Yesterday, after posting thoughts about the crawl of the last days of December——-I looked at the mail and, Lo and Behold! There was a SEED CATALOG!!! Oh joy! While huddled in my fleecy blanket in the light of the Christmas tree, I paged through the blessed Gurney seed catalog and dreamed of late April, May, June and the bright mornings and evenings of the approach of the summertime solstice. I leisurely selected all the seeds I would plant in the springtime, feeling the warm earth in my hands and feeling the sun on my back—-and the gnats biting my skin! Wait a minute–maybe I like being in the lights of the Christmas tree and the darkness at 5 p.m. after all. I only have to think of biting insects to break the reverie about spring and summer. Bah Humbug! This is all in a light-hearted spirit….the seed catalog was a great diversion to the all day coverage of the execution of Saddam Hussein. I resented this coverage because it interfered with coverage of the death of a good man and former President, Gerald Ford, who would be an ideal guy- next door. Back to Gurneys….I am determined to plant "Lumina" pumpkins this spring. They are white and most decorative. My neighbor to the south had white pumpkins and some variety of the most beautiful emerald -green-mottled pumpkins for her daughers’ wedding in October. Norma is the most clever decorator I know and her daughters’ wedding was at Island Park with the gazebo adorned with the green and white pumpkins and fall flowers. I have to find out where she got those green-pumpkin seeds and plant those also. This can lead to having to sneak around to other people’s houses, leaving pumpkins on back steps and porches, because I have grown members of the cucurbit plant family before, and they can get much too prolific for one gardener. I hope my friends will forgive me if this becomes necessary, because I really need to order those Lumina pumpkin seeds and have a few on my back steps for decorations, come October of 2007. This reminds me of the first time I planted zucchini summer squash…but that is another story for another time.
There is someting almost sluggish about the final days of December. Everyone seems tuckered out by the exertions of two major holidays..Christmas and New Years’ Eve/Day and the darkness of this time of year makes people (me, for sure) more likely to fall asleep early or take naps at odd, unexpected times. I did this today, probably from the effects of not going to sleep early last night–probably from the effects of two lattes at Barnes and Noble on Thursay….classic cases of cause and effect. Like a nocturnal animal, I am now waking up at the wrong time of day. I just read some others’ blogs on Areavoices and Bemidjimike (Other Side of the Lake) observed some things about old Christmas classics that appear annually on TV. I immediately remembered something I was wondering about the other day…..where has the film "Scrooge!" gone? It was a sensation in the earlier 1970′s with English actor Albert Finney playing the role of Ebeneezer Scrooge. I remember it as large, lavish, in full and glorious color, with some music….the Charles Dickens tale was brought to life in a glorious way and I thoroughly enjoyed seeing it at the old Lark Theater in Fargo (now long-gone). I cannot remember it being shown again at any other Christmas season and I wonder why such a grand movie has not been revived. I do not know if one can rent it at a video/dvd outlet store, which shows how little I frequent such establishments. I would really like to see that again. Another movie I have wondered about periodically was a wonderful version of "Tom Sawyer" also done in the 1970′s… if I remember rightly. Celeste Holm played Aunt Polly and Tom, Huck, and the other characters were ably portrayed by children who could really act…Warren Oates was also one of the main characters. I loved the music so much that I bought and still have, a Tom Sawyer movie songbook with some of the memorable music captured…."Freebootin’", the "River Song" and a great song from the fence- whitewashing scene. Our 4-H club used it once for a "Share The Fun Act" and the kids in our 4-H group loved the song and the acting out of it. I think we did well and won one of the cherished "places" in the county competition. Now I wonder if "Share The Fun" even exists any more. I think the last crawling days of December must trigger things long buried in one’s memory portion of the brain. Maybe it is the influence of Christmas tree lights still blazing away or some other late December occurence. If anyone has any insights or answers, I would really appreciate hearing about it.
