Monday, December 31, 2007

Illuminate (Sloan Wainwright)

Each year, millions of eyes from all over the world are focused on the sparkling Waterford Crystal Times Square New Year's Eve Ball. At 11:59 p.m., the Ball begins its descent as millions of voices unite to count down the final seconds of the year, and celebrate the beginning of a new year full of hopes, challenges, changes and dreams.

2008 year marks the 100th birthday of the New Year’s Eve Ball, a universal symbol of celebration and renewal.

The actual notion of a ball "dropping" to signal the passage of time dates back long before New Year's Eve was ever celebrated in Times Square. The first "time-ball" was installed atop England's Royal Observatory at Greenwich in 1833. This ball would drop at one o'clock every afternoon, allowing the captains of nearby ships to precisely set their chronometers (a vital navigational instrument).

Around 150 public time-balls are believed to have been installed around the world after the success at Greenwich, though few survive and still work. The tradition is carried on today in places like the United States Naval Observatory in Washington, DC, where a time-ball descends from a flagpole at noon each day - and of course, once a year in Times Square, where it marks the stroke of midnight not for a few ships' captains, but for over one billion people watching worldwide.

More here...

Impossible to believe 2008 is right around the corner... a few scant hours away from a turn of the calendar page... or a replacement of the calendar altogether - in my kitchen, I'm segueing from Gnomes to Hearts... :-)

I'm working today - could be until my regular 5:30... or we could be released early (fingers crossed). When I leave here, I'll swing by Fresh Market and pick up a few filet mignons for my husband and me, which I'll serve later tonight with some baked potatoes, steamed vegetables and a decadent dessert. The champagne is bought, the jacuzzi is hot and the sky is clear (the better to watch neighborhood fireworks, my dear!) - need I say more?

Nothing like a deep and meaningful New Year's Eve kiss with one's significant other to put one's life in perspective - may the remainder of 2007 illuminate what deserves to be forgotten... and spotlight what is destined to be remembered... <3

SONG: Illuminate by Sloan Wainwright

BOOK: In the Light of the Moon: Thirteen Lunar Tales from Around the World Illuminating Life's Mysteries by Carolyn McVickar Edwards

POEM: The Passing of the Year by Robert W. Service

My glass is filled, my pipe is lit,
My den is all a cosy glow;
And snug before the fire I sit,
And wait to feel the old year go.
I dedicate to solemn thought
Amid my too-unthinking days,
This sober moment, sadly fraught
With much of blame, with little praise.

Old Year! upon the Stage of Time
You stand to bow your last adieu;
A moment, and the prompter's chime
Will ring the curtain down on you.
Your mien is sad, your step is slow;
You falter as a Sage in pain;
Yet turn, Old Year, before you go,
And face your audience again.

That sphinx-like face, remote, austere,
Let us all read, whate'er the cost:
O Maiden! why that bitter tear?
Is it for dear one you have lost?
Is it for fond illusion gone?
For trusted lover proved untrue?
O sweet girl-face, so sad, so wan
What hath the Old Year meant to you?

And you, O neighbour on my right
So sleek, so prosperously clad!
What see you in that aged wight
That makes your smile so gay and glad?
What opportunity unmissed?
What golden gain, what pride of place?
What splendid hope? O Optimist!
What read you in that withered face?

And You, deep shrinking in the gloom,
What find you in that filmy gaze?
What menace of a tragic doom?
What dark, condemning yesterdays?
What urge to crime, what evil done?
What cold, confronting shape of fear?
O haggard, haunted, hidden One
What see you in the dying year?

And so from face to face I flit,
The countless eyes that stare and stare;
Some are with approbation lit,
And some are shadowed with despair.
Some show a smile and some a frown;
Some joy and hope, some pain and woe:
Enough! Oh, ring the curtain down!
Old weary year! it's time to go.

My pipe is out, my glass is dry;
My fire is almost ashes too;
But once again, before you go,
And I prepare to meet the New:
Old Year! a parting word that's true,
For we've been comrades, you and I --
I thank God for each day of you;
There! bless you now! Old Year, good-bye!

QUOTE: "New Year's Eve is like every other night; there is no pause in the march of the universe, no breathless moment of silence among created things that the passage of another twelve months may be noted; and yet no man has quite the same thoughts this evening that come with the coming of darkness on other nights." ~ Hamilton Wright Mabie

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Same Old Lang Syne (Dan Fogelberg)

Dan left us on December 16 at 6:00 a.m. He fought a brave battle with cancer and died peacefully at home in Maine with his wife Jean at his side. His strength, dignity, and grace in the face of the daunting challenges of this disease were an inspiration to all who knew him.
More here...

I fell in love with Dan Fogelberg my freshman year of college (1972), when the album Home Free was released - first of all, I thought he was absolutely adorable... then I was captivated by the music. I was the first secretary of our newly-formed college radio station and was friends with many of the deejays - being a night owl even back then, I loved to visit Michael Styles (wonder whatever happened to him?) during his midnight to 3 a.m. shift... and would just pull albums off the shelves to hand to him, stating which track I wanted him to play... and he'd acquiesce. The River was the song that initially sparked my interest - I quickly grew to adore (and still do) Stars, Wysteria, To the Morning and... all of them really... :-)

Souvenirs came two years after that and, in 1975, Captured Angel... poignant because my then-boyfriend, soon-to-be husband had moved and we were carrying on a long-distance relationship - he and I listened to that album separately, together, for months, particularly Old Tennessee, which was the state in which he was residing... and it also mentioned Georgia, where I lived ("dear, I miss your fire so sweet").

