clearer moments stand out, too, like the Christmas pageants and the making of the caramels I’ve already written about.

And there’s so much more . . .

I remember a weird toy called Odd Ogg, “half turtle and half frog,” and pale blue moccasins lined with real rabbit fur. And a trike.

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I remember the Christmas cards my parents always sent, with two little girls dressed in PJs and posed in front of a tree or a mantle, with a dog or kittens.

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I remember parental discord over the proper hanging of “icicles” on the Christmas tree. One parent thought the icicles should be carefully and individually placed on the boughs. The other parent thought large handfuls should be flung at the tree.

I remember all kinds of handmade ornaments but the ones I remember most fondly were pure 1960s. My mother made little atomic/Sputnik ornaments out of marshmallows, toothpicks, and silver spray paint. I know there’s a photo around here somewhere . . .

I remember the people. My mother’s father was a quiet man, with a wry sense of humor. One year he got a tall stepladder as a Christmas gift and spent the rest of the day sitting at the very top of it in the living room.

My other grandfather was a Justice of the Peace and one year he put a man in jail on Christmas Eve. That might seem harsh except the man’s offense was that, very drunk, he lit a fire on the floor in the middle of his living room, thinking to keep his family warm. My grandfather felt they were all safer if he was in jail.

That same grandfather, a quiet, unsentimental guy, gave my grandmother a $100 bill as a gift one Christmas. I had never seen a $100 bill and was SO impressed so I woke my sister up from a nap, to show it to her. She opened one eye, said, “Is it for me?,” and learning it wasn’t, went back to sleep.

We lived on a farm, so every year the Christmas tree came from our land. When my sister and I were very small, we took my mother’s red scarf and went into the woods to find the perfect tree. We did, and we tied the scarf around it, and then told my father to go find it. He didn’t. How we expected him to find one tree with one red scarf in acres of land, I don’t know. My mother never saw her scarf again.

We weren’t allowed to awaken grownups early on Christmas morning but we were allowed to go get our Christmas stockings and explore those. I was awake first, went and grabbed my stocking and my sister’s, and came back to our room with them. To wake her up, I bopped her over the head with the stuffed stocking . . . whack.

I remember a Christmas when I was a pre-teen and we went to my uncle’s house, several states away. I had an abscessed tooth and spent the entire visit in hideous pain. Well, I remember the pain and the really cute outfit I got for Christmas, with the pleated plaid skirt . . .

At some point we all decided that traveling at Christmas was a good idea so I have a lot of memories of driving the East Coast, searching for restaurants that were open on Christmas Day.

Many years, we left the snow behind and walked the beaches in Florida. One year we saw a gorgeous sunset and then had to settle for dinner at a really creepy Mexican restaurant. How creepy? The following week, we heard that someone had been shot dead in the parking lot.

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New York City, Charleston, the beach at the Outer Banks, watching people fly kites at Kiawah.

I remember the parlors and farms, the relatives’ houses and the motels. I remember the holidays when my niece was small, re-experiencing the magic through her eyes. I remember teaching my new husband how to string popcorn for our first Christmas tree and I remember absolute blowout Christmas parties we used to throw!

So many locales, so many beloved people, so many Christmases, so many memories. In recent years, we’ve chosen to stay close to home. We enjoy our immediate family, or just each other, a few very special friends, our pets, our warm hearth, our simple and satisfactory world.

What will I remember from Christmas this year?

Well, honestly, I think I’ll remember writing these advent blog posts and sharing so much of Christmas and holiday talk with you. When you’ve written comments about your own memories and traditions at the holidays, you’ve triggered more of my own and shown me how much we all have in common, how the holidays are packed with special meaning for each of us.

Here’s hoping that you have many memories of the holiday season and that the fond memories far, far outweigh the unpleasant memories that may inevitably be associated with the season as well. Take some quiet time to savor those wonderful memories and share them.

And I hope you spend the next few days creating special moments that will give you much to reminisce about in years to come!

Desperately Seeking . . . Pollyanna

I am the president of her fan club.

