Saturday, December 30, 2017

Messy Kweznuz!

Sad to say, Trump has ruined so many things for so many Americans. And I, for one, have added both “Merry Christmas” & "Happy Holidays" to the list of casualties. He and his lying lies have totally sucked all the joy out of these two seasonal and previously heartfelt greetings.

I don't want to say "Happy Holidays" as if I think "Merry Christmas" is somehow disallowed. But I also don't want to say "Merry Christmas" as if somehow Trump's blessing has made it possible -- when in fact it has never been disallowed and has always been possible. I want to be able to call out either one, whenever I feel like it, but it just doesn't feel good anymore; it feels bad.

So, as an alternative, courtesy of Rowan Atkinson's character Ebenezer Blackadder, Gerry and I have been working our way through the season by wishing everyone a "Very Messy Kweznuz!”

Click here to view the very funny
Blackadder's Christmas Carol

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Crystallized Happiness

Crystal Snowscape by Tina McFadyen

"When we were young, there were moments
of such perfectly crystallized happiness
that we stood stock still and silently promised
ourselves that we would remember them always.
And we did."

from Four Midwestern Sisters' Christmas Book
by Holly J. Burkhalter

Crystallized Twinkle Lights at Grim & Gram's

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Mince Pies, Mistletoe, and Wine

Phoenix Christmas Card
by Contemporary Artist Di Brookes

Mistletoe and Wine

Made popular by Cliff Richard ~ also sung angelically by Libera

The child is a king, the carolers sing
The old has passed, there's a new beginning
Dreams of Santa, dreams of snow
Fingers numb, faces aglow

It's Christmas time, mistletoe and wine
Children singing Christian rhyme
With logs on the fire and gifts on the tree
A time to rejoice in the good that we see

A time for living, a time for believing
A time for trusting, not deceiving
Love and laughter and joy ever after
Ours for the taking, just follow the master

Christmas time, mistletoe and wine
Children singing Christian rhyme
With logs on the fire and gifts on the tree
A time to rejoice in the good that we see

Silent night, Holy night
A time for giving, a time for getting
A time for forgiving and for forgetting
Christmas is love, Christmas is peace
A time for hating and fighting to cease

Christmas time, mistletoe and wine
Children singing Christian rhyme
With logs on the fire and gifts on the tree
A time to rejoice in the good that we see

Written by Jeremy Paul, Leslie Stewart, Keith Strachan

British Christmas Cake & Mince Pies at Heathrow Airport

PS. Click here to make your own Tiny Mince Pies

Thursday, December 21, 2017

All the Frosty Ages

Thanks to Jay Beets for this spectacular photograph!

And to Brigit Farley for her kind remarks:
"You always have the best pictures, poems
and commentary . . . long live Kitti Carriker!"

And to Leonard Orr for his faith in my superpowers:
"Some believe that Kitti visited simultaneously no fewer than one thousand friends scattered across forty countries and thirteen time zones; this feat is repeated each year just after the winter solstice to brighten the days. She is said to be drawn to artworks and stacks of fresh books."

Posted previously, but worthy
of a repeat on this mystical day:

The Shortest Day
So the shortest day came, and the year died,
And everywhere down the centuries of the snow-white world
Came people singing, dancing,
To drive the dark away.
They lighted candles in the winter trees;
They hung their homes with evergreen,
They burned beseeching fires all night long
To keep the year alive.
And when the new year’s sunshine blazed awake
They shouted, revelling.
Through all the frosty ages you can hear them
Echoing, behind us – listen!
All the long echoes sing the same delight
This shortest day
As promise wakens in the sleeping land.
They carol, feast, give thanks,
And dearly love their friends, and hope for peace.
And so do we, here, now,
This year and every year.
Welcome Yule!

by Susan Cooper (b. 1935)
Award - winning British author of fiction and fantasy

Favorite Christmas card from Natasha
Oak Angel
by Contemporary Artist Sarah Young

And this one ~ Catmint

Monday, December 18, 2017

The Interior Cat

A brief, somewhat - weather - related
public service announcement
from me and the cats:
All cats belong inside at all times, no matter what the weather, and no matter how much they beg to go out. The only exception — if you are with your cat, such as taking it out on the porch with you, similar to taking your dog out on a leash, but never unattended. Cats may seem independent, but they are no match for the dangers of the great outdoors, especially cars. Please protect their innocence and their lives, all nine of them!

