Sparkling bright silver
The colour of November
Not doomsday dull grey.
It is time to put our optimism on and wear it gladly and gaily.
Thrown into winter
Windy, snowy, freezing cold
Shiver me timbers
The Santa Claus Parade and Festival of Lights have started the holiday season in my little town, and this is my weekly newspaper column dedicated in part to that tradition and my own traditions which are, if I do say so myself, a bit quirky:
The strains of holiday cheer fill the air. In my mind’s eye I can see the Christmas parade replete with bands in their regalia, floats full of red cheeked faces, drummers drumming, and the festive evening’s darkness cut by glowing lights. I imagine the jolly old elf punctuating the night air with “ho ho ho”; his lovely wife loyally by his side waving and smiling at the crowd. And I see the children full of hope as the magic of the holiday season begins in our fair town.
I see these things clearly. But this year I participate from the warmth of my home. The thought did cross my mind to leave the toasty confines of my little red chair in the corner of my living room, but it was fleeting. No one wanted to accompany me the half a block walk to the corner of my street to watch the annual parade and I did not want to bundle up and venture out on this cold cold night by myself. I noticed on Facebook the day after the parade that several of my friends tempted the cold and watched the parade, but their conclusion was the same—the parade was wonderful, but it was “freakin’” (a term I am convinced was coined by Regis Philbin) cold.
Nevertheless, I did participate in a way that has become somewhat of a tradition that I have donned since my kids have grown up and are no longer interested in standing out in the cold with me. I left my chair and the glow of the TV and climbed the stairs to my upstairs bathroom. From that vantage point I could see the fireworks that both noisily and colourfully ushered in the “most wonderful time of the year.” I corralled my youngest son to join me, and we gazed out the window together, warm and cozy in that little utilitarian room. He got a little agitated at one point, wanting to get back to whatever he was doing before I asked him to join me, but I prevailed upon him with that most poignant of tools a mother has in her arsenal—guilt—so he stayed until the bitter end. Which was not bitter at all.
From our perch on the bathroom counter we had a view most others could not replicate. There was no straining of necks, no chill up our spines, no jockeying for position in the crowd. We could just enjoy the display and hear the oohs and awes of the crowd a mere few blocks away. I actually oohed and awed a few times just for good measure and ironic pleasure—but to be honest, there were some undeniable wows in the display. It was a fitting way to begin the season. I have quietly been introducing a few decorations into my home décor—a “real” evergreen wreath on the front door, a festive planter on my coffee table, some red and green ribbon waiting patiently to festoon its way through the house.
As I write this there is freshly fallen snow outside, forming crests on our bushes and adding newness to our surroundings. According to the weather men and women we are in for a November week that rivals mid-winter. And that is okay. We have to make the transition and if it is early this year, so be it. I will be taking on decorating with fervour in the next couple of weeks, my motto being “if it takes a day or so to put up and a day or so to take down, I need to enjoy it for a few weeks”. I am someone who is no stranger to hard work (and don’t let anyone tell you that decorating is not hard work) but I like the fruit of my labours to last for a while.
This year, as in others, I will start out determined to simplify Christmas, and get it down to an art. But Christmas is not an art. It is not perfect. I have come to the conclusion that it is a craft; one that is original every year yet has aspects of its forebears. A favourite little ditty that I love and brings to mind all that is simple and good (and unattainable) follows. It is called “Simple Gifts” and is attributed as an American Shaker hymn. On the surface it sums up how I would like life to be in general, and Christmas in particular: “ ‘Tis the gift to be simple, /‘Tis the gift to be free/‘Tis the gift to come down/Where we ought to be/And when we find ourselves/In the place just right, /Twill be in the valley/Of love and delight……………..”
Here is hoping that in this Christmas season, we all land “in the place just right.”
Where is your Christmas “place just right”?
A Little of This, A Bit of That, and The Other: Hickory Nuts is the original title of this, my weekly column. I am getting a little tired of having to thank David for his inspiration once again, but David, once again, thank you.
As a self-proclaimed wordsmith, I found a term which I bequeath the “Word of the Year” award. The word is one I have never come across before—but both its spelling and meaning are soothing. Susurrus, pronounced “soo-sur-uhs” is defined as a soft, murmuring sound.