She is my patron saint.

But, right now, right this moment of November 9, 2016, Donald Trump has been elected president of my country and Pollyanna is nowhere to be found.

I have lost my inner Pollyanna.

In fact, if I’m looking for a literary fellow traveler this morning, it’s Alice—I awoke to find I had fallen down a rabbit hole into a world I don’t recognize and cannot make sense of, peopled by megalomaniacs and Mad Hatters.

There will be those who say I’m a sore loser or a drama queen. I’ve considered those possibilities and I don’t think it’s either. Many times in my life, I have voted for others who have come up short in elections and I have accepted the outcome and moved on.

This is about being terrified.

If Trump-the-president is the same person as Trump-the-candidate then a lot of Americans are justifiably terrified right now.

I acknowledge that I have far less reason to be afraid than many Americans. I am as white as white can be—to find an immigrant in my family, you’d have to go back to the Mayflower.

I was raised Christian and could still pass for one if I felt pressure to. I am straight and married to a white guy who was raised a Christian, too. We don’t have small children to whom we need to try and explain all this. We are fairly well off and retired so our jobs and wellbeing are not at much jeopardy. And so on.

I’m still terrified and, if I am, I cannot imagine how the non-white, non-Christian, non-straight, non-Trump “Others” in the country are feeling right now. I am terrified for you.

You can understand, perhaps, why I can’t settle to anything today. I just took a long walk to try to blow away these feelings of dread. Cold drizzle stung my face and I was pushed around by strong winds. The weather brought to mind all kinds of tired clichés and banal metaphors about our country. I’ll spare you.

Let’s just say, the day suits my mood.

I will try to make something, to turn my hands to some creative task, even though all I want to do right now is rip and tear and burn, even though making pretty little doodads feels trivial and purposeless.

I’ll make things because I find comfort in the act of making and comfort is what I crave.

One thing I can’t bring myself to work on is my women’s suffrage quilt. The piece I showed you yesterday is one of a number of embroidered quotes about women’s rights I have been working on, to make a quilt.

In fact, I was stitching a quote from Hillary Rodham Clinton last night, as I watched the returns—“Human rights are women’s rights, and women’s rights are human rights.” Right now, that all feels a little bit like a cruel joke . . .

I’m sure I’ll get back to this project someday; I’ll probably decide it’s more important than ever. Just not right now . . .

I’ll probably weave, maybe a complicated pattern that takes all my attention.

And speaking of weaving, I have not forgotten about my promise to choose one of you to receive a handwoven kitchen towel. I have the list of people who will be in the drawing and will get to this soon.

It’s just that I am going to make a towel for one of you, one of my favorite people, and I don’t want the process of making or the product to be associated in my mind with this moment in time, with the way I feel right now. In a few days, I think, I hope, I’ll brighten up and feel like myself again.

Pollyanna, won’t you please come home?

Loving Hands and Nasty Women

It’s Election Day in the United States.

Finally.

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For this “nasty woman,” there’s not much left to say except:

I am.

Yes, I am.

And I did.


For those of you who have not been following American politics, first, let me say, I envy you! Second, to make sense of this post and an iconic moment in the whole kerfuffle, read here.

Boston, City of My Heart

Do you have one favorite city that trumps all the others you enjoy?

I admit, I haven’t been to most of the cities that would come to minds. I haven’t been to Paris or Rome, or even to London, in spite of having been to the United Kingdom a number of times.

I love Dublin. I adore New York and like San Franciso, from what I’ve seen. Montreal and Ottawa have their distinct and undeniable charms.

But the city that has my heart is Boston.

If you’ve been here, hanging out with me for a long time, you knew that, because almost every time I go I seem to feel the need to write about it.

I love the history of Boston, as one of the cities where American liberty was born.

And my own family history is connected to Boston. My many-times-great grandfather lived on this exact site, at the corner of Washington and Essex. He owned this land 125 years before the Liberty Tree was the gathering spot for the Sons of Liberty. Might he have planted the Liberty Tree?!

