Tag Archives: Christmas

On The Fifth Day of Christmas

I snapped golden-colored photos of ornaments on the tree.  No partridges in a pear tree.

GlassAngelsm Angel1sm SnowBabyAngelsm

The more I use it, the more I like the Lensbaby. Taken with Lensbaby Composer Plus with Double Glass Optic.

Christmas Oratio by W.H. Auden

Christmas Oratio
by W. H. Auden

Well, so that is that.  Now we must dismantle the tree,
Putting the decorations back into their cardboard boxes —
Some have got broken — and carrying them up to the attic.
The holly and the mistletoe must be taken down and burnt,
And the children got ready for school.  There are enough
Left-overs to do, warmed-up, for the rest of the week —
Not that we have much appetite, having drunk such a lot,
Stayed up so late, attempted — quite unsuccessfully —
To love all of our relatives, and in general
Grossly overestimated our powers.  Once again
As in previous years we have seen the actual Vision and failed
To do more than entertain it as an agreeable
Possibility, once again we have sent Him away,
Begging though to remain His disobedient servant,
The promising child who cannot keep His word for long.
The Christmas Feast is already a fading memory,
And already the mind begins to be vaguely aware
Of an unpleasant whiff of apprehension at the thought
Of Lent and Good Friday which cannot, after all, now
Be very far off.  But, for the time being, here we all are,
Back in the moderate Aristotelian city
Of darning and the Eight-Fifteen, where Euclid’s geometry
And Newton’s mechanics would account for our experience,
And the kitchen table exists because I scrub it.
It seems to have shrunk during the holidays.  The streets
Are much narrower than we remembered; we had forgotten
The office was as depressing as this.  To those who have seen
The Child, however dimly, however incredulously,
The Time Being is, in a sense, the most trying time of all.
For the innocent children who whispered so excitedly
Outside the locked door where they knew the presents to be
Grew up when it opened.  Now, recollecting that moment
We can repress the joy, but the guilt remains conscious;
Remembering the stable where for once in our lives
Everything became a You and nothing was an It.
And craving the sensation but ignoring the cause,
We look round for something, no matter what, to inhibit
Our self-reflection, and the obvious thing for that purpose
Would be some great suffering.  So, once we have met the Son,
We are tempted ever after to pray to the Father;
“Lead us into temptation and evil for our sake.”
They will come, all right, don’t worry; probably in a form
That we do not expect, and certainly with a force
More dreadful than we can imagine.  In the meantime
There are bills to be paid, machines to keep in repair,
Irregular verbs to learn, the Time Being to redeem
From insignificance.  The happy morning is over,
The night of agony still to come; the time is noon:
When the Spirit must practice his scales of rejoicing
Without even a hostile audience, and the Soul endure
A silence that is neither for nor against her faith
that God’s Will will be done, That, in spite of her prayers,
God will cheat no one, not even the world of its triumph.


A Christmas Story

If you’ve never read Paul Auster’s Auggie Wren’s Christmas Story, or seen the movie Smoke, you should take a few minutes and do that today. It’s a Christmas story without Christmas trees or Santa Clauses or silly pop songs, but it’s all about giving.

You can listen to Auster read his story here.

You should definitely watch the movie Smoke too. Not only is it a wonderful film with outstanding performances by Harvey Keitel, William Hurt and Forrest Whitaker (and music by the extraordinary Tom Waits), it is all about love, loss, grief, dreams, writing, passion, forgiveness and kindness. It’s perfect for Christmas without saccharine.

An excerpt from the ending — the Christmas Story part.

My favorite scene in the movie: “You got to slow down.: http://youtu.be/JGV_h36uZ5E

Happy Christmas Eve


I know Christmas isn’t until tomorrow, but for many reasons — including that we’ve done it for years so it is a “tradition” — my family celebrates Christmas on Christmas Eve. A few more packages to wrap, dinner to cook, anticipating my son’s arrival at the airport in a few hours: there’s a busy, but happy, day ahead for me. For those of you who celebrate, have a wonderful holiday and remember what the Grinch learned: “It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags.”

For those who don’t celebrate, have a wonderful day whatever you’re doing. (And if you go to the movies, please let me know the winners and losers of the holiday movies!)

A few ramblings on Christmas Trees

Growing up, we were never allowed to put up the Christmas tree until after my father’s birthday which was a week before Christmas.  We sat slack-jawed at the trees in neighbors’ home that appeared before Thanksgiving Turkey had been digested.   If packages appeared underneath that tree, our jealousy was even greater.

Once, when my son was about 8, we bought a live tree on the way home from a late November soccer game.  It was a delightful sacrilege to inhale the pine aroma each morning and to sit in my darkened living room watching the tree lights twinkle.

I haven’t put up a tree yet this year, though I have managed to pull a few boxes out of storage already.  It may be up at the end of this week — just a few days before my father’s birthdate.   I wonder what he would think?   Perhaps, if he didn’t have to put up a tree or string lights on a house — two tasks he really did not like to do — he wouldn’t have minded so much.