Best Friends
"Everyone knows that a cat has nine lives. . .
'I am one who becomes two;
I am two who become four;
I am four who become eight;
I am one more after that.'"
~ from an ancient Egyptian religious text,
found at Deir el - Bahari, 22nd Dynasty

Pine, the Cat Who Just Loves Christmas
"The cat, household god and protective spirit of the family, soon gravitated to the very heart of the house, the hearth. Traditionally this was the entrance and exit for both good and bad spirits, for the sorceress as well as for Santa Claus [emphasis added!]. . . . A cat new to the house was immediately taken to the hearth to ensure that it would not run away. This introduction to the heart of the house was completed by an offering of food."
both excerpts above from
by De Laroche‎ Jean-Michel & Labat, 20 - 21
A Christmas present from dear friend
and fellow booklover Megan

Fuqua / aka "GoldenEye" on Laundry Day

Friday, December 15, 2017

Haruf (Rhymes with Sheriff)

Salida, Colorado

From across the street, the quartz display at the
Crystal Shop looked like a lighted Christmas tree . . .
and right next door, Ferraro's cute Italian restaurant!

Learn more about Salida (aka Holt),
hometown of American novelist
Kent Haruf (1943 - 2014)
on my my current post

"Not the Husband, Not the Father"

@ The Fortnightly Kitti Carriker


read favorite passages
from all the novels
on my book blog

"Everything by Kent Haruf"

@ Kitti's Book List


Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Be Realistic: Expect a Miracle!

“The economy of heaven
Looks for fiestas and fireworks every day.
Every day.
Be realistic, says heaven:
Expect a miracle.”

~ from the poem “Not the Millennium” ~
~ by U. A. Fanthorpe ~
found in her book of Christmas Poems: BC - AD
given to us last year by Auntie Jan
[see also]

Speaking of miracles, as I was looking over Christmas cards from the past few years, I pulled out a couple from people who had begun their letters with passages that were completely new to me, though from familiar authors.

First came these miraculous lines from E.E. Cummings,
sent by my friend Mary Alice:

Miracles are to come.
With you I leave a remembrance
of miracles: they are by
somebody who can love
and who shall be continually reborn,
a human being.”

Second, no surprise that my friend Tammy, a poet herself,
chose these lines from Richard Hugo:

"I almost forget: he'd do anything for you. Love him
for what you might have become
and love him for what you are, not that far
from him. We are never that far. Love
everyone you can. The list gets longer and shorter.
We're seldom better than weather . . .
Don't be sorry, for him or for self. Love the last star
broken by storm. And love you. You hold it together."

I came across an analysis of Hugo's teaching legacy that concludes with the entire poem and this editorial comment:

"Since we are today, a writing community, or at
least a village of writing teachers, let me conclude this essay
with Hugo's 'Villager.' I can't help imagining it's exactly what
he would like to say to you."

What's wrong will always be wrong. I've seen him lean
against the house hours and glare at the sea. His eyes say
no boat will come. His harsh throated seemingly
good natured mother bends her back to the soil
and there at least all grows well. When I speak with him
his eyes move away to the sea and I imagine
the red in his face from drink is also from
some ancient tribal shame. To him I'm wealthy.
When we talk, I know how wealthy I am.

The police have him on file: petty theft.
I'm certain he steals to make up for the nothing he finds
every day in the sea, and to find money for drink.
Some days a woman picks him up, a sister I'm told,
takes him away and hours later delivers him back
passed out. Next morning again he's propped against
the house, the tide out in his eyes. I imagine
his sister, if that's who she is, knows that oblivion
is what he must have often to survive.

I have much to tell him. And nothing. I'd start
with the sea. I'd say, there was another sea something
like this long ago, and another me. By the time
I got to the point he'd be looking away and be right.
No two hurts are the same, and most have compensations
too lovely to leave. At night, a photo glows alive
inside him when his mother' s asleep and the cops
aren't watching. It lights up in the dark
whenever he looks hard and by dawn has burned out.