I bought Netherlands but never really gave it the listen I'm sure it deserved - same with Phoenix, mostly because the song Longer was *so* overplayed. Was crazy about Twin Sons of Different Mothers and No Resemblance Whatsoever, both of which were collaborations with Tim Weisberg. The Innocent Age was the last album of his I bought, as much for Joni's contributions as anything - I see by his website there were many more to follow (my loss, I'm sure). I will, however, invest in the Christmas CD and make a point to play it each holiday, in memory of a very special singer-songwriter who was so much a part of my growing-up process - to quote one of his songs, "anyway I love you, more and more and more and more and more"...

Rest in Peace, Dan...

In 2007, we bade adieu to many special entertainers and artists -- some long-lived who exited peacefully at a ripe old age (Joey Bishop), and some taken shockingly in their prime (Anna Nicole Smith). Let us celebrate their talent and the many ways they touched us, as we remember them - more here...

SONG: Same Old Lang Syne by Dan Fogelberg

BOOK: New Year's Eve by Lisa Grunwald

POEM: The Old Year by John Clare

The Old Year's gone away
To nothingness and night:
We cannot find him all the day
Nor hear him in the night:
He left no footstep, mark or place
In either shade or sun:
The last year he'd a neighbour's face,
In this he's known by none.

All nothing everywhere:
Mists we on mornings see
Have more of substance when they're here
And more of form than he.
He was a friend by every fire,
In every cot and hall--
A guest to every heart's desire,
And now he's nought at all.

Old papers thrown away,
Old garments cast aside,
The talk of yesterday,
Are things identified;
But time once torn away
No voices can recall:
The eve of New Year's Day
Left the Old Year lost to all.

QUOTE: "For last year's words belong to last year's language and next year's words await another voice and to make an end is to make a beginning." ~ T.S. Eliot

Saturday, December 29, 2007

At the Turning of the Year (Herdman, Hills, Mangsen)

From Circle Round by Starhawk...

Yule is the ancient name for the Winter Solstice, the longest night and shortest day of the year. In northern climates, this is the darkest and coldest time of year. The sun seems to be weak, even dying and we fear the winter will last forever.

But just as soon as the Solstice passes, the days begin to grow longer again. The Solstice is a turning point in the wheel of the year when the sun symbolically dies and is reborn from the womb of the Goddess.

In our tradition, darkness is not something bad or something to fear. Of course we wouldn’t want the world to be dark all of the time----that’s why we’re so happy when the sun begins to return after the long nights winter. Light and dark must always be in balance. But we know that without the dark, nothing could live or grow. Without night, we would have no day, no chance to rest and sleep. We would have no dreams----and dreams are out gateway to the Otherworld. Babies develop in the darkness of their mothers’ wombs. Seeds must be put into the dark earth in order to send out roots and push up new shoots.

The countdown begins - may your 2008 sparkle with laughter, love and light!

At the Turning of the Year by Anne Hills

BOOK: The Night of Wishes by Michael Ende, Regina Kehn (Illustrator), Heike Schwarzbauer/Rick Takvorian (Translators)

POEM: The Shortest Day by Susan Cooper

And so the Shortest Day came and the year died
And everywhere down the centuries of the snow-white world
Came people singing, dancing,
To drive the dark away.

They lighted candles in the winter trees;
They hung their homes with evergreen;
They burned beseeching fires all night long
To keep the year alive.

And when the new year's sunshine blazed awake
They shouted, revelling.
Through all the frosty ages you can hear them
Echoing behind us - listen!

All the long echoes, sing the same delight,
This Shortest Day,
As promise wakens in the sleeping land:
They carol, feast, give thanks,

And dearly love their friends,
And hope for peace.
And now so do we, here, now,
This year and every year.

Welcome Yule!

QUOTE: "Time has no divisions to mark its passage, there is never a thunderstorm or blare of trumpets to announce the beginning of a new month or year. Even when a new century begins it is only we mortals who ring bells and fire off pistols." ~ Thomas Mann

Friday, December 28, 2007

Make It Home (Juliana Hatfield)

We're home... pulling into the driveway about 10:30 last night - it was a grand gathering, despite the hit-and-run aspect. I've spent the day doing laundry, finding homes for the many wonderful gifts we received and making lists so I can send out thank you notes tomorrow - tiredness combined with my need to put my house back in order combined with enjoying peace and quiet after the whirlwind trip finds me reluctant to type out a play-by-play... but rather highlights of our holiday trip. Sure was nice to sleep in my own bed last night, wonderful to have today off and know that weekend R&R looms as well - there's no place like home indeed... <3

~ savoring fluffy-in-the-middle, crispy-around-the-edges pancakes at Cracker Barrel on the way to South Carolina...

~ fostering the Christmas spirit with an abundance of holiday mixes, my own and friends', in the car...

~ watching home movies at my husband's sister's house, motivating me days later to ask for my mom's 8-mm film so I can transfer it to DVDs too...

~ appreciating reflections of holiday lights on the pond outside Dot's home, and toasting to her husband (my father-in-law, recently passed) on what would have been his 83rd birthday...

~ enjoying Christmas Eve dinner of Chinese food at my sister's...

~ reliving Christmas mornings with my own children through Julia's excitement at her own Santa presents...

~ picking up my aunt from the nursing home so she could spend the day with us...

~ receiving so many amazingly intuitive presents: a handmade purple tie-dye fleece blanket from my niece, a new Santa for my collection from my sister, a stunning pair of purple and silver earrings from my brother, an earring rack from my mom, the Once soundtrack from my daughter, Tom Brokaw's Boom! from my sons, pepper spray from my husband (he supports my independence but still worries about me... :-)

~ viewing Love Actually (with two Joni moments) with the clan much later in the evening...

~ motivating to my mom's the next day for a comforting fireplace, an informative and loving chat with her (and my siblings) about her health and a challenging Scrabble game (which I won!)...