I am of the age that missed the high-tech revolution and was forced to learn computer use as a last resort when I got one on my desk at the school I taught at for nearly 25 years. It did not come naturally to me and I was very reluctant to use it. I did learn what I had to, proving, that you can "teach an old dog new tricks"—at least a few basic ones–but I was not interested in learning the fine points of using my computer at school or at home. I am of the "print" or "book" generation…love reading books, holding them in my hands, savoring the words in them and even trying my hand at writing them. Part of my reason for blogging is to have some material for a book for my grandkids—-remembrances and things I think about so they can read what was on my mind when they are older and when I am gone. I would have loved to read things like that from my own grandparents but all I have is ONE letter written by my Grandmother Ingeborg who died when my father was only 15 years old. I have nothing from any of the others. I spent a good day today doing one of my favorite things—browsing, reading, choosing books at a bookstore and spending at least 5-6 hours doing these things. I have a satisfied feeling this evening for having done this today, as a post-Christmas way of relaxing and enjoying some time to myself. It is always a kind of communal experience because you know that all the other people who are in the bookstore doing the same thing, are on the same wave-length as you are; we all love the world of books—real books…and are committed to reading them and keeping such a love of reading alive and well. One of the things I browsed today was a book titled "YOU CAN WRITE CHILDRENS’ BOOKS WORKBOOK" by Tracey Dils. I bought it partly for myself and partly for my eldest son who called earlier this week with a request that I supply him with some interesting childrens’ books so he could get an idea what certain ages enjoy and like to read. He has a friend who has an idea for setting up a website for daycare centers and part of the plan is to have stories to read to the children. My first reaction was kind of an eruption….what? read stories off a website? Read to those kids from the BOOKS!!!! It was the same reaction I had when a computer teacher suggested that I read to kids from a computerized reading machine of some sort when I was in the school library….I turned him down flat and said something to the effect that why would I want to do that when I could hold the book in my lap and read them aloud and show the kids the pictures from the real book? He seemed stunned that I wouldn’t "cotton to" the high tech suggestion…..but I stood my ground saying that I would far prefer spending the sort of money it would take to buy the high-tech "reading machine"on new books that I knew the students would appreciate and love. There is something coldly impersonal about reading from a machine rather than from a book. I cannot wrap my mind around that. I have a cartoon posted on my refrigerator door along with other things I like to look at frequently. It is titled "The Ultimate Solution" and has the picture of a student reading a real book….through an empty computer screen!!!! I adore it! I do not ever want to see the day when anything on computers replaces the real books one finds in the bookstore like the one I frequented today…..and, thankfully, hundreds of others were doing exactly the same thing. Long live books!
I cannot find many up-to-date blogs on Areavoices any more…I am left wondering if a lot of good intentions went by the wayside. I had a few minutes to check thru the many topics on the blog site in the FORUM and there is a dearth of entries. Since I enjoy reading others’ blogs I would like to see some more postings again. Just read THE BLOG CONCIERGE and as always, it has good stuff on it. I am not a "sports nut" so I skip over the many sports blogs that are currently "featured" but they must be popular. Maybe there are many cases of early winter fatigue (mental fatigue). After the remaining members of our family left for their home this morning, I felt a need for a "nap" shortly after noon and amazed myself by falling into a "big" nap that lasted for over 2 hours—-I did not feel tired, but I must be, since I would not normally sleep like that in the middle of the day. I have to revive and go to a friends’ home tonight for a post-Christmas dinner and it will be pleasant since we cannot remember NOT knowing each other!!! Catching up on rest after taking the marathon run up to Dec 24-25 must be a necessary part of the post-holidays recuperation. With this continuing Brown Winter, it seems odd…today I walked out onto our wooded land wearing a light shirt and hunted for a suitable small tree to consider for a permanent addition to the decor in the house–I love the look of a lighted non-evergreen tree and am searching for a good candidate. If you have ever eaten at the "Castle Rock" dining spot, the lady there has done some amazing decorating with medium sized hardwood branches and lights. I heard a radio talk show host on national radio, ask for peoples’ first thoughts on hearing of the death of Gerald Ford…mine would have been that he was a good care-taker president after a turbulent time in American government and politics. He seemed like a plain, honest midweastern man and after so many years in office, he had no trashy baggage, as many pols do. I also thought of the attempts on his life( in California ) shortly after he took office and remembered the name of one of his attackers–Lynnette "Squeaky" Frome. Amazing what gets emblazoned on one’s mind and stays since 1975. Currently, I search for missing reading glasses which get left all over the house but I remember who took a shot at Gerald Ford 31 years ago! Speaking of California and politics, I also remember from the 1970′s, deceased Chicago writer, Mike Royko, saying that a huge fence should be built around California, and that all the psychiatrists and psychologists in the U.S. should be thrown over the fence and stay there with the Californians. Royko also spent this time period referring to Jerry Brown as "Governor Moonbeam". How times and politics have changed. Royko would have been horrified by some of the more recent developments
were he alive today. There also seems to be a lull in news nationally; I suppose the new Congress convening will liven things up a bit. We had a lively family discussion this morning about the war in Iraq and got some interesting outside in-put from our youngest son and his wife on the subject. I am a current events "junkie" so I am patiently waiting for more topics to come up on the national scene.
