solstice memories

Katherine still loves her penguins

Trying to get used to this new editing page with its blocks and new steps I am having a difficult time… 🙁 But I must adapt to changes no matter how challenging this one is for me. It took me hours to create my last post but I will give it another go.

Today was a very emotional day for me. I took all the decorations off of the solstice tree, the best tree we’ve ever had. It was a Fraser fir. It smelled amazing! Its branches were strong enough to hold the glass bead garland my sister made for me years ago. I had such a good time decorating it with Tim, using all my white, silver and clear glass ornaments. A white skirt resembling snow. A white owl on top and a white fox curled up in the snow underneath it.

Katherine with the snow orb tree behind her

And while I was at it, I sorted through all the decorations I’ve been hoarding over the years and donated at least half of them. It’s funny when I think I’ve made so much progress simplifying my life and I still find object collections that have yet to be minimized. Now I have kept only the ones that truly “spark joy,” as Japanese decluttering author Marie Kondo teaches.

This holiday season was extra special for us. Nate & Shea haven’t been home to celebrate since they moved to Georgia in 2011, and Larisa & Dima were last here for the holidays in 2014. It was interesting how it worked out because we usually have our niece and her teenagers and my sister and her husband here for Christmas day but this year all of them couldn’t make it for one reason or another. We missed them!

It was wonderful having a house full of children again. I will especially remember the brisk winter walks we took. Also the first time Finn smiled at me, his whole face lighting up when he heard my voice, and holding my sleeping snuggle bug for hours… Getting two temporary PJ Masks tatoos from Katherine ~ Owlette is her favorite character from that show. She also introduced me to Puffin Rock, which has to be the most adorable children’s show ever. (It’s Irish but it can be seen on Netflix.) Katherine and I had some special moments together as she talks well enough to tell me about her life. I love listening to her observations. One time she darted down the stairs and exclaimed, “Grammy’s the best!” Talk about melting my heart…

Nate & Shea brought their nephews Julius and Dominic and they were sometimes here, too, when they weren’t visiting other Connecticut relatives, of which they have many! Julius, in his teens now, loved my meatloaf, which forever endeared me to him, and Dominic is so curious and active, he’s 10 after all, and interested in how families are related, cousins and all that. His main objective for this trip was to see snow for the first time. His chance came at 3 o’clock in the morning one day, and he was awakened to see flurries, but not the blizzard we were hoping for.

Dominic and Finn ~ Shea is Dominic’s aunt and Nate is Finn’s uncle. That makes them cousins, sort of, right?

Dominic and Katherine hit it off ~ it was fun to watch them interact and listen to their conversations. Nate, Shea and I took them to a holiday light fantasia which they both enjoyed very much.

One night Shea cooked us a lovely pork dinner, and another night Larisa cooked a chicken pie. Dima saved the day on Christmas when I suddenly realized I hadn’t even thought about dessert! All the stores were closed. He scrounged around in my pantry and was able to make some gluten-free chocolate-chip cookies, using a chocolate bar for the chips. It was great having Dima’s parents join us for that day, too. We all enjoyed the crazy gift basket tradition we have. Instead of exchanging presents we fill baskets with little items and take turns pawing through them to fish out whatever we’d like to take home with us. Some gag gifts, some treasures ~ it’s always fun.

And Nate helped Tim with his honey-do list. My pantry door stays closed now, the bathroom door no longer squeaks, the hole in the kitchen ceiling is patched and the dartboard is hung securely.

It was a wonderful two weeks!

green space

“The Younger Brother” by William-Adolphe Bouguereau

Teach the children. We don’t matter so much, but the children do. Show them daisies and the pale hepatica. Teach them the taste of sassafras and wintergreen. The lives of the blue sailors, mallow, sunbursts, the moccasin flowers. And the frisky ones — inkberry, lamb’s-quarters, blueberries. And the aromatic ones — rosemary, oregano. Give them peppermint to put in their pockets as they go to school. Give them the fields and the woods and the possibility of the world salvaged as they learn to love this green space they live in, its sticks and leaves and then the silent, beautiful blossoms.
~ Mary Oliver
(Upstream: Selected Essays)

baby boy!

Our new little grandson arrived yesterday afternoon! After an evening of trick-or-treating Larisa went into labor, only a few hours past her due date. She wound up having a Cesarean, but she and baby are all right. 8 lbs, 4 oz, 20.25 inches! When I was allowed into the recovery room he was already nursing contentedly. He has beautiful gray eyes, which I enjoyed gazing into as I rocked him. I’m in love.

