Saturday, December 31, 2011


My feeling about New Year's Eve has long been "Been there done that."  Never liked it.   I'd attend parties more as an obligation, or as a way to not feel isolated and pathetic. Many New Year's Eves I spent watching TV and washing my hair.

One notable exception was a year in which I'd undergone a break-up in the fall. That year (1991?  Not even sure!), I forced myself to go to a dance, and, what's more, I decided I could not leave the dance until I had danced with 7 guys. Any adult male counted, but I had to stay until 7 different men had filled spots in my mental dance card. I did it. It took until 2AM, but that also was a good thing. Getting home too early seemed only marginally better than staying home altogether.

I really am just as susceptible as anyone, to the symbolic "fresh new year" thing, though I'd be more inclined to say that the year turns at the solstice.  I've weakly made resolutions, then quit making real ones and made spoof ones, and now I skip it.  Every day is a chance to do my best and some days I do and some days I don't.  That's not likely to change.

I'm blessed with a spouse who's not into New Year's Eve either and we spend a quiet evening. We have to stay awake because the Traditional New Year Phone Calls come in from the kids and sometimes other kin, so going to bed only to be jarred awake by the phone is worse than the tiredness.

I also took some last-day-of-the-year photos today, so here are a few photos of the environs this afternoon:
Camellias starting to bloom
It's camellia season --  they will be loaded with blooms in a couple weeks.

Tiny garden spider babies recently hatched

We fear for these baby garden spiders.  They hatched too soon, but their mom laid the egg sac awfully early and the extended warm weather brought them out.  Even at 16x zoom with camera braced against the porch wall, the photo isn't too clear, but there they are. 

And they're fascinating.  In the picture below, you see this same bunch -- top-center -- with the egg sac that they left, back there in the corner above the door.  They move in a group and are actually not on the ceiling but suspended just underneath it in a group web.
Baby spiders in cluster - top center

Wild grape vines, finished for the year

Annual autumn sea oat wash-in
Every fall,  the sea oats die back and lots of them float in on the tide and get stranded.  I was delighted that this picture really shows the way they get suspended on top of the vegetation.  I'd tried many times to capture that with other cameras!

Scooter accompanied me on my photo shoot.  He makes a nice closing shot.  Happy flip of the calendar, everybody!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas morning

About 8:30 AM, 12-25-2011

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas Eve - from Beyond Sing the Woods

Beyond Sing the Woods (and its sequel, The Wind from the Mountains) are the saga of the Björndal family from about 1760 to 1826.  The books were published in the US in 1936 and 1937 -- and it's odd that they haven't come back into print, while so much else from the bad to the good-but-obscure has, in this digital age.

From these novels, I am posting TWO Christmas descriptions tonight --- but the other excerpt is on the book blog, so go here to read another one.

Here is Christmas in about 1809(?) from the first novel, Beyond Sing the Woods:


There was an old custom at Björndal by which all the gaard ate together on Christmas Eve.  In earlier days the old living room had been big enough, but so many more people now lived at the manor that it had grown too small, and for twenty years now the Christmas meal had been spread in the sal.  This had been built for feasts in the days when the rococo style still lived and laughed in the northern countries.

There were chairs enough for all, and handsome they were for the most part.  Some were from Holland, some from England, and some had been made at Björndal by Jörn Mangfoldig.  They were not alike for they dated from widely different times.  The finest had high backs and were upholstered in yellow leather and of these there were eighteen.

There must have been parties in that room before, with dancing and music;  but long since, thought Adelaide, for tonight it looked very solemn.  The candles hanging from the ceiling were unlit.  All the light there was came from the table--from the holy Christmas candles.  There they stood in straight lines in sticks of silver, brass, and iron.  In the middle of the table stood the candle of the Three Kings in a stick of heavy silver, and before it lay the Bible flanked with two tall wax candles as in church.

Adelaide did not take in much of all this, but the solemnity of the hour stole into her.  It was very quiet in the hall among all those many people.

Glasses were filled with spirit and ale, and the food was brought and set upon the table.

Then Old Dag read the Christmas text as in all years.  Hands were folded and heads bent in silence.  Major Barre, the tough old soldier, laid first his left hand upon his right, and then his right hand upon his left--then he, too, folded them together.  Adelaide's eyes stole round to Young Dag sitting at her side.  His hands were clenched together, iron within iron;  he was leaning a little forward over the table, and his head was bent as though listening to something far away.

Old Dag's voice carried the words of the Scripture firmly and gravely out into the room, and the sputter of the candles as the flames flickered was the only other sound.  The air was heavy with food, candles, ceremony and newly-washed people.  Adelaide was conscious of all this, as she sat beside him she wished to be beside, and the happy spirit of Christmas and festival penetrated her as never before.  The Bible images of shepherds, star, stable and manger and Kings from the Orient passed living through her mind as in her happy childhood.

