Last year was the first year I had this fake little tree. Errol and I always had real trees, we both loved it. But life goes on and one can't quite cope with all that any more. So this year, I took out the little tree from K-mart and decorated it with a few of my remaining ornaments. Only Swedish ones, everything else went to the Hospital Guild thrift store.
Instead of displaying Christmas cards everywhere, I put them in my bowl.
I really should have removed my dirty copper pots. Or not posted this at all, but I so love that Faith photo bombed the picture that I just had to post it. I wonder what she's looking at here. The copper pots belonged to my grandmother, who actually cooked with them. When she was old, and her life was modern and easier, one entire wall in her large kitchen was taken up by all her copper pots, pans, and baking dishes. Always freshly polished and shiny. They will get done before Christmas, grandma, I promise.
Christmas began last Friday, when I went with some friends to hear the Tehachapi Symphony Chorus perform three selections from Bach's Christmas Oratorio and then, after the intermission, a glorious rendition of Handel's Messiah.
My Swedish goat. In our home, we had one just like it under the tree. In Sweden, home of many reindeer, Santa leaves them alone and travels with goats or one goat maybe, not sure.
Tomorrow, Mary is hosting a luncheon for the ladies in the crochet group. I'm looking forward to that. Then I will see relatives and friends on the weekend.
Some small Swedish goblins or tomtar, as they are called there. The Santa my grandfather made well over 100 years ago. My mom and dad celebrating what may well have been their first Christmas together. A small plate, a gift from my cousin Anders.
In Sweden, Christmas is celebrated on Christmas Eve and Rachael has spent many Christmas Eves first with both Errol and I and later with me. But not this year, so I have a strong feeling that I want to be alone, just to think about things. As you get older, time moves at an explosive speed. Even when you live in a desert mountain canyon with nothing much to do ~~ not true, always much to do here. So taking time out for reflection, I believe is a very good thing.
Gifts from my friends Bill and Judy, from many Christmases ago when we all worked at UCLA and Bill was the best boss ever and Judy such a good friend. They still are friends of course, and I hope to see them in the spring. It's a shame the ornament is not clear, it's just gorgeous.
Then I will, weather permitting, spend Christmas Day with my niece Monique, her husband Kenny, and their two daughters Jasmine and Jacqueline. They live in Lancaster, which is about 45 miles through the high desert from here. Many storms are coming in from the Pacific and if it snows, I will stay home. Hope it won't because, after all, Christmas is for kids and I would so love to spend some fun and loving time with them.
One hundred and ten ~ years ago today, my mom was born in Stockhom, Sweden. In those days, the capital city was small and as my dad was born there also, this is pretty rare. They met on a tennis court, married late, which was also unusual in those days, and I so wish I could end this with saying that they lived happily ever after.
I know their early years were good, I have many happy pictures of myself and my brother as babies and giggling toddlers.
Then in 1947, my sister was born with the most severe form of Down Syndrome. My dad found himself unable to deal with the emotional part of this, the part that should have been loving and supportive. He oversaw the financial care of my sister after she was placed in care for children with developmental issues, but the rest, the love and support my mom needed, the visiting, the loving his daughter, he was unable to give.
At home we never talked about her, only my mom visited her. When I became old enough to understand something was wrong at home, I became the support my mom so badly needed. We would go together and visit my sister, who, while she did not understand who we were, knew we were special. And I fell in love with her, she was such a joy. Her name was Ann-Marie, but her caregivers affectionately called her Ammi. She was supposed to die in her 20s they said. Well, she died in 2005, at the age of 58.
I never confronted my father, I never asked why, and it took me years, until the 1970s and a very good psychologist, to finally work through my feelings and forgive my dad.
I have no idea why I'm sharing this with you guys, it just sort of came pouring out. I'm not upset about it any longer, I guess that today, on my mom's birthday, I just wish my parents years together had been happier.
But after many more tragic years with my brother's addiction and death, and me far away, my mom met an old sea captain at the assisted living place. They got married and had a few happy years together. And for that, I am grateful.
I know just about everyone has read this post in one reiteration or another. Last year, I said: This is what I posted back in 2014: Many of you have read my Sankta Lucia posts in prior years. This time, I decided to combine the 2012 and 2013 posts and add some background to the Sankta Lucia customs in Sweden. If you read this for the first time, I hope you will enjoy learning about Saint Lucy and the tradition of the Festival of Light celebrations held in Sweden on her Saint's Day.
Throughout history, people in the Nordic countries have celebrated light in the dark and cold of the approaching winter solstice.
In the old calendar, December 13th was the longest night of the year. It was also the most dangerous. A night when animals could speak and fairies, trolls, and giants roamed the forests. In the countryside, young people would dress up in costumes and go from house to house, singing songs, eating and drinking with their neighbors. The custom of a Lucia dressed in white was first recorded in 1764, but didn't become popular until the 19th century.
