hope

Tufted-titmouse ~ Image source: AnimalSpot.net

“Hope” is the thing with feathers —
That perches in the soul —
And sings the tune without the words —
And never stops — at all —

And sweetest — in the Gale — is heard —
And sore must be the storm —
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm —

I’ve heard it in the chillest land —
And on the strangest Sea —
Yet — never — in Extremity,
It asked a crumb — of me.

~ Emily Dickinson
(The Poems of Emily Dickinson, #314)

Welcoming Winter

a single evergreen sapling

helga_ancher_-_i_juledagene-_1919
“Helga Ancher Sitting by the Christmas Tree” by Anna Ancher

Even though the use of evergreens dates back to the Greeks and Romans, the use of the holiday tree is said to have originated in the eighth century Germany. Legend has it that the Christian St. Boniface was trying to convert a group of Druids. Try as he might, though, he couldn’t convince them that the oak tree was neither sacred nor invincible. In desperation, he finally cut one down. When the tree fell, it crushed everything in its path but a single evergreen sapling. Boniface declared it a miracle, then proclaimed that the fir tree belonged to the Christ-child. After that, trees were brought into homes as holiday decorations. It wasn’t until the sixteenth century, however, that the Germans thought to decorate the branches. Some historians say that the first ornaments — fruit, nuts, and cookies — were used as offerings to thank the spirit of the tree.
~ Dorothy Morrison
(Yule: A Celebration of Light & Warmth)

midsummer memories

6.21.09 ~ Storrs, Connecticut
the setting ~ 6.21.09 ~ Storrs, Connecticut

We had a midsummer party Saturday night, but the pictures I took did not come out well. So I’m going to “cheat” and use pictures from last year’s celebration, which will seem new to my readers because I didn’t have this blog back then…

This is the fourth year my sister and I have done this, and it keeps getting better. All year long we toss around ideas. We got started doing this, I think, because we are both nature lovers. And because we have a little Norwegian heritage and my sister once lived in Sweden for a year. Our adult kids have come to love it and look forward to it just as much as Christmas/Yule. This year we had 17 friends and family attending, a very nice size gathering.

In the first picture, my brother-in-law and Bernie pause for a moment before the decorating begins. The picture is taken from the front yard, looking down one story over tiered stone walls leading down to the side yard. My parents built this house themselves about 1960. My father built the stone walls after we moved in. My brother-in-law installed the patio much more recently for our midsummer parties. Last year my sister found some nice wooden folding chairs to replace the green plastic ones pictured here. Little improvements here and there…

6.21.09 ~ Storrs, Connecticut
woodland garden ~ 6.21.09 ~ Storrs, Connecticut

My brother-in-law does the gardening now. He doesn’t use chemicals or pesticides – it’s so naturally beautiful.

Last year we managed to get Dad outside for a little while. The year before that we actually got him to whittle some sticks down for the kids to use to roast marshmallows. But this year he was too fragile to jostle around across the lumpy terrain  in his wheelchair. I’m not even sure how aware he was that there was a party going on. I was hoping he would catch a whiff of his blooming chestnut tree (it didn’t bloom last year…) but he didn’t say anything about it. When I asked him about it he seemed so confused that I didn’t press him any more.

My sister, my daughter and I have been using pretty beads to decorate glass balls that hold floating candles. The effect is so enchanting after dark. Some of them shattered the first year we tried it, so now we’re using fishing line instead of wire to string the beads. The wires wouldn’t allow the glass to expand from the heat of the lighted candles. It’s hard to get good pictures of them, though!

6.21.09 ~ Storrs, Connecticut
gnomeland security ~ 6.21.09 ~ Storrs, Connecticut

The summer breeze was blowing on your face
Within your violet you treasure your summery words
And as the shiver from my neck down to my spine
Ignited me in daylight and nature in the garden

~ Van Morrison
♫ (In the Garden) ♫

Another highlight of the evening is the arrival of a bottle of frozen vodka! Preferably from Norway, but this year we settled on one from Iceland. We give it to my brother-in-law ahead of time and he freezes layers of flowers and water around the bottle. It’s so pretty to look at and then we drink shots using my sister’s cobalt blue glasses, which only come out of the corner cabinet twice a year!

