Tuesday, December 28, 2021

The year ends quietly

As this year draws to a close,
I am feeling the need for quiet contemplation, and very few words.
Today's slice is told through photos,
the family hike we enjoyed today:


It's Tuesday and I am participating in the
 Slice of Life.  
Thank you, Two Writing Teachers, for nurturing teacher-writers!

Tuesday, December 21, 2021

this little tree of ours


We spent no more than 10 minutes at the tree lot. The day was bitter cold, inviting us to shop quickly. We know what we like and we keep it simple - Fraser fir, about 7 feet high. This one looked perfect, laying at the top of a small stack of trees at our regular pop-up sales site in a nearby parking lot. We didn't even ask the vendor to untie the tree; as I said, it was dang cold, but honestly it is more because we are easily pleased - the two of us subscribe a bit to the "Charlie Brown Christmas tree" school of thought, in that we trust we can beautify whatever tree awaits. We will love it. 'Tis the season to be content, to be joyful. 

The vendor lifted the tree from the stack and lots of needles rained down. Here's where we really are a goofy twosome, Tony and I - we immediately assumed that those dropped needles had fallen from some other tree that had been stacked on top of ours, during its journey in the truck from who knows where (Canada?), and basically littering our tree. Our tree was just shaking these loose, now that it was able to stand up and apart, right? The vendor didn't dispel or challenge our thinking. They say humans can rationalize pretty much anything they want to believe; I suspect this is all the more true when questioning your beliefs means you must suffer out in the cold for longer.

As Tony paid the vendor, I pointed out the praying mantis egg sac on the tree, thinking this was a good luck sign; but my admiration wasn't understood by the dear vendor, who immediately grabbed the sac and hurled it out of the lot, apologizing. "Oh no! I thought it was good luck," I said, "Certainly, it's a sign that the tree was growing happily and healthily." The vendor looked at me with some confusion, and then helped us tie the tree onto the roof of our car.

Fast forward, 
this little tree of ours
is set up in our living room and it is seriously one of the most beautiful trees we have ever had! 
It is so full - truly, chubby, yes, a chubby tree,
taking up lots of space in this small room. 
There was the tiniest soft downy bird feather within its branches - 
another sign of how loved this tree was as it grew. 

Fast forward, 
this little tree of ours
is decorated with lights and all our sentimental ornaments, collected through the years. 
I just smile smile smile at this tree. 
It is lovely.

Fast forward,
this little tree of ours,
it sheds needles. 
Loads of needles.
Fistfuls of needles.
Full dustpans of needles
Every. Single. Day. 

The first couple of days, it drank so much water. Then, it just stopped drinking. These trees - are they not a lesson in death? My goodness.

As each day passes, I see the tree hollowing out, from within - though it remains bright happy green, at a glance. Let me share a photo of the "inside" - today:

Yes, it is hollowing.
We will just barely make it to Christmas, this Saturday. 

Four more days, little tree, just four more days!

Each morning as I sweep the needles, I feel nothing but tenderness and understanding for this tree. Honestly, I totally empathize. 
I ask, could there be a more perfect tree for 2021? 
I appreciate its attempt to reach out wide, fully, as if giving us a big jolly happy hug, 
mesmerizing us with its girth, 
I feel it commending us for living through yet another long, hard year, 
for doing our best in these challenging times, and 
I appreciate how, like a good friend might also do, it just cries cries cries alongside us.  

A tree of solace. 

Happy Solstice, everyone! 

Tuesday, December 14, 2021

The book is cooked


First came dog-eared pages, noting recipes I used over and over. Then came scribbles and annotations on varied pages, as I adjusted ingredients for our likes and dislikes. I crammed pages with recipe clippings from our newspaper, which offered competing ideas for deliciousness. I hand wrote favorites from family and friends inside the front and back covers and on the blank space of end pages.

Yes, this simple, paperback cookbook became quite beloved over time, 
received as a wedding gift some 34 years ago, and 
slowly morphing into my cooking bible, 
the one place I stored every recipe that mattered. 

I knew our relationship was ending when I went to put it away and a third of the back cover remained glued to the I-didn't-know-it-was-wet counter. 

I have to say goodbye to this cookbook, don't I? 

How can I do this, with all this history and family lore within?

One recent evening, its spine split in two. 
Even so, 
I and it 
trudged on, 
with me gently handling its two parts whenever I need a favorite recipe - 
not a pretty look, for a cookbook.

Do I have trouble letting things go?