~ piling back into the car Thursday morning for the 12-hour drive home, grateful for the time together, my children's terrific behavior and my husband's prioritizing of family, despite the chaotic circumstances...

~ Trip mantra: "it is what it is" - whatever it was, we adapted, we learned, we grew... <3

Still sleepwalking through her life,
I wrap her up
and we go through the snow that fell all night
and all through this Christmas morning:
her trainers barely denting the whitened lawn, her
two strides for every stride of mine.

Leaving her home
to the warmth of the house
I step back out, and see where my footprints turn
and walk through hers,
the other way—following the trail
of rabbit and deer into the unreachable silences of snow.

I can bring nothing of this back intact.
My face is smoke, my body water,
my tracks are made of snow.

The next morning is a dripping thaw, and winter
is gone from the grass—except for a line
of white marks going nowhere:
the stamped ellipses of impacted snow;
everything gone, leaving just this, this ghost-tread,
these wafer-thin footsteps of glass.

QUOTE: "For centuries men have kept an appointment with Christmas. Christmas means fellowship, feasting, giving and receiving, a time of good cheer, home." ~ W.J. Ronald Tucker

Friday, December 21, 2007

Footsteps of the Faithful (Dave Carter and Tracy Grammer)

Our family of five is leaving very late this evening for our South Carolina/Georgia jaunt... two days of driving, 5 days of visiting both my and my husband's family (various siblings, their spouses, our nieces and nephews, aunts, uncles, parents and grandparents) - it will be hectic, it will be exhausting, it will be loving...

Some traditions have been retired and others newly-begun - change isn't better or worse... it's just different. We've gracefully put our nuclear family needs on the proverbial back burner to pay tribute to "the big picture". Since we're the long-distance relatives, it only makes sense for us to venture northward, even if only once a year - conversations flow and comfortable silences abound, and we hug enough to last until the following year.

My sister Mari and I drink wine and listen to my latest holiday mix Christmas Eve while we're making the strada (which has to sit overnight) - it is always my husband's job to grate the cheese. My older children play with cousin Julia (M's daughter) - my brother Brad and my brother-in-law Bill talk sports, all the while my mom glows with love and appreciation that we are all under the same roof.

Julia will wake us up entirely too early to see if Santa has arrived (although, at 11, she's clued in) - presents will overflow from under the tree, and Mr. Claus will have gifted everyone as well. Sometimes he slips something into a stocking that the receipient is not expecting (like the gorgeous bracelet from my husband last year) - we ooh and ahh over each unwrapping, taking the time to cherish (just as the time was taken to choose the perfect gift).

The rituals with my husband's family are different, yet equally comforting - it will be especially difficult this year, considering his father's passing only a month or so ago...

Many things have not gotten done this year, and I'm reconciled to the fact - I'm working harder at taking better care of myself... which means I'm trying to get more sleep... which means I really miss those hours between midnight and 3 a.m. when I do my best work! Cards are late... but the love that remains in my heart for the endurance of friendship and family never wanes...

When I got home from work this evening, I passed out gifts to our four immediate neighboring houses - a group of boys came caroling, and the dog and I watched, listened and smiled... :-)

We're out of here in the next 10 minutes - much love to all and I'll be in touch when we get back in town... <3

SONG: Footsteps of the Faithful by Dave Carter

Southern Christmas Literary Classics of the Holidays by Judy Long, Thomas Payton (Editors)

POEM: Written on Christmas Eve, 1513 by Fra. Giovanni

I salute you. I am your friend,
and my love for you goes deep.
There is nothing I can give you which you have not.

But there is much, very much, that, while I cannot give it,
you can take. No heaven can come to us unless our hearts
find rest in it today. Take heaven!

No peace lies in the future which is not hidden
in this present little instant.
Take peace! The gloom of the world is but a shadow.

Behind it, yet within our reach, is joy.
There is radiance and glory in darkness,
could we but see. And to see, we have only to look.
I beseech you to look!

Life is so generous a giver.
But we, judging its gifts by their covering,
cast them away as ugly or heavy or hard.

Remove the covering, and you
will find beneath it a living splendor,

woven of love by wisdom, with power.
Welcome it, grasp it, and you touch

the angel's hand that brings it to you.

Everything we call a trial, a sorrow or a duty,
believe me, that angel's hand is there.
The gift is there and the wonder of

an overshadowing presence. Your joys, too,
be not content with them as joys.

They, too, conceal diviner gifts.

Life is so full of meaning and purpose,
so full of beauty beneath its covering,
that you will find earth but cloaks your heaven.
Courage then to claim it; that is all!
But courage you have, and the knowledge that we are
pilgrims together, wending through unknown country home.

And so, at this time, I greet you,
not quite as the world sends greetings,
but with profound esteem and with the prayer
that for you, now and forever,
the day breaks and shadows flee away.

QUOTE: "For centuries men have kept an appointment with Christmas. Christmas means fellowship, feasting, giving and receiving, a time of good cheer, home." ~ W.J. Ronald Tucker

Thursday, December 20, 2007

The Christians and the Pagans (Dar Williams)

The solstice when the Sun's position in the sky is at its greatest angular distance on the other side of the equatorial plane as the observer, is the winter solstice. Depending on the shift of the calendar, the event of the Winter solstice occurs sometime between December 20 and 23 each year in the Northern hemisphere, and between June 20 and 23 in the Southern Hemisphere, within either the shortest day or the longest night of the year. Though the Winter Solstice lasts an instant, the term is also used to refer to the full day and night (24hrs) within which the event occurs. A more accurate usage might be the "day of the winter solstice" or the "night of/before the winter solstice".

