Saturday, December 13, 2014

A Christmas Foray

"When do you think Santa’s coming?”

My brother, Sam, and I were whispering because we weren’t supposed to be awake. And we definitely weren’t 
supposed to go downstairs. Santa had not even been here yet! We really had tried to go to sleep, each in our rooms separated by a short hallway. As soon as our parents closed our doors and went downstairs, we opened our doors so we could call to each other. Going back to bed, eyes closed tight, we both lay stiff and still, even pretending 
to snore. We were certain that even pretend snoring would help us to go to sleep, or at least prove to our parents that we were asleep. All it did was make us giggle destroying any attempt at quiet and calm. Our spirits were too excited to even feign sleep but we really tried to quiet ourselves once we heard the all too familiar “You kids be quiet! Santa can’t come if there are any giggling kids around.” Each of us grabbed a stuffed toy and cuddled under our covers, eyes shut tight again, but the stifled giggling wouldn’t stop.

“Your mom and I are just going outside to take Butch for his walk. Then we’ll be in the garage for a few minutes. Now, you kids settle down.” Butch was our brown and white English bulldog that we had gotten for Christmas two years before this Christmas Eve.

As soon as we heard that we would be alone in the house, we both popped up in bed as though someone had released a catch on a spring. Eyes wide open now, fingers in front of pursed lips we tiptoed to the edge of the stairs holding out breath. I had jingle bells on my red Christmas slippers that made too much noise and that my brother thought were dumb. He always went barefoot, so I took my slippers off and went barefoot too. Just as we reached the top of the stairs, we heard the garage door slam shut.

Sam said “Come on. It’s safe to go downstairs.”

Our bare feet cold, we stepped carefully on the thick carpet at the top of the stairs, and listened to make sure there was no one in the house.

“Sam, aren’t you glad Butch had to go out?”

“Yeah, he would be making too much noise.  He doesn’t know how to be quiet like us.”

Satisfied that there was just the two of us, we edged down the stairs, our little hearts beating fast.

“Oh, look at the lights!  Aren’t they beautiful?”

“You can’t even see them yet!  What are you talking about?”

‘Brothers!’ I thought and then said “Of course you can’t see them but the glow from them is beautiful.”  

Out loud, Sam said “Well then, why didn’t you say that.”

“Shhh.  We have to be quiet”

“Why? There’s no one here.”

“If we talk loud we won’t hear if anyone comes in! So just be quiet...”

This conversation carried us down the flight of four stairs to the landing and, rounding the first step after the landing, the Christmas tree came into full view. It was glorious with all the lights reflecting off of Christmas ornaments and tinsel. The tinsel had been hung a absolutely perfectly - each strand draped delicately beside the next. The sparkle and glitter was softened at the top by the lights under the cloud of angel hair. Our Christmas Angel, with the family for as long as my eight year old mind could remember, rode high atop the magical tree, her hand out in welcome, her wings set to fly.

My brother raced ahead of me. “Wow! Look at all the presents!”  

The amazing eight foot tree stood in a corner. Out from it’s lower branches was a circle of presents that had not been there when we went to bed. Our stockings, the old brown ones that we had to wear to school every day were limp and waiting expectantly for Santa.

Then we froze. The back door opened and before anyone could see us we raced back upstairs, closed the doors to our rooms quietly, jumped into bed and looked like we were asleep by the time our parents came in to check on us. They closed our doors softly behind them on one more exciting Christmas Eve.

Friday, December 12, 2014

In Memory of Beth Hersberger (October 22, 1921 - December 04, 2014)

When grief wells up, washing over spirit,
joys and interests are pushed and tumbled aside.
Polished pebbles of memory 
softly rattle in my brain
as waves recede and quiet once more,
the undertow settled with a smile ~
memories of all things neat and tidy
float through the air on a sunbeam.

When grief comes together, rippling through family,
daily routines are set aside for a special gathering ~
Shared moments of memory
rise up as we commune together,
the laughter and playing of little children
bubbles up through the four generations brought together,
filling the air with life and love.

“Better keep yourself clean and bright. You are the 
window through which you must see the world.”
~ George Bernard Shaw

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Hugging for Comfort's Sake

I read a line today from one of my daily reading books - it said: “What do I want when I want comfort?” A cup of tea came to my mind first, and I will often make a cup of tea or some other warm drink when I want comfort. Quite an incomplete answer to that question. So I thought a bit more. There is something I cannot give to myself in any satisfactory way - a warm and caring hug. A hug that says - ‘your feelings are yours, but here’s some of my warmth to soften the sharp edges.’ 

