Monday, December 31, 2012

Happy New Year

I read of one person who tried to finish out the year by completing all the tasks they had set up for themselves so that the new year started out fresh. On the surface that sounds like a good idea, but I expect that we always drag along some things from the previous year and the years that preceded the one just finished.

Certainly setting my art space in order, getting rid of the clutter, finishing the two books I’ve been reading, albeit slowly because I keep reading other books, scanning the articles I clipped from newspapers and magazines, collecting new recipes, getting my photos in order, writing a book review, and and and…

If I ordered my art space it wouldn’t last a week before it relaxed into a shape that works, there will always be two books I start and keep putting aside to read other books, when I scan the pile of articles in my brown envelope I’ll have already stacked some more in a pile, I’ll always be talking about collecting new recipes as I’m cooking a familiar recipe, because I keep adding to my photos and changing how I order them it will always be a work not yet completed.

Today is the last day of 2012 and I’ve written a blog post for every day.

I pull some things with me into 2013, some aren’t pulled but come gently, and others are like burrs that adhere.

When I look back over the year I’m thankful for the year —filled with love and undone things that will patiently wait until next year.

Perhaps 2013 will be the year that…or…or..

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Get Together

Why not simply tell our elected officials that they won't be allowed to leave their chambers until they can agree on some things to avoid a "fiscal cliff".

 How dysfunctional we've become. 

Saturday, December 29, 2012

It's Coming...

Last year our snow total fell below ten inches. Of course the meteorologists measure total snowfall in Boston and areas to the west have more snow. But even then, last year's snow accumulation fell well below expectations. My snowshoes remained downstairs because strutting across a field with a two inch layer of soft snow wasn't alluring.

So where is the snow?

The National Park Service says that "Paradise is the snowiest place on Earth where snowfall is measured regularly. 1,122 inches (93.5 ft, 28.5 m) of snow fell during the winter of 1971-1972, setting a world record at the time.". That's Paradise in Utah not a celestial spot.

Of course not all places have facilities that measure snow so it's quite possible that the record is held by another spot-- regulated to obscurity because of its remote location.

But if we want to look at snow depth there's a different winner.

"...the deepest snow on earth accumulates in the Japanese Alps of Honshu Island around the 2,000-6,000’ level. On Feb. 14, 1927 a snow depth of 465.4” was measured on Mt. Ibuki at 5,000 feet."

According to our local weather people the snow will begin this evening and continue until early Sunday morning.

Time to take out the boots, shovels, snow brush, gloves, scarf, ear muffs and check on the snowshoes.

Friday, December 28, 2012


In a recent article in the Wall Street Journal entitled "The Lost Art of the Handwritten Note" Philip Hensher writes, "In a British survey carried out in June, it was discovered that the average time since an adult wrote anything at all by hand was 41 days. One in three people surveyed said that they hadn't written anything by hand for at least six months."

There's something about writing with a pen— whether it's to write a letter or a list or copy down some quotation from a book. And there's something special about using a fountain pen and real ink not an ink cartridge.

I can sit down with a cup of tea and reread a letter. It feels like a visit. Receiving a card with a handwritten note beats a card that arrives in your email account.

And I love taking out my small Moleskin notebook at the end of the year and reading some of my book notes:

"God turns us over to what we worship." Mark Richard

"There is a crack in everything, that's how the light gets in." Leonard Cohen

"Try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language." Rainer Maria Rilke

Nonet Form ( for a poem)

line 1—9 syllables
line 2—8 syllables
line 3—7 syllables
line 4—6 syllables
line 5—5 syllables
line 6—4 syllables
line 7—3 syllables
line 8—2 syllables
line 9—1 syllable

I haven't written the poem, but it's a reminder that I liked the challenge of this form.

135 West 135th Street
first black bookstore in Harlem 'George Young's Book Exchange' came to be known as the "Mecca of Literature Pertaining to Colored People" Sharifa Rhodes-Pitts

From Winter Harbor Historical Society Building
"This typewriter, The American, belonged to Captain Thomas R. Hammond, Winter Harbor, Maine. 1876 typewriter. One of the earliest U.S. typewriters with the keys resting in slots in a revolving disk was shown at the Centennial exhibit in 1876."