I almost forget: he'd do anything for you. Love him
for what you might have become
and love him for what you are, not that far
from him. We are never that far. Love
everyone you can. The list gets longer and shorter.
We're seldom better than weather. We're nearly as good
as a woman we met in passing once at Invergary.
Don't be sorry, for him or for self. Love the last star
broken by storm. And love you. You hold it together.

[See Making Certain It Goes On:
The Collected Poems of Richard Hugo
, 415 - 16]

Alumbrados Medellín 2016
Medellín's World-Class Christmas Lights

See more photos
from last year's pre - Christmas trip to Medellin

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Blue Willow Santa

Charming Christmas Editions
of my favorite china patterns,
Blue Willow and Chinese Legend:
Blue Santa and Blue Star by Spode

Singing in the Streets

I had almost forgotten the singing in the streets,
Snow piled up by the houses, drifting
Underneath the door into the warm room,
Firelight, lamplight, the little lame cat
Dreaming in soft sleep on the hearth, mother dozing,
Waiting for Christmas to come, the boys and me
Trudging over blanket fields waving lanterns to the sky.
I had almost forgotten the smell, the feel of it all,
The coming back home, with girls laughing like stars,
Their cheeks, holly berries, me kissing one,
Silent-tongued, soberly, by the long church wall;
Then back to the kitchen table, supper on the white cloth,
Cheese, bread, the home-made wine:
Symbols of the Night`s joy, a holy feast.

And I wonder now, years gone, mother gone,
The boys and girls scattered, drifted away with the snow-flakes,
Lamplight done, firelight over,
If the sounds of our singing in the streets are still there,
Those old tunes, still praising:
And now, a life-time of Decembers away from it all,
A branch of remembering holly spears my cheek,
And I think it may be so;
Yes, I believe it may be so.

Leonard Clark, 1905 - 81
English poet and anthologist
[See also This is the Night: "Hallowe'en"]

Christmas Poetry from Saint Faith's, Great Crosby
(near Liverpool, UK)
Blue Willow Santa ~ Tree Ornament

See also ~ Willow Willow Willow

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Sad Advent

Pausing on Pearl Harbor Day
to acknowledge not only the War Dead but also the reality
that Advent is not all fun and games for everybody.

These sobering anecdotes from my friend Len always haunt me. He lends a touch of humor but also a sense of sadness for his aunts and the anxiety that they should not have had to carry in their hearts. At this time of year, I worry about the so - called arc of justice, fearing mightily that it might never bend as far as we had hoped.
Every year during this season I recall the briefings we children were given by the older relatives on how to interact with the world so we would not inadvertently encourage pogroms. My Aunt Dottie explained that Santa Claus (pronounced "Senta Kloze") was the same as Jesus; we rehearsed giving a hearty greeting to any apparent non-Jews we passed ("Happy Kratzmus!"). She was the family comparative theologian.

When I was a child in New York City, the period between Thanksgiving and Christmas was one of ever-increasing anxiety. Our most knowledgeable family experts on the subject, my great-aunt Dottie and great-uncle Irving, used every opportunity to explain the dangers and reinforce the rules we needed to follow to avoid inadvertently sparking a pogrom. Even if we followed the rules, someone else might set off a spark. It was always advisable to have a valid passport, a packed suitcase, and cash stashed in small accounts in savings banks near train stations and ports. If we were in their house when this was said, Uncle Irving would bring out their two small suitcases and passports as ocular proof they followed their own advice. When my two oldest great-aunts died, sisters who had never married and who lived most of their lives in an apartment in Brooklyn, they were found to have over a hundred savings accounts scattered through all of the five boroughs.

The rules came annually but in random order, depending on the moment and what teaching opportunity presented itself during this perilous season. The most important rule: don’t ask any questions about the details and characters or you will be spotted by someone who will take your name and you will be blacklisted. You students: if forced to sing holiday songs or make holiday art projects, follow the instructions (do not ask questions about the characters or stories, remember; the teachers get bonuses for reporting suspicious children to the authorities). Be sure to destroy the art projects secretly away from your home. Don’t make eye contact with people ringing bells at store entrances, especially if they are wearing uniforms. If you see three nuns walking towards you on the sidewalk, cross the street, turning around in the opposite direction if necessary; don’t run. When you see crowds of non-Jews all dressed up on Sundays during this month, try to avoid getting close enough to have them notice you; don’t run away. If it can’t be avoided, you can blend in by shouting. “Murray Kratzmus!” Aunt Dottie would lead us in rehearsing the best way to deliver the shibboleth, in her best attempt at non-Yiddish pronunciation. The entire room of listeners, all ages and varieties of relatives, would cheerlessly practice repeating, “Murray Kratzmus!”