A favourite blogger of mine is a Canadian living the American dream. His blog, Live and Learn is one where I find the most charming quotes and astute observations. It is where I discovered my new favourite word, its definition, and subsequent context. Described as one of the most beautiful words in the English language, it “resembles the rustling symphony of the fallen leaves moving across pavement or the whispers created by the branches of the trees on a windy autumn day.” The vivid picture painted by such a description is one that I would like to be water coloured into.
The definition goes on to say that “uttering susurrus also stimulates the acoustics of nature’s effect” and is “one of those rare words where it’s aesthetic, sound, and feel coincide beautifully.”
I was watching Jamie Oliver’s Food Channel program “15 Minute Meals” early this morning, and while I really like the chef, I have a bone or two to pick with him. The secret to his 15 Minutes Meals is all in the preparation. He has all his utensils out, the food processor at the ready, and the water boiling for his pasta or potatoes or whatever culinary delight he is preparing that needs some boiling. This is cheating. Everyone knows that to get a decent boil going for a pan of water takes some time—yet this is not part of his 15 minutes. Nor is the time that it takes to set up the meal—getting everything out and half-prepping it (washed greens, unwrapped cheeses, and unscrewed lids).
I am not particularly fond of spending time in the kitchen on a daily basis. On occasion I like to cook, but the daily grind is just not something I look forward to. So when I am promised a 15 Minute Meal, I want to only spend 15 minutes. Any more than that, and I feel cheated. Seriously, Jamie’s meals would take most of us at least 40 minutes—and that is still not too long to spend on fixing a meal if we are told the reality of the situation. But to advertise something as 15 minutes and it to turn out to be 40 is not a good thing (I asked Martha and she said I could use her tagline).
So, Jamie, while I still love your show—quit trying to pull the wool over my eyes.
The Other: Hickory Nuts
I am pleased as punch. Now, how pleased that really is, is a complete mystery to me—but I am using this phrase to tell you how happy a mystery benefactor has made me. Someone, who will remain unnamed at this point (mainly because I do not know their name), left me a bag of hickory nuts after reading my columns nostaligizing the lovely nuts.Their note read “I enjoy your columns, particularly the one on hickory nuts” or something to that effect (the note has been lost in the plethora of papers that surround my desk—but I did not misplace the little nuggets of goodness).
So, to that person I have two things to say: 1. Who are you? 2. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Your writing looks somewhat familiar, but I could just be fooling myself into thinking that I recognize it. I must tell you that I am enjoying the hickory nuts immensely.
In the old days, I used a hammer on my parent’s brick outdoor fireplace to break into the little fellows, and capture their nutty goodness (some of which I had to forego as we were tasked with getting the meat of the nuts for a cake my mom would make). Instead of getting the hammer out, I found my nutcracker (until this point only used at Christmas) and a little utensil that comes with it to dig the tiny pieces from the crevices of the shell. Now, this is no easy task, but once a morsel is successfully unattached the reward is a gustatory delight. You may think I am overstating it, but the hickory nuts have brought back wonderful childhood memories. They taste of the woods, autumn, and times past. Again, I say thank you.
A sober sombre day ~
Ultimate sacrifice honoured by a red poppy
Pinned over our hearts
We gratefully remember
I am reblogging this so I have it saved to savour over and over again–like a good cup of coffee…………..
Originally posted on Live & Learn:
And coffee, for one who knows it as I do, means making it with your own hands and not having it come to you on a tray, because the bringer of the tray is also the bearer of talk, and the first coffee, the virgin of the silent morning, is spoiled by the first words. Dawn, my dawn, is antithetical to chatter. The aroma of coffee can absorb sounds and will go rancid, even if these sounds are nothing more than a gentle “Good morning!”
Coffee is the morning silence, early and unhurried, the only silence in which you can be at peace with self and things, creative, standing alone with some water that you reach for in lazy solitude and pour into a small copper pot with a mysterious shine—yellow turning to brown—that you place over a low fire. Oh, that it were a wood fire!
Stand back from…
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“It’s dark because you are trying too hard. Lightly child, lightly. Learn to do everything lightly. Yes, feel lightly even though you’re feeling deeply. Just lightly let things happen and lightly cope with them.”
I so need this advice. Thanks David!