Friday, November 30, 2018

Finding Lost Things: Part One

This post has taken enormous courage to publish. I read a piece of writing, just a sentence or two, about lost things, and it piqued my imagination. From it I created a simple story, not a literary work by any means. It will be published in three posts over the next week. I hope you enjoy it as I have enjoyed writing it. 

Alicia didn’t know exactly when she lost her love of Christmas. It was gradual, imperceptible, lost over years of baking too many cookies for piano recitals and school programs, lost through wandering the malls looking for just the right gift, lost by too little sleep and wondering if she’d done enough.

          She remembered the anticipation of being a child – those years when the turning of the calendar to December 1 kindled a small spark of excitement that was fed into flames by playing the part of Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer in the puppet show in Grade One, by putting on an angel costume and singing Angels We Have Heard on High in the Sunday School program. She still loved that Christmas carol, especially the prolonged Glorias that trilled on for so many notes before the Latin words “In excelsis Deo” brought it all together.

          When she and Kevin courted and married, Christmas was imbued with romance: the delight of walking hand in hand through new-fallen snow, cuddling together while watching Sleepless in Seattle or Miracle on 34th Street, putting up the Christmas tree together, and waking up to his face on the pillow next to her.

          The Christmas she was pregnant with Jill she felt the anticipation Mary felt, carrying the Christ Child in her womb. She thought of Mary and wondered if she had felt the same protective love Alicia now experienced. Of course she did, Alicia thought. Don’t all mothers?

          Two years later, after Ben arrived, she reveled in the sparkling eyes of her children when they saw the tree lights and shiny ornaments. She pondered the tender moments of telling them the story of Baby Jesus in the manger. The anticipated joy of Christmas morning was more for the delight she would see in her children’s eyes than for herself.

          Then the children became teenagers. Jill was difficult, moody and unpredictable. Ben went silent. Alicia became uncertain about her parenting and other skills. Christmas gifts became a guessing game and Alicia bit her lip as she watched her children open their gifts. Would they like them, or would they get engender a perfunctory “thank you” and be discarded?

          Over the years Christmas dinner became a sprawling affair with siblings, nieces, nephews and parents. She loved her family, but Alicia felt squashed, trying to please everyone. Everyone contributed to the meal, held at Alicia and Kevin’s home because they were welcoming and relaxed.
          Alicia loved the story of Christ coming to earth and the hope brought to humankind, but she felt empty and, if not hopeless, then rather numb to the love, joy, peace and hope promised by the Christ Child. Somewhere over the years, she’d lost the meaning. In fact, she loved nothing better than when the celebration was over and there were a few days of doing nothing before returning to her part time position as a doctor’s office manager. Christmas became a chore added to the all the other things demanding her time.

          On November 30, Alicia sat in her favourite chair looking out at the barren garden. No snow had yet fallen. Some years none fell, yet Alicia always longed for snow. She loved the way it brightened and transformed the dark landscape of winter into a magical world of light. For her, one of the most entrancing scenes in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe was Lucy’s entrance into Narnia where the lamppost glowed in the falling snow.

          She sat now with her journal and a cup of tea. “What if,” Alicia thought, “what if I ran away for Christmas?” 

         She toyed with the idea, envisioning a quiet cabin in the woods, a cozy fire burning, comfortable couches and time to just read and be. Then she thought about being alone. It seemed appealing, but soon she realized her imaginary scenario included Kevin bringing in the firewood and making her laugh. She realized that the children were upstairs in this imaginary cozy cabin, ready to come down and play games or watch a movie together.

          “So much for that,” she thought. be continued

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Towards the end of November

Our small table, where we eat when it's just the two of us, has the best view of the bird feeder. These days we watch black-eyed juncos, house finches, a variety of sparrows, the occasional towhee, and a few chickadees vying for positions on the feeding perches. They can certainly squabble, those birds, all a bit greedy to have sole access to the feeder. 

"No warmth, no cheerfulness, no healthful ease,
No comfortable feel in any member -
No shade, no shine, no butterflies, no bees,
No fruits, no flowers, no leaves, no birds -
-   Thomas Hood, No!

Hood's words seem a little harsh for this year's November. We've had a fair bit of sunshine and just yesterday I saw a wasp inspecting a red Christmas light strung along the eaves, perhaps thinking it some sort of flower. I pulled on my wellies this afternoon and tramped around the garden. How surprised I was to see a few flowers: a couple of cornflowers, a sweet pea, some roses, a stalwart zinnia, and of course, the reliable hydrangeas that are hanging on very well this year. So take that, Thomas Hood!