And Tim got the best birthday present ever! A grandson born on his birthday!

joys may sometimes make a journey

Chinstrap penguins ~ Image source: AnimalSpot.net

The Things that never can come back, are several —
Childhood — some forms of Hope — the Dead —
Though Joys — like Men — may sometimes make a Journey —
And still abide —
We do not mourn for Traveler, or Sailor,
Their Routes are fair —
But think enlarged of all that they will tell us
Returning here —
“Here”! There are typic “Heres” —
Foretold Locations —
The Spirit does not stand —
Himself — at whatsoever Fathom
His Native Land —
~ Emily Dickinson
(The Poems of Emily Dickinson, #1564)

Goodbye, Old Year

mindfulness of gratitude

“Soup” by William-Adolphe Bouguereau

Practicing mindfulness of gratitude consistently leads to a direct experience of being connected to life and the realization that there is a larger context in which your personal story is unfolding. Being relieved of the endless wants and worries of your life’s drama, even temporarily, is liberating. Cultivating thankfulness for being part of life blossoms into a feeling of being blessed, not in the sense of winning the lottery, but in a more refined appreciation for the interdependent nature of life. It also elicits feelings of generosity, which create further joy. Gratitude can soften a heart that has become too guarded, and it builds the capacity for forgiveness, which creates the clarity of mind that is ideal for spiritual development.
~ Phillip Moffitt
(Yoga Journal, July-August 2002)

Happy Thanksgiving!

when your friends come by

“Dear Bird” by William-Adolphe Bouguereau

Got to keep it together when your friends come by
Always checking the weather but they want to know why
Even birds of a feather find it hard to fly
~ Aimee Mann
♫ (Goose Snow Cone) ♫

Today is the 26th anniversary of my mother’s death. The pain of loss has dulled somewhat over the years, but this year is a little different because my mom was 59 when she died and I am now 60. It just feels a little unsettling… One thing I still miss terribly is calling her and telling her what was new in my life and what her grandchildren were up to. She would have found this autism thing very interesting.

When I was in nursery school my behavior was different enough to prompt my parents to take me to a child psychologist for evaluation. Autism was not understood or even heard of in the 1960s. The psychologist told them I needed more attention from them. A few years later, when I got a stomach ulcer in elementary school the doctor told them I needed more emotional support from them. How I wish I could tell them now it was not their parenting that was the problem!

Currently I am reading a wonderful book, Writers on the Spectrum: How Autism & Asperger Syndrome Have Influenced Literary Writing by Julie Brown. It’s no secret that Emily Dickinson is my favorite poet and my jaw dropped to learn that she probably had autism and one whole chapter in this book is devoted to her. I found it interesting to learn how autism made so many of her poems indecipherable, although they no doubt made perfect sense to her.

The recurring practice of quoting from someone else’s literature in your own text resembles the echolalia that people with autism are known for. Some repeat words from movies, television, or other people because they are trying to understand the meaning of the words. Sometimes echolalia is an attempt to communicate with others — the words are tools borrowed to build meaning. Some repeat phrases for the sheer joy of it.
~ Julie Brown
(Writers on the Spectrum: How Autism & Asperger Syndrome Have Influenced Literary Writing)

A couple of things struck me in the above paragraph. My autism may be what drives me to collect and share quotations! I’m not sure I completely understand the definition of “echolalia” but my mother did tell me something that I think may be related. She could always tell when I made a new friend at school because I would come home with a different accent and different mannerisms, evidently copied from various classmates. It still happens to me when I spend a lot of time with someone, although I try not to do this.

So many things are making more sense these days…

fairy tale forest

“The Fairytale Forest” by Edvard Munch

All forests are one. … They are all echoes of the first forest that gave birth to Mystery when the world began.
~ Charles de Lint
(Pulphouse: The Hardback Magazine, Spring 1990)

The realm of fairy-story is wide and deep and high and filled with many things: all manner of beasts and birds are found there; shoreless seas and stars uncounted; beauty that is an enchantment, and an ever-present peril; both joy and sorrow as sharp as swords. In that realm a man may, perhaps, count himself fortunate to have wandered, but its very richness and strangeness tie the tongue of a traveler who would report them. And while he is there it is dangerous for him to ask too many questions, lest the gates should shut and the keys be lost.
~ J. R. R. Tolkien
(J. R. R. Tolkien’s Sanctifying Myth: Understanding Middle-earth)

subtle joy

7.24.16.3364
7.24.16 ~ Richmond, New Hampshire

In the woods, sitting still, there is subtle joy in listening to the tiniest sounds. There is delight in the textures of light.
~ Joan Tollifson
(Awake in the Heartland)

