New Year's Eve

St Louis Storyteller Mary Garrett sent this to me today. A neat Happy New Year gift. I love it and want to share it with you.
Wouldn't you love to ride on this subway train and experience that art surprise.

Jim and I are spending a quiet evening at home nursing coughs and colds. With the wind chill at 0 degrees we are sitting near the fire and watching a movie. I hope its not too cold where Granny Sue and Larry are burning their New Year's Eve bonfire and sending all our 2008 troubles up in smoke. I feel a lightness of spirit knowing they are tossing mine into the flames.
Take a look at the bonfire waiting for a match.

Can't close this evening without remembering four people we've lost this year.


Jim's brother David

and two people who were gifts in my life and set me on my path in the arts.

Ron Haynie, a gifted painter and teacher, who never tired of talking about art and whose enthusiasm for painting inspired his students. I was fortunate to be his student at Dunbarton College and American University. I wrote about him in January.

Still Life by Ron Haynie

Marcia Sward, Director of Environmental Education at the Audubon Narutalist Society.
Marcia believed that stories could unlock kids' imaginations and foster their appreciation of the natural world. She gave me the opportunity to take stories to the schools under the ANS banner for five years. Marcia was a gracious, generous nd talented woman who left a legacy with everyone she met.



Jim and Ellouise - December 30, 1955
Assumption Catholic Church
Charlotte, NC

Does not seem like 53 years - to us.

But pictures don't lie - a lot has happened since that rainy morning in Charlotte.

For our 50th anniversary our family gathered for Christmas in Williamsburg. It was a grand week.


Breaking Up Christmas

Sitting at the computer this morning doing what I do so well - procrastinate - I excel at procrastination - especially when I have lots to do and deadlines riding up the back of my neck.

Anyway - there I was stalling - so I started surfing. I stopped by Blind Pig's and found this great idea. Not surprised it originates in North Carolina.

Don't miss the music video - on Blind Pig

And then tap into this great piece of Banjo Picking by a talented young guy that Granny Sue had on her blog. I am borrowing it becaue I really like it so much and hope you will too.



Three Beautiful Things

1. I spotted a bright splash of color on a gray day. Isn't this cardinal sitting in a bare limbed tree outside the library a sign of good luck ahead? Say yes, please. I am looking for all the encouragement I can get.

2. St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church in Gettysburg, Pa dressed for the holidays.

This plain room served as a hospital where both Union and Confederate soldiers were treated during the Battle of Gettysburg.

3. One of the best things about our place in PA is that it is close enough that Besty and I can have an afternoon together. A visit with my friend Betsy is always special. Talk is good. The light in the den - a room lined with windows over-looking our neighbors fields shifts from bright and golden to dimming and reddish as the sun goes down. It has not seemed that long. We know each other so well - a knowing we have cultivated and cared for since we were Girl Scouts together. Such a friend is a blessing and gift.

And look - she came bearing a gift - a wonderful surprise she for me - a gorgeous stool for storytelling - polished walnut with a hand painted decoration.

Personalized for me. It says - "Every story is worth telling."

I will treasure it.


Quiet in the Country

Jim and I are at our "retreat" in the PA country near Gettysburg. Its not a fancy place. There is not much land that is ours just a rim of green. But I tell you what we do have here - quiet. The televison is not hooked up. Ofcourse we have WiFi - that is a must so that we can surf and work.

Its the quiet that is palpable and that we love. It lets our minds wind down and focus. No wonder my friend Granny Sue is so productive - she elected her TV out a few years back. Think of it - a life without CNN "breaking news." I do love old movies - but we have plenty of those here - shelves of them in fact - so that we select our own entertainment.

This is the time of year to consider changes. I am.

Movie Recommendation: Last night our family group went to see Gran Torino, the new Clint Eastwood film. It was compelling and very satisfying storytelling. A movie with the local family was one of our Christmas presents - how lucky can we be! Time together, a good story - a gift that does not have to be taken care of or stored - it becomes a memory.