There were even a few raspberries! 

A wind warning has been issued for tonight and tomorrow - wind and rain are set to batter the garden and curl around the corners of the house. We're warm and cozy indoors. The lighted picture is a recent acquisition, and difficult to photograph properly. Since we get so little snow, this snowy scene with the twinkling lights in the trees and the lamps glowing is as close as we get to a walk in a white landscape.

 "The snapping of pitch from a burning log,
The faint scent of pine filling the room.
Flames leaping about as if it were a ballet
Performing for its audience.
The soft, comforting glow of candlelight,
Bringing with it serenity and quiet thoughts."
-   Linda Christensen, Autumn's Beauty

Although our fires are gas, the flames are still most welcome when I stand and warm my back, then my front, toasting both sides, as it were. Around the kitchen windows I've strung star-shaped lights for a soft glow that makes me smile to see them.

There's a party on Friday, with Tim's work colleagues, so I've done a little baking - cranberry orange shortbread, pecan toffee squares, almond cream cheese bars, and raspberry diamonds. We sampled them this evening and they pass muster.

November days are passing. Today marks just one month until Christmas. This coming week is a busy one with a school inspection (I teach at an independent school and we are inspected every 4 years), and three evening events, including a party on Friday night. December's calendar is curiously empty, save for a couple of dates. I don't mind. A slower pace allows for time for reflection and thinking about the focus of the season, of the birth of Christ, as well as time for preparing the house and all that goes with celebrating. 

How is your November coming along? Are you full into the Christmas mode, or do you have some time to think and reflect, as well?

Linking with Mosaic Monday, hosted by Angie of Letting Go of the Bay Leaf.  

Sunday, November 18, 2018

The Soft Side of November

I carry the sheets, warm from the dryer, up the stairs to the bedroom. Holding one edge of the sheet, and raising my arms high, I let the sheet fly upwards and billow like a cloud before it settles quietly on the bed. November bright sun surges through the window illuminating the African violet on the bookshelf. Crisp shadows, pale coloured flowers against rich green leaves. 
The sight was worth going downstairs for my camera.

Outside, the brilliant leaves of late October and early November are fading into pale shadows of themselves, settling deeper into the earth. Gingko leaves curl into whorls of creamy yellow.

Birds pick off the Hawthorne berries one by one, leaving open spaces among the branches. A few shriveled black berries are perhaps a reminder that the feast won't last indefinitely.

November comes
And November goes
With the last red berries
                             And the first winter snows 

On one hydrangea bush, the leaves and blossoms sing a duet of colour that will soon fade to palest brown. I've never noticed this colour on a leaf before, have you?

With night coming early
And dawn coming late
And ice in the bucket
And frost by the gate

The fires burn
And the kettles sing
And earth sinks to rest
Until next spring.

Elizabeth Coatsworth

Soon all the branches will be bare. Maybe snow will come, maybe not. We're having a mild November so far, with a rainy day or two following by a trio or more of glorious sunshine when there might be a little "ice in the bucket." I can't complain. 

I'd like to wish my American readers a very Happy Thanksgiving. We in Canada celebrated in October, but there's never a season to NOT be thankful, is there? 

Linking with Mosaic Monday, hosted by Angie of Letting Go of the Bay Leaf. 

Sunday, November 11, 2018

A November Weekend

November 11. Remembrance Day here in Canada. Our church service this morning honoured those who gave their lives in service to their country. 

After lunch, it seemed like a good idea to go for a walk. The sun shone weakly and intermittently and my chair by the fire was very attractive. I left it reluctantly. However, once outdoors, the crisp air and a brisk 10 km walk got my endorphins working. For the first half hour I wished for gloves as the wind was chilly coming off the water of Elk/Beaver Lake, but I did warm up. 

Dull leaves litter the ground. A few still fall, lazily drifting back and forth, before being caught by ground hugging bushes and suspended. 
Snow berries (Symphoricarpos Albus) are the brightest plants in the wood these days. 

Leaves of various shades float on the dark water among the rushes. 

The other day I read a funny article about How NOT to Hygge. The author begins "It's been two years of listening to people not from Scandinavia tell us what Hygge is - and what it is not." 
Now I discover that there are more Scandinavian words that will, no doubt, be embraced by those who...don't really understand them...including myself. 