Those at the table who had lived at Björndal for some years--and there were many--looked in surprise at Old Dag this evening.  His voice was strange and fuller of meaning than ever before.  He shut the Bible with slow dignity and said Amen;  there followed creaks from chairs and breathings from people as all began to eat.

When all had had their first taste of meat, Old Dag took his glass in his hand and surveyed them all.

"There is much to be remembered on this evening," he began, "much good from the long year which is past."  Every man should therefore thank Him who governs all, he said, and he himself gave thanks especially because he still had health to see them gathered about him once more.  Then he wished God's peace on the house and upon all, and with this was given the signal for them to take up their glasses.

Adelaide peeped stealthily out from beneath her lashes, and fixed these pictures in her memory.  She had never thought to sit down at meat with so many sorts of people.

Nearest the door sat mostly vagrants, some very white-haired, shaky old fellows among them.  Some had furtive eyes and bent heads, others sent sly or greedy glances at the food, and ate as if never to eat again.  Life has been hard for them, thought Adelaide;  they have had but little food in their time.  And she thought kindly of all she saw.

There were many and varied people at Björndal and all had their places at this table.  There was Stygg-Hans and Espen Fillehaug and Ruske-Per and Lang-Ola and Stum Jens and Anette Paasa--these and many others who could work no longer.  Then there were some among them who could still use their hands, such as Jörn Mangfoldig who was once so skilled at carpentry.  Now his eyes were dim and his hand shaky, but he still had work to do mending things, he imagined, and he had his safe home at Björndal until the end of his days.  He was one of those who had Dag's cast-off clothes, so he was finely dressed for the party.

Here and there all around the table were those who were young and strong, like Syver and the other grooms, and there were wild young people among them, but at this table they behaved themselves.  People from the woods were here too, and Martin Hogger himself, the most powerful tree-feller in the forest.

Chairs scraped and shoes shuffled when every one left the table.  Each in his turn, according to his station, walked past Old Dag and shook hands to thank him for the meal and wish him a happy Christmas.  The old man took each one's hand with special warmth this year.  Then chairs were shifted back against the wall, the table was cleared, and all went back to their own quarters about the gaard.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Christmas rudeness

I've been waffling about posting this for 5 years.  Seriously.  It has sat in draft mode since December 2006, while I worried about whether it was too mean and snarky, too ill-timed, always too-something-or-other.  Apologies.  I want the yearly "Should I post it?"  dilemma to go away, so here it is.

I wrote it to vent my frustration, back when very dear relatives were sending me the most godawful glurge emails ever.  Though I was tempted, I never actually emailed this spoof back out to them in response.  It's been so long that long-form glurge is really a thing of the past.  It lives on in short form as Facebook posts  ("If you don't copy and post this as your status, then you do not love - [your spouse, your kid, Jesus, America]!!  C'mon folks, who's with me?!").

But meanwhile, 5 years is a long time to leave an unposted draft in the queue, and I'm tired of looking at it every December and wondering, "Should I ....? Nah, let me think it over a little longer."  Lemme just "publish" and get it over with...

•*¨`*•. ☆ .•*¨`*•

Once there was an elderly shopkeeper. One snowy Christmas Eve he was closing up for the night when a little boy and a woman came to the door.

"Please!" begged the little boy. "Have you seen a puppy?"

"Why no, son," answered the old man. "I haven't seen any puppies. Have you lost one?"

The boy looked very sad. "He was my Christmas present. I told mom I wanted a puppy more than anything in the whole world, and she got me one, but he's missing! Somebody mighta stole him!"

The boy's mother finally spoke up. "Timmy, why don't you go check the alley in the back. Mister, is it OK for him to go to your back door and check the alley there?"

"Certainly, young man. Right through there." The man pointed.

"Say, that's a swell idea!" said Timmy and headed for the back door.

When he was out of hearing the woman said to the old man, "Please, mister! There was never any puppy. We can't afford one, but Timmy wanted one so much, I told him that the puppy was stolen, so he'd think I could give him his heart's desire. Please go along with it so he will think I got him a puppy!"

"Of course," said the old man.

Just then, Timmy came back in the front, looking glum. "I didn't see him in the alley."

The old man looked down and said, "Timmy, there's something I have to tell you. I cooked your puppy and ate him for dinner. I'm very poor and I thought he was a stray that had no one to care about him. I'm so sorry."

Timmy screamed and burst into tears. His mother looked at the man in horror and then she knelt down and held her son. "Timmy that's not true!  Nobody cooked your puppy!  There never was any puppy!  I couldn't afford one, so I told you he was stolen!  I didn't mean to hurt you."

Timmy wiped his eyes and said, "That was mean!" and went out to the car.

His mother said to the man, "How could you say that to him?!"

The old man answered, "I bet you never lie to your kid again." Then he went home and brewed up a nice cup of spicy Christmas tea.