"Let's take the long way home." Gail Caldwell

"Edge of my umbrageous forest." Verlyn Kliinkenborg ( that quote sent me to the dictionary)

Each note reminds me of a book or newspaper or place.

Gilbert White saved many of his household receipts which are in Houghton Library. Reading a recipe in his own handwriting with his own flourish is almost like sitting in his kitchen.

"To save one must value. And to thrown out, one must value moving on." Molly Peacock

"To write requires an ego, a belief that what you say matters. Writing also requires an aching curiosity leading you to discover, uncover, what is gnawig at your bones." Terry Tempest Williams

"God comes to each of us in the form we can best perceive Him. To you, just now He was a heron. To someone else, He might come as a flower or even a breeze."

"The depth is in the surface." William Matthew

"We live by inches and only sometimes see the full dimension."Adrienne Rich

And it goes on and on...all in ink.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

A Small Matter of Organization

Every December I attempt to organize, discard what isn't needed, pull together single pieces of paper in one place, throw out scraps , odds and ends, and those items I haven't used in years.

There's a large brown envelope filled with papers to scan-- stories, poems, essays, and an occasional recipe. Once I scan them I can store them in one of my many files on my computer.

I like to start fresh on January 1st. It's a faulty presumption because we pull along all the past years into the new year-- just better organized. The organization and belief in everything has a place and a place for everything falls apart quickly.

Life isn't that way. Not all bits and pieces fit neatly into small drawers, shelves, zip lock bags or ditty bags. Life has a way of seeping out of containers, moving beyond boundaries and draping itself over the furniture. It has a way of interrupting plans and arriving at unexpected times.

So why do I make this aborted attempt to organize space, to tackle the paper jam, to make room on my desk? Because I need to make room for the unexpected.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

What Will They Be

Is it too early to be thinking of goals for the new year? Resolutions? Crossroads? I do like to wait to the last moment to finalize goals and changes. It isn't as if I'm not thinking, I am. I just want to be successful. According to a "motivational speaker" about fifty percent of Americans will make New Year's resolutions and only 8% will keep those well meaning resolutions.

One suggestion for greater success is to announce your goals.Roll out the red carpet, unfurl the proclamation, grab a mike and utter those goals to an audience. Who wants to fail after going to all that trouble? Or write them on a piece of paper, hide them in a drawer and realize that you have just participated in a yearly ritual.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

An Early Start

My favorite meal is breakfast. Even the plain cereal version of breakfast has an appeal. Growing up I ate a bowl of Rice Krispies every morning.As soon as the milk hit the cereal I listened for the Pop and Crackle.

My father always had a three minute egg every morning. He let me dip my toasted Wonder Bread into the egg for one delectable taste.

I must admit to a more sophisticated taste now, but I still start off weekday meals with a bowl of cereal-- just not the sweet sugar coated variety. I traded in my Rice Krispies for an oat cereal.

But it's breakfast out that I love. For the past twenty years Christmas Day breakfast has been an important part of our celebration. For years that meant egg, cheese and sausage souffle, breads, juices, egg nog, a 500 piece puzzle, some floor games followed by a long walk. That eventually morphed into breakfast out with friends.

When our local inn decided not to offer breakfast on Christmas Day because they were too busy with lunch and dinner we opted to drive down to Cambridge.

the people we invite to share our breakfast out are part of the fun.These are usually people whose family lives far away.

We still take a walk after the repast.

On those occasions my orders are blatantly decadent--omelets with the works, thick slabs of Cranberry French toast,homemade breads,and endless cups of decaf.

We sat, five of us, for two and a half hours --and no dishes.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Go Tell it On The Mountain

It isn't all the decorations and the gifts and the smell of candles nor is it the dinners and visiting and red sweaters. All those are nice ways to celebrate, but it's not about any of that. In fact if that's all it is why bother.

Sometimes we get so wrapped up in the wrappings and the gifts,we don't stop long enough to be wrapped in wonder.

Tonight at the Christmas Eve service the wonder, awe, and celebration was evident in the singing, in listening to the words telling of the birth of a small baby in a manger, in the lighting of the candles and singing "Silent Night".

