Saturday, December 31, 2022

Old December, Brown and Bright

Winter

A wrinkled crabbed man they picture thee,
Old Winter, with a rugged beard as grey
As the long moss upon the apple-tree;
Blue-lipt, an icedrop at thy sharp blue nose,
Close muffled up, and on thy dreary way
Plodding alone through sleet and drifting snows.

They should have drawn thee by the high-heapt hearth,*
Old Winter! seated in thy great armed chair,
Watching the children at their Christmas mirth;
Or circled by them as thy lips declare
Some merry jest, or tale of murder dire,
Or troubled spirit that disturbs the night,
Pausing at times to rouse the mouldering fire,
Or taste the old October brown and bright.


by Robert Southey (1774 – 1843)
Romantic English Poet
Poet Laureate from 1813 until his death
Author of The Three Bears Fairy Tale

Aidan as Baby Bear

*Choose any version of A Christmas Carol, and you'll see that Charles Dickens (1812 - 1870) appears to have followed Southey's description of a jollier Old Winter to the letter in his depiction of The Ghost of Christmas Present:
In easy state upon this couch, there sat a jolly Giant, glorious to see; who bore a glowing torch, in shape not unlike Plenty’s horn, and held it up, high up, to shed its light on Scrooge, as he came peeping round the door.

“Come in!” exclaimed the Ghost. “Come in! and know me better, man!”

Scrooge entered timidly, and hung his head before this Spirit. He was not the dogged Scrooge he had been; and though the Spirit’s eyes were clear and kind, he did not like to meet them.

“I am the Ghost of Christmas Present,” said the Spirit. “Look upon me!”

Scrooge reverently did so. It was clothed in one simple green robe, or mantle, bordered with white fur. This garment hung so loosely on the figure, that its capacious breast was bare, as if disdaining to be warded or concealed by any artifice. Its feet, observable beneath the ample folds of the garment, were also bare; and on its head it wore no other covering than a holly wreath, set here and there with shining icicles. Its dark brown curls were long and free; free as its genial face, its sparkling eye, its open hand, its cheery voice, its unconstrained demeanour, and its joyful air.
In yet another interesting comparison, Dickens seems to be channeling Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772 – 1834), particularly when he envisions the Ghost of Christmas Past as a candle flame: " . . . the strangest thing about it was, that from the crown of its head there sprung a bright clear jet of light, by which all this was visible; and which was doubtless the occasion of its using, in its duller moments, a great extinguisher for a cap, which it now held under its arm."

Likewise, in Frost at Midnight, Coleridge, in his "abstruser musings," is carried back to the past by a "thin blue flame" a "fluttering stranger." Just like Scrooge, he follows the flame, recalling his birth-place, his long - ago school days, his stern instructor, his fear of abandonment, his beloved sister.

********************

Wishing you an intropective New Year's Eve
with time to muse before the fire, re-reading Dickens
and sharing a cup of "old October brown and bright."

Maybe in one of these rustic yule-tide
reindeer mugs, perfect for the occasion!

Thursday, December 29, 2022

Gin-gle All the Way

Whimsical New Year Cards
From I Love and Love Design Studio


Gotta love the the way that both
Amy and Tammy use "gin" as a verb!
Gin the Essence

the red of a single berry
the edge of a flake of snow
the biting scent of pine tree
the warmth of fire glow

if i could gin the essence
of this holiday i love
i’d wrap it as a present
through me, from Him above

to notice and to listen
to feel, and smell and taste
to savor love’s beginning
a babe in our embrace

i’d call us all to dinner
a feast with candles high
and dance my joy unending
with lusty lullaby:

merry! happy! shining! hope!
i. love. you.


t. sandel, 2009
More Fun Cards by my niece Amy
Amy mailed these to us from the UK on a Friday
and they arrived in Virginia on Tuesday -- 4 days!

When we confirmed safe arrival, Amy wrote:
"No way!!! It's a Christmas Miracle!!!
My customers in the UK haven't even received their orders yet!

As I was saying: Season of Miracles!

Tuesday, December 27, 2022

Enjoy Your Crepe Breakfast

Super-cute Kiddie Crepe Set for Ellie's play kitchen,
complete with lemon, butter, nutella, banana slices!

When, Ben suggested crepes (Gerry's specialty) for breakfast at our house, we liked the idea but had to text him back with a few disclaimers:

Do you have any crepe fillings to bring along?
We have lots of sugar but no lemons or lemon juice,
lots of shredded cheese but no deli ham
lots of Nutella but only one banana. 

Ben's answer was the best:

We have lemon juice and ham and bananas!
It’s a Christmas miracle!