This old tradition continues today. On December 13, Sankta Lucia Day is celebrated in Sweden with festivals of light across the country. And, at the darkest time of year, people are reminded that our earth will soon begin to turn toward the light of spring.
According to tradition, the eldest daughter in the family, wearing a white dress with a red sash and a crown of candles, brings coffee and Lucia buns (lussekatter) to her parents in bed.
Yes, that's me as Sankta Lucia with a crown of real candles on my head! (I did have a wet napkin on my hair, underneath the crown.) The girl and her court of younger siblings sing the old Neapolitan song Santa Lucia in a translation that celebrates light coming to this dark season. This tradition continues in Swedish homes today, but with battery operated candles, I'm sure.
Sankta Lucia is crowned in schools, churches, and communities all over Sweden and processions are held with the Queen of Light leading her court.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Sankta Lucia, or Saint Lucy, was a Sicilian woman who was martyred in the year 304 AD. A common story suggests that she would secretly bring food to persecuted Christians who lived in the catacombs of Rome and, in order to keep her hands free, she wore a crown of candles on her head. Another legend tells us that she consecrated her virginity to God through pious works. After she refused to marry her betrothed, a pagan man, he became infuriated and reported her to the authorities. When guards came to arrest her, she was so filled with the Holy Spirit that they couldn't move her, even with a team of oxen. The guards then gathered materials around her and set them on fire, but she didn't burn. In medieval accounts, Saint Lucy's eyes are gouged prior to her execution and she is often depicted in art carrying her eyes on a tray.
Saint Lucy, by Domenico Beccafumi, in a 1521 recasting of an iconic Gothic image. It was said that Saint Lucy was tortured with eye gouging, hence this rather disturbing image. The picture, as well as some of the history of Saint Lucy, are courtesy Wikipedia.
Saint Lucy is the patron saint of the blind. Her name is derived from Lux, Latin for light, and she is presented with light in art and literature. Saint Lucy is one of only seven women, aside from the Virgin Mary, commemorated by name in the Canon of the Mass.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ A Note:
The coffee cups I carry in the picture above, belonged to my maternal grandmother and they now have a home here with me.
I love this rusty old wheelbarrow from Italy. The way it sits there in the sun, ready to be loaded up with wood. My personal rust photographer, Jane, sent me this picture.
It's interesting, I haven't felt inspired to write a story for a long time now, but looking at this old thing, sitting in the midst of all that wood, started my imagination working again. Oh, well......
When it's time to go to bed, Faith stands at the side of the bed and looks at me. She doesn't respond to just come, I also have to pat the bed with my hand. Then she jumps up on her "blankie." I tell her, "go to your end of the bed." This she does, and soon goes to sleep.
I usually wake up sometime in the middle of the night for a bathroom trip. This is where I find Faith. If her head is not on my pillow, it's only because she knows she's supposed to stay on her blanket.
"Goodnight sweet girl," I say before I go back to sleep.
In the morning she has turned around and come a bit closer.
Finally, after more than two and half years it is done. I'm not a crafts person, but I enjoy meeting up with the women in the crochet group and I also really enjoy crocheting. I loved making the squares, getting all the fun colors together, and then trimming each square with black yarn.
But then came the hard part: Putting it all together, all those squares, black on black. It was very difficult for me to see, even after I had my eyes fixed. So I did something I don't usually do, I gave up, put it in a drawer and let it sit there for a long time.
I didn't pick up a new project, I wanted to finish this one first. But it was hard.
Then I thought about my mom, who like me, was not into crafts either. For as long as I lived at home, there was a beautiful pillow case, a large one for a decorative pillow, embroidered with wool yarn in a chevron pattern, that my mom made. It was almost finished. It was in a drawer.
My mom would say all through my childhood, "I'll finish that pillow some day." As she aged, she would say, "I'll finish that pillow before I die, you'll see."
The pillow never got finished.
My only brother sadly fell victim to prescription drugs and later to heroin and cocaine. He had been a very handsome young man who used to go to work wearing suits and ties, and then became this wreck of a human being.
He would say to my mother, "Don't worry, some day soon, I'll wear that blue suit of mine again. I will clean up and you will be so proud of me." Then he died, at the age of 40, of an overdose of heroin. I don't know what happened to the blue suit.
As I procrastinated with my afghan, my thoughts wandered back to that beautiful pillow, to the blue suit, then to death, no second chances, and other not productive places.
Until I picked up all the little squares and began to put them together. That must have been a year ago now, but it doesn't matter. It's done, I seized the day, I saw it through, it's far from perfect, but it's done. And I'm happy!