Go, Tell It On The Mountain,
Over the hills and everywhere;
Go, Tell It On The Mountain
That Jesus Christ is born

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Pen, Pencil, or Stylus

This is the first time I'm using my new stylus pen. It seems as if I have to press too hard because I'm losing letters. An A was lost to a soft touch while an E repeated itself. Is this poking with a soft end of what looks as if it is masquerading as a pen the way to assuage our longing for a writing implement?

Yesterday I received a real letter written with both a pencil and when that broke written with a pen. Imagine the novelty? Someone actually folded the paper, inserted it into an envelope and addressed an envelope instead of typing three letters of my name and a choice of names popping up on a screen.

Technology's side effects include isolation masking as congeniality.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

In or Out

They are all over the place--the ten best, ten worst, ten things to buy, ten things to avoid.

Ten best commercials , ten weakest, ten best Northern Italian cookbooks for entertaining more than twenty guests, ten best movies for those who think that there's a werewolf among their ancestors, ten best books describing the demise of our civilization for anyone who wants to time travel, ten most sure footed footgear for walking the streets or climbing Mt Everest, ten ugliest paintings, ten ways to keep warm in a house where the owner wears an Icelandic sweater and ski mittens to read the newspaper,

Friday, December 21, 2012

What Will the Christmas Movie Be?

Isn't it amazing, the same Christmas movies show up year after year despite some of them pushing the seventy year mark.

What is it about them? Are they less cynical? Do they offer the type of endings we want to see? Or maybe we see the workings of grace played out on our stage.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Glitz Wins

White lights for Christmas seem staid compared to the glitzy, blinking colored lights. I admit to looking for over the top decorated houses and yards. But simply throwing some lights around a bush or a house with a contour string of lights doesn't impress me.

Give me flying reindeer, animated snowmen, garlands of lights. I admit to an unsophisticated delight in lit angels and evergreen trees wrapped up in primary colors.

But at home I am one of those staid folks.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Resting in a Title

Procrastination. Waiting until the last moment and then feeling harried. But some waiting allows time for ideas, words, opinions to gain some substance-- perhaps to morph into something different.

I have something on my plate-- a response to one of two verses of scripture. Two, so I can choose one for a church lenten booklet. It's not my usual piece of writing. It's uncomfortable for me to respond to such a specific prompt.

Suppose I'm way off the mark. Suppose my initial words chafe people. Suppose I can't find any words that relate, that speak to what I'm reading. And just suppose I totally lose the message of what I read, interpret it in a manner that's antithetical to the beliefs of the group? Suppose I find myself way out on an island that's broken away from the mainland?

Just when I twisted myself into a static position I found a book. Not a book of Lenten meditations, but a book with a title that brought me wiggle room.

Generous Orthodoxy : WHY I AM A missional + evangelical + post/ protestant + liberal conservative + mystical/ poetic + bibical + charismatic/contemplative + fundamentalist/ calvinist + anabaptist/Anglican + methodist + catholic + green + incarnational+ depressed-yet-hopeful + emergent+ unfinished CHRISTIAN
by Brian McLaren

I find myself within that title and it frees me up to write whatever and however the Spirit moves me.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012


I am gaining weight by reading the recipes for holiday treats. Everywhere I turn someone is touting a sugar filled, butter laden delicacy.

This is all done so that the moment December turns the corner into the new year we can be swamped with ways to lose the fat from all those delicacies proferred by hostesses.

I tell myself that there's still time to turn away from the puddings, glazed cookies, cheesecakes, Brie adorned with warm figs, double chocolate cakes, dips, and on and on.

Sunday my resolve was tested by a table laden with thousands of calories. I didn't pass.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Of a Book

I love to copy down the names of suggested books. I've even been known to bend myself into contortions to read the title of a book being read by someone I don't know.

This time of year newspapers delight in lists. We even received a Christmas epistle listing the sender's favorite books read in 2012, both non-fiction and fiction.

Last week I copied down the name of a non-fiction book— a spit of a mention on a handout from a workshop. Actually it was an attributed quote. One copy existed in the library consortium and I requested it before anyone else in the workshop had the same idea.