Today marks the begining of the traditional "Twelve Days Of Christmas". There was a letter to the editor in this morning’s FORUM from Barbara Glasrud, who gently chided some FORUM writers for saying in previous articles that the Twelve Days of Christmas happen BEFORE Christmas. She said they do not, and she is right. "Twelve Days" begins today and goes until January 6 (Epiphany Day) Barbara Glasrud and I must have grown up in the same sort of home when we were young….my Dad’s family always observed and truly celebrated the Twelve Days of Christmas when my Dad was a young boy in the early to middle 1900′s. It was one of his most memorable times and he told us about how his family and the neighboring families would all stop all work on their farms on Christmas Eve, giving their animals extra food and extra grain on Dec. 24, leave food and milk for the "Nisse" (which would be consumed by the barn cats and the mice) and then begin the joyful time of the Twelve Days of Christmas. On these 12 days only the milking and feeding of animals would be done. It meant going to a different neighbor’s home for each of the 12 days and taking their own turn hosting all the others at their farm. Everyone would bring food each day, the feasting was lavish ..for rural people..all of it homemade, special and very tasty! I am sure there were special holiday foods and baking that each mother in each family specialized in making and everyone waited for that time of the year when they could all get together, visit, play, sing Christmas songs, probably have a small home-worship time. My Dad said he had so much fun playing with all the friends that lived close but they only saw each other at the country school since each child, when they would go home from school, had many jobs to do to help out in their respective households..both indoors and outdoors. Kids knew how to do honest work in that generation…it was expected of them. I am sure that on the Twelve Days, the kids in the families went all-out playing in the snow, skiing on home-made skis, sliding down snowy hills, skating on the frozen lakes and ponds and all of them shouting and laughing—in the Norwegian language that they all spoke at home. It was the "Blow-out" time of family gatherings and neighborly visits, all crammed into the marvelous Twelve Days….the rest of the year was spent in hard daily work and plain food, much of it based on what they produced on their farms. My dad’s family had "mush" made from milk twice a day on the ordinary days…hot for supper and cold with syrup for breakfast, accompanied by much home-made bread and farm-churned butter. It would have been washed down with more milk and a lot of very strong coffee! Not the sort of food today’s "food police’ would approve!!! It is amazing that many of that generation were healthy, hardy, and lived into extreme old age. It is definitely not the food you eat, as far as I can tell—it must have a lot to do with high activity level gained by the hard physical work done in those time. I have plans afoot to celebrate the Twelve Days of Christmas also; there will be an extended family gathering with some traditional foods we ate in our years at home and are still loved by my sister and me and our families….potato dumplings, rice dishes like pudding and "glorified rice", traditional "rommegrot" …a milk and cream pudding served with melted butter and cinnamon (I called it "slip-go-down" as a child) and other extremely "white food". There will be lefse and sugar cookies (all white). There will have to be fruitcake but that is not white so we will have to ignore the color of it! I said to my Sis on the phone yesterday that we should have some vegetables but what? "Creamed Cauliflower" was her instant answer! Now if we can only think up a "white" salad…anybody know where you can buy "white lettuce? The Food Police will have a fit if they find out about this meal we are planning. There are going to be trans-fats all over the place. If I survive the meal, I can tell about it later!!!
