We Need A Little Christmas

55069-christmas-spiritIn recent years I haven’t been very “big” on Christmas. The conflicted messages that emanate at this time of the year have become too much for this aging soul.  I recall being so fervent as a child, anticipating the birth of baby Jesus, marveling at the tale of the three wise men and, of course, anticipating Santa’s visit. Even in to middle age there was still a lot enjoyment centered around the holiday. But over-commercialization coupled with learning the truth about how our religious documents were not the contemporary reportage that we might have thought, have made this writer cynical about it all.  As the media focuses on the “new phenomena” of  “fake news” let’s not lose sight of the fact that religions have practiced fake news for years.

This year things seem especially grim.  Many are choosing to “drop out” because, honestly, it has become impossible to know what is real and what is not. On Facebook this morning I saw a Canadian journalist who claims that the U.S.A. is fabricating stories about Syria, that the “White Helmets” are not a humanitarian group but a well-funded paramilitary organization, and that we don’t have a clue as to what is happening in Aleppo because there are no reporters in the city.  She noted that one prominent source on conditions in Aleppo lives in Coventry, England!  She seemed incredibly well versed and was particularly articulate about the dreadful war in Syria but who is to say that she is reporting the truth?

Ironically it is this unsettled state of mind that turns many people to religion but it seems our various cultures have plenty of faith in various gods…we simply have no faith in each other.

And so I found myself humming, “We Need a Little Christmas,” from the musical “Mame.”  It’s a cheerful ditty and I hadn’t heard it in a while so, as is my wont, I was inspired to have a listen on Spotify.  I wonder if these lyrics resonate with any of you, dear readers?

For I’ve grown a little leaner,
Grown a little colder,
Grown a little sadder,
Grown a little older,
And I need a little angel
Sitting on my shoulder,
Need a little Christmas now.

Angels, alas, are in short supply but in the Christmas tradition I can send you a star, a Florida star.

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A Florida Star

This photograph is one of our lovely Florida grasses with a crown of morning dew.  Nature always soothes me and brings things into perspective. And today that perspective is right in-line with Mame’s:

For we need a little music,
Need a little laughter,
Need a little singing
Ringing through the rafter,
And we need a little snappy
“Happy ever after,”

Need a little Christmas now.

Burying a Cousin

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Bunny 2015.

Recently I traveled to New England where we interred the ashes of my dear cousin Bunny.  It was a sentimental journey, for sure.  She was buried in the family plot in Norton, Massachusetts.  I spent the first twelve years of my life in Norton and this trip fueled so many memories probably because little seems to have changed in Norton–except the traffic.  Lots of cars.  It is now a bedroom community to Boston. I’m certain there are the dreaded “developments” somewhere but the town center is remarkably in tact.

In attendance were cousins of every age, ranging from nine weeks to 85 years.  It was a gorgeous day.  Bunny’s brother-in-law Ted gave the blessing. A religious man, he is well known in the family for his deep beliefs in Catholicism.  Nevertheless, he paid a fitting homage to Bunny.  After mentioning God at one point, he looked down at her gravesite and said, “if you believe in God.”  His courtesy brought tears to my eyes and, I have no doubt, a chuckle from Bunny.

Norton, Mass on Bunny's Memorial Weekend.

Norton, Mass on Bunny’s Memorial Weekend.

We each placed a flower on the grave and paused to remember our dear cousin.

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After the graveside service we retired to the Norton Country Club and had a wonderfully relaxed lunch.  People spoke a few words.  A guitarist played softly in the background.  We ate, drank, toasted, and hugged.  The only downside of the day was a washed out Powerpoint show of Bunny pictures, dozens of them, from every stage in her life.  The room was too bright, the projector too dim.  But never mind, it was easy enough to go forward and sit for a spell, watching the images go by on the laptop.  It was there that I caught Bunny’s “baby” sister Carol, with her daughter Molly, sitting at the table, watching the cavalcade of Bunny’s life.  But it wasn’t until I got home and looked at the picture that I realized what I caught.  On the screen you can see Bunny and her sister Sally (who almost seems to be blowing a kiss at Carol) and faintly on the right side of the screen is Mary Helen.  Three Gavin sisters, all smiling, all gone to the other side.  Ghostly images looking back on their baby sister.  How lucky we have been to know them all.  ❧

Norton, Mass on Bunny's Memorial Weekend.