I have many pictures of family, friends, children and even pets sharing hugs - whether full on wrap around hugs or side hugs. They are all so beautiful and full of smiles and tenderness. There is not room on this page to put all of the hugs that I have found, so look into your own pictures and photos to see the hugs that are and have been there for you and yours. Remember the feeling of the best hug ever ~ I can think of several. 

When we wrap our arms around each other in the spirit of friendship and caring, to give joyful congratulations for some new event or birthing in our lives or a hug in greeting ~ deep soul cleansing brings comfort softly, beautifully and with joy.

“[E]very day you should reach out and touch someone. 
People love a warm hug, or just a friendly pat on the back.”
~ Maya Angelou

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

'Becoming a Christmas Tree' - Repost

All the other trees, the same age as me, talked excitedly about becoming Christmas trees. Slowly each year, one by one or in great bunches, my forest mates had all been taken away. None of those magnificent trees had ever come back to tell me what it was really like. Long ago deciding that I was too short and stumpy, and my branches were too crooked and misshapen to ever be the kind of Christmas tree I had heard about, I started to give up. But one cold, snowy winter, I finally paid attention to all the chatter around me about being a Christmas tree.  

All the stories were only rumours, you know, gathered from small families of humans that came into the forest to get their own trees. Their words keeping Christmas trees 'warm’ and ‘dry’, with just a drink of water every now and then, certainly caught my attention. I didn’t think I’d care for all the folderol of tinsel and lights and bright coloured balls, but maybe they were lighter than the heavy snows that I had to put up with each winter. But I did think I was just fine the way I was, thank you very much. Those words, especially 'warm' and 'dry', haunted me. Maybe I would be chosen the next time.  


“Hey Joe! What about this one? Should we leave it? Doesn’t look like much more than firewood to me.”   

“Nope, we’re supposed to take everything. The boys at the Christmas tree stand can figure out what to do with it. We just cut’em.”  

The buzz of a chainsaw, a deafening sound in the snowy quietness, ended my life as I had known it for so long. Where there had been hundreds of us, evergreen trees of all shapes and sizes, a broad swath stretched through the ever dwindling forest. I was the last tree cut and then thrown, quite unceremoniously I might add, onto the top of the load of pines and spruce trees on what I know now is a flat bed truck.  

And now look at me. If you can. Down here, at the bottom of a pile of lush, soft green trees.All shapes and sizes of humans come in here pawing through us all. When their hands find me, always by accident, they think I am part of some other much handsomer tree. At first they’d pull at me and then let go in disgust when they saw how bent my branches were.

And the words I’ve heard!  
The very worst? “Firewood – that’s all it’s good for.” I heard that over and over! I never wanted to even singe! I just wanted to be warm and dry – not burned to ashes! After all I’ve gone through, I deserve a decorated life too.  

Then: “Well that’s a Charley Brown Christmas tree if I ever saw one.” And: “Someone will buy him – someone with no sense and not too many decorations."  

Another rudely said: “Our room is far too grand for that ugly old stump. I don’t even know why they’ve kept it in this lot.” 

The only good thing about being on the bottom of the heap was that at least I didn’t have nasty crows and filthy seagulls sitting on me when the humans were away. Occasionally some dog would have the audacity to sidle up to me, lift his leg and urinate on me! The best times were when a cat or another small furry creature would nestle into my thin branches. Then I did get a bit of warmth. 

Oh, I do wish these humans would just get on with it. These heaps and heaps of young trees piled on top of me are heavy!  Do today’s youngsters have no respect for their elders? I really don’t know why I thought it would be any different here away from the forest. After all that standing up to my branches in snow in the forest, my needles getting sopping wet in rain, and birds relieving themselves on my branches, I seem to be in the same fix here!  


