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!

Conor Pass (An Chonair)

2.3.18 ~ Conor Pass, Kerry, Ireland

Saturday morning Dima, Larisa, Katherine, Tim & I piled into a rented car and took off for the Dingle Peninsula on the west coast of Ireland. Larisa drove.

2.3.18 ~ Conor Pass, Kerry, Ireland

Going through the mountains of the peninsula we traveled on a one lane road and frequently had to pull to the side to squeeze by cars coming from the other direction. Had to remember to pull to the left because they drive on the left side of the road in Ireland. This took some getting used to.

2.3.18 ~ Conor Pass, Kerry, Ireland ~ Tim

We finally came to a rest area with parking and got out to take some pictures of the breathtaking scenery.

2.3.18 ~ Conor Pass, Kerry, Ireland

It was a grey, damp and chilly day.

2.3.18 ~ Conor Pass, Kerry, Ireland

2.3.18 ~ Conor Pass, Kerry, Ireland ~ mountain in the distance with snow cap

2.3.18 ~ Conor Pass, Kerry, Ireland ~ two cars squeezing by each other

And then we headed down to the town of Dingle where we found a place for lunch. The rest rooms were so cold! But the food was yummy and I learned what a standard breakfast in Ireland consisted of. (I ordered breakfast because they served it all day and with a wheat allergy it can be difficult to order a sandwich without bread.) Only one egg! Two huge pieces of ham, two huge links of sausage, and the option of adding on blood sausage (in addition to the regular sausage) which they call blood pudding.

2.3.18 ~ Conor Pass, Kerry, Ireland

While we were eating the sun came out and we decided to go to Coumeenoole Beach for the afternoon.

profound stillness

“Forest in the Winter” by Isaac Levitan

I love the deep silence of the midwinter woods. It is a stillness you can rest your whole weight against. Not the light silence of summer, constantly broken by the sound of leaves, bird-song, the scurry of little beasts, the hum of insects. This stillness is so profound you are sure it will hold and last.
~ Florence Page Jaques
(Snowshoe Country)

When I was a child I loved winter, still do. There were so many moments when time seemed to stand still. Outdoors playing in the swamp and in the woods behind our house. The magic of ice-skating between clumps of earth surrounded by ice in the swamp. At dusk. Sometimes there were snow flurries, too, adding a silent thrill to the spell.

Only now do I discern the concept of stillness. My life happens in a small city these days and I have been complaining to Tim about the racket the snow plows keep making in their ceaseless efforts to keep the roads and our parking spaces clear. I find myself craving to be away from the noise, to enjoy snow flurries out my window without the inevitable pandemonium.

Maybe I’m just cranky these days. A couple of days before my six-week surgery follow-up I came down with a bad cold. Tim had it for three days before I succumbed to it, so we have been very miserable together. As soon as I got the go-ahead from the surgeon to resume normal activities I was too sick to enjoy the freedom! And now that the cold is almost gone I will be going to see the radiation oncologist tomorrow to consult about the next round of treatment.

A few years ago I wrote this on one of my posts:  One early wordless memory I have is of lying on the cold winter ground in the woods and eyeing a little princess pine peeking through the snow. I was astonished at the connection I felt to the small precious life, and how thrilled I was to be aware of its presence!

One little princess pine in an endless sea of snow and trees. I thought of that moment once again when I read Florence Page Jaques’ words about “a stillness you can rest your whole weight against.” One little cancer survivor in the endless flow of here/now.

wishing for snow

2.22.15 ~ two years ago… Groton, Connecticut

It’s been three weeks (and two days) since Tim’s surgery and healing is coming along nicely, slowly and steadily, without any of the possible complications making an appearance. Visiting nurses continue to come three times a week to take measurements and change the wound dressing. Since we were told to expect a four to six week recovery time it looks like everything is going very well. Tim is comfortable in his recliner.

Sadly, while Tim was in the hospital his uncle died and then a couple of days after he got home his sister-in-law died. So many things at once…

We’ve only had one big snowstorm this January (the day after surgery so I couldn’t visit Tim that day) so I’m still waiting patiently for some snow. As long as it doesn’t come on a day when we are scheduled to visit the surgeon for follow-up appointments! The weather report indicates this spring-like weather pattern will give way to a more natural and snowy February. I do hope so!

different kinds of good weather

claudemonet-sandviken-norway
“Sandviken, Norway” by Claude Monet

Sunshine is delicious, rain is refreshing, wind braces us up, snow is exhilarating; there is really no such thing as bad weather, only different kinds of good weather.
~ John Ruskin
(Words of Wisdom: John Ruskin)

under-lighting

Early this morning we saw something beautiful that we had never seen before. Gulls flying overhead with the sun rays of dawn under-lighting their wings. It was as if they had shiny reflectors on the underside of their wings ~ breathtaking…

The patient (Tim) has had his last meal at his favorite restaurant and we’ve stocked up on clear liquids and chewing gum. Not looking forward to driving to the hospital in a snow storm tomorrow morning.

first snow

janetchui-firstsnow
“First Snow” by Janet Chui

Snow provokes responses that reach right back to childhood.
~ Andy Goldsworthy
(Midsummer Snowballs)

I am a book of snow,
a spacious hand, an open meadow,
a circle that waits,
I belong to the earth and its winter.
~ Pablo Neruda
(Winter Garden)