Winter Solstice is a controversial subject, since it is sometimes said to astronomically mark the beginning or middle of a hemisphere's Winter and so there is much argument about when it starts. Winter is a subjective term, so there is no scientifically established beginning or middle of winter but Winter Solstice is clearly defined.

The word solstice derives from Latin sol (Sun) and sistere (stand still), Winter Solstice meaning Sun stand still in winter.

Saturday, Dec. 22, 1:08 a.m. EST, marks the solstice this year - however, since we'll be on the road then, I wanted to honor the occasion (and Dar's phenomenal ability to blend the two belief systems) today...

BOOK: The Winter Solstice: The Sacred Traditions of Christmas by John Matthews

POEM: Toward the Winter Solstice by Timothy Steele

Although the roof is just a story high,
It dizzies me a little to look down.
I lariat-twirl the cord of Christmas lights
And cast it to the weeping birch’s crown;
A dowel into which I’ve screwed a hook
Enables me to reach, lift, drape, and twine
The cord among the boughs so that the bulbs
Will accent the tree’s elegant design.

Friends, passing home from work or shopping, pause
And call up commendations or critiques.
I make adjustments. Though a potpourri
Of Muslims, Christians, Buddhists, Jews, and Sikhs,
We all are conscious of the time of year;
We all enjoy its colorful displays
And keep some festival that mitigates
The dwindling warmth and compass of the days.

Some say that L.A. doesn’t suit the Yule,
But UPS vans now like magi make
Their present-laden rounds, while fallen leaves
Are gaily resurrected in their wake;
The desert lifts a full moon from the east
And issues a dry Santa Ana breeze,
And valets at chic restaurants will soon
Be tending flocks of cars and SUVs.

And as the neighborhoods sink into dusk
The fan palms scattered all across town stand
More calmly prominent, and this place seems
A vast oasis in the Holy Land.
This house might be a caravansary,
The tree a kind of cordial fountainhead
Of welcome, looped and decked with necklaces
And ceintures of green, yellow, blue, and red.

Some wonder if the star of Bethlehem
Occurred when Jupiter and Saturn crossed;
It’s comforting to look up from this roof
And feel that, while all changes, nothing’s lost,
To recollect that in antiquity
The winter solstice fell in Capricorn
And that, in the Orion Nebula,
From swirling gas, new stars are being born.

QUOTE: "I have always thought of Christmas time, when it has come round, as a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable time; the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys." ~ Charles Dickens

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

The Rebel Jesus (Jackson Browne)

Today is my son Robby's birthday - he is 23. Rob was born knowing how to draw - when other 4-year-olds were sketching people as "daddy long legs" figures (a circle with arms and legs attached), Rob's characters were so sophisticated such that they had motion lines under their hats (to show they were running!).

We've always said he'd be a lawyer, because he's argumentative... not in a negative, but in a push-the-boundaries, way - he questions everything, which I've always loved, never taking anything for granted. Even as a child, Rob was talkative, wearing his feelings on his sleeve and sharing his deepest thoughts at the least invitation - he continues to be sensitive, kind and smart... and I'm very blessed to have him as my son, my middle child, my heart. Happy Birthday, Rob!

Otherwise, craziness abounds in our household as we attempt to get out of town for almost a week - I've wanted to post more personal comments but, with limited time, I've had to prioritize... so just blogging daily has been an accomplishment. Maybe Friday - we shall see... :-)

The Rebel Jesus by Jackson Browne

Jesus in Blue Jeans: A Practical Guide to Everyday Spirituality by Laurie Beth Jones

POEM: Ring Out, Wild Bells by Alfred Lord Tennyson

Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,
The flying cloud, the frosty light;

The year is dying in the night;
Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.

Ring out the old, ring in the new,
Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.

Ring out the grief that saps the mind,
For those that here we see no more,
Ring out the feud of rich and poor,
Ring in redress to all mankind.

Ring out a slowly dying cause,
And ancient forms of party strife;
Ring in the nobler modes of life,
With sweeter manners, purer laws.

Ring out the want, the care the sin,
The faithless coldness of the times;
Ring out, ring out my mournful rhymes,
But ring the fuller minstrel in.

Ring out false pride in place and blood,
The civic slander and the spite;
Ring in the love of truth and right,
Ring in the common love of good.

Ring out old shapes of foul disease,
Ring out the narrowing lust of gold;
Ring out the thousand wars of old,
Ring in the thousand years of peace.

Ring in the valiant man and free,
The larger heart, the kindlier hand;
Ring out the darkness of the land,
Ring in the Christ that is to be.

QUOTE: "For the spirit of Christmas fulfills the greatest hunger of mankind." ~ Loring A. Schuler

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Mary and Joe (Darryl Purpose)

SONG: Mary and Joe by Darryl Purpose

BOOK: The Handmaid and the Carpenter by Elizabeth Berg

POEM: Joseph by Geoffrey Philp

He could feel the cold coming on:
flurries of snow melted on his beard.
First his toes, fingers, climbing up his head,
numbness branched across his shoulders,
sagging under the burden.

How many years would he be given with his son
to see the lilies of Capernaum bud, flower, wither,
die and be reborn under the unrelenting sun,
the steady flame by which his life had burned?

He snapped dry twigs under his feet,
turned to his young bride, asleep on the floor--
after all the struggles, so beautiful by the hearth.

Calmly, he stoked the coals, and the embers
greeted his hands, his prayer with a promise
that this warmth, like peace, would live as long as his desire.

QUOTE: "The message of Christmas is that the visible material world is bound to the invisible spiritual world." ~ Author Unknown

Monday, December 17, 2007

The Christmas Song (Dave Matthews)

SONG: The Christmas Song by Dave Matthews

"It's queer," she said; "I see the light
As plain as I beheld it then,
All silver-like and calm and bright ---
We've not had stars like that again!

