My Blog List

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

December in the Raggedy Garden

       WInter is here! December has come! It's Christmas in the Raggedy Garden! The dark comes early, and it stays late. There's only a skim of daylight in December. But I can put up some christmas lights, and light some candles and sit in the dark with the star shine and the cold December moon. The snow lights up the dark, too, reflecting the moon and the stars. Making magic. The Paper Whites are blooming, with their subtle scent, another white glow in the darkness. One can't grow anything in the December garden, so one must grow things in doors.
       There is the fun of going out to pick greens, for decorating, and red berries. Red berries are at a premium this year. I cannot find many at all. The Shiva's have two beautiful holly bushes at their house, but the birds have definitely beat us to those red holly berries. I settle for an arm load of bright, prickly holly branches, sans berries. The cedar smells so fresh and clean, and the hemlock and pine add more incense. The birds are flocking to the feeder. It needs to be filled daily. The bright red cardinals light up the brown, wintery lilac bush and add their persistant cheep to the sounds of the day. The wood box needs constant filling, the stoves constant feeding, and we are warm  and cozy.
       This small girl comes into my kitchen every December, for many years now, an old familair friend. Oh, the baking, kneading, cooking, stirrring that goes on in the Raggedy Garden kitchen in December! The house smells pleasantly of cardamon and cinnamon and chocolate. The best thing, though, are the friends that flow through it. The river of friends who come through the door, bringing fresh air, and laughter, and song and good will. They drink coffee and share tasty morsels and bless the Raggedy Garden with with life and love. The old ghosts come in too. Sweeping in with the wind and we feel them here with us when the lights are dim and the fire is low. Jolly old friends bringing oranges, old aunts and grandmothers bearing gifts and tarts. Babies who played on the worn wood floors who grew up and traveled far away. A young girl with a new train set, driving her train around and round the track, her long blonde hair sweeping the floor, until the batteries wore out. Now she has her own home, no more train, her hair gone short. I like them here, sometimes on December nights, old happy memories to keep me company.
            Snow shoes wait by the door. Waiting for enough snow to take someone on a hike. Across the unbroken drifts to the silent woods, to the muffled brook, to the windy hill top. Come with me, whispers the wind. Come find the hidden places, come find the tracks of the deer, the place where the otters play, the birds nests swaying in the trees.
       With December comes the end of the year. With all it joy and gladness there steals a soft footstep of sadness. For this year can never be again. We must face bravely a new one, and make of it what joy we choose. Find within ourselves beauty, and faith and love and compassion to rise up and cover the darkness and evil . Lift our eyes to the sky and let our lights shine , reflecting the light of heaven.
        December sun sets on the Raggedy Garden. Auld Lang Syne.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Peace on Earth

       The night is cold. The wind is whooping it up around the corners of the house. The trees creak and groan. The doors rattle. My house is old, and somewhat shabby. I am thankful to be here, sheltered from the wind and the cold. Everyone has already crawled into bed, curled up warm and sleepy under the Quilts.
      I have turned out the lights and I stand looking out the window. I do it every night, a habit from years long past. A quiet and peaceful interlude after each busy day.
      The sky is black velvet. I cannot see the moon. The starshine reflects off the snow covered ground, filling the night with white light. I can see the lights from the houses on the hill across the valley. The stars are brilliant. They really twinkle on certain clear winter nights. They don't seem as though they are so very far away. They look as though you could reach out and touch them. Stars intrigue me. I wonder. If I could hold one tiny flick of starlight in my hand, would it still wink, and glitter? When there are meteor showers and the sky rains stars, where do they go?
     How did those wise men, those Magi, find that new star in the East? What great allure did it have, compelling them to leave behind the places that they knew and go, following that star? Following it to a far distant land?
    What must those shepherds have thought, keeping watch over their flocks that night? Were they standing there as I am now gazing up into the glittering heavens? What if I suddenly saw the night sky filled with a heavenly host? What was it like to hear the angels sing? The Gospel says they were 'sore afraid'. Those words have such quality. I have never been 'sore afraid'.
     I think of my children and all those that I love. I want them to see this and understand. This was the beautiful gift given to mankind on that first Christmas Eve. We no longer need to be 'sore afraid'!
     The ice has crept halfway up the inside of my windows, because this old house has no storm glass. The ice looks like filigree. The star shine gleams through and makes lacy patches on my hardwood floor. Probably even a king or a queen doesn't have filigree windows of silvery lace on their floors! But I do. I can sleep content, knowing that there really is peace on earth. May we all have a quiet place to find it.
     This was published in the New Hampshire Union Leader several years ago. So many people who read it, told me I should use it for my Christmas letter. So here's my Christmas wishes to all of you!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The Christmas Truce