New calendars. I always use this week between Christmas and New Years to fill in a new calendar for the coming year. It also helps me "catch" things that are slipping. This afternoon it led me to book the flights for our California trip in February. I will be going out to tell stories at the Rogue Festival but more importantly we will have a good visit with Robin and her famiily.

This year I picked out calendars with Easter egg pastel colors for their covers so they don't get lost in the depths of my purse or tote bag. Finding a black calendar in the dark recesses of bags I carry sometimes leaves me looking a little mad - a desperate woman shaking and pawing into a fabric sack.

Book review. I think I will stack up all the books on my shelves that I thought I would read,
make choices of those I will read in 2009, and get rid of the others. Some nights I fall asleep making lists of which books have to go. Then next morning I weaken. I have books that have escaped the purge for more than twenty years. Ridiculous.


Time Out

Taking time out to think about this past year and to wonder about the year ahead


Time is infinite
Time is a canoe
Time is a winged dove
Time is desert silence
Time is the rumble of the oceans
Time is the showering rain droplet
It is the tremor of the heart
Time is the lingo of history
Time is an eternal test
A non stop journey is time
A ceased path is time
Time is life
Time is a flow
Time is death
Time is the opportune right
Time is a tide
Time is the breath
Time is invisible
Time is tangible
Time is a scene of beauty
The breath of an atom is time
The tune of an iota is time
Time is the play of life and death
Time is the envoy of peace and terror
There is no shore that the time has not touched
And no ray of light untouched by time
Time is the manifestation of the ancient Brahman
The modern interpretation of duty is time
Time is earthly and heaven
Time is eternal
Time is the river of life
Life is a journey
In the stream of time!



Merry Christmas, Happy Birthday Mama, Three Beautiful Things


Every time a hand reaches out
To help another....that is Christmas

Every time someone puts anger aside
And strives for understanding.
That is Christmas

Every time people forget their differences
And realize their love for each other.
That is Christmas

May this Christmas bring us
Closer to the spirit of human understanding .
Closer to the blessing of peace.
Author Unknown

Williamsburg Wreath
This is my favorite of the Williamsburg Wreaths I have posted - it is not necessarily the most beautiful wreath but I think its the most successful photograph.

Happy Birthday, Mama
In my family Christmas is a double birthday celebration - it's also my mother's birthday - something, that when I was a kid, struck me as amazing. We can't celebrate with Mama this year - I can't even call her - she died August 29 - so I decided that it was foolish to give up honoring her on her special day.

Mama was born on Christmas Day 1915. Last evening when our family gathered for Christmas Eve we lit three candles - she would have been 93 today - and sang Happy Birthday in her honor. It felt warm - it felt right.

A few years ago Mama told me a very sweet story about having a Christmas birthday. Her father Gus Keasler died when she was eighteen months old. Granny did not remarry until Mama was eight. Ellie Hall and Jack Baer were married on December 27th.

On Christmas morning Mama found a red bicycle under her Christmas tree from Daddy Jack.

"I was so thrilled. I could not believe it. When I rode it up and down the street outside the house I called to everybody I saw, I've got a daddy now! I've got a daddy now. It was my best Christmas.

I bet if you could ask Mama now to tell you about her favorite birthday she would tell you it was 3 years ago when as many us as could gathered to celebrate her 90th birthday.

Three Beautiful Things

1. Christmas Mass - the church is all dressed up to celebrate The Word Made Flesh.

2. Loving family - here and far. Good food, hugs, singing carols and talking on the phone.

3. Sunny skies during the day and later glorious colored lights brighten the darkenss.


Christmas Eve, Merry Christmas

Williamsburg Wreath - heavy with pomegranates, pinecones, and everything else available.
It's very early. Jim has a doctor's appointment downtown and we have to pick up Mama's birthday cake - so I will post more during the day.


Williamsburg Wreath

In case you are just stoping by for the first time or you've forgotten what I am doing on the blog for Advent I will remind you. Colonial Williamsburg is a favorite destination for Jim and me. I have a collection of photos I have taken when Williamsburg was decorated for Christmas. For December I will post a Williamsburg wreath every day as an Advent observanace.