Norton, Mass on Bunny’s Memorial Weekend.

 

 

Chris and Cooper

 

I’m really grateful to those of you who follow my blog. It is an honor to me that you give some of your time to read my words or look at my images.  I’m almost ashamed to admit I don’t follow too many bloggers but among those I do is Chris Condello’s: Green Thumbed Vagabond. Not every post but most of them. Chris presents a nice blend of poetry, gardening tips and life observations.  And his personal life is interjected just enough so that you respect him all the more for accomplishing the production of so much beauty…a lesser man might have just said, “F” it.

Chris’s most recent post is called My Little Buddy Cooper.  It’s about his dog, Cooper. Now, if you surf on Facebook at all you have seen your share of cute dogs but, trust me, Cooper is cute. He’s a Corgi. And he is presented in some wonderful images. You will just die for the one where he is running towards you with his tongue flying in the wind.

I wanted to share the wealth because that is part of blogging. Thanks Chris, keep up the good work.

Image #228 – Cataloging Life

Anyone who has ever traveled for an extended period or has a second home knows the anxiety of return. You’ve made all the preparations and you hope that all will be okay when you walk back through that door. But this is life and things happen…things beyond our control.

So it was that I set out on Thursday to return to my home on Fawn Hill in Franklin, North Carolina.  It had been seven weeks since I locked the door and headed south to Florida.  My good friend and neighbor had looked out for things but, still, there was some anxiety. At first things seemed okay. Everything was here, the utilities were working and, most fundamental, the structure was still standing. It wasn’t until the next day that I discovered my home had been invaded.

The invader was not human, mammal or insect.  It slipped into my home under the guise of commerce. It was … they were … catalogs!  OMG, there were stacks of them. Some were old familiar friends — L.L. Bean, Land’s End, Duluth Trading. But the majority, the hordes, were cheap, unfamiliar competitors with cute names like Soft Surroundings or Woman Within. The latter felt compelled to send me two identical catalogs with different covers. There was Viking Cruises with travel tours I will never be able to afford and Serengeti with cute, too cute, stuff I will NEVER need.  A dozen unwanted visitors in seven weeks time.  Here they are.

Seven weeks

 

I trashed them immediately. Like some unwanted insect that you grind under your heel I cast them into the recycle bin with disdain. I had never asked for them; I had never bought a thing at Maryland Square, Sahalie, Cabela’s or Footsmart (two catalogs!).  Why did they descend on me? Initially I blamed it on a gift received from a friend that was, undoubtedly, purchased from a catalog of this ilk.  Perhaps it was mail list companies that had been informed, courtesy of the U.S. Post Office, that Rita D. died years ago and Alice now lives in her place. The catalogs don’t care. If I’m not here they will happily be received by “Current Resident.”

What a scourge. I awoke in the night and actually found myself thinking about them!  OCD brought on by blind capitalism.  I realized, as the quiet mountain night surrounded me, that I was under attack. It wouldn’t stop with these twelve. They were hucksters and had already sold my name to others. Counter-attack was necessary. Like any invasion you MUST beat them back ASAP.

So this morning I tore off the back covers (one of which admonished me to “Please Recycle”!) and returned each one to the sender marked “Please remove me from your mailing list.”  Will it work?  Probably not at first. Catalogs are like roaches. Keep beating back. ❧

Image #115 – New Day

Image #115 (1)We’re back!  Bigger and better than ever…  Computer woes are (hopefully) behind us. The new iMac is a joy and the transfer of data was a breeze. When you’ve matured along with the computer industry you can REALLY appreciate advancement. Twenty years ago it was a nightmare to transfer data from an old computer to a new one. This time the delays were the operator’s fault,  not the operating system.  And there is the pesky element of serial numbers and product keys.   Software programs are unrelenting about wanting that kind of stuff. Having recently moved it was a bit time consuming tracking down some really old, original boxes and discs. Programs are not happy with update product numbers. They are insistent on the original product number.  To all my friends and followers I can highly recommend 1Password. Not only does it track all those online passwords but it also has a folder specifically for software data. It made this process much easier.