"And she was such a gentle thing
To birth a baby in the cold.
The barn was dark and frightening ---
This new one's better than the old.

"I mind my eyes were full of tears,
For I was young, and quick distressed
But she was less than me in years
That held a son against her breast.

"I never saw a sweeter child ---
The little one, the darling one! ---
I mind I told her, when he smiled
You'd know he was his mother's son.

"It's queer that I should see them so ---
The time they came to Bethlehem
Was more than thirty years ago;
I've prayed that all is well with them."

QUOTE: "Fail not to call to mind, in the course of the twenty-fifth of this month, that the Divinest Heart that ever walked the earth was born on that day; and then smile and enjoy yourselves for the rest of it; for mirth is also of Heaven's making." ~ Leigh Hunt

Sunday, December 16, 2007

American Noel (Dave Carter)

SONG: American Noel by Dave Carter and Tracy Grammer

POEM: Christmas Poem by G.K. Chesterton

There fared a mother driven forth
Out of an inn to roam;
In the place where she was homeless
All men are at home.
The crazy stable close at hand,
With shaking timber and shifting sand,
Grew a stronger thing to abide and stand
Than the square stones of Rome.

For men are homesick in their homes,
And strangers under the sun,
And they lay their heads in a foreign land
Whenever the day is done.
Here we have battle and blazing eyes,
And chance and honour and high surprise,
But our homes are under miraculous skies
Where the yule tale was begun.

A child in a foul stable,
Where the beasts feed and foam;
Only where He was homeless
Are you and I at home;
We have hands that fashion and heads that know,
But our hearts we lost---how long ago!
In a place no chart nor ship can show
Under the sky's dome.

This world is wild as an old wife's tale,
And strange the plain things are,
The earth is enough and the air is enough
For our wonder and our war;
But our rest is as far as the fire-drake swings
And our peace is put in impossible things
Where clashed and thundered unthinkable wings
Round an incredible star.

To an open house in the evening
Home shall all men come,
To an older place than Eden
And a taller town than Rome.
To the end of the way of the wandering star,
To the things that cannot be and that are,
To the place where God was homeless
And all men are at home.

QUOTE: "There has been only one Christmas - the rest are anniversaries." ~ W.J. Cameron

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Before You Go (Richard Shindell)

This is the first Saturday I've had "off" (as in no major commitments/
obligations/events) in weeks and weeks and weeks - I'll spend it catching up on laundry and paperwork, as well as writing my holiday cards, ordering all my presents via (to be sent to my mom's house, where I'll wrap, using Publix green bags, upon our arrival Christmas Eve) and making a Holiday Mix CD, one of my very favorite parts of the season.

I've spoken before of my tape-now-CD-making ability... and each year, early- to mid-December finds me compiling songs I enjoyed listening to from holiday CDs the previous season - I then sit down with those piled around me, and "channel" the flow of the mix. One of my best, from 2005, begins with Joni's River and ends with Dar's The Christians and the Pagans, with lots of wonderfully creative songs in between - I do tend to choose the original, eclectic tunes over the standard traditional ones, as I appreciate a new retelling of the Reason for the Season... which ultimately is Love...

Below are links to some terrific internet radio stations, featuring much of the music that ends up on my mixes - enjoy!

Folk Alley Holiday Stream

Pandora Holiday Station

I particularly love the text of a holiday card I've sent in past years:

This holiday season, mend a quarrel. Seek out a forgotten friend. Dismiss suspicion, and replace it with trust. Write a love letter. Share some treasure. Give a soft answer. Offer encouragement. Manifest your loyalty in word and deed. Keep a promise. Find the time. Forgive an enemy. Listen. Apologize if you are wrong. Try to understand. Flout envy. Examine your demands on others. Think first of someone else. Appreciate. Be kind; be gentle. Laugh a little. Laugh a little more. Deserve confidence. Take up arms against malice. Decry complacency. Express your gratitude. Welcome a stranger. Gladden the heart of a child. Take pleasure in the beauty and wonder of the earth. Speak your love. Speak it again. Speak it still once again.

Before You Go by Richard Shindell

Love Came Down: Anglican Readings for Advent and Christmas by Christopher Webber (Editor)

POEM: A Hymn on the Nativity of My Savior by Ben Jonson

I sing the birth was born tonight,
The Author both of life and light;
The angels so did sound it,
And like the ravished shepherds said,
Who saw the light, and were afraid,
Yet searched, and true they found it.

The Son of God, the eternal King,
That did us all salvation bring,
And freed the soul from danger;
He whom the whole world could not take,
The Word, which heaven and earth did make,
Was now laid in a manger.

The Father's wisdom willed it so,
The Son's obedience knew no "No,"
Both wills were in one stature;
And as that wisdom had decreed,
The Word was now made Flesh indeed,
And took on Him our nature.

What comfort by Him do we win?
Who made Himself the Prince of sin,
To make us heirs of glory?
To see this Babe, all innocence,
A Martyr born in our defense,
Can man forget this story?

QUOTE: "Every time we love, every time we give, it's Christmas." ~ Dale Evans

Friday, December 14, 2007

Merry Christmas from the Family (Robert Earl Keen)

A favorite recipe of ours at the holiday - enjoy and cheers!

Tequila Christmas Cookies
1 cup of water
1 tsp baking soda
1 cup of sugar
1 tsp salt
1 cup of brown sugar
1 tbsp lemon juice
4 large eggs
1 cup of nuts
2 cups of dried fruit
1 bottle of Tequila

Sample the Tequila in a large glass to check quality. Take a large bowl, and check the Tequila again, to be sure it is of the Highest quality. Pour one level cup and drink.