When I started out saying I would post a Williamsburg Wreath everyday until Christmas I wondered if I would have enough photos to do it. I should not have worried. I will have a few left over. On Christmas day I will post my favorite of the bunch.

Sun Drawings Display for the Solstice

Wait. Stop. Before we move on I want to back-up with a post-script about the Winter Solstice.
Sunday Jim and I went to our friend Josephine's Open House to Welcome Back the Light. It was a gathering of friends with my long-time friend at the center of the warm and congenial crowd gathered at her house which is nestled in the woods.

She greeted her guests dressed as a woodland sprite - just the right note for a gathering to celebrate the beginning of the new year. An art historian, Josephine spent her days in the staid halls of academia until a few years ago. Now that she has retired she is exercising her playful side and its a joy to be with her.

When Josephine built her house she commissioned artist Janet Saad-Cook to create one of her Sun Drawings that would be seasonal - only responding to the Winter Solstice. So this is indeed a celebration of the return of the light - the sun drawings only dance on Josehines once a year.

A set of prisms drops from the ceiling. When the sunlight hits it
magical drawings appear on the white wall.
It is quite wonderful to see.
You can read more about the work of Janet Saad-Cooks
HERE. And there is a also display from Josephine's house.


Williamsburg Wreath, Giotto, Mama

Pomegranates and pinecones. The wreath is on the window of a colonial hat shop.

Madonna in Glory, Giotto, Italian

At least twenty years ago Mama made cross-stitch ornaments for all her families. I think she knew at the time she was making a special heirloom for her children. Its always been a treasure. This year it is even more precious.

I have been thinking about Mama a lot lately. Did I ever mention that Christmas Day is her birthday? We are going to celebrate it. I ordered her cake this morning.


Winter Solstice, Williamsburg Wreath,

Williamsburg Wreath

Since this wreath is facing into the sun it seems a good choice for December 21, the Winter Solstice.

Winter Solstice

My friend Josephine Withers is having an Open House mid-day to celebrate the Winter Solstice and Welcome Back the Light. Today marks the beginning to the New Year.

The 25 mile trek to Southern Prince George County to Josephine's will be a good time to read aloud to Jim Kate Dudding's story of New Grange and other tales from the passage tombs. I really love the way she can tease history into story.


New Grange and Winter Solstice

The highlight of our trip to Ireland a few years ago was a visit to New Grange, the centuries old passage tomb. On December 21 - the Winter Solstice - the rising sun sends a shaft of light through that square window over the entrance down the passageway to the heart of the tomb to the world of darkness.
If you are interested you can read about it and then watch a LIVE CAM of the event tomorrow - probably middle of the night for us.

Williamsburg Wreath

I have not forgotten about my Williamsburg Wreaths project - I just got distracted by noodling on Christmas memories from our family history.
Dipping into family memories on a theme, mining for stories, is like opening a favorite book, especially when you are looking for the sweet parts.
Our lives are our histories, our stories, and as much as I like to find stories in the here and now I also find it important to journey back - to make connections, to refresh sweet memories.

California Christmas Past - 2004 and 1974

This year Jim and I stayed home for the holidays. It feels strange. But it was a good decision. As it turns out Jim is having some medical issues and being close to home is the right place to be. None-the-less we are missing Robin and her family and we feel a bit off our normal.

Since Robin's oldest son, Jamie, was born seventeen years ago Jim and I have usually spent Christmas with Robin and Brad and their kids in California. First in sunny Southern California and then for the last seven year in Lafayette which is on the Oakland side of the San Francisco Bay.

Several times we celebrated Christmas Eve with Jimmy's family here and then flew out on Christmas Day, arriving in time to have Christmas Dinner on the West Coast. It was as close to bi-locating as we are likely to get.