And finally there is the fire. We roast marshmallows and make some-mores. Play with sparklers and glow sticks with the little ones. Blow weird bubbles with magic bubble wands. Swat at the mosquitoes that make it through the citronella and the smoke. We always say we’re going to stay up all night – it’s supposed to be one of the shortest of the year – and greet the morning sun, but we have never made it much past midnight. Following are some more pictures…

6.21.09 ~ Storrs, Connecticut
Dad’s beloved chestnut tree, all dressed up ~ 6.21.09 ~ Storrs, Connecticut
6.21.09 ~ Storrs, Connecticut
6.21.09 ~ Storrs, Connecticut
6.21.09 ~ Storrs, Connecticut
granddaughter and grandfather sharing a rare moment outside ~ 6.21.09 ~ Storrs, Connecticut
6.21.09 ~ Storrs, Connecticut
frozen vodka extraordinaire ~ 6.21.09 ~ Storrs, Connecticut
6.21.09 ~ Storrs, Connecticut
candlelight floating in decorated glass balls ~ 6.21.09 ~ Storrs, Connecticut
6.21.09 ~ Storrs, Connecticut
firelight ~ 6.21.09 ~ Storrs, Connecticut

mead moon

6.25.10 ~ Eastern Point
mead moon ~ 6.25.10 ~ Eastern Point

At 4:00 a.m. this morning a very loud, but very pretty, bird song awakened me. It was soon joined by many others, all adding their distinct tunes. Soon I will have to start boiling the beans that were soaking overnight… We are having a belated Midsummer bonfire/cookout up at Dad’s tonight. Belated so more people could make it, having it on the weekend.

Yesterday Tim took the day off of work so we could go to Dad’s to help my sister and brother-in-law with the preparations. We were about to do some food shopping so I called Auntie to see if she needed anything at the store. (Fiercely independent, she lives near Dad in an elderly housing complex.) She sounded terrible. She said she had fallen at 3:00 a.m. and that she was in a lot of pain. After I got off the phone with her I called her doctor and he was willing to see her in an hour. When we picked her up I asked why she didn’t call us and she said she couldn’t reach the phone at first. Then  asked her why she didn’t press the life alert button on her wrist? She forgot it was there. By the time we got to the doctor I was wondering which morning it was that she actually fell…

Fortunately the doctor examined her thoroughly and said that she had a cut on her elbow that did not need stitches, and that she was badly bruised head to toe on the left side of her body, but nothing was broken or dislocated. He suggested that she start using a cane. The attention and reassurance from the doctor had lifted her spirits considerably. We drove her to the medical pharmacy in the next town and she worried all the way that she would not find one short enough for her. But we did find one. Tim is a cheerful and pleasant problem solver and he made the selection process a treat. (Had no idea there could be so many options and features on a cane! Dad had used one for years, one that his own father had carved from a branch.)

Auntie was a little grumpy about having to use a cane now. But I pointed out to her that she had done very well getting to age 95 before needing any assistance at all with walking! She tried it out on the sidewalk leading to her “cottage.” The walk has a slight decline and she was very pleased that it kept her from pitching forward. Phew! Hopefully this will work out for her.

Back to food shopping, back to Dad’s. Getting very tired… Bernie wanted a walk so I took him while the others continued laboring away. Didn’t take the camera, but rather spent the time observing Bernie to see if I could figure out how he manages so well with his blindness. I think he has a detailed memory of the lay of the land because he never bumps into anything stationary, like a tree or a stone wall. But he often bumps into small twigs sticking up from the leaves, or plants that have popped up along his usual routes. My brother-in-law leaves a dish of water on a bench outside for Bernie’s convenience. Yesterday he had moved the bowl over and placed some potted plants he was transplanting on the bench. Bernie was distressed and disoriented because he couldn’t find his water bowl. My brother-in-law figured out what the problem was and redirected him to the other end of the bench.