      I'm sure you have all heard the story. Christmas Eve 1914. World War 1. The western front. England was going to go over there and get rid of this evil menace and the world wouldn't have to have any more wars. The Germans were going to march right over into France, turn around and come home victorious. By Christmas! By Christmas the war would be over, evil vanquished and everyone would be home safe in bed!
     Alas, Here it was Christmas Eve and Englands boys were shivering  in the trenches on the western front. Like a bunch of moles. Down in a big hole, in the water and mud and the cold , dank air. You could not see over the top unless you climbed up and stuck your head up, which you definitely did not want to do. Every one was tired and discouraged and wishing they were home. The tench went, basically from Belgium to Switzerland. The Germans were in their trench just across from you. In between was no mans land. That small space littered with dead men and the accoutrements of war.
    Firelight flickered on the weary faces of the men, some reading or writing letters, some drinking coffee, some smoking, some nodding off. Dim and far away, they hear something. Some strange sound. Instantly they are alert. They listen. Yes it comes from the enemy tenches. It rises, mellow in the night air. They cannot understand the words, but they recognize the tune! The German boys are singing carols! They look at each other. Then one by one they also begin to sing. the same song, different language. The starry night is once more filled with song, rejoicing in the Saviors birth. No angels, no heavenly host in white. Only that motley host of soldiers, singing, singing.Were the songs of angels more glorious? Were perhaps these also angels, unaware?
     The German boys had started it. Germans celebrated Christmas in abundance. They already had Christmas trees, which had not yet become popular in other parts of the world. Now, the British boys bgan peering through the night, through the gun holes, peeking over the top of the trenches, to see what was going on. There was movement and lights. Yes, coming towards them! They got their guns ready. But this was different. This was something else. Slowly, cautiously, they climb up, out of their ditch and stop, waiting. Slowly, cautiously, the enemy advances towards them. they move forward, compelled to go. Compelled to see what this means. All guns are dropped.
     They meet in the middle. They shake hands. They communicate. they exchange gifts. Chocolate. Cigarettes. Trinkets. Pictures. They laugh and sing. Christmas Day they gather again. Playing football. Having fun. Forgetting war. They work together and bury their dead. Those crumpled boys in no mans land. They bury them. They recite Gods  word. They pray. What they are doing is strictly forbidden. By both armies. Both armies have officers who pretend not to see.
     This went on all along the western front that dreary year of 1914. Many men wrote about it to their families. The letters are still with us today. Words written so matter of factly in dingy trenches  by men and boys who would soon also lie crumpled on the cold ground.
      Ypres. Ypres was an old, old town. It was fortified with ramparts and a moat. All these soldiers from England came through Ypres, through the Menin Gate. It was not really a gate, just an opening in the ramparts where the bridge went over the moat. It was the main road into France, and through it went all those English boys. The Road to Hell, they called it. Thousands upon thousands never came back.
      Ypres was virtually destroyed by the war. It has now been built back. After the war, the English built a real gateway at the Menin Gate site. It is a beautiful white portal, still the main road out of town, engraved with all those names, and also a memorial to all the nameless ones who are buried so far from home.
      Every single day, since 1927, at 8:00 pm, the fire department of Ypres comes to the Menin Gate. The police stop all the traffic. Utter stillness falls on the evening air. The firemen play "The Last Post". There is a moment of silence. Then they play "Revielle".  So no one will forget. So no one will ever forget. Then life resumes its normal noise and bustle. "The Last Post" gives them rest. "Revielle" symbolizes their ressurection.
     On special days, they will ask some famous person, or just someone from the audience,to recite from L. Bingon's poem.
                                    "They shall not grow old, as we that are left grow old:
                                      age does not weary them, nor years condemn.
                                      At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
                                      we will remember them."
     I love the song "Silent Night". If you have never heard it sung in German, well, you should. I have heard orchestras play it, choirs sing it, guitars, pianos, soloists. In my mind, I hear it, far off and quavery, coming through the dark and the cold, from hundreds of voices. Voices that stopped a War, for a day of peace.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