The entry title is the name of a Norwegian carol that my husband and I will be singing this morning at our worship in our church. It is a lovely welcome to a beautiful 2 days. In today’s FORUM, both Jack Zaleski and Matthew Von Pinnon (new editor) have essays that re-live special memories for them. I am glad they shared it with the FORUM readers today. Since it is a busy day, I simply wish all of you a most Merry Christmas with your families and friends. I’ve got to get going and pre-pare a piece of fresh salmon that Buffaloguy caught and brought home from Alaska in September, get the Swedish meatballs into a crockpot, peel potatoes—–it is a joy to anticipate our children and grandchildren coming here later this afternoon!!
P.S. on Dec. 23: There is a spot on the bloggers’ sites for "blogs I read" but I did not do that part of mine when I signed up for blogging. Having just read one of my daily favorites, I thought I would share it with others. "WRITERS’ ALMANAC" is a great site for those who love to read poetry and other literary and historical items. It is done daily by Garrison Kiellor …today’s poem (Dec 23) was especially enjoyable for me. Check out W.A. if you think you would enjoy it. I also read "Country Scribe", if not daily, at least weekly. Eric Bergeson, a writer in his own right, chairs this website and his daily comments are always fun to read (although I blank out the ones about the Minn. Twins since I am not a rabid fan, as Eric is. He also has great photos and often some good links to other things. I also read blogs from on-line news-sites that I try to read daily. I really enjoy Newt Gingrich’s blogging…he is one of the most intelligent and articulate of public figures. I would read Hugh Hewitt every day but his blog is so in demand it is hard to get on it….even in the middle of the night/early morning. James Lileks (Fargo native) has a good one called "The Bleat". I also enjoy reading the blogs on the AreaVoices site…the Dullum File, Prairie Woman, Country Woman, Fargo Maven,the Blog Concierge, and many others as well. I check them out frequently so I hope the other bloggers keep adding more. I have noticed that many of the daily bloggers are writing mostly about sports….that sacred pastime of so many Americans……very interesting anyway.
There is a commentary by Lloyd Omdahl in today’s FORUM (Dec 23) and it is worth reading. He writes about a "war" in the Sea-Tac airport over the placing of Christmas trees there with the threat of a lawsuit by a Rabbi if the airport did not display a Menorah. SeaTac took all the trees down and people in that area are furious! It is another example of the silly wars fought each December over Christmas displays. Not so long ago everyone seemed not to be so prickly about these matters and in the more peaceful, non-agressive times, people "let it be" when it came to the December holidays. Now pitched battles are fought over markets,(the Christkindl Market in Chicago started it this year) trees, manger scenes,and any other displays that remind the Hostiles of anything that might be considered "offensive" due to Christmas or other religious holidays. It is most curious that it is Christianity that is usually the object of attack…not other Faiths. The recent furor over a schoolbus driver wearing on red Santa cap(definitely a NON-religious symbol) on his head while driving his busload of kids to school is a good example. One commentator observed that had the bus driver been wearing a turban, nothing would have been said………although a case could be made that it is religiously offensive to some Hostile souls! The War on Christmas is just one more example of how silly our society is getting. Omdahl also reminded me of the light display done at the ND capitol building each December when building maintenance people arrange red and green windows on the towering structure to display a Christmas tree. I have always enjoyed that display—it is very creative. Omdahl also (humorously) speculates on how a demand for a Menorah on the Capitol would probably cause the first "wrap-around" Menorah in history !! I appreciate the former Lieutentant Governor’s wry wit. His column is worth reading!
Usually the saying is "Lights! Camera! Action!" but at this time of year, it