I flip through these broken pages and I am time traveling - 

the tried and true recipes that I fed my family through the years,
oh my, remember the disaster vegetable loaf that I made in the early weeks of our marriage? oh how we laughed when it was a soup not a loaf, and then we melted cheese on chips and called it dinner that night; I never dared make that recipe again ... what did I do wrong?
oh yum, the turkey chili that has long been a go-to staple on a cold winter night...
oh and here's the lentil soup that I brought to so many staff lunches...
on and on and on

Do I have trouble letting things go?

Yes, I guess I do.

Thankfully, I shared this dilemma with my youngest son, who just so happens to work in a bookstore. I explained that I had not been able to find another copy, that it perhaps was out of print. 

After I indulged a wee bit of teasing about "high carbohydrate eating" being such a retro thing, no longer consider healthy, he did some investigating and 
lucky me, 
he found me a new copy!! Woohoo!

Yes, I immediately got my pen out and started copying all my annotations and recipes into the new book.

Score one for nostalgia!


It's Tuesday and I am participating in the
 Slice of Life.  
Thank you, Two Writing Teachers, for nurturing teacher-writers!

Tuesday, December 7, 2021

A little light fun

Yesterday was unusually warm, plus we had very few things on our schedule, so the day was just perfect for hanging our outdoor holiday lights. I gathered these varied packages from the attic crawl space and carried them downstairs, thinking my next purchase needs to be a single large storage bin that holds all of these. We have purchased many more holiday lights in recent years, I think perhaps in response to the gloom and doom of the pandemic, and also because we have a little more time on our hands for decorating now that we are both retired. I placed all the bins right next to the front door, and went to fold a load of laundry, promising to join my husband with the outside decorations when this task was done.

A short while later, I stepped outside. Tony was working on the side porch, stringing lights along the banister, and there was a wild web of light strands on the front porch step. Hmm, I thought, where did that little pile of light chaos come from? I'll leave those for him and work with my new favorites, those easy "reel" lights. Last year we purchased some new lights that were packaged on a reel, making it very easy to wrap a shrub in holiday cheer by simply unwinding the container as you work, virtually eliminating tangles and knots in the wires. 

Except, now I couldn't find them. 

"Tony, where are the new lights we got last year? The ones on the reels?"

"They're right there, on the front steps."

"I don't see any reels here."

"Well I put those away after I took the lights off of them. The lights are right there at your feet - see?"

Wait, what?
Talk about flipping a switch.

"Wait -you TOOK THEM OFF THE REELS and MADE A RAT'S NEST FOR ME, so that I might have the THRILL of untangling them!?"

He looked at me patiently and calmly asked, "Did I do something wrong?"

"Well, goodness, I thought the whole point of those strands was their ease! You simply hold them and unwind them onto the tree as you go."

"Oops. Sorry. I didn't know."


Honestly, I am a little surprised how quickly my mood can change. 
I was having a lovely day - and then I really wasn't. 
I really dislike MAKE WORK. 
I took a few deep breaths and set to work detangling those all-too-familiar webs of lights, reminding myself 
what a little thing this is,
how good it is that we are working together out here, 
this is such a beautiful warm day, and
the grandkids will be so excited by the lights. 
Let. It. Go.
It took a few minutes, but soon I was back in the spirit, with just a few muttering musings crossing my mind -  how do we so quickly wind up at cross purposes with one another? 

Soon, all the lights were up, but several of our shrubs were still without any decorations. Wait, we decorated those shrubs with the new solar lights - because they are far removed from the outside outlet. We hadn't unpacked any solar lights yet...where were they?

"Tony, did we store the new solar lights someplace apart from all the others?"

"We might have. Let me check the garage."

"I'll recheck the attic."

There ensued about 30 minutes of searching, up and down the stairs, all around the house  - the garage, the bike shed, the attic, the basement closets. Nothing. Na da. Gone. 

This "fun decorating" was really turning into a very sour time. Where in the world were they hiding?

Time for another activity! I put on my gardening gloves, grabbed my shears, and started working in the garden. The remaining light of the afternoon would be spent with miscellaneous other outdoor chores. As the sun set, the few lights we did complete came on, making the house partially cheery (just like I felt). I put away all the gardening tools and went back inside. I turned on a lamp in the front room and saw two bins of solar lights sitting right there - at the front door - where I had set them before running my laundry. 

Oh my! We went all around the house and yard, but never looked right inside the front door. Ha!

Our holiday lights will be completed when the stars align. 
This was NOT the day!


It's Tuesday and I am participating in the
 Slice of Life.  
Thank you, Two Writing Teachers, for nurturing teacher-writers!