One Hundred Miles

       One hundred miles from Nazereth to Bethlehem. If you look at a topographical map you will see mountains and hills and long, lonely, rocky stretches of mostly nothing. I think about that journey so long ago. Always, as long as I can remember, I have had that glossy christmas card picture in my mind, and I loved it. Loved the christmas story, loved to read the beautiful account of it in the gospel of Luke. The cadence of the words, the way they unfold from that long ago writer. I get chills, and I get choked up amd I get tears when I read it. But now I have been thinking about how unglossy it really was.
      A very young  Mary. Just an ordinary girl, going about the work she had to do everyday, Just like us. Not in pure shiny robes with a halo. Not educated or wealthy. Just an ordinary girl. Have you thought about how she trembled when the angel came? How she must have kept this secret , wondering what to do? If Joseph would put her away, what might happen? Would she be stoned, as the law directed?
     And Joseph, only a hard working young man, looking forward to life? How troubled was he, then at these things? How fearful was he of being visited by an angel?
     We complain and grouse about our taxes. Think how it was for those people. The Roman soldiers demanding the taxes from them, having no mercy. How frustrated were they, to have to travel to the place they had come from to be counted in the census? We grumble about filling out census forms, and being bothered by census takers, don't we?
     But off they set, Joseph and Mary, being great with child. Walking those weary miles to Bethlehem. The road from Nazereth to Bethlehem was a main Roman road, well traveled. But it must have been crowded, and dusty, and any one of us who have been great with child can surely feel how bone tired and anxious they were. Just an ordinary man and woman with a walking staff and a small donkey. No one would have noticed them in the crowd. I think they didn't have any glowing aura. Just a tired and dusty donkey with a tired and dusty woman and a tired and dusty man.Coming in to Bethlehem too late to find room in the inns, they go to the stable.
      I picture the stable to be actually not so bad. Their homes were limestone cave like dwellings in Nazereth. History says Nazereth shone  in the sunlight, a white city high up among the hills. I milked cows in a dim, dusty barn for many yers. It was quiet there, with only the cows chewing their cuds, the sweet fragrance of hay, the ping of milk in the pail. I liked the peacefulness of it. I don't know how well that stable was kept, I don't know if Joseph was able to muck it out, but I know it was cozy and warm and a good place to rest.
     The shepherds? Lonely men, out there on the hillsides, watching over their flocks by night. They were the first to know! Can you even begin to picture the clear starry night sky suddenly filling up with a heavenly host, singing?Walking up out of their familiar hills , into this dingy bustling city? They were just ordinary shepherds doing their job on an ordinary night. Until The angels came to tell them the good news.
    The wise men? The Magi. The three kings. The pictures show us jeweled and crowned and finely robed gentlemen bowing and presenting their gifts, of gold and frankincense, and myrrh. I think they were tired and dusty and travel weary, too, when they came. They must have been thought of as fools and crackpots to go traveling over the deserts and mountains following a star. Gaurding their camels and their treasured gifts for so long a journey. Following a star! What do we know of stars? Would we find a new one to study and decipher, with all our reading and studying and knowledge? Would we interupt  our lives to go seeking so fragile of a notion?
    One Hundred miles from Nazereth to Bethlehem! Up from the hills and into the city to see this thing which the Lord has made known to us! Load up the camels,you wise men from the East and trek the weary miles to lay gifts before the King!

Monday, December 3, 2012

Christmas Angels

         It's time to get out my Christmas angels. They have stood watch over me atop my kitchen door for many years. The family of them has grown, so now they flow down the sides of the door frame, too. They are a diverse gathering. It started out with the clothespin angels that I made with my girls when they were small. They were in an old McCalls magazine that we had picked up at the Salvation Army store. they were like paperdolls that you glued onto round clothes pins. There was halos to glue on to the back of the clothespin heads. Cupcake papers were folded to make wings, and all were liberally smeared with glue and sprinkled with glitter. They are faded now, and lots of glitter has fallen off, but they still stand straight and tall on the top of the door frame.

          There is an acorn angel with a pine cone dress. She has coppery wings and she holds a song book.There is a pink and white plastic angel, she's tiny and pastel and cute. There is an angel with gossamer wings and a blue beaded dress, a wooden thimble angel who has lost one of her wings. There is a tall, thin birchbark angel who feeds the birds, a crochet angel, white as snow, a seashell angel with a wide scallop shell skirt and small scallop shell wings. Her hair is frizzy and fly-away. A cut tin angel, patina-ed with age. her head bobbles, and I think she sings with a quivery, old voice. A vintage plasticine angel stands on a fingernail moon and plays her harp.
            There is a tiny little cowbell angel, an angel with butterfly wings, a straw angel with folded hands. There is a crystal angel and even a little mermaid angel. Her cheeks are pink, her hair is golden and her gown is mermaid green. Today, I got a new angel, from a little pink cheeked girl with starry eyes.It is a baby angel with a warm winter hat. I will put her up to meet her new friends on the door.
           When I get all my angels in place, then I know it's coming on Christmas! And doesn't scripture tell us to welcome strangers, for they might be angels, unaware? You never know which one they might look like, and they bless our lives and our homes. Open the door to the dusty one, the sparkley one, the wild woodsy one. Listen to them with your heart, not your eyes or your mind. You might find the Christ child there!
              This was written in my notes, on Facebook, last year, before I started blogging. I put my angels up today, and I thought I'd blog it with a few pictures. ( This is a coconut fiber angel with a seaglass vase. She came to me from Hawaii.)