Within two pages I was hooked. It's so sweet to discover a new author.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

A Typical Pageant

Pageants. There's the beauty pageants and then there's the Christmas pageants held in churches all over the country. Children walk down the aisle -- each dressed in some sort of garb meant to resemble something worn over 2000 years ago. The magi will make an appearance and in some churches a real baby will take the place of a doll. 

Today our pageant included children of the congregants, developmentally delayed adults who attend the church, two adults in wheelchairs, and the six month old baby of the minister. 

A typical pageant.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

We Need a Dialogue

The nation is stunned. Have we seen more of these massacres during the past decade? Do we know why? Perhaps it's too early to ask these questions? But when you ask them now maybe we can listen to each other and try and find out how to stem this tide.

Friday, December 14, 2012

So Young

On the way back from Deerfield, MA and several hours of taking butterfly photos at an indoor tropically heated butterfly emporium and after stopping for chocolates at a store advertising hand made chocolates we turned on the radio.

Instead of hearing music or listening to the sports station we heard about a shooting in Connecticut. After going from station to station and listening to bits and pieces -- we pieced together the story. An unimaginable scenario, a senseless spree of killings perpetrated in an elementary school. Unfathomable.

In the evening we watched video clippings, interviews with teachers, interviews with a family member, a church service, an interview with clergy. Nothing made sense. We asked the same questions everyone asks: Why? And is there anything that can be done?

Who can even imagine the grief and pain in that community, who can envision the loss? We don't know the names of the twenty children. We know some names of the seven adults.

We don't know who loved to read, color, play with Legos, write a poem, dress up, cuddle ,help plant a garden. We don't know who hoped to play on a Little League team next spring, who played the piano, sang in the chorus, drew cartoons, did cartwheels, belonged to the Girl Scouts.

And we don't know what made a young man become so at odds with himself and the world that he could plan and carry out these senseless killings.

Maybe the only thing we can do right now, before we engage in debates about what to do, is pray.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Summer Under Glass

A vegetable market near my home started out as a farm stand and over the years morphed into a large indoor store selling fruits, vegetables, prepared foods, dairy, chicken and salmon.

Originally everything was local. The broccoli appeared during its season, the cabbage during its season and the apples from August to early January. But as they grew they expanded because most of their customers still wanted blueberries when the frost covered the bushes and the snow was more than a covering.

So vegetables and fruits started to arrive from varied locations-- Mexico, Peru, Guatemala, Asia. California held on for as long as it could and then gave way to Thailand.

I expect that if you put things up, froze vegetables, kept a root cellar, you could enjoy the summer harvest with the snow on the ground.

This time of year I'm sorry that I didn't go out and pick strawberries and freeze packets for the winter.

I used to have a neighbor who filled mason jars with what she referred to as summer under glass. At the time I thought of how much expenditure of time it required, but now I'd love a jar of her tomato sauce made from her own tomatoes or a cup of her blueberries.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Book Lists

We're quickly entering that time of year when every newspaper, magazine, and bookstore lists their favorite books of 2012. Often well known personalities are asked to name their favorite read of 2012. Experts are consulted and expected to list the best books published in particular fields. Blogs, not wanting to be left out, either list their own must reads or ask readers to vote.

Lists are compiled. I've been known to read the lists and wonder about the books I missed reading. So I create a list of must reads.

How about a new list-- the dullest, most boring books that made the 2012 best books list.

Did you ever notice how few really good books published by small presses make the lists?

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Don't Sweat the Purchases

An article in today's paper dealt with buying gifts for the "hard to buy for". In other words some folks don't need anything because they have what they need and if they do find themselves in the situation where they need or want something they purchase whatever it is that their heart desires. Or perhaps they are just fussy.

So why bother.

This must be why gift cards are so popular.

It used to be acceptable to give a gift to your teacher, but wiser heads said that isn't necessary and it puts an unfair burden on some parents.

When I was putting up Christmas ornaments I loved recalling the stories behind the handmade ornaments I received from youngsters. One of my favorites was a small train because I once had said that I thought it would be exciting to ride some of the famous rail lines. Imagine traveling on the Orient Express.

