29 November 2021
Once Upon a Wardrobe, Patti Callahan
Megs, reluctant to address Lewis on campus, follows him one day to "The Kilns," the home he shares with his brother, and she is found by "Warnie" Lewis, who introduces her to his brother, who prefers to be known as "Jack." But when she asks him about Narnia, instead he starts telling her the story of his life, and while George loves the stories she brings home about "young Jack," she is continually frustrated: why won't he tell her the one thing George wants to know? But even as she tells George the stories, it awakens his creativity and curiosity, and also, with the help of a redheaded fellow student named Padraig Cavender, opens Megs' mind to the unseen mysteries of the world, the ones that can't be explained by maths and facts. In fact, it is Padraig that eventually makes George's Christmas wish come true.
Callahan works a bewitching magic in this book; her vocabulary is pitch-perfect vintage English, and she describes Oxford, the Kilns, and even the Devonshires' cozy house with such warmth that it's like walking out of the wardrobe and arriving in Narnia. It has the same warm, familiar feeling as a Beatrix Potter drawing or the passages about Mole and Ratty in The Wind in the Willows. Douglas Gresham, C.S. Lewis' stepson, has given this book a big thumbs up, as do I. Enchanting.
28 November 2021
There's a rule here: no Christmas decorations before the First Sunday of Advent.
However, today all the gloves are off!
So I hit the ground running: walked the dog a mile, then put him on a leash on the grass while I took down the Thanksgiving items and put up the wreath on the door, the Santa Claus moon flag, the mailbox cover with the goofy moose on it, and the Christmas greens basket. At this point I let Tucker go inside and then started on the real work: the lights. I managed to get through this practically unscathed.
Decided I wanted to go back to the blue lights this year. Now Saturday at Lowe's I bought six strings of 100 blue lights on discount, but we still had blue lights, so I put those out instead. Thinking I should have put the Lowes lights on instead; some of these are badly faded and the blues don't even match. When I took a photo one string even looked green! Maybe I'll redo. Also put up the Christmas tree with the multicolor lights and the wreath, which has the multicolor seed lights on it. I could probably go out and get a new blue set for the tree, but I prefer the wreath in colors, and don't think I'll find them in blue anyway.
I didn't have a terrible time with the lights, but I do understand why my dad always swore while he did this!
Our neighbor Ashley came out while I was working on this, to take out little Diesel (he's some kind of Lhasa Apso or shih-tzu mix) and Nala, who's some type of Rottweiler cross, and we were chatting for a while. It was just her birthday and she'd been to Colorado as a birthday gift. They had snow and everything. She kept asking me if I needed help. Maybe I was just looking particularly decrepit this morning? I know I didn't feel decrepit; when I put up Christmas decorations I feel about fifteen (except my back didn't hurt this dang bad when I was fifteen).
A year or two ago James bought this set of four LED snowflakes that were on clearance for $7. I put them behind the three log deer as kind of a fun display. Didn't use any of the lighting effects, though; maybe will try them out later. You can twinkle and flash and make them chase, eight different effects in all.
Before dark I had also put all of the candoliers in the windows (blue lights as well; frosted for the upstairs and clear for the library downstairs), the multicolor changing bulb candle in the kitchen window, and the two flickering candles in James' "man cave." These eat up four AA batteries, but they will last through Epiphany, even though the flicker will be minimal by then!
My last step was to turn on the two flickering candles at 5:30 (they have timers and will keep them on for five hours) and put the batteries in the seed lights (this also has a timer that will turn on the same time every night and go off six hours later). And all is lit.
Also did my usual Sunday chores (towels washed, master bath cleaned, meds sorted for the week) and managed to sit and listen to some Christmas music and work on a story. It ended on a sniffle, so I think I achieved my goal. 😀
25 November 2021
Our harvesting is gladly o’er
Our fields have felt no killing blight,
Our bins are filled with goodly store.
From pestilence, fire, flood, and sword
We have been spared by thy decree,
And now with humble hearts, O Lord,
We come to pay our thanks to thee.
We feel that had our merits been
The measure of thy gifts to us,
We erring children, born of sin,
Might not now be rejoicing thus.
No deed of our hath brought us grace;
When thou were nigh our sight was dull,
We hid in trembling from thy face,
But thou, O God, wert merciful.