We finally headed home, realizing we just weren’t going to get to the fun part, decorating, until today. Going to put the beans in the slow cooker and head out to my dad’s early and cook them up there while we decorate the garden and the trees. Dad’s beloved chestnut tree is blooming, the air is filled with its scent.

We followed a lovely big full moon all the way home! I also spotted three young deer on the other side of the highway, up on the edge of some rock outcrops. They weren’t so young that they had spots, but they weren’t full-grown. Maybe “teenagers.” I hope they weren’t thinking about crossing the interstate.

The moon was so pretty we went down to the beach to see it shining over the water. Took a picture, but because of the moon illusion the camera did not capture the hugeness of it perceived with our naked eyes.

6.25.10 ~ Jeff’s notecards

Came home and found that Jeff’s cards had arrived! They will serve as stunning invitations to next year’s summer solstice gathering… Who knows, maybe Jeff will create something wonderful we can use for our winter solstice gathering…

sultry midsummer

6.20.10 ~ Storrs, Connecticut
dewdrops of grape leaf ~ 6.20.10 ~ Storrs, Connecticut

Yesterday Bernie and I went for another walk… It was so clammy outside, though, that after he did his business he decided not to take his usual trek through the woods. All the greenery was drenched with moisture even though it was early afternoon. He headed for the fenced-in garden (to keep the deer out), a place I rarely enter.

6.20.10 ~ Storrs, Connecticut
Bernie meditating? ~ 6.20.10 ~ Storrs, Connecticut

Once inside the enclosure he sat very still by the fence for what seemed like an eternity. The sun was beating down on me and I was getting restless. So I began to suggest that we move on, but Bernie ignored me completely. I found a shady spot and took a peek into my brother-in-law’s little greenhouse. Bernie still hadn’t moved. So I ventured into the greenhouse to satisfy my curiosity…

6.20.10 ~ Storrs, Connecticut
inside the greenhouse ~ 6.20.10 ~ Storrs, Connecticut

After poking around I peeked outside and Bernie was still lost in contemplation. I sighed. It was so muggy! He looked over his shoulder and decided to move. Yea! But as soon as we left the garden he plopped down on a small spot of semi-shaded bare earth… This outing was so strange, he rarely sits or lies down when he’s outside! Maybe he’s grounding himself, I thought, and decided to lay down near him and annoy him by taking eye level pictures…

6.20.10 ~ Storrs, Connecticut
Bernie grounding? ~ 6.20.10 ~ Storrs, Connecticut

After this Bernie decided to go back inside, where my brother-in-law was installing the window mounted air conditioners. Phew! Even Dad was hot, and he’s “always” cold.

Dad and I watched a little opera on TV. The word “doge” popped up in the subtitles. “Doge?” asks Dad, so I reached for the dictionary. It might seem a little weird, but Dad and I both love etymology and looking things up is still a pleasure he can enjoy with my help.

(Doge = chief magistrate in the republics of Venice and Genoa, Latin and Italian)

When the opera was over we switched to golf. The ocean scenery at Pebble Beach made him recall the one time he stuck his toes in the Pacific Ocean. With the air conditioning now doing its job it was turning into a nice Father’s Day. Dad also told me about the one time he ever played golf. He was having a stroke of beginner’s luck when the guy who invited him to play got mad and quit the game.

Then we got a huge thunderstorm! I opened a door to see outside and took the picture below, which I’m guessing is mostly raindrops, but I think I see a couple of orbs in there, too. Or maybe they’re all orbs? The camera was not out in the rain. That will have to be a future blog.

6.20.10 ~ Storrs, Connecticut
orbs during thunderstorm ~ 6.20.10 ~ Storrs, Connecticut

Later, when it was time to go, I discovered a gift that Thor or Mother Nature left on my car.  🙂

6.20.10 ~ Storrs, Connecticut
after the thunderstorm ~ 6.20.10 ~ Storrs, Connecticut

Happy Midsummer!!!