Finally. I’m alone in the Christmas tree lot, lights still blinking over the sign that announced in big bold letters: ‘Fresh cut Christmas trees!’ Fresh!  Hmph! It seems like I’ve been lying here in this muck for a month. All the others have gone and here I am – cold and lonely, with my bare bottom exposed for all to see. Soggy branches on one side and drying up on top! My branches feel stiffer and colder with each incredibly slow day. Being fire wood is beginning to sound good. Oh, I do wish that child would stop crying. He’s dripping salt water all over me. He’s holding my top branch so tight he’s going to take all my few remaining needles off! ‘Get that kid away from me!’ There was no wind to make my branches talk, so my plea was merely a thought.

Then I heard a soft voice reminding me of home in the forest in springtime: “OK sweetie, he’s really not much! I don’t know what your dad’s going to think. You know what he said. He wanted a tall, bushy tree and this one is short and stumpy.” 

Then I was being picked up out of the muck. It felt so good to at last to have the dirty half melted snow shaken onto the ground.  I could hear my branches sigh with relief as the young mother tucked me in the back of the little family’s beat up old car.  My branches began to relax, and my crooked trunk lay on a soft blanket in the warmth of the old car. The little one was no longer crying, thank goodness. One chubby little hand stretched from the front seat to hold onto an unruly twig at my very top. In old car’s warmth, I suddenly felt like a real decorated Christmas tree. With the angel at my crown, and the spirit of Christmas aglow, we fell asleep together.

"The perfect Christmas tree, all Christmas trees are perfect."
~ Charles N. Barnard

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Book Review - The Invention of Wings

Discussion at book group this afternoon was lively and interesting about this novel by Sue Monk Kidd. The Invention of Wings is a many spirited work of fiction superbly crafted with wisdom, heartbreak and humour. History and historical figures are written in stories of slavery, abolition and the oppressive roles of women in the southern United States in the early 19th century. This fascinating book is inspired by the historical figure, Sarah Grimke. An abolitionist at heart from a young age after accidentally witnessing the whipping of a slave, she was frightened and appalled. At her 11th birthday, she was given a slave, Handful (Hetty), as a birthday present. Her attempt to free this slave was unsuccessful. The note for that freedom written in her own hand was torn up by her father whom she loved and respected. This detail of his 'betrayal' is not revealed until much later in the story and she believes that her mother has torn up the note. The story unfolds from there showing the trajectory of both Sarah's and Handful's lives over a thirty five year period. Brutal facts of slavery are laid out. The strictured world of women, in the north and the south, are woven throughout this novel. Sarah leaves her home in the south, travelling north with her father, and becomes acquainted with a Quaker family, where there is more freedom for women, however still patriarchal expectations. 

Handful, as a woman is a fictional character. History shows that Handful died at a young age, however Sue Monk Kidd developed the character of Handful in juxtaposition to Sarah Grimke. Sarah and Hetty (Handful) followed very different paths, each learning about their own desires and plans for freedom. They are reunited at the very end in a final burst for achieving their goals.

Voice also was a central theme throughout the book. Sarah had difficulty with her ability to voice  her opinions, often developing a stammer or literally being unable to speak. Handful had to learn to speak in two voices, the voice of a submissive slave and her own voice within her community.

Note: At the back of the book is a section separating history and fiction.

“My body might be a slave, but not my mind. 
For you, it’s the other way around.”
~ spoken by Handful to Sarah
Sue Monk Kidd, The Invention of Wings

Title: The Invention of Wings
Author: Sue Monk Kidd
Publisher: the Penguin Group (First published by Viking Penguin)
Publication Date: 2014
Format:   Hard cover
ISBN: 978-0-670-024780-6
Type:  Fiction

Monday, December 8, 2014


Butterflies ~
Little fragile spirits of free flight,
flutter through sunshine or shade.

Butterflies ~
Touch down lightly on flowers.
Lift off gracefully into the air.

Butterflies ~
Sense winds of change in the sky.
free fliers into a wide world.

“Just living is not enough,” said the butterfly, “one  
must have sunshine, freedom and a little flower.”
~ Hans Christian Andersen

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Parsing Carl Sandburg

The fog comes 
on little cat feet”

Did Carl Sandburg know 
about the spirit of sadness 
present for so many 
at this time of year?

It sits looking 
over harbour and city 
on silent haunches 
and then moves on.”

Sadness stills and swirls, 
watching glittering lights, 
hearing music silently 
and then gives way 
to contentment, peace and joy.

“Metaphors have a way of holding the most truth in the least space”
~ Orson Scott Card,  Alvin Journeyman