My favorite thing about Christmas lights in looking at them in the dark.  If I remove my glasses, it is even better as the lights bend and blur in a dark sea of color.  This is much more fun with strands of color lights, but I prefer to decorate my tree with white lights.


Nothing beats the scent of a real tree.  Yet, I hate the idea of chopping down a perfectly good tree to stand in your living room for a few weeks at the end of the year.   Once you hang the lights and add ornaments and tinsel, there is nothing “natural” about the tree.   There is nothing “natural” about a tree in your house, unless it is after a sever storm and you really don’t want one then!  I’m sticking with my artificial tree, currently residing half-time in a box, the rest on the closet floor, in the basement.   Despite it only consisting of four pieces, I will still struggle to get them in the right arrangement that will allow for it to stand on its own.


The best artificial trees are ones that seem to have holes in them, just like those in the natural world.  Perhaps I just feel this way because every artificial tree I’ve owned as been less-than-perfect — and, thus,  looked very real.


Despite my Yule decorations looking like Charlie Brown’s, my favorite Christmas show of all time is How The Grinch Stole Christmas.  I memorized the poem in 5th grade, but my favorite parts of the show are not in Dr. Seuss’ original.   I will hum “You’re a mean one, MR. GRINCH”, as I wrap presents.   The incongruence of this just makes me smile.  “You’re a foul one, Mr. Grinch.  You’re a nasty wasty skunk. Your heart is full of unwashed socks. Your soul is full of gunk, Mr Grinch.  The three best words that best describe you, Are as follows, and I quote:  “Stink! Stank! Stunk! “


It is likely that I’ve read Robert Frost’s Christmas Trees previously, but I didn’t recall it when I read it this evening.   It is a lovely poem.   Like Frost, I wish that I could mail you a Christmas tree.


The city had withdrawn into itself
And left at last the country to the country;
When between whirls of snow not come to lie
And whirls of foliage not yet laid, there drove
A stranger to our yard, who looked the city,
Yet did in country fashion in that there
He sat and waited till he drew us out
A-buttoning coats to ask him who he was.
He proved to be the city come again
To look for something it had left behind
And could not do without and keep its Christmas.
He asked if I would sell my Christmas trees;
My woods—the young fir balsams like a place
Where houses all are churches and have spires.
I hadn’t thought of them as Christmas Trees.
I doubt if I was tempted for a moment
To sell them off their feet to go in cars
And leave the slope behind the house all bare,
Where the sun shines now no warmer than the moon.
I’d hate to have them know it if I was.
Yet more I’d hate to hold my trees except
As others hold theirs or refuse for them
Beyond the time of profitable growth,
The trial by market everything must come to.
I dallied so much with the thought of selling.
Then whether from mistaken courtesy
And fear of seeming short of speech, or whether
From hope of hearing good of what was mine,
I said, “There aren’t enough to be worth while.”
“I could soon tell how many they would cut,
You let me look them over.”

“You could look.
But don’t expect I’m going to let you have them.”
Pasture they spring in, some in clumps too close
That lop each other of boughs, but not a few
Quite solitary and having equal boughs
All round and round. The latter he nodded “Yes” to,
Or paused to say beneath some lovelier one,
With a buyer’s moderation, “That would do.”
I thought so too, but wasn’t there to say so.
We climbed the pasture on the south, crossed over,
And came down on the north.
He said, “A thousand.”

“A thousand Christmas trees!—at what apiece?”

He felt some need of softening that to me:
“A thousand trees would come to thirty dollars.”

Then I was certain I had never meant
To let him have them. Never show surprise!
But thirty dollars seemed so small beside
The extent of pasture I should strip, three cents
(For that was all they figured out apiece),
Three cents so small beside the dollar friends
I should be writing to within the hour
Would pay in cities for good trees like those,
Regular vestry-trees whole Sunday Schools
Could hang enough on to pick off enough.
A thousand Christmas trees I didn’t know I had!
Worth three cents more to give away than sell,
As may be shown by a simple calculation.
Too bad I couldn’t lay one in a letter.
I can’t help wishing I could send you one,
In wishing you herewith a Merry Christmas


When addressing family and friends – people who I know — I will typically say Merry Christmas unless I know that they do not celebrate it.  To everyone else, I will say Happy Holidays.   This is not some media-coerced attempt at Political Correctness.  I think it is politeness.   I don’t buy the Fox News malarkey (a word which I used before VP Biden did; thanks, Joe!) about a “war on Christmas”.   Explaining why I am NOT offended by someone happily wishing me a Happy Holiday would take an entire post, but I do not feel that I could state it as well as it is in this post:  Top Ten Reasons Christians Should Stop Whining About Secular XMas.    Regardless of how you feel on the topic, whether you are religious or not, Christian or Pagan or Jew or Atheist, you should read it.

For the record, I agree with every bit of it.

On the Third Day of Christmas

It rained.

Another world reflected in a drop of rain

And then, it snowed! (Not much, but enough to make me happy!)