7.24.16.3381
7.24.16 ~ Richmond, New Hampshire

We, all of us — blue-green algae, galaxies, and bear grass, philosophers and clams — will some day dissipate into vibrating motes. In the end, all of natural creation is only sound and silence moving through space and time, like music.
~ Kathleen Dean Moore
(The Pine Island Paradox: Making Connections in a Disconnected World)

7.24.16.3421
7.24.16 ~ Richmond, New Hampshire

Logee’s

3.7.15.3655
3.7.15 ~ Danielson, Connecticut

The temple bell stops
but I still hear the sound
coming out of the flowers.
~ Matsuo Bashō
(Voices from Earth)

3.7.15.3592
3.7.15 ~ Danielson, Connecticut

There is an extraordinary place located in the quiet corner of Connecticut. My sister and I used to frequent Logee’s, a sprawl of greenhouses specializing in rare and tropical plants and fruit trees. But I think it’s been a good ten or twenty years since we’ve been there.

3.7.15.3595
3.7.15 ~ Danielson, Connecticut

Flowers and fruits are always fit presents; flowers, because they are a proud assertion that a ray of beauty outvalues all the utilities of the world. These gay natures contrast with the somewhat stern countenance of ordinary nature: they are like music heard out of a workhouse.
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
(Gifts)

3.7.15.3597
3.7.15 ~ Danielson, Connecticut

Back in February there was a discussion in the comments here about how nurseries in northern climates don’t open until it’s safe to start planting outdoors in the spring. For the first time in ages, this got me thinking about an exception to that rule, Logee’s, and I was delighted to find out that they are still open year round!

3.7.15.3606
3.7.15 ~ Danielson, Connecticut

The flower is the poetry of reproduction. It is an example of the eternal seductiveness of life.
~ Jean Giraudoux
(The Enchanted)

3.7.15.3608
3.7.15 ~ Danielson, Connecticut

Tim & I made a trip up there on Saturday and the place was still a perfect antidote to the cabin fever which has been plaguing us. Several linked greenhouses are stuffed from floor to ceiling with colorful, bright and cheerful tropical flowers! The aisles were so narrow that two people could not pass by each other or keep from brushing against some of the plants.

3.7.15.3642
3.7.15 ~ Danielson, Connecticut

3.7.15.3645
3.7.15 ~ Danielson, Connecticut

3.7.15.3649
3.7.15 ~ Danielson, Connecticut

Permission to take pictures was granted and I had a wonderful time shooting right and left, above and below, and at eye-level. An employee was on a step ladder picking fruit from an orange tree, answering questions while he worked. The stifling heat and humidity was a welcome change from the bitter and bone dry air outside.

3.7.15.3659
3.7.15 ~ Danielson, Connecticut

3.7.15.3662
3.7.15 ~ Danielson, Connecticut

3.7.15.3665
3.7.15 ~ Danielson, Connecticut

I perhaps owe having become a painter to flowers.
~ Claude Monet
(The Fantasy of Flowers)

3.7.15.3677
3.7.15 ~ Danielson, Connecticut

I came home with two impulse purchases, a climbing onion and a white Easter cactus. We’ll see how well I care for them. After a nice lunch at the Vanilla Bean Café, we went to see a movie, The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, and enjoyed it very much.

3.7.15.3685
3.7.15 ~ Danielson, Connecticut

Each flower is a soul opening out to nature.
~ Gerard de Nerval
(The Fantasy of Flowers)

3.7.15.3701
3.7.15 ~ Danielson, Connecticut

We noticed on the way home that the temperature outside had crept up to above freezing, just a smidgen! It’s time for the mounds of snow to start melting!

3.7.15.3709
3.7.15 ~ Danielson, Connecticut

What a nice day after being housebound for so long!

3.7.15.3740
3.7.15 ~ Danielson, Connecticut

To analyze the charms of flowers is like dissecting music; it is one of those things which it is far better to enjoy, than to attempt to fully understand.
~ Henry T. Tuckerman
(The Fantasy of Flowers)

3.7.15.3744
3.7.15 ~ Danielson, Connecticut