Turn on the electric mixer. Beat one cup of butter in a large fluffy bowl. Add one teaspoon of sugar. Beat again. At this point, it's best to make sure the tequila is still ok, so try Another cup.

Turn off the mixerer thingy. Break 2 leggs and add to the bowl and chuck in the cup of dried fruit. Pick the frigging fruit and damm cup off the floor. Mix on the turner. If the fried druit gets stuck in the beaterers, just Pry it loose with a drewscriver.

Sample the tequila to check for tonsisticity.

Next, sift two cups of salt, or something. Check the Tequila.

Now shift the lemon juice and strain your nuts. Add one table. Add a spoon of sugar, or somefink. Whatever you can find.

Greash the oven. Turn the cake tin 360 degrees and try not to fall over. Don't forget to beat off the turner. Put the bowl through the window, finish off the booze and make sure to Put the dirty stove in the dishwasher.


SONG: Merry Christmas from the Family by Robert Earl Keen

BOOK: Holiday Cocktails: 50 Drinks to Celebrate the Season by Jessica Strand (Author), Laurie Frankel (Photographer)

POEM: Office Party by Phyllis McGinley

This holy night in open forum
Miss McIntosh, who handles Files,
Has lost one shoe and her decorum.
Stately, the frozen chairman smiles

On Media, desperately vocal.
Credit, though they have lost their hopes
Of edging toward an early Local,
Finger their bonus envelopes.

The glassy boys, the bursting girls
Of Copy, start a Conga clatter
To a swung carol. Limply curls
The final sandwich on the platter

Till hark! a herald Messenger
(Room 414) lifts up loudly
His quavering tenor. Salesmen stir
Libation for his Lily cup.

"Noel," he pipes, "Noel, Noel."
Some wag beats tempo with a ruler.
And the plump blonde from Personnel
Is sick behind the water cooler.

QUOTE: "There is a remarkable breakdown of taste and intelligence at Christmastime. Mature, responsible grown men wear neckties made of holly leaves and drink alcoholic beverages with raw egg yolks and cottage cheese in them." ~ P.J. O'Rourke

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Christmas is a Time for Giving (Nicolette Larson)

As I posted last week, this Christmas finds me decorating less and breathing more - for various reasons, there is less disposable income in our family these days, and I'm trying to find ways to cut back on the cost of presents while retaining the meaning of the holiday, as well as honoring the planet. Below are a number of links to "green" or political or free-trade products - I also bought 20 of these bags from my local Publix (a deal at $1.49 each) and, topped off with a festive ribbon or bow, will be using them to wrap this year's gifts (reduce, reuse, recycle... right?... :-)

UncommonGoods Gifts Made of Recycled Materials

TrueMajority Shop

A Greater Gift

National Organization for Women Holiday Store

Green Toys

Heifer International

Bibelot Fair Trade Gifts

P.S. From my friend Cathy's blog: Green shipping alternatives--Country Living, Dec 2007, pg. 24A. Use real peanuts, not styrofoam. Or wrapped peppermint candies, or scrunched up sheet music, or pinecones and greenery.

SONG: Christmas is a Time for Giving by Nicolette Larson

BOOK(S): Unplug the Christmas Machine: A Complete Guide to Putting Love and Joy Back into the Season by Jo Robinson, Jean C. Staeheli

The New Green Christmas: How to Make This and Every Holiday an Environmental Celebration by Evergreen Alliance

POEM: Prologue of the Earthly Paradise by William Morris

Of Heaven or Hell I have no power to sing,
I cannot ease the burden of your fears,
Or make quick-coming death a little thing,
Or bring again the pleasure of past years,
Nor for my words shall ye forget your tears,
Or hope again for aught that I can say,
The idle singer of an empty day.

But rather, when aweary of your mirth,
From full hearts still unsatisfied ye sigh,
And, feeling kindly unto all the earth,
Grudge every minute as it passes by,
Made the more mindful that the sweet days die—
—Remember me a little then I pray,
The idle singer of an empty day.

The heavy trouble, the bewildering care
That weighs us down who live and earn our bread,
These idle verses have no power to bear;
So let me sing of names remembered,
Because they, living not, can ne’er be dead,
Or long time take their memory quite away
From us poor singers of an empty day.

Dreamer of dreams, born out of my due time,
Why should I strive to set the crooked straight?
Let it suffice me that my murmuring rhyme
Beats with light wing against the ivory gate,
Telling a tale not too importunate
To those who in the sleepy region stay,
Lulled by the singer of an empty day.

Folk say, a wizard to a northern king
At Christmas-tide such wondrous things did show,
That through one window men beheld the spring,
And through another saw the summer glow,
And through a third the fruited vines a-row,
While still, unheard, but in its wonted way,
Piped the drear wind of that December day.

So with this Earthly Paradise it is,
If ye will read aright, and pardon me,
Who strive to build a shadowy isle of bliss
Midmost the beating of the steely sea,
Where tossed about all hearts of men must be;
Whose ravening monsters mighty men shall slay,
Not the poor singer of an empty day.

QUOTE: "Begin doing what you want to do now. We are not living in eternity. We have only this moment, sparkling like a star in our hand ­and melting like a snowflake. Let us use it before it is too late." ~ Marie Beyon Ray

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Christmas Needs Love to Be Christmas (as sung by Juice Newton)

I s*bscribe to the DailyOM e-newsletter, as does my friend M - she posted the one below on her blog yesterday but it was so appropriate for my theme today I'm using it here now (the cliche of "a day late and a dollar short" had to be written about me... :-)

Okay, rhetorical question but... how much do we love The Grinch... and his little dog Max?!? - it's a holiday staple!