Long live the homecooked family breakfast
and the season of miracles!

ENJOY YOUR CREPE BREAKFAST!
. . . or as they say in Prague:

Friday, December 23, 2022

Christmas Beetles & New Year Bats

Everyone knows how much I love a good coincidence;
so, here's a delightful one for Christmas:

My friend Igor posted the above Victorian
oddity on my facebook page
~ a beetle chasing one of Santa's helpers ~
without any prior knowledge that earlier that same day
I had decorated his Christmas package with a beetle theme!
What's the odds? Perhaps, not EVERYONE
thinks of the beetle at Christmastime, but SOME do!

Certainly Kafka did:
“The messiah will come only when he is no longer necessary."

Igor:
"The Messiah will come only after he sees the guest list!"

Might I add: Very cautious of the Messiah to request
a glance at that guest list before committing!
Not forgetting the New Year's Bats!

Wednesday, December 21, 2022

Winter Solstice Sun

" . . . the deciduous idea!
trees die for half the year
& take all else in the universe . . . " *
". . . trees are emotion unalloyed
complete unto themselves -- so fully open
to the elements that they do not move
save in the wind -- always sumptuous, always
digging for more strength, more knowledge

yet they pause to ask us
do you know where you come from?
what you walk on? whither you go?"


from "At the Council" (2021 Winter Solstice)
by Lee Perron
from Fog Along the Russian River

*from "Desire, a Sequence" (1977)
by Lee Perron
For more about
the Crape Myrtle tree trunks,
lining the parking lot at the Boar's Head


For more on the Winter Solstice

For more poetry by Lee Perron

Saturday, December 17, 2022

Victorian Dollhouse

"Like a nursery rhyme!" ~Diana H.
"In my eyes are valentines
And Easter eggs and New Year's wine
But when my heart finds Christmas
My eyes will shine like new . . .
"

from "When My Heart Finds Christmas"
by Harry Connick Jr.

Thanks to Sean Lutes, artist, historian, and friend,
for capturing the magic of 443 at Christmastime!

Look closely and you will see:


besides the cat and the Christmas tree,

the fireplace

the hexagonal window
(one of several in the real house)

the piano

the antique porch light from Philadelphia

the secret turret room,
containing the dollhouse within the dollhouse

Sunflowers by Van Gogh

the motto of my Fortnightly Blog:
"a house where all's accustomed, ceremonious"
~ Yeats ~


and so much more!

After wandering around our house for half an hour,
and seeing this photograph (Christmas 2019)
of our magical black cat Fuqua,
Sean was ready to run with the idea of 443 as dollhouse,
pulling together this vision of detail,
"fun and whimsy" (~Laura McL).

Wednesday, December 14, 2022

Gnome Sweet Gnome

Favorite Greeting Card
From Vicky D. McL. ~ 2020
Shroud of the Gnome

And what amazes me is that none of our modern inventions
surprise or interest him, even a little. I tell him
it is time he got his booster shots, but then
I realize I have no power over him whatsoever.
He becomes increasingly light-footed until I lose sight
of him downtown between the federal building and
the post office. A registered nurse is taking her
coffee break. I myself needed a break, so I sat down
next to her at the counter. "Don't mind me," I said,
"I'm just a hungry little Gnostic in need of a sandwich."
(This old line of mine had met with great success
on any number of previous occasions.) I thought,
a deaf, dumb, and blind nurse, sounds ideal!
But then I remembered that some of the earliest
Paleolithic office workers also feigned blindness
when approached by nonoffice workers, so I paid my bill
and disappeared down an alley where I composed myself.
Amidst the piles of outcast citizenry and burning barrels
of waste and rot, the plump rats darting freely,
the havoc of blown newspapers, lay the little shroud
of my lost friend: small and gray and threadbare,
windworn by the ages of scurrying hither and thither,
battered by the avalanches and private tornadoes
of just being a gnome, but surely there were good times, too.
And now, rejuvenated by the wind, the shroud moves forward,
hesitates, dances sideways, brushes my foot as if for a kiss,
and flies upward, whistling a little-known ballad
about the pitiful, raw etiquette of the underworld.


by James ~ Tate
in his book of the same title:
A Friendly Gnome to Greet Us
At Auntie Jan's House
And Pixie - Sized Figures for the Dollhouse
A Collection of Gnomes From Steven
Including this Little Pixie;
along with a Chrismtas Lobster, stuffed peppermints;
and a Christmas Carol Pop - Up Book from Igor
Flannel Sheets from Lands' End
And Hand Towels