That said, today has felt very hygge-ish (my own new word), what with embracing the outdoors and getting cozy in front of a fire. 

I feel quite virtuous after that long walk and am settling down to some stitching and television viewing. Tomorrow is a statutory holiday in lieu of Remembrance Day, so we can sleep in and have another day at home. I do love Sunday evenings when Monday is a holiday. 

Surely the scent of freshly baked bread contributes to hygge, too. I prepared the dough yesterday (all sourdough, no yeast) and let the loaves slowly rise in the fridge overnight. Around noon I pulled them out and they rose some more in the oven with the pilot light on. That loaf on the right has now had one crust sliced off, while warm, and devoured savored. 

Linking with Mosaic Monday, hosted by Angie of Letting Go of the Bay Leaf. 

Thursday, November 08, 2018

Friday Bliss / Friday Five

Rain has once again been vanquished by sunshine. This morning I looked outside from the bedroom window to see white-frosted roofs stepping down the street below our house. A frosty morning usually means a sunny afternoon, and such was the case. I like the way sunlight streams into the living room, although I don't admire the way it reveals the need for window washing. 

Last weekend's rain dampened and clogged the bird feeder. They would come and try to feed, but couldn't, so Tim took it apart, washed and dried it thoroughly, and refilled it. It emptied quickly with house finches flying in to chatter and feast. 

Dark-eyed juncos await their turn at the feeder. I can see another housekeeping job that needs to be done. 

Autumn afternoon light slants low and adds a glow to the garden.

I've had a hankering for warming Beef Bourguignon. On Tuesday night I browned each piece of meat, peeled carrots, chopped onions, and deglazed the browning pan with wine and beef stock before tipping it all into the slow cooker. Into the fridge for the night and the next morning I popped the dish into the cooker and turned it on before leaving the house. What a delicious smell greeted me when I walked in the door. I fried up a pan of mushrooms to add for the last hour or so. Such a satisfying dish, and one that's good reheated. 

The weather man has been warning us about cool nights so I yesterday I went out and clipped all the flowers in the garden - dahlias, a couple of zinnias, and a quartet of golden African daisies. 

Mid-autumn is nearly here. How has autumn been for you?

Linking with Friday Bliss, hosted by Riitta of Floral Passions.  

Sunday, November 04, 2018

November Celebrations

Last night we moved the clocks back to Standard Time. As I write, it's nearing 5 pm and darkness begins to cloak the landscape. Trees toss their branches, littering streets and gardens with leaves in golden shades. Soon we'll close the curtains and withdraw into coziness.

Over the past day or two a Pineapple Express from the South Pacific blew through bringing heavy rain, wind, and warm temperatures. In my garden roses continue to bud and bloom, although the full flowers droop under the weight of rain. The pink dahlias produce enough flowers for me to clip a small bouquet each week. Yesterday I discovered a few raspberries, not as sweet as summer's fruit, but still "very tasty" according to a six-year-old who spent the night and enjoyed the berries with her breakfast. 

This hydrangea blossom clearly misunderstood the memo about November. She looks a little uncertain and young alongside the mature and weathered blooms. 

After a very wet night the sun streamed into the living room this morning. I like a tray on the coffee table for corralling things like coasters, pencils, and remotes. A tray is easy to pick up and move elsewhere if the table is needed for drawing, playing a game, or other important tasks. 

This afternoon we celebrated three birthdays that occur within two weeks. Our son made the cake and I wish I'd taken a picture of a cut slice. He made a Russian Honey Cake, composed of 8 thin layers that have a taste similar to graham wafers and a whipped cream/sour cream filling and icing. It was delicious! 

We had the doors and windows open for much of the afternoon and all went for a walk around 2:30. Nine of us climbed Christmas Hill from where the city spreads all around to the Sooke Hills in the west and to the ocean to the south and east. 

Watching the grandchildren run and skip (one brought along her skipping rope), clamber on rocks and climb trees made me smile. Edna Jaques said, 

Go out, go out I beg of you
and taste the beauty of the wild.
Behold the miracle of the earth
with all the wonder of a child.

The woods were polka-dotted still with leaves clinging to branches, like gold coins among brown twigs. Soon, however, the wind and rain will strip the branches bare and the stark architecture of nature will be revealed. 

Linking with Mosaic Monday, where we have a new host, Angie of Letting Go of the Bay Leaf. Thank you to Maggie, who hosted #157 weeks of Mosaic Monday, and a thank you to Angie for taking up the challenge. 

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