Thy mighty hand o’er all the land
Hath still been open to bestow
Those blessings which our wants demand
From heaven, whence all blessings flow.
Thou hast, with ever watchful eye,
Looked down on us with holy care,
And from thy storehouse in the sky
Hast scattered plenty everywhere.
Then lift we up our songs of praise
To thee, O Father, good and kind;
To thee we consecrate our days;
Be thine the temple of each mind.
With incense sweet our thanks ascend;
Before thy works our powers pall;
Though we should strive years without end,
We could not thank thee for them all.
Paul Laurence Dunbar
24 November 2021
We who are here present thank the Great Spirit that we are here to praise Him.
We thank Him that He has created men and women, and ordered that these beings
shall always be living to multiply the earth.
We thank Him for making the earth and giving these beings its products to live on.
We thank Him for the water that comes out of the earth and runs for our lands.
We thank Him for all the animals on the earth.
We thank Him for certain timbers that grow and have fluids coming from them for
We thank Him for the branches of the trees that grow shadows for our shelter.
We thank Him for the beings that come from the west, the thunder and lightning
that water the earth.
We thank Him for the light which we call our oldest brother, the sun that works for
We thank Him for all the fruits that grow on the trees and vines.
We thank Him for his goodness in making the forests, and thank all its trees.
We thank Him for the darkness that gives us rest, and for the kind Being of the
darkness that gives us light, the moon.
We thank Him for the bright spots in the skies that give us signs, the stars.
We give Him thanks for our supporters, who had charge of our harvests.
We give thanks that the voice of the Great Spirit can still be heard through the
words of Ga-ne-o-di-o.
We thank the Great Spirit that we have the privilege of this pleasant occasion.
We give thanks for the persons who can sing the Great Spirit's music, and hope
they will be privileged to continue in his faith.
We thank the Great Spirit for all the persons who perform the ceremonies on this
Harriet Maxwell Converse
23 November 2021
And roofs of villages, on woodland crests
And their aerial neighborhoods of nests
Deserted, on the curtained window-panes
Of rooms where children sleep, on country lanes
And harvest-fields, its mystic splendor rests!
Gone are the birds that were our summer guests,
With the last sheaves return the laboring wains!
All things are symbols: the external shows
Of Nature have their image in the mind,
As flowers and fruits and falling of the leaves;
The song-birds leave us at the summer's close,
Only the empty nests are left behind,
And pipings of the quail among the sheaves.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
22 November 2021
Since last our universal thanks were told
We have grown greater in the world’s applause,
And fortune’s newer smiles surpass the old—
But thankful for all things that come as alms
From out the open hand of Providence:—
The winter clouds and storms—the summer calms—
The sleepless dread—the drowse of indolence.
Let us be thankful—thankful for the prayers
Whose gracious answers were long, long delayed,
That they might fall upon us unawares,
And bless us, as in greater need we prayed.
Let us be thankful for the loyal hand
That love held out in welcome to our own,
When love and only love could understand
The need of touches we had never known.
Let us be thankful for the longing eyes
That gave their secret to us as they wept,
Yet in return found, with a sweet surprise,
Love’s touch upon their lids, and, smiling, slept.
And let us, too, be thankful that the tears
Of sorrow have not all been drained away,
That through them still, for all the coming years,
We may look on the dead face of To-day.
James Whitcomb Riley
17 November 2021
Everyone knows the story of "Silent Night": the priest who wrote some verses after heading home from a call on a sick parishioner and seeing the beauty of the night, the organ wasn't working because mice chewed on the bellows; priest asks the sexton to set the verses to music—and voila, in 1818 "Silent Night" is born.
Well, that's the legend, anyway, but more convoluted is how the song got from the small Austrian town of Obendorf to the world: most tales credit it to an internationally-known singing group, the Rainiers, who carried the song out of Europe.
This is the earliest recorded version of "Silent Night," by the Haydn Quartet, I believe recorded by the Edison company. You will notice the lyrics are appreciably different from what we sing today, and I wonder if these are closer to the lyrics are closer to what was written by Gruber. It's also interesting to notice the difference in song performance techniques in that era.
11 November 2021
01 November 2021
Now, upon the brown earth’s breast
Fall the crimson leaves to rest;
Summer’s done—and laughing Spring—
What does gray-clad Autumn bring?