There were the homemade cookies, " I helped my mom make these and I knew you liked Milky Way bars so we put some bits of the bar in the cookie."

In one of the first classes I taught someone made me a purple felt eyeglass case because I always carried a purple pen. I thought that was a thoughtful gift.

How about buying a gift for someone who really needs something and sending a card to that hard to buy for or hard to please person and telling them what was purchased in their name.

Monday, December 10, 2012

A Candle Link

Bach in the background and a large candle burning on a low teak table. It's quiet in the house save for the sound of onions caramelizing on the stove. Later on I'll add them and cremini mushrooms and dill to the barley I cooked earlier in the afternoon. It's a new recipe.

The large candle shows its age: the sides slope outwards in a fluted shape, char marks on the inside add a patina. Until fourteen years ago I never owned a candle weighing so much nor so wide. My son gave us the candle and a sturdy base for a Christmas gift. At the time he lived in Colorado. Since then he's moved about—Thailand, New Zealand, Israel.

Most of the year the candle stays on a bookcase—unlit except for those times we lose our electricity. But when December appears on the calendar and the living room takes on airs— decorations, a poinsettia, and a small tree, the candle is set down within a circle of greenery and lit most evenings.

The candle— a reminder,a daisy chain...

Sunday, December 09, 2012

...or the digital glass electric cooking pot

December unpacks itself quickly. Thanksgiving remains still linger in freezers. Stores unfurl their green and red, store flyers appear in newspapers, and we're off and running.

Questions are asked: How will the season be for retailers? Will Americans spend more money or less than last year? What's the new toy, tech innovation, must have for this year? Advertisers will be extolling the newest...

Perhaps the stainless steel pineapple slicer and corer...

Saturday, December 08, 2012

Retired Word

I will retire the word pundit. It's popped up several times in the past few weeks. Heavens. My vocabulary is shrinking. Soon even the p.....s won't be of any help.

Friday, December 07, 2012

Is it the Real Maple Syrup from Vermont?

There's a small airport five miles from my home. The only planes you see are two seaters, a helicopter, and occasionally a hot air balloon. Nothing bigger.

Years ago a small building faced the runways and you could buy one of several sandwiches and watch the planes. By 5:30am they served breakfast-- nothing fancy, but plentiful. The coffee tasted fine until about mid-morning.

The owners never catered to a full house and finally sold to new owners who increased the offerings at lunch. Now instead of a melted cheese sandwich or a BLT or a burger you could order a fish sandwich. The locals missed the strong coffee and plates of thick fries.

Finally Nancy bought the restaurant and went upscale. Gone-- melted cheese, BLT, tuna with enough mayo to drain over your hands. Instead Brie cheese made an entrance. Sandwich names took on a sophisticated air.

But Nancy knew that any breakfast menu needed to include the old standbys. Homemade breads replaced Wonder bread. Pancakes and omelets still held sway-- but with more filling choices.

Added menu choices incuded smoked salmon and eggs with Hollandaise sauce--

We went there for a mid-week breakfast and ordered the omelet and pancakes. Years ago they always served that dish with a large bottle of good old real maple syrup. Now, a small tiny cup-- quite dainty--accompanies the pancakes.

The breakfast-- as always tasted delicious, but I did wish for a bottle of maple syrup. Save for that one flaw it was a heavenly meal.

Thursday, December 06, 2012

What's Going on With the Weather?

New England usually experiences an up and down pattern of weather. One pundit said that if you didn't like the weather just wait a minute and it would change.

We've had unseasonably warm weather for months. Now we spike up and down like the Dow Jones. I'm not complaining, just wondering.

Wondering about this planet? Wondering about the heavy jacket in my closet? Wondering about the high boots in the basement?

Wondering about the Dusty Miller I planted two years ago. It just keeps growing, or seems like it's growing, in all seasons.

Just wondering about this planet.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

If it's Good Enough for MIT...

I admit to being a fan. Even though the Red Sox fell apart, embarrassed themselves, and suffered from a plethora of minor moral infractions, I'm aboard for the 2013 Red Sox. I listen to the pundits explain why the newest acquisition will work or won't work. I will be ready to purchase another magnetic team logo for my car.