Monday, December 05, 2011

Daer Episcopal church - yur doin it rong

You can't be more tired of my rants about the division in the Episcopal Church than I am, but this may be the last one, because they've, pretty much, cut the baby in half, and it's not really my issue anymore except in being there for my dad. He gets around fine by day but doesn't drive at night, so I accompanied him and endured a meeting about this a few nights ago.  It wasn't fun.

Most of the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina is on the conservative Anglican side of the debate.  Not just the churches, but the Bishop of SC his very own self, who's distancing the diocese from the national policies. 
(For clarity here's the deal:

Technically, all sides, Episcopalians and Anglicans are ... Anglicans.  It's all part of the worldwide Anglican Communion, but the views of its various offshoots differ so radically that the sides need IDs.

So when I say "TEC," that's The Episcopal Church with its affirmation of gay unions and its liberal theology.   "Anglicans" will have to refer to the conservative sub-groups who oppose TEC's direction.)
Dad is ardently in favor of the conservative view.  My mother, though, despised the controversy, thought the church should proclaim the basics, embrace all people, and help the poor, and was furious that this parish she'd given so much time and heart to was withdrawing much support from TEC.  She marched into the rector's office 7 years ago and said that she expected her pledge to be shared with TEC as always.

My parents were a life lesson for couples in embracing your commonalities, while uncompromisingly standing for important beliefs when you differ.  I learned a lot from these people.

I rarely miss her more than I do when confronting the fundamentalist mentality here in RedStatistan.  Yet I don't speak "for" her.  I am appalled at the whole controversy, right here on my own, but differ in my willingness to say "Buh-bye!" and let them go.

The meeting was not even about the various points of view, but assumed that all of those present were on one solid side, certainly trying to coexist, but united and unquestioningly against "them" and their liberal policies.

I will hand it to them, that they, the Anglican conservatives, hope to keep the denomination intact and not split away, but they are as uncompromising as TEC is and it's hard to blame just one side for slicing the baby in two. One woman stood and said she hated the idea that her lifelong identity as an Episcopalian might, if things go badly, be something she has to leave behind, but that, and I quote, she'd "rather be a Christian than an Episcopalian."

Gee, that's funny, so would I.

I get the disgust with TEC.  I'm with the Anglicans on some of it.  TEC has been unable to affirm even the most basic Christian doctrine as its foundation, and that could make them a big teetering organization about nothing.

Some of my best friends  (you know who you are)  repudiate all supernatural elements and the whole Bible narrative of miraculous events and incarnate God.  I have no quarrel with what anyone believes, because I honestly -- it's a whole 'nother topic -- think belief is not at all a choice.

But why the  %$*@!   be a Christian church then??  Rename yourself Secular Liberals United for world Betterment (SLUB), employ all those people on the enormous TEC campus in the Cause, and quit claiming you're a "church."  It's OK, you can keep your non-profit status and everything.

I've said before that it probably should just split if it can't find common ground, but both sides are pointing out stats on declining membership, and many of us are emotionally long-gone.  I don't think they have a clue how thoroughly any split would fail to neatly give each side a comfort zone.   If they tear the sheet in half, a lot more disconnected tatters will fall loose to the ground than they realize.

In my family, my generation pretty much symbolizes the slice-the-kid-in-half aspect of this battle.  Already, my brother is an ardent fundamentalist, and he has no interest in the Anglican permutation of that.  He's an active member of his Baptist church.  And when the time comes, I'll be on my way. 

It's OK. I sat through this meeting, and I'll probably sit through more services and meetings I despise, to be there for Dad who may need help getting there in the future and deserves to participate as his conscience directs him.  And then I will have no more to do with either branch.  Because, like the conservative lady who spoke, I'd rather be Christian than either a nothing's-true EC or a submissive-women, anti-gay-marriage Anglican.

I'm cool. I took my Serenity pills. I'm still in the process of watching an important part of my childhood implode, but I am processing it, though a 2009 trip to the church we attended from the time I was 3 til I was 14 did kind of give me pause.

It was my uncle's funeral in Dec 2009, in this church in which I was a toddler in the nursery school, Confirmed at age 12, a truant from Sunday School at 13, and even came sort-of full-circle as a teen assistant in that same nursery, when I was 13-14.

Photo by Larry, while I drove.

It was an astonishing experience to see it in 2009, for the first time since I was 14 years old --41 years!-- and not see the typical unrecognizable updating that I've come to expect when I visit old haunting grounds.

Neither the neighborhood nor the building had changed. No idiots had "modernized" its design or feel. The peace of the place, which clearly spent its money on good solid maintenance but not on "Hipness Appeal! Relevancy! Make it Pop!" amazed me. The feeling that it was serenely outside the current crisis was undoubtedly deceptive, but it felt really good.

I keep hearing that a split is "inevitable" since both sides seem to be so rigid.  Such a split will affect my old church too. I'm not sure which way they'd go, but I'll never live there again and neither denomination will have a place for me anyway. But it's the feel of that place that I'm looking for. A place that actually pays attention to the Red Letters, and helps the poor, and shuts its mouth about politics.