Faith: The Chewy man came, but only with a small package. I knew that couldn't be our food, so I was a little worried.
But when mommy opened it, there were packs of snacks and dental chews and then she gave me two BONES! Ahh, just for me, me, me.... I must have the best mommy in the whole wide world!
Me: You know better than that Faith, you know that one bone was for Samson and one bone was for you. Faith to herself: I don't think so. I better get the other bone and hide it. Faith can't figure out how to carry both bones, so she has to leave one. She picks up the other one and brings it outside.
Samson, who only has a moderate interest in bones, sees the bone Faith left, picks it up and proceeds to chew on it.
Faith hears him chewing and runs anxiously around the house, back and forth. I find her in the hallway, listening.
Me: I know he's got one bone, why can't you just chew on the other? Why do you get so upset for nothing? Faith: Nothing?! That's MY bone! Me: Let's go and see if he'll give it back to you. Unlike you, Samson is such a mellow dog, he probably won't care.
Faith: Mommy said you have to give me back MY bone!! Me: Not exactly what I said. Samson continues to chew and says nothing.
Faith: Mommy, could you PLEASE help me -- that is MY bone. Me: OK, since you ask so nicely I'll go outside and get the other bone. As I leave, Samson, who doesn't like me to leave, gets up and follows me outside.
Faith wastes no time - the bone is HERS!
Much to my surprise, Samson accepts the other bone and they both lie down together, chewing away. Peacefully....
Dark clouds clouds gathered and a little rain fell the night before last.
I have longed for cold weather and rain for more than six months. I know, of course, that rain and floods have destroyed so much on the East coast and in the South that I hesitate to even post how happy I am about this.
On our walk this morning, I saw these dark clouds to the west and sunlight covering that hillside in the background. It looked gorgeous in real life, much better than I captured in this picture.
Turning to the east, the clouds broke up to let some light in from the sun rising behind the mountains.
Casting deep shadows across the landscape.
This is the only picture I edited in Photo. I made it a little lighter because I liked the junipers against the sky and wanted to better see what it looked like.
Hope you all had a nice Thanksgiving. I meditated on how thankful I am for my family, the one that raised me and is no longer with me, and my American family who is very much in my life; all my friends, and, of course, Samson and Faith. I am also grateful for the peace this country life offers me
Yesterday, I was in town running errands. On my way home, I noticed many trees were decked out in pretty fall colors and some had already lost all their leaves.
I felt bad I was a little late in noticing this, but feeling tired, I decided to just stop and take pictures with my phone of the trees I found on my way home.
Unfortunately, there weren't many, but then trees with bare branches are beautiful too, so I felt that even in my lazy mood, I was doing OK.
And trees with just a few brave leaves left were even more interesting.
As some of you know, I haven't posted much here lately, mainly because of troubles with my Type 1 diabetes. After almost 30 years, it is beginning to catch up with me. My up and down blood sugars have resulted in me being even more tired than I usually am and I've had to fight feeling guilty and slightly depressed about my inability to accomplish what I both want and need to do to take care of things around here.
But then two things happened: First little Gracie wrote a song telling us she missed us and was worried, which made me post right away. Even though I had many emails from friends around the world, asking if I was safe from the fires, I hadn't considered that my friends on the blogs may have also been concerned.
Second: The minute I took out my phone and took a few pictures, I knew that being creative was key to feeling good. So now I know what I have to do -- think of others, be creative, walk more, love more and maybe sleep more too --without guilt.
who wrote him a song to let him know she was worried about him, what with the fires and all. We are OK here, the fires are far away, we were under Red Flag Alert, but we are safe and no more alerts. Winter is coming to the canyon and Samson and I can't wait. We wish we had some of that snow you got. Faith says she's glad as long as the snow stays away.
So, sweet Gracie, here's a picture of Samson. He's a bit upset because his table broke. He has had that picnic table to stand on and look bigger when the coyotes come by, he has slept on it, Faith too, but it has truly been his table. And now it's gone! I had to take it apart and the neighbors helped me get it out of the dog yard. He doesn't know it yet, but he will get a new table soon.
Faith Says: Thank you Gracie for thinking of us and for writing us a song. And what a good song it is. Samson says he will write you soon. Meanwhile he's sending you his picture. We both loved the picture of you for Halloween. Stay well, we are both sending you our love. (Samson's bent out of shape because mommy took his (our) table apart because it broke just a little. But he'll get over it. She also took his best chair away the other day, so he's not happy right now.)
For those of you who don't know: Gracie is Samson's girlfriend. They were about to get virtually engaged when Errol got ill and then that sort of fell by the wayside. Gracie lives on this blog: http://gracieownsme.blogspot.com/
in Maryland and they have a loving friendship now.