Ever since my son taught me what a flea flicker meant, football captured my imagination. And living in New England means I follow the Patriots. They usually have a good chance of going to the playoffs and if they manage to make it to the Super Bowl a friend holds a Super Bowl Party. She makes a wonderful Eggplant Parmigiana dish.

And I follow, loosely, the Celtics. Their inconsistency bothers me. I really preferred them when they won consistently.

If we had a Tiddlywinks team I'd probably get behind them. At one time MIT had an active team and competed in local and international matches. There's a resurgence of the sport:

"Yan Wang, president of the MIT Tiddlywinks Association (MITTwA), said that adult players like to compare tiddlywinks to golf, "because it requires physical dexterity in making shots," and also to chess, "because it requires thinking in turns and trying to maximize your strategy based on what your opponent could do." MITTwA is awaiting formal recognition from MIT's Association of Student Activities."

Unless the Celtics become more consistent I might switch my allegiance. Tiddlewinks is not a simple child's game. It is sophisticated.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Finding a Way

Frankly I find it tiring. Why can't our elected officials compromise? Why all this drama, this walking to the edge of an abyss, and following a script penned by the screenwriters of the Perils of Pauline?

But at least we air our differences with rhetoric instead of with uprisings. That's a positive. We now refer to these uprisings and ensuing violence as conflicts. Our world is filled with conflicts and every day more pop up.

And compromises mean everyone gives up something or moves a bit to the middle. I know someone will say that even the middle is something to disagree about. Tiring.

The original Perils of Pauline did not contain a railway scene with the damsel tied to the tracks while a train approached. However, the 1947 serial did have such a scene. As the train approached and the sound grew louder the audience gasped-- according to what I've read-- and hoped for a hero, a gallant and brave knight.

That's what we need, but gender doesn't matter. We need Don Quixote.

“Do you see over yonder, friend Sancho, thirty or forty hulking giants? I intend to do battle with them and slay them.”
― Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, Don Quixote

Monday, December 03, 2012

There's Always Next Year

So few days left in 2012.

Is there time left to accomplish some grandiose feat?

Perhaps I missed the boat when I gave up reading a book a day, but that's been done before. The woman who accomplished that feat even wrote a book about the why and how.

I never entered an eating contest.
I turned my ankle before even trying to ride a unicycle.
I only tried three new tofu recipes out of a possible 365.
I never really thought about partaking in an Adventure Race.
I missed the Sahara race, but there's the Gobi Desert race in 2013.
I wonder if age is a deterrent?

Sunday, December 02, 2012

Winning Big

How do we justify a lottery ticket for half a billion dollars?

Who spends more money, proportionally speaking, on tickets?

Lottery buying produces big winners who need help with how to spread their money about for the greatest return.

Winners spawn new employment opportunities—how do you deal with sudden wealth? Pundits will teach new winners where and how to spread their money?

You hear the big winners say, "I'm the same person today as I was yesterday." Can that really be true?

Lottery tickets, scratch tickets, the numbers game are all selling a fantasy.

Maybe I'm a curmudgeon because even when I occasionally purchased a dollar scratch ticket I rarely won and if I did it was for two dollars. Once I won forty dollars, which made me think that winning big was possible. After several months of a ticket every other week I realized that even a forty dollar payoff hooked me.

Before the government hooked onto the lottery and made it a legit way to gamble the mob ran numbers. Bookies collected the money. When the government got into the act convenience store owners became the modern day bookies.

According to some historians of games of chance you had better odds in the numbers racket then you do in the modern day lottery.And those winners didn't pay tax.

Map Directions

Until I purchased a GPS getting somewhere always presented a challenge. Now I'm perfectly willing to allow a voice to say—in a rather bossy tone—"Turn now". I gather there isn't enough time to say Please turn now, nor would that add anything to her precision.

Sometimes I don't trust her. Why this road?

Once she took me to the wrong town, but I expect I made an error. She's not perfect, but her success rate is far superior to mine—even when I defer to Map Quest. And I've noticed that Map Quest sometimes engages in a circuitous route simply, I imagine, for her own devious reasons.

It is a matter of giving up control to a small dictatorial voice. I should refuse to succumb to yet another device. I should take on more responsibility—

What next?