The Place “Just Right”

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”?

September Meanderings ~ Or: File This Under Quirky and Incoherent

People are always asking me “How do you come up with a column every week for the paper?”  And I just smile and try to look wise–but darn it, sometimes it is hard. The column I wrote for the paper I work for this week proves it. Please provide me with a little feedback (positive if you can stomach it) to quash my fears–I am not exactly asking you to lie–just be creative. As you can see, I used yesterday’s haikuish to open this somewhat dubious column:

My September Haikuish*

Abandoned meander (2 of 3)

Abandoned meander (2 of 3) (Photo credit: Darkroom Daze)

Branches bowing with leaves

One last summer fling before

Green turns to red-gold

Warning: This week’s column is going to be a bit cheesy. Okay I just checked with the thesaurus that inexplicably lives in my laptop (I am so computer savvy) and I guess this column is not going to be cheesy as its synonyms are: tacky, cheap, tasteless, vulgar, tawdry and the opposite of everything tasteful. Okeydokey then, I am switching to that dynamic trio–sappy, nostalgic and sentimental, all words I thought meant cheesy, but apparently not. Good to have that cleared up.

Now for the not so cheesy but the promised sappy-sentimental-nostalgic part–these words are from the illustrious Edwina Fallis:

“A road like brown ribbon, a sky that is blue

A forest of green, with the sky peeping through

Asters, deep purple, a grasshopper’s call,

Today it is summer, tomorrow is fall.”

You just can’t make this stuff up. Well, that is not true, Ms. Fallis did—and in her own sappy but charming way she captured the transition that the month of September represents. Sometimes I love stuff like this—it is not cool like my haiku(ish) above, but it really does stir memories of the days when all poetry seemed to rhyme (something I for the life of me cannot do and make it make sense). Today most roads are not brown ribbons, but sort of cement grey, and the only grasshoppers I hear calling are in my basement (or are those crickets?), but the proper sentiment is there.

My haikuish, which I hesitate to call a haiku, because there are so many who are expert in this type of expression that I only pretend to follow the rules of  5 , 7, 5 syllables in a line (and then I get confused: branches is just one syllable right?). I have found that following the rules is a good thing for the newbie. Those versed in haiku can do whatever they want, but for those like me, who are fairly new to this way of expression—stray not.  And do not add an s to haiku—apparently there is no such thing as haikus—I was set straight in no uncertain terms by an authority on my blog.

I seem to be meandering a bit today, which hopefully you will forgive—as September itself seems to be a bit of a meandering month. It meanders from summer to fall, from green to colourful, from hot and humid to warm and dryer and to finally cool sweater weather.

Once when I was fussing about a column which would not write itself well, my husband told me: “Well, you can’t hit a home run every time”. Though I did not find this particularly comforting, I am thinking this week’s column may fall into that category.

In an effort to make it worth your while – I am going to provide you with some advice from my favourite cookbook, Taste of Autumn, by JoAnn and Vicki of Gooseberry Patch.  It is down home and just warms the cockles of your heart (whatever that means). They suggest this as a fall outing you:

“Plan a trip to a local apple orchard for a fall outing….swirling leaves and the sweet smell of apples make it the ideal picnic spot! Take a couple of sawhorses and a length of plywood in the back of a truck for a fast picnic table and borrow a few straw bales for seating.”

Does that not sound delightful? Now being married to a contractor, we have plywood and sawhorses and a truck, but it is the straw bales that have me stymied. Have you seen the size of the bales now—a lot of them are almost as big as a house.

Round Straw bales

Round Straw bales (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As I said before, no home run today. (Had my husband read this to find out if it would irritate my readers and he said no—so it is his fault if you are irritated by my meanderings. Should I be diagnosed in the future with brain burps—I do not want people to look back at this column and say that this was when they noticed the beginning of my problems.)

*Haikuish – an alternative to the creative art of (the) haiku, a Japanese poetic form

Comforts ~ Day 11 or “I am too Quirky for my Shirt”

Birds in a row

Birds in a row (Photo credit: The Wren Design)

Anyone can be grateful for the beauty of nature, the kindness of strangers, and that they have a roof over their heads and food on the table.  I have a few things I am grateful for that others might find questionable:

1. I am grateful for crazy glue.

2. I am happy that birds do not die when they perch on electrical wires.

3. I am glad that the cat next door is such a tyrant. Makes me appreciate my cat.

Synopsis of today’s post: Short and sweet sprinkled with a little weird and quirky.


Published in: on August 23, 2012 at 5:51 pm  Comments (32)  
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