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I love that Boston is surrounded by water. For the first time, we had a view of the water from our hotel and also took advantage of the location and went on a harbor cruise.

I love the sights and sounds of Boston. Like all big cities, there’s always a festival, a gathering, lots of unusual and quirky details.

And I love the museums. We go back to the same museums every single time and visit our favorite pieces and find new treasures, like this glimpse of infinity. Each side of this work had only about 10 glass vessels in a space about one foot deep. The artist,
Josiah McElheny (American, born in 1966), created a brilliant vision—I could look all day.

I know that, when I have an opportunity to travel, I should go new places. I know I would love those other great cities and find them thrilling and intoxicating, too. I know I would expand my horizons and knowledge by visiting more, different cities.

And I know I’ll go back to Boston. In fact, I can hardly wait!

So, how about you? What city inspires your affection? Should I go there soon?

Busy, Busy . . . Happy

Autumn is always this way.

We realize that time’s a’wastin’, that soon we’ll be hunkering down for winter, and we try to pack a lot of living into these perfect days.

Chores abound. The perennials are being cut back. The outdoor furniture needs to be stored.

A quilt is basted, waiting to be finished this winter. The yoyos are almost, almost, sewn together and finished. Two other quilt projects wait in the wings.

The looms are momentarily naked but plans have been planned and one warp has been wound, a yummy wool for fall.

It’s time for chocolate, a new and different venture on Etsy, and, always, vintage linens.

It’s the time for spending quality hours with family snowbirds who are ready to fly away and it’s time for a little travel of our own, to enjoy autumn in New England.

Busy, busy. Happy, happy. And you?

 

Autumn Senses–The Sounds of Canada Geese

geese2I stand on my front deck. I hear a faint sound that confuses me, even as it’s getting louder. It’s the sound of a train coming through.

But the closest train tracks are several miles away . . .

The sound grows louder, gets closer.

It becomes clearer what it is.

That’s no train!

That’s a huge flock of Canada geese, heading our way.

The temps are in the 80s, the leaves are still green, the grass still needs to be mowed.

But it’s autumn. The geese tell me so. They insist.

Dozens, nay, hundreds, of Canada geese visit our bay at this time of year. In November, they’ll give way to snow geese.

The Canada geese are the early harbingers of fall. And they sound really, really excited about it.

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They sit out there in the bay and yak among themselves. They squawk and they chuckle and they chortle. They yip and they yap. They sounds like they’re laughing, and arguing, and announcing important news.

They get quiet and then for no discernible reason, they start in again, all at once, raising a ruckus.

They chat early, early in the morning, well before first light, and they are the last sound I hear before drifting off to sleep.

It not just their voices I hear. When a flock comes in, I can hear the beating of all those wings and the splish as they hit the water.

And when they leave, it’s never a quiet “exit, stage left.” They leave with noise and splashing and flapping and a big huzzah.

It seems they must be communicating; it can’t all be sound and fury, signifying nothing.

I’d love to know what they’re saying. Is the meeting in Monty’s Bay the equivalent of a block party, a meet and greet with neighbors? Or is it more a high school reunion, seeing friends they haven’t seen for years?

Are they talking about how they spent their summer vacation? The sights they saw up north? Or are they planning the upcoming trip, deciding where to stay and where to eat. That’s what we talk about when planning a trip . . .

They sound pretty happy and excited, but sometimes they sound cranky and argumentative. I imagine them arguing over who gets to fly first, out in that big point in the V in the sky.

“It’s my turn! You did it last time!”

“Well, I’m better at it than you! You led us to Kansas. Who wants to got to Kansas?!”

“How come I never get to be in front? I’m tired of looking at your back end!”

“You can’t be in front, you’re a girl!”

“You sexist gander, you!”

They all talk at once, nobody seems to be listening. It’s enough to make a person think of American politics . . . well, never mind.

Autumn in upstate New York smells like campfire. It tastes like a Northern Spy apple and cider doughnuts. It looks like maple trees with leaves aflame.

And it sounds like Canada geese.

What does autumn sound like in your neck of the woods?

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