Sunday, December 11, 2022

The Frosty Season

Captions from friends:
~ Rockefeller Center Without the Crowd ~
~ Looks Like a Postcard ~
~ Like Norman Rockwell! ~
Skating
from The Prelude: Book 1: Childhood and School-time

In the frosty season, when the sun
Was set, and, visible for many a mile,
The cottage windows through the twilight blazed,
I heeded not the summons: happy time
It was indeed for all of us; for me
It was a time of rapture. Clear and loud
The village clock tolled six. I wheel’d about,
Proud and exulting, like an untired horse
That cares not for its home. All shod with steel,
We hiss’d along the polish’d ice in games
Confederate, imitative of the chase
And woodland pleasures,—the resounding horn,
The pack loud-bellowing, and the hunted hare.
So through the darkness and the cold we flew,
And not a voice was idle: with the din
Meanwhile the precipices rang aloud;
The leafless trees and every icy crag
Tingled like iron; while the distant hills
Into the tumult sent an alien sound
Of melancholy, not unnoticed, while the stars,
Eastward, were sparkling clear, and in the west
The orange sky of evening died away.
Not seldom from the uproar I retired
Into a silent bay, or sportively
Glanced sideway, leaving the tumultuous throng,
To cut across the image of a star
That gleam’d upon the ice; and oftentimes,
When we had given our bodies to the wind,
And all the shadowy banks on either side
Came sweeping through the darkness, spinning still
The rapid line of motion, then at once
Have I, reclining back upon my heels,
Stopp’d short; yet still the solitary cliffs
Wheel’d by me, even as if the earth had roll’d
With visible motion her diurnal round.
Behind me did they stretch in solemn train,
Feebler and feebler, and I stood and watch’d
Till all was tranquil as a summer sea
.
[Or, "Till all was tranquil as a dreamless sleep.]

By William Wordsworth (1770–1850)
~ Wintry Sunset at the Boar's Head ~

" . . . a time of rapture . . .
The leafless trees and every icy crag
Tingled like iron . . .
When we had given our bodies to the wind
. . . "

Wordsworth's poem holds true for swimming as well as skating;
yes, even in December. But lets say 4pm rather than 6pm!

Not forgetting
Frost at Midnight
By Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772 – 1834)

The Frost performs its secret ministry,
Unhelped by any wind. The owlet's cry
Came loud—and hark, again! loud as before.
The inmates of my cottage, all at rest,
Have left me to that solitude, which suits
Abstruser musings: save that at my side
My cradled infant slumbers peacefully.
'Tis calm indeed! so calm, that it disturbs
And vexes meditation with its strange
And extreme silentness. Sea, hill, and wood,
This populous village! Sea, and hill, and wood,
With all the numberless goings-on of life,
Inaudible as dreams! the thin blue flame
Lies on my low-burnt fire, and quivers not;
Only that film, which fluttered on the grate,

Still flutters there, the sole unquiet thing.
Methinks, its motion in this hush of nature
Gives it dim sympathies with me who live,
Making it a companionable form,
Whose puny flaps and freaks the idling Spirit
By its own moods interprets, every where
Echo or mirror seeking of itself,
And makes a toy of Thought.

But O! how oft,
How oft, at school, with most believing mind,
Presageful, have I gazed upon the bars,
To watch that fluttering stranger ! and as oft
With unclosed lids, already had I dreamt
Of my sweet birth-place, and the old church-tower,
Whose bells, the poor man's only music, rang
From morn to evening, all the hot Fair-day,
So sweetly, that they stirred and haunted me
With a wild pleasure, falling on mine ear
Most like articulate sounds of things to come! So gazed I, till the soothing things, I dreamt,
Lulled me to sleep, and sleep prolonged my dreams!
And so I brooded all the following morn,
Awed by the stern preceptor's face, mine eye
Fixed with mock study on my swimming book:
Save if the door half opened, and I snatched
A hasty glance, and still my heart leaped up,
For still I hoped to see the stranger's face,
Townsman, or aunt, or sister more beloved,
My play-mate when we both were clothed alike!

Dear Babe, that sleepest cradled by my side,
Whose gentle breathings, heard in this deep calm,
Fill up the intersperséd vacancies
And momentary pauses of the thought!
My babe so beautiful! it thrills my heart
With tender gladness, thus to look at thee,
And think that thou shalt learn far other lore,
And in far other scenes! For I was reared
In the great city, pent 'mid cloisters dim,
And saw nought lovely but the sky and stars.
But thou, my babe! shalt wander like a breeze
By lakes and sandy shores, beneath the crags
Of ancient mountain, and beneath the clouds,
Which image in their bulk both lakes and shores
And mountain crags: so shalt thou see and hear
The lovely shapes and sounds intelligible
Of that eternal language, which thy God
Utters, who from eternity doth teach
Himself in all, and all things in himself.
Great universal Teacher! he shall mould
Thy spirit, and by giving make it ask.