Visit there to see her Halloween outfit and read the song she wrote to Samson. So sweet!
may many treats and only a few scares come your way!
From Samson, Faith and me!
Last week, Mary and I drove down to the small town of Strathmore in the Central Valley to visit my friend Carol and her husband Chuck. Mary's friend Chan lives not far from there, so we arranged to meet her for lunch in Exeter, one of my favorite towns.
We had a long, long lunch, chatting away and getting to know each other. After lunch, Carol drove Mary and me through downtown Exeter where all the quaint shops are located. We had been at lunch for a long time and I had to drive back, so this time we didn't stop. Instead, Carol ordered orange ice cream from a small restaurant close to her house. They make the ice cream right there from local oranges and are quite famous for it. And it's wonderful. Carol bought a quart each for Mary and me and one to take home so Mary could get a taste right then and there.
Exeter is famous for it's many murals. I didn't take any pictures, but I'm posting some below from an earlier visit to Exeter that I blogged about back in 2010.
This is an edited repost from 2010.
As we drove through the orange groves, I could just imagine the smell of the blossoms on a warm summer night.
A nice woman in an art gallery gave us some information from the Exeter Chamber of Commerce, so I can describe the murals and name the artists. The sheet I got lists 26 outdoor murals and three indoor ones in various businesses in town. I also learned that Exeter boasts the sweetest and most delicious naval oranges in the world. I can attest to this since I have personally picked and eaten many naval oranges from Carol's tree. I get bags full of them to take with me home when I visit and they really are the best tasting oranges ever.
Orange Harvest: Features a scene of orange pickers in the 1930s.
Artists: Colleen Mitchell-Veyna, Visalia, CA & Morgan McCall, Farmersville, CA
Packing Ladies: I fell in love with this one that features the Exeter Citrus Packing House, circa 1950. Notice how the ladies pack and grade the oranges, while the foreman sort of sits above them and keeps a watchful eye. Those were the days!
Artist: Colleen Mitchell-Veyna, Visalia, CA
The mural reminded me of the silk/tissue-papers that oranges came wrapped in when I was a kid. Imagine that, oranges came individually wrapped in tissue paper!! The papers were gorgeous, with colorful, pictures of faraway places. In Sweden, the oranges usually came from Spain, with names like Seville, Valencia, and so on. I used to collect these wrappers and dream of places where oranges actually grew on trees.
Poppies and Lupine: The hand-out we got says that this field of California poppies and lupine is located on the road to Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, not far from Exeter
Artist: Varian Mace, Visalia, CA
Mineral King "In Our Backyard": This was Carol's favorite mural and it's gorgeous. It features the Mineral King area with Sawtooth, Farewell Gap, and Timber Gap.
Artist: Jana Botkin, Three Rivers, CA.
Hometown News: The Exeter Sun Newsroom in the 1920s. This was located across the alley from Mineral King and showed a newspaper office of long ago. I really enjoy seeing how people lived and worked in the early to mid-20th century. So this was another treat for me.
Artist: Gary Kerby, Wilsall, MT.
Yokuts Harvest: I was impressed by both the Yokuts skill in basket weaving and the artist's skill in painting the baskets you see below, thus honoring the skills of the original basket weavers.
Artist: Ben Barker, Susanville, CA
Exeter Road Race Circa 1916: One of my favorites (I have a weakness for old roadsters) it depicts race cars getting ready for a road race through Exeter. As I'm reading this hand-out, I see that all the murals have hidden objects in them. I have to go back someday and look for them. Hidden objects here: A polar bear, numbers, a child holding a bear, all symbols from the "Lost" TV program.
Artist: Colleen Mitchell-Veyna, Visalia, CA
Timber Trail: Oh, I spotted some long-ears! Mules, not donkeys, but still, what a beautiful painting. Look at the use of light and color. The mule train and wagons transported logs to Atwell Mill, which is now a part of Sequoia National Park (I'm quoting the hand-out here).
Artist: Martin Weekly, El Dorado Hills and Exeter, CA
This is the mural of the orange pickers from a distance.
And this is a cat, crossing the street like he owns the place…which of course, being a cat, he does.
Thanks for coming with me on this visit to Exeter, California. If you are ever in Sequoia National Park or anywhere in Tulare County, I would recommend a stop-over in this little town. There are many art galleries, coffee shops, quaint places all over, and the antique stores I blogged about earlier. Back to the present: Carol's naval orange tree was full of oranges, all green as they don't ripen until early next year. Now that I have the Honda and can enjoy a trip over there, I can't wait to visit again then and pick some. Mary and I made it home safely. It was a long day, I was out and about for nine and a half hours. A lot for me and, yes, I did spend the next day in bed, more or less.