December 11, 2007
What We Are Made Of
Choose Love

Love is often presented as the opposite of fear, but true love is not opposite anything. True love is far more powerful than any negative emotions, as it is the environment in which all things arise. Negative emotions are like sharks swimming in the ocean of love. All things beautiful and fearful, ugly and kind, powerful and small, come into existence, do their thing, and disappear within the context of this great ocean. At the same time, they are made of the very love in which they swim and can never be separated. We are made of this love and live our whole lives at one with it, whether we know it or not.

It is only the illusion that we are separate from this great love that causes us to believe that choosing anything other than love makes sense or is even possible. In the relative, dualistic world of positive and negative, darkness and light, male and female, we make choices and we learn from them. This is exactly what we are meant to be doing here on earth. Underlying these relative choices, though, is the choice to be conscious of what we are, which is love, or to be unconscious of it. When we choose to be conscious of it, we choose love.

We will still exist in the relative world of opposites and choices and cause and effect, and we will need to make our way here, but doing so with an awareness that we are all made of this love will enable us to be more playful, more joyful, more loving and wise, as we make our way. Ultimately, the choices we make will shed light on the love that makes us all one, enabling those who have forgotten to return to the source.

This world makes it easy to forget this great love, which is part of why we are here. We are here to remember and, when we forget to remember again, to choose love.

SONG: Christmas Needs Love to Be Christmas (as sung by Juice Newton)

BOOK: How the Grinch Stole Christmas - Anniversary Edition: A 50th Anniversary Retrospective by Dr. Seuss

POEM: My Daughter at 14: Christmas Dance by Maria Mazziotti Gillan

Panic in your face, you write questions
to ask him. When he arrives,
you are serene, your fear
unbetrayed. How unlike me you are.

After the dance,
I see your happiness; he holds
your hand. Though you barely speak,
your body pulses messages I can read

all too well. He kisses you goodnight,
his body moving toward yours, and yours
responding. I am frightened, guard my
tongue for fear my mother will pop out

of my mouth. "He is not shy." You giggle,
a little girl again, but you tell me he
kissed you on the dance floor. "Once?"
I ask. "No, a lot."

We ride through the rain-shining 1 A.M.
streets. I bite back words which long
to be said, knowing I must not shatter your
moment, fragile as a spun-glass bird,

you, the moment, poised on the edge of
flight, and I, on the ground, afraid.

QUOTE: "It is Christmas in the heart that puts Christmas in the air." ~ W.T. Ellis

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Light the Lamp (Emily Kurn)

SONG: Light the Lamp by Emily Kurn

POEM: The Feast of Lights by Emma Lazarus

Kindle the taper like the steadfast star
Ablaze on evening's forehead o'er the earth,
And add each night a lustre till afar
An eightfold splendor shine above thy hearth.
Clash, Israel, the cymbals, touch the lyre,
Blow the brass trumpet and the harsh-tongued horn;
Chant psalms of victory till the heart takes fire,
The Maccabean spirit leap new-born.

Remember how from wintry dawn till night,
Such songs were sung in Zion, when again
On the high altar flamed the sacred light,
And, purified from every Syrian stain,
The foam-white walls with golden shields were hung,
With crowns and silken spoils, and at the shrine,
Stood, midst their conqueror-tribe, five chieftains sprung
From one heroic stock, one seed divine.

Five branches grown from Mattathias' stem,
The Blessed John, the Keen-Eyed Jonathan,
Simon the fair, the Burst-of Spring, the Gem,
Eleazar, Help of-God; o'er all his clan
Judas the Lion-Prince, the Avenging Rod,
Towered in warrior-beauty, uncrowned king,
Armed with the breastplate and the sword of God,
Whose praise is: "He received the perishing."

They who had camped within the mountain-pass,
Couched on the rock, and tented neath the sky,
Who saw from Mizpah's heights the tangled grass
Choke the wide Temple-courts, the altar lie
Disfigured and polluted--who had flung
Their faces on the stones, and mourned aloud
And rent their garments, wailing with one tongue,
Crushed as a wind-swept bed of reeds is bowed,

Even they by one voice fired, one heart of flame,
Though broken reeds, had risen, and were men,
They rushed upon the spoiler and o'ercame,
Each arm for freedom had the strength of ten.
Now is their mourning into dancing turned,
Their sackcloth doffed for garments of delight,
Week-long the festive torches shall be burned,
Music and revelry wed day with night.

Still ours the dance, the feast, the glorious Psalm,
The mystic lights of emblem, and the Word.
Where is our Judas? Where our five-branched palm?
Where are the lion-warriors of the Lord?
Clash, Israel, the cymbals, touch the lyre,
Sound the brass trumpet and the harsh-tongued horn,
Chant hymns of victory till the heart take fire,
The Maccabean spirit leap new-born!

QUOTE: "Holiday gift suggestions: To your enemy, forgiveness. To an opponent, tolerance. To a friend, your heart. To a customer, service. To all, charity. To every child, a good example. To yourself, respect." ~ Oren Arnold

Monday, December 10, 2007

Are You Burning, Little Candle? (Jane Siberry)

SONG: Are You Burning, Little Candle? by Jane Siberry

POEM: The Coming of Light by Mark Strand

Even this late it happens:
the coming of love, the coming of light.
You wake and the candles are lit as if by themselves,
stars gather, dreams pour into your pillows,
sending up warm bouquets of air.
Even this late the bones of the body shine
and tomorrow's dust flares into breath.

QUOTE: "A Christmas candle is a lovely thing; it makes no noise at all, but softly gives itself away while quite unselfish it grows small." ~ Eva Logue

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Overjoyed (Christine Kane)

Given the New Year's Eve reference, I was planning to save this song for my December 31 blog - however, also given the fact the amazing Christine Kane played our concert series last night, the choice to use it today is obvious, even more so since the title so aptly describes my state of mind today!