Ice to Snow

iced Berry

White out, with Red Berry

Resting Rock with Snow

The old oak in snow

Snow on Garden Pot

As we dream by the fire....

There may not be a white Christmas here, but you can still look at “Snow”

Earlier this week, I found an amazing blog, Gwarlingo. As Michele Aldredge, the website’s creator, explains, “Gwarlingo” is Welsh for the rushing sound a grandfather clock makes before it chimes–-the movement before the moment. Gwarlingo’s purpose is to highlight inventive work in writing, performance, visual arts, film, and music, as well as to provide a place for creative people to connect, explore and share resources.

What a great idea! I love a clock’s gwarlingo sound: I never knew that there was a name for that moment of movement before the moment the clock sounds. Since I’ve tried earnestly in the last several months to be in the moment — including those moments before what one may be anticipating — I especially like that I have found Gwarlingo. It seems fitting.

Today, Michele shared this video, a sand animation by Corrie Francis Parks. Though there may not be a moon shining on new-fallen snow where you are tonight, take a few minutes before you settled down for a long winter’s nap to watch this and enjoy the moment, and all the moments of your day!

Snow from corrie francis parks on Vimeo.

Happy Holidays! Happy Saturday! Happy Day!

Who is Santa?

I posted this at Open Salon today.

When my son Ben was a toddler, there wasn’t much that his father and I agreed upon, but Santa was one of those things that I was willing to be non-partisan about. While there were never packages under the tree from Mr. Claus, I never told him that there wasn’t a Santa. None of the presents listed a ‘From’; they just were ‘To’.

This scheme worked fine until Ben was in Kindergarten. Although he went to a secular school — one that went to extremes not to mention Christmas or any religious traditions — he still found out about Jolly Ol’ St. Nick. One early December day, he came home from a visit with his father in tears. “Daddy says that Santa Claus is just some old guy in a cheap suit!”

Read the rest of this story on my Open Salon page.

A project

I love this scene from the movie Smoke (1995). What would you see in your world if you slowed down for just one minute everyday and looked at what is always there, but you don’t usually see?

Augie: It’s my project. What you’d call my “life’s work””.

It’s my corner, after all. I mean, it’s just one litle part of the world, but things take place there too, just like everywhere else. It’s a record of my little spot.

You’ll never get it if you don’t slow down, my friend.

Paul: What do you mean?

Augie: I mean you’re going too fast. You’re hardly looking at the pictures.

Paul: They’re all the same!

Augie: They’re all the same but each one is different from the other ones. You’ve got your bright mornings, and your dark mornings. You got your summer light and your autumn light. You got your weekdays and weekends. You got your people in overcoat and goloshes and you got your people in tee shirts and shorts. Sometimes the same people, sometimes different ones. Sometimes the different ones become the same ones and the same ones disappear. The earth revolves around the sun and every day the light from the sun hits the earth at a different angle.

Paul: Slow down, huh?

Augie: That’s what I recommend. You know how it is. Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow, time creeps on its petty pace.

And, since it’s the Christmas season, you can read Paul Auster’s Augie Wren’s Christmas Story, which is included in the movie Smoke, here. Or, you can listen to Auster read the story here.

>Christmas in Harmony

>Philip Gulley’s Christmas in Harmony isn’t the type of book that I usually read. I was convinced that I would hate it, but steeled myself to slog through this short book for a bookclub read. So, I was surprised that I found myself laughing aloud throughout the 80+ pages of this book.

This was my first venture in reading of the fictional town of Harmony and its lovable but flaky inhabitants that are gently ministered to by Pastor Sam Gardner. It’s almost Christmas when the story opens and the members of the Harmony Friends Meeting want to do something different for Christmas Eve services. Irascible and unpredictable, Dale Hinshaw is determined to have a progressive Nativity pageant — sort of like a progressive dinner, but without the cocktails, horsd’oerves, entree and dessert. In addition to the chaos of the crass rendition of a Nativity scene, Pastor Sam Gardner deals with children skeptical about Santa Claus, finding the perfect tree, arguing with his wife over the sending of greeting cards, an exploding truck, the loneliness and fears of his congregation, and with attempting to build an inclusive congregation in a church where the parishioners are wary of strangers. What ensues is funny, heartwarming, and charmingly descriptive of how people deal with changing traditions without losing the ‘true’ meaning of the Season.

The fictional town of Harmony is a nostalgic place, a sort of mid-western American Brigadoon. It is a nostalgia for a time and place that has never existed, but that we all at some time wished had. Harmony is a town that is befitting of its placename; despite the flaws and quarrels of its inhabitants, is a harmonious place of grace and forgiveness, where the reader ends up loving the characters in spite of their foibles.

This is a quick read that is perfect for someone looking for a short holiday-related book. It is a delightfully sentimental book that will put a smile on your face and make you want to hang some mistletoe and colored lights, although you might re-think the plastic creche set on the front lawn!

This is my first post for Carl’s holiday fun challenge.