All during this period, when there were only five television channels, we were exposed endlessly to broadcasts of the inexplicable seasonal movies and holiday specials. What a relief it was to safely survive that perilous time, to celebrate our returning to normal, low-level worry, with the Family Dinner at the Palace of Wong.

On March 15 2017 Len writes: Another too-timely memory from March 2016 (during the primaries!):
I needed to renew my passport (coincidental timing; its expiration was set ten years ago, so not Trump related). This process reminded me of my older relatives and their worries. Some of them always carried their passports ("just in case," they said). Some of them had gotten into the habit of having many savings accounts so that cash and documents would be available if needed (the winners in this category, as far as I know, were my ancient aunts Gertie and Rose, who lived in a tiny apartment in Brooklyn and had over one hundred savings accounts spread across all of the boroughs). My parents were baffled by anyone choosing to travel to Europe. When I returned from my first summer in Europe (two months in Paris and London) my father said he it was incredibly brave of me to travel by myself there. He associated Europe with the notion of fleeing.

After reading of memories so bittersweet, it seems that only the saddest holiday music is appropriate, compositions of longing for lost innocence, childhood belief, and a certain touching faith in the permanence of life as we know it:

Bert Kaempfert's "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day" & "Children's Christmas Dream" from one of my dad's favorite albums Christmas Wonderland

Henri Mancini's "Carol for Another Christmas"

Greg Lake's "I Believe in Father Christmas"


Cultural historian Stephen Nissenbaum (b 1941) offers a surprisingly optimistic view in his lively analysis of America's excessive, obsessive mid -winter holiday:
"Actually, though, it is clear that the book began earlier still, with my childhood fascination for "The Night Before Christmas," whose verses I recited over and over when December came around. For me, growing up as I did in an Orthodox Jewish household, this was surely part of my fascination for Christmas itself, that magical season which was always beckoning, at school and in the streets only to be withheld each year by the forces of religion and family. (I once decided that Christmas must mean even more to America''s Jewish children than to its Christian ones.) I can remember, one Christmas Day, putting some of my own toys in a sack and attempting to distribute the to other children who lived in my Jersey City apartment house: If I couldn't get presents, at least no one stopped me from giving them away, and in that fashion at least I could participate in the joy of what, much later, I would come to think of as the 'gift exchange' " (from The Battle for Christmas, ix).
Fresh things for the season:
pineapple and pomegranates from the store;
pumpkins and rosemary from our garden!
[Calendar above by Liz Underhill]

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Happy Advent

It's true, the buying and sending and receiving of Advent Cards does not play a vivid part in our Christmas culture; but that has never stopped me from making at least one set every year, for sending to my mother, and sometimes a second set for my friend and fellow Advent - observer Cate. If you would like to receive or send the set seen below, just let me know! They have been featured, week by week, on my blog before, but I thought it would be nice to see them all together on one post!
First Week of Advent
Hope, Prophecy, Discovery, New Landscapes, Quest for Truth
and -- last but not least -- Clearing Away

Second Week of Advent
Peace, Bethlehem, Sparkling Skies, Charming Gardeners
and -- last but not least --
finding the most gracious in the most common

Third Week of Advent
Love, Angels, The Fire of Hospitality, The Flame of Charity
and -- last but not least -- Entertaining Unawares

Fourth Week of Advent
Joy, Shepherds, Spreading the Light,
Sharing, Doubling, and Reflecting
and -- last but not least -- seeing in a new way

Happy Christmas

Thanks to my spiritual advisors
Katy and Peter for a number of these ideas.

And to my sister Peg, who wrote:
"I've heard that Edith Wharton quote before
and now I want to work on being the mirror."
And to my friend Cate for saying: "I LOVE them! They are beautiful. Are you putting a set on your tree? I think they would look nice there. You did a great job. Where did you get the idea? You are so creative! I always wish we lived close enough to make cards together."