As I've posted before, Christine and I have a history spanning back to February 2000 and it was such a pleasure to be able to present her - since she normally plays larger halls and festivals, it was both fortuitous and syncronistic that the timing and geography aligned to afford a South Florida performance. What was especially refreshing was finding out Christine has a substantial fanbase in the area, proved by the number of phone calls and e-mails I received inquiring about tickets and/or making reservations, some coming from as far as Stuart and even Alaska (long, cool story there) - we're always looking to widen the circle, and it's nice to hear when people accidentially stumble into, and are thrilled to discover, our local folk community.

We had a full house and Christine was her usual warm, wise and witty self... breaking our hearts with the tender songs (I'm with You, She Don't Like Roses), cracking us up with the wacky ones (No Such Thing As Girls Like That, Four Legs Good Two Legs Bad) and weaving them all together with her superb storytelling skills - she played all the requests, even honoring my own of Joni's Both Sides Now (after I read on her blog that she'd performed the cover at a concert a few months ago).

Loved the new tunes (I Am the Moon, The Real World) - How Not to Behave could be my new favorite Christine song, especially considering it contained a lyric that evoked my recent hard drive crash (AFGO - Another F*cking Growth Opportunity... :-)

After the show, we went to Peter Pan Diner, a local 24-hour diner/bakery/lounge (!) that provides great food (with a 20-page menu to choose from), as well as an avenue to people-watch - a salad/basket of onion rings/spinach omelet later, we headed back to my place where we continued our conversation and played with my dog Rocky (who adores Christine too!). Both of us were up by 9:00 and out of the house by 10:30 this morning, me to church and Christine to drive to Tarpon Springs for her house concert tonight.

On the way to church, driving in the opposite direction on the interstate for miles and miles and miles (95 south to 595 west was devoted to their exclusive use) were thousands of motorcycles participating in the 20th annual South Florida President's Council Christmas Toys in the Sun Run to benefit Joe DiMaggio Children's Hospital Foundation - after the emotion of last night's show, my sleep deprivation of the last four days and the idea that thousands of people were giving from their hearts and wallets in order to make this holiday more hopeful for others... well, I just got downright weepy.

I am such a lucky woman, to be surrounded by the music I love (and those who make it), dear friends and new acquaintances who appreciate the sharing and a community that reaffirms my faith in the goodness of people - one can never have too much joy in one's life... <3

POEM: Lute Music by Kenneth Rexroth

The Earth will be going on a long time
Before it finally freezes;
Men will be on it; they will take names,
Give their deeds reasons.
We will be here only
As chemical constituents—
A small franchise indeed.
Right now we have lives,
Corpuscles, Ambitions, Caresses,
Like everybody had once—

Here at the year's end, at the feast
Of birth, let us bring to each other
The gifts brought once west through deserts—
The precious metal of our mingled hair,
The frankincense of enraptured arms and legs,
The myrrh of desperate, invincible kisses—
Let us celebrate the daily
Recurrent nativity of love,
The endless epiphany of our fluent selves,
While the earth rolls away under us
Into unknown snows and summers,
Into untraveled spaces of the stars.

QUOTE: "Year's end is neither an end nor a beginning but a going on, with all the wisdom that experience can instill in us." ~ Hal Borland

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Christmas in the Ashram (Chris Rosser)

Two Santas from rival department stores walk into a bar and get into a fight. Fortunately, a comma and a period are in the same bar. They get together and separate the two Clauses.

Ba dum pum... or should I say pa rum pa pa pum?... :-)

SONG: Christmas in the Ashram by Chris Rosser

Lights of Winter: Winter Celebrations Around the World by Heather Conrad (Author), Deforest Walker (Illustrator)

POEM: Shoveling Snow With Buddha by Billy Collins

In the usual iconography of the temple or the local Wok
you would never see him doing such a thing,
tossing the dry snow over a mountain
of his bare, round shoulder,
his hair tied in a knot,
a model of concentration.

Sitting is more his speed, if that is the word
for what he does, or does not do.

Even the season is wrong for him.
In all his manifestations, is it not warm or slightly humid?
Is this not implied by his serene expression,
that smile so wide it wraps itself around the waist of the universe?

But here we are, working our way down the driveway,
one shovelful at a time.
We toss the light powder into the clear air.
We feel the cold mist on our faces.
And with every heave we disappear
and become lost to each other
in these sudden clouds of our own making,
these fountain-bursts of snow.

This is so much better than a sermon in church,
I say out loud, but Buddha keeps on shoveling.
This is the true religion, the religion of snow,
and sunlight and winter geese barking in the sky,
I say, but he is too busy to hear me.

He has thrown himself into shoveling snow
as if it were the purpose of existence,
as if the sign of a perfect life were a clear driveway
you could back the car down easily
and drive off into the vanities of the world
with a broken heater fan and a song on the radio.

All morning long we work side by side,
me with my commentary
and he inside his generous pocket of silence,
until the hour is nearly noon
and the snow is piled high all around us;
then, I hear him speak.

After this, he asks,
can we go inside and play cards?

Certainly, I reply, and I will heat some milk
and bring cups of hot chocolate to the table
while you shuffle the deck.
and our boots stand dripping by the door.

Aaah, says the Buddha, lifting his eyes
and leaning for a moment on his shovel
before he drives the thin blade again
deep into the glittering white snow.

QUOTE: "In the old days, it was not called the Holiday Season; the Christians called it 'Christmas' and went to church; the Jews called it 'Hanukkah' and went to synagogue; the atheists went to parties and drank. People passing each other on the street would say 'Merry Christmas!' or 'Happy Hanukkah!' or (to the atheists) 'Look out for the wall!' " ~ Dave Barry