So, back to an image a day.  Frequent readers will recall this was supposed to be the iconic photography project – 365.  365 images in 365 days.  I’ve already cheated since I don’t make it a picture I took THAT day.  Sometimes it works out that way but mostly I viewed this as a chance to share some of my pictures, expound a bit on life in a new community or other matters, and keep in touch with friends. I’m sure there are some very disciplined photographers who have done the true 365.  My hat is off to them but now it is back to my version.

This tall fellow, by the way, with his small traveler on the back of his neck, is a giraffe from the Paraa Preserve in Uganda, Africa. I was on a medical mission and we had a day of R&R at the Preserve.  A special time … ☙

Image #78 – I Hate Briars

I hate briars, brambles…thorny vines, whatever you care to call them, I hate them.  This morning I spent some time working on the south 40.  That’s the south 40 feet of my property not the south 40 acres.  We have a bit over an acre here and there is a small peninsula of land at the south end that narrows down towards Potts Branch Road. It sits behind our tool shed and is a pleasant little spit of land. It will be even more pleasant after I get rid of the greenbrier.  I attacked it heavily Image #78athis a.m. because I just hate briars. I think it must stem (pardon the pun) from some bad experiences in childhood. I was always running around and prowling in the woods behind our house and I remember getting tangled up rather badly on a couple of occasions. Being a child there was that tendency to panic and try to get away from bad things quickly. Such tendencies have bad results in briar patches.   I’m more cautious now, of course.

The strategy this a.m. was weaponry coupled with chemical warfare. I cut and pulled free the vines, traced them back to their origin, cut them at the root and applied a surgical squirt of weed killer.  I cleared a good amount of vine, heaping it in a clearing with plans to move it to a burn pile later.  There is still more to go but I feel I have made some young trees much happier. They had been pulled down by the accumulating vine and were bent nearly to the ground under the weight. Some vines climbed high into mature trees and when I was able to pull some down I was surprised to see berries.  And then the guilt hit. Image #78Perhaps the vine has a purpose?  My ego initially rejected such an idea but my pace slowed and I decided I would learn more before proceeding. I have cleared the area I foresee as the “path” so the brambles along the fence can be pruned more judiciously, I reasoned.

Returning to the house I went online and learned that greenbrier do indeed serve a purpose. The berries are loved by birds. They only form after the vine reaches the high trees so a lot of time and effort is spent growing that vine. I’m chagrined and a little chastened but I’m unchanged … I hate briars. I’ll find a way for all of us to live together.  But the glory days are over for much of the greenbrier on the south 40.  The tangled mass of intertwined brambles is gone.  Sorry … well, not really.  The birds are getting plenty to eat at my feeders and maybe they’ll miss the succulent greenbrier berry but I really won’t.☙

Image #45 – All Beginnings are Hard

Alice1stdayatschool - Version 2I’ve been “off the grid” for a couple of days. For those who don’t know, I’ve been moving from Florida to North Carolina. On Friday the movers finally arrived with my things. I’m restoring/renovating a 25-year old, double-wide mobile home that has been abandoned for two years. It has been a chore. I knew that the more I did before the movers arrived the happier I would be and I was right.

So, what does any of this have to do with the image I have chosen for this post?  Well, my sister is fond of saying that “all beginnings are hard.” And it’s true. I am embarking on a new beginning. So as I thought of what image to post tonight I suddenly flashed on this one. That’s me, in the foreground, arriving back from my first day at school. It is 1953 in Norton, Massachusetts.  My sister is behind me. As the last of four children I can tell you that pictures of me are available but are no where near the quantity of the first three. Still, my mother was a very intelligent and cognitive woman. She captured moments of my life that are very dear and telling to me. This is an example. My first day of school and I am brimming over with confidence and things to tell her.  It is written all over me. Beginnings ARE hard but there is something in them that I have always relished. And that is how I am feeling now. Relishing this new moment, this new beginning. I am 65 years old and I still know that little girl in the picture above. Remember, the only thing that can keep on growing is spirit. ☙