Autumn, like a gipsy bold
In her cap of red and gold!
Autumn, with her magic brush
Paints each wayside tree and bush;
Gilds the pumpkin at our feet
In the fields of yellow wheat;
Bids the wild duck homeward fly
Through the quiet, hazy sky;
Gaily through the orchard goes;
Tints the apple’s cheek with rose;
And with pleasant fruits and grain
Cheers the waiting world again.
There is loveliness sublime
In the earth at Autumn time—
Autumn, like a gipsy bold
In her cap of red and gold!
Edith D. Osborne, "St. Nicholas" magazine, October 1924
31 October 2021
25 October 2021
And come to rest upon the ground
To lay a carpet, rich and rare,
Beneath the trees without a care,
Content to sleep, their work well done,
Colors gleaming in the sun.
At other times, they wildly fly
Until they nearly reach the sky.
Twisting, turning through the air
Till all the trees stand stark and bare.
Exhausted, drop to earth below
To wait, like children, for the snow.
04 October 2021
Today is the feast day of St. Francis of Assisi, who is perhaps most commonly known as a lover of animals and nature. It was said that he preached the word of God even to the birds, and was so gentle with them that they came to him when he called, and birds perched on his heads. In the 1970s he was proclaimed the patron saint of ecology. In many churches, a Blessing of the Animals occurs around this date in honor of St. Francis. The current Pope, formerly Jorge Mario Bergoglio, picked his name in honor of the saint of Assisi, Italy.
Francis was originally christened "Giovanni" (John) and was the high-living son of a wealthy silk merchant. Even when he was a rich young man about town, he was known to give alms to the poor. After a sojourn to France, he returned to Italy with a love of all things French, so his family began calling him "Francesco" ("Frenchman").
Francis' connection to Christmas is simple: he was the first to create what we call "the Christmas crib," "the Nativity scene," or simply "the manger." He feared that people had forgotten that Jesus was born in a stable of humble parents, surrounded by animals, and staged the first living Nativity scene with carved figures representing the Holy Family (because it was thought using real humans might be blasphemous) and living sheep, donkeys, oxen, and other creatures. Later figures of wood, clay, porcelain, and so many other materials re-enacted the classic scene most people see under their Christmas tree, on a special table during the holiday season, in churches and on other properties.
The next time you're arranging your Nativity scene, thank St. Francis for adding this beautiful custom to the Christmas celebration.
29 September 2021
- Feast of Michael and All Angels.
- As it falls near the equinox, the day is associated with the beginning of autumn and the shortening of days.
- In England, it is one of the “quarter days”. There are traditionally four “quarter days” in a year (Lady Day (25th March), Midsummer (24th June), Michaelmas (29th September) and Christmas (25th December)). They are spaced three months apart, on religious festivals, usually close to the solstices or equinoxes. They were the four dates on which servants were hired, rents due or leases begun.
- St Michael is one of the principal angelic warriors, protector against the dark of the night and the Archangel who fought against Satan and his evil angels. As Michaelmas is the time that the darker nights and colder days begin – the edge into winter – the celebration of Michaelmas is associated with encouraging protection during these dark months.
- A well fattened goose, fed on the stubble from the fields after the
harvest, is eaten to protect against financial need in the family for
the next year; and as the saying goes:
“Eat a goose on Michaelmas Day,
Want not for money all the year”.
More Michaelmas Links
22 September 2021
"Th[e] word, autumn, goes all the way back through Medieval English and Old French, autumpne and autompne, to the Latin autumnus, which is listed as "of uncertain origin." It simply means the third season of the year, that time between summer and winter, and apparently it always has. But my big dictionary adds, comfortingly, "the season known in America as Fall." Fall, of course, means many things—the fall of the leaves, the fall of temperature, the fall of man perhaps. Follow that word back and you come out at Old Dutch and Old German, vallen and fallen, meaning to go down, to descend, pretty much what we mean today when we use the word as a verb. It must have come to us as a season name through the Anglo-Saxon.
"Whatever you choose to call it, it is a beautiful time of the year, a comfortable and comforting time. It brings some of the most beautiful days, with clear, blue skies and mild winds and comfortable temperatures. It is adorned with color in the woodlands. It is the end of summer, but it also is a thoroughly pleasant interval between summer and winter."
. . . . . . . Hal Borland's Book of Days