Therefore all seasons shall be sweet to thee,
Whether the summer clothe the general earth
With greenness, or the redbreast sit and sing
Betwixt the tufts of snow on the bare branch
mossy apple-tree, while the night-thatch
in the sun-thaw; whether the eave-drops fall
Heard only in the trances of the blast,
Or if the secret ministry of frost
Shall hang them up in silent icicles,
Quietly shining to the quiet Moon.

Thursday, December 8, 2022

Must - See? Or Must - Not - See?

Jack Skellington
The Nightmare Before Christmas

Sam was a good sport to weigh in on his favorite must - sees, so whether or not we agree with his assessment, it's only fair to allow him a thumbs - down on this one. I fear that his unfavorable impression stems from my bad parenting choice of encouraging him to watch it at the tender age of 5.
Dear Family,

I gave Nightmare Before Christmas another shot last night (after it was in timeout for the past 25 years). I don’t remember watching it multiple times. It was definitely a long time ago.

I tried to be open minded — but it still creeps the shit out of me / scares me, and I don’t really get it. Also, I couldn’t stop thinking of this Family Guy clip the whole time I was watching.

I’m not sure if we had family consensus (or if I had to use my security council veto) on no subsequent viewing. But I had flashbacks last night when I saw the creepy scientist dude + how Jack’s long legs move. I don’t know who at Hollywood decided that was a “Christmas” movie?! smh

Nightmare Before Christmas is to Christmas movies as an ice cream taco (structural neutral, ingredient rebel) is to sandwiches.

On the flip side, the “Halloween town” and “Christmas town” concept is cool + some of the lyrics are pretty good. I’m just glad Jack didn’t go down the thanksgiving tree; then we’d have real beef. 😤

Postscript from Cathleen: "Oh my! I’m intrigued. I don’t think I’ve ever seen it. Maybe we’ll give a try, or maybe we should watch something else! lol
Further advice from an expert viewer:

"I think The Nightmare Before Christmas is a delightful movie. Still, I can understand how Sam felt damaged by it. It's got some really dark and negative themes, but it's so inventive. I haven't seen it in a long time, but I remember loving the imagery, the Kurt Weillesque score and the voices of Chris Sarandon, Catherine O'Hara, and William Hickey as some of the characters.

If you check the DVD, it should include a short film that Tim Burton made called Vincent, which is about Vincent Price, whose last movie was Edward Scissorhands. The short version of Frankenweenie is also lovely.

Thanks Steven!

Ben made some cut - out Christmas stockings & declared:
"Shortbread success! "Tastes like my childhood!"
So the movies may have been scary,
but the cookies were tasty!

Monday, December 5, 2022

Must - See Christmas Movies

Once again, "through a child's eyes!"
Imagine seeing all of these movies for the first time!
First Christmas Movies for Ellie (2021):
Learning all about Frosty & Rudolph!

So, what are the must - sees?
My son Sam says:


1st tier:
1. The Christmas Story (BB Gun)
2. A Child's Christmas in Wales
3. A Christmas Memory (Truman Capote)

2nd tier:
1. Elf
2. Christmas Vacation
3. The Snowman

***************

My friend Burnetta says:

1. It's a Wonderful Life (of course)
2. Home ALone
3. Elf
4. A Christmas Story (BB Gun)
5. Love Actually

***************

Burnetta asked for my list . . .
"Just 5 or ten that you watch each Christmas?"

No problem! I love watching Christmas movies
and talking about Christmas movies!
Not surprisingly, we share some of the same favs!

The ones I can’t live without — also love the books:

1. A Christmas Memory by Truman Capote and narrated by him, so you actually hear his voice. Priceless!

2. A Child's Christmas in Wales — Denholm Elliott’s excellent rendition, both for listening & viewing
[Audio only, narrated by Dylan Thomas himself!]

3. The House Without a Christmas Tree by Gail Rock
[More on my book blog]

4. The Snowman

***************


For old - time classics, I would pick
1. Miracle on 34th Street
2. White Christmas

and for contemporary classics, I think I would go with
1. Christmas Vacation
2. Home Alone, 1 & 2
3. A Christmas Story (BB Gun)

See my comparison of "Child's Christmas in Wales"
with the BB Gun Christmas Story:
"A Little Touch of Eternity"

And in their own category:
All the Dickens' A Christmas Carol / Scrooge movies

***************

Q: Ten movies that you can watch over over, never get tired of watching, or that feed your soul?