Christmas 2004 Jim and I flew to Robin's a week before Christmas and our daughter Karen arrived in Lafayette several days before Christmas. I wrote about Christmas Past then too.

California Christmas Eve 1974
Around the dinner table at Robin's tonight, everyone was taking a turn telling something about a Christmas Past.

Brad talked of a memorable Illinois Christmas at his grandparents house. Jamie, Robin and Brad's oldest, begged the question, not sure that this year might not be the one he would talk about later.

When it was our daughter Karen's turn she laughed.
"Ofcourse I remember the year I got all the stuff."
She paused and then added,
" but there is the Christmas Eve we were out here, in Madera, at Grandma's and we went to Yosemite."

Jim and Robin and I nodded. "Oh, yes."

This is not our first California Christmas.

My husband is a California native. He went to medical school on the East Coast and ended up staying out there. Jim's father died in March 1974.

We came back to California with our three kids for Christmas that year so that all the family would be together. It was a wonderful reunion of aunts, uncles, and cousins as those anniversaries often are.

Christmas Eve dawned. All the resident families had chores to do and fixings to complete for the holiday. We were at loose ends and in some ways in the way.

Jim suggested we take our kids for their introduction to Yosemite - only a 90 minute drive away.

As we climbed toward the mountains we met snow. There were snow capped peaks ahead as we drove through lightly dusted hills and valleys.

We stopped for breakfast at a lodge near the entrance to Yosemite Park. The dining room had a cathedral ceiling and large windows framed breathtaking views of the snow capped mountain peaks.

A floor to ceiling grey stone fireplace dominated one end of the room. Standing near-by was a 20 foot evergreen tree. The top just missed the rough hewn ceiling rafters. The room was perfumed with a mixture of spruce and wood smoke. The thick farm pancakes and maple syrup were as perfect as the setting.

We entered Yosemite Park through a tunnel. As we emerged the monumental El Capitan
stood before us on the left.

Ahead on the right we saw a bright white streak against a sheer rock face where
Bridal Veil Falls was frozen solid.
We were all so awed that we spoke in the same hushed voices we use in church.

The air was cold and crisp and pure. The skies overhead were bright blue with an occasional white cloud floating by.

Ours was the only car at the vista point. And that was how it continued all day. We saw no more than three cars all day. We owned the park.

Deer grazed in snow covered clearings.
When we walked toward a creek we heard the rushing water before we saw
it tumbling over the rocks. At every twist in the road there was a new view of the white capped Sierra peaks that surround Yosemite Valley.
Half-dome dominates and is my favorite sight.

That was thirty years ago today - but I can see it as clearly as if it were yesterday.

How could we have known that we were capturing a timeless moment that would live for each of us - -

Today I think of it as the day we spent in the Presence of God -

and I am so grateful we shared it as a family.


Christmas Past 1957

Christmas 1957
682 Argyle Road, Brooklyn New York.

We moved to Brooklyn in July 1957 when Jim graduated from medical school and was assigned to Kings County Hospital in Brooklyn for ihis internship.

1957 was our first Christmas on-our-own. Jim and I were married December 30, 1955 and Jim came to Charlotte for that Christmas with my family. The next year Jimmy was one month old and we went to Charlotte for the holidays and for Jimmy's Baptism at Assumption Catholic Church, where Jim and I were married the year before.

We still have and prize a few of the fragile glass ornaments that we bought at Bargaintown USA - one of the pioneer warehouse-type operations in Brooklyn. The balls are decorated with silver glitter.

What was bright and shiny for years is now darkly tarnished by 50 years of being wrapped and un-wrapped with newspaper scraps.

In those days an intern's salary was laughable so we planned a very spare Christmas.
The single interns took the duty on Christmas so the married guys could spend the day with their families. It was a swap. Married guys worked New Years Eve. I was grateful and Jim would have hated missing being there for Jimmy's first Santa.

Santa brought Jimmy the noisy push toy he is holding and a classic small wagon of colored wooden blocks. By the time he had opened all the gifts for him sent from Califoria and North Carolina he was over-whelmed. Stopping only long enough to take a bite of the candy he found in his stocking. He was a happy kid, laughing and grinning all day.

We went to mid-morning Mass at St. Rose of Lima Church about a mile away and then drove over to the hospital for a sumptious traditional dinner which we could not have afforded at home and I had no clue how to cook.

Jim says he thinks we drove to Manhattan after eating, parked the car, took out the stroller for Jimmy and walked down Fifth Avenue to see the animated windows at Saks and then take in the monumental tree at Rockefeller Center.


Williamsburg Wreath, Madonna, Holiday Tips

Surprising combination - cotton and dried plant matierials.

Madonna and Child, Jan Muller

Holiday Tips

Yesterday while I was waiting for Jim to finish with his doctor's appoitment I enjoyed some blog visiting. I started with a stop at Granny Sue's.

On Granny Sue's blog you will find some lovely legends for the holidays. I particularly liked the story of the silver pine cones.

Then, just out of curiosity, I starting visiting some of the blogs she has listed on her side-bar.

Noble Pig has a great easy edible last minute gift suggestion, recipe and suggestions. It's easy and no-cooking. With wonderful pictures of the process for making Potato Soup Mix. Don't miss reading Cathy's profile and her one line aboutt the town she lives in. Now there is a story.

Another easy and delicious looking recips at Hidden Haven Homestead. Also with excellent pictures of how-to-do-it. And best of all - no cooking. While you read the recipe enjoy the music! Not your ususal Christmas Carol.


Williamsburg Wreath, Madonna Lactans and Three Beautiful Things

Bountiful Williamsburg Wreath with pineapple, pomegranates, shells, red peppers and tansy.

Madonna Lactans, Jan Van Eyck, mid 1300s

Three Beautiful Things

1. Smiles and happy eyes when children are listening to stories.

2. A long phone chat with a good friend.

3. Snuggling into a warm bed next to Jim.


Article Published, Williamsburg Wreath, 14C Madonna

The Elder Storytelling Place is rich with wonderful stories of life experiences written by the folks who lived them. December 17 my story about Mama, The Genealogist and the Traveler will be featured.
Read it HERE tomorrow.

The Williamsburg wreath for today.

Madonna and Child, Paolo di Giovanni Fei, Italian, circi 1370s


Arlington Wreaths

We made a family trek to Arlington National Cemetary to visit our daughter Gretchen for her anniversary. We have a family pass so the guard waved us through the gates. As we drove toward the turn for the Tomb of the Unknown the vista of white headstones and wreaths with red bows was a very touching sight.

When we began our regular visits to Arlington in 1964 this area was smooth green lawn. We have watched those greens gradually sprout these solemn white headstones. A vivid reminder of the state of the world.

Gretchen is holding a place for Jim and me on the left side of the amphitheater where the Tomb of the Unknown is located.
The cemetary workmen have not placed the wreaths in this section yet so we can leave our gifts. We still think of Gretchen as our red-haired three year old so we added the child's balloon to the potted plant.

Its not remembering that is hard - its the missing.

But once that feeling passes Arlington is a serenely quiet, beautiful and comforting place to visit.

Especially on such a warm and sunny afternooon as Sunday was - not the usual cold and blustery December afternoon.

We did not have time to walk up to watch the reverent and moving changing of the Guard at the Tomb of the Unknown which happens on the hour every hour day and night. But when we stopped at the Visitors Center on the way out we found that there is a live feed of the changing Guard set up in the lobby for those who do not have the time to take the bus to the amphitheater.

Ah, another plus from modern technology.


Williamsbrug Wreath, Van der Weyden Madonna,

Madonna, Rogier Van der Weyden.
A fine example of Northern Renaissance painting.

There is not a direct relationship between this painting and the wreath as far as their images but I am interested in how colors in the wreath and the painting complement each other. Reminds me of Art History classes at Dunbarton College where professors Nancy Cusick or Ron Haynie would put up two slides of art works which seemed totally different in every way and point out aesthetic similarities. Invariably they would include comparison questions on exams.

I always enjoyed the comparison challenges because they opened my eyes to see more than a first glance. For example as I look at these two I begin to see how circles are important to both as well as the use of delicate lines.


Williamsburg Wreath

Two for today. Strange combination - lemons and kumquats!

Special remembrance for our youngest daughter Gretchen Marie who died 44 years ago today - or was it just yesterday?


Wreaths Interrupted, Tea, A Holiday Moment

Wreaths Interrupted
My computer has been "acting up." Today I took it to Mr. Boon for a fix. He assures me he can restore it to health - it is not a crash. Thank goodness -but this does slow me up a bit - and temporarily interrupts my plan to publish a wreath a day. All my pictures are in the big brain - and now its not at home. Scary isn't it?

A Special Tea
Lately I have had to face up to it - I drink far too many Diet Cokes for my own good. The doctor shook her head, "Too much caffeine'. Cutting back is hard. I have been drinking hot water with a slice of lemon and a teaspoon of honey. Its different. I thought I could substitute Lipton's decaf tea bags- which I like. But a friend told me that also has caffeine.

I don't like Herbal Tea - or I thought I didn't until I tasted Harney's African Autumn when we were at the Williamsburg Storytelling Festival in September. Delicious. But after that I lost it. Until today.

When Jim was standing in a check-out line at Barnes and Noble he was scanning the temptations they place along the line- temptations for those last minute impulses. He waved to me to come over. There was a lovely "tea" stand and on the lower shelf lovely bronzed tin cans - Harney's African Autumn. Ahhhh. There are 30 silk bags filled with a lovely aromatic herbal mixture - smells good and tastes better. Try it. I bet you'll like it.

A Holiday Moment
While Jim was in line I was looking at the 50% off Christmas cards. Real beauties! I was tempted by a few but resisted. Then I saw the lovely box and lovelier cards that the woman next to me was fingering. It was the only box like it. I do susceptible to external packaging. I watched her hoping she would put down the box. She didn't. As she moved on a bit I said, " they are lovely. Nice choice." She smiled then surprised me by asking, "would you like them?"
"well, yes, but you have them and I know you will enjoy them." She thrust out her hand toward me. "You have them." I was startled. "No, they are yours." " I don't need them." Then I understood the plea in her eyes. "You mean I could save you that money." She nodded. We laughed. I accepted her gift.
At that moment a woman behind her who had over-heard our conversation handed my generous woman a box of the same cards. We all laughed. "Giive and you will receive."
A holiday moment.


Williamsburg Wreaths and Storytelling

In case you are just stoping by for the first time or you've forgotten what I am doing on he blog for Advent I will remind you..

As an artist I often work with a series to focus. For the month of December I am braiding three strands on this blog as a major focus: Christmas history and symbolism, Advent, and art history.

Colonial Williamsburg is a favorite destination for Jim and me. I have a collection of photos I have taken when Williamsburg was decorated for Christmas. For December I will post a Williamsburg wreath every day as an Advent observanace. I am also challenging myself to find a madonna painting I can relate to the wreath. Hope you enjoy them.

This morning we are off early for Easton, MD where I am telling a story in a performrs showcase. Easton is on the Eastern Shore of MD and I had looked forward to a day near water and the Chesapeake Bay. Guess what? Its gray and raining, Anyway that tells you why I am just saing "hello" for the moment and will post a new wreath later today. Hopefully I will also have a story.

Three Beautiful Things
1. A full day in Easton, MD participating in an Artist Showcase organized by Class Acts. A wide array of talent from musicians, puppeteers, dancers to storytellers. I was so delighted to be part of a storyteller line-up that included Dovie Thomason, Noa Baum, and Baba Jamal Koram. I told my version of Rooster Calls the Sun and it went over well. The day was well-organized with a full house for the entire day.

2. Our familiar house as we turned into the driveway after driving home in driving rain and fog.

3. The soaring steel girders of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge shrouded in swirling silver fog.