A: Easy, I would pick all Christmas movies!


1. Christmas Vacation
2. Home Alone (1 & 2)
3. White Christmas
4. The House Without a Christmas Tree
5. A Child's Christmas in Wales (starring Denholm Elliott)
6. "The Dead" (starring Anjelica Huston, Anjelica Huston,
based on the short story by James Joyce)

7. The Snowman (animation, intro by David Bowie)
8. Truman Capote's "A Christmas Memory" (1966)
9. Miracle on 34th Street
10. A Christmas Story (BB Gun)

And more:

11. The Bear Who Slept Through Christmas (1973 animation,
narrated by Tommy Smothers, Barbara Feldon, Arte Johnson)

12. A Charlie Brown Christmas
13. Christmas Eve on Sesame Street
14. "A Muppets Christmas Carol"
15. The Musical "Scrooge" with Albert Finney
16. Scrooged
17. Peter's Friends
18. Nutcracker ~ 1986 ~ Maurice Sendak ~ NWP Ballet

And for Thanksgiving:

1. Home for the Holidays
2. Hannah and Her Sisters
3. What's Cooking
4. Planes, Trains and Automobiles

***************

And last but not least,
some festive snacks to serve
while watching all the best Christmas movie!.
I recently came across these cute cookie
decorating ideas in my Old Lap Top Files

Sunday, December 4, 2022

O Antiphons

Earlier this evening, we attended the Advent Lessons & Carols on UVA campus, and I marked this prayer in the program because it seemed a little different than any I have heard before:

Let us remember . . all those who rejoice with us,
but upon another shore and in a greater light,
that multitude which no one can number
. . . ”

The service included not only the classic O Come, O Come, Emmanuel (as popularly sung by Peter, Paul & Mary and so many others) but also this haunting, beautiful version with medieval lyrics, set to contemporary music by Joanna Forbes L'Estrange (b 1971):
Advent "O" Carol

O Sapientia (O Wisdom)
We long for your coming, O Wisdom;
We long for your coming, O Lord;
Come and teach us the way of understanding;
You are the living word.

O Adonai (O Lord and Ruler)
We long for you, O Lord and Ruler;
We long for your coming, O Lord.
Come and stretch out your arms and redeem us;
You are the living word.

O Radix Jesse (O Root of Jesse)
We long for you, O Root of Jesse;
We long for your coming, O Lord.
Come to deliver us, and do not tarry;
You are the living word.

O Clavis David (O Key of David)
We long for you, O Key of David;
We long for your coming, O Lord.
Come and bring forth the captive from his prison;
Who sits in the shadow of death.

O Oriens (O Dawn of the East)
We long for you, O Dawn of the East;
We long for your coming, O Lord.
Come and lighten those who sit in darkness;
And in the shadow of death.

O Rex Gentium (O King of the Gentiles)
We long for you, O King of the Gentiles;
We long for your coming, O Lord.
Come and deliver man whom you formed
Out of the dust of the earth.

O Emmanuel (O Emmanuel)
O Emmanuel! When will you come?
Come to save us, O Lord our God.

O ero cras.
Tomorrow I will come.
****************

Each verse begins with an antiphon, naming a title or attribute of the Messiah:

O Sapientia (O Wisdom)
O Adonai (O Lord)
O Radix Jesse (O Root of Jesse)
O Clavis David (O Key of David)
O Oriens (O Dayspring)
O Rex Gentium (O King of the Nations)
O Emmanuel (O With Us is God)

To understand the brief final stanza, look at the first letters of each title, in reverse order: E mmanuel, R ex, O riens, C lavis, R adix, A donai, S apientia: ERO CRAS -- a Latin phrase translating approximately "Tomorrow, I will be [there]" or “I will be present tomorrow.” Tomorrow I will come.
Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow.
Some actual time?
Or, as Kafka surmises,
some fabulous yonder?
Not forgetting the Prophet's caution
that we cannot visit the house of tomorrow,
not even in our dreams.

I can't help thinking of Dorothy Parker's remark in Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle, when she is coming out from under anesthesia and almost hears the voice of God:

"But I can't understand what God is saying,
because he's got a mask over his face.
Isn't that just like Him?"


****************

O? So the Messiah will be coming tomorrow?

Isn't that just like Him?
The messiah will come only when he is no longer necessary;
he will come only on the day after his arrival;
he will come, not on the last day, but on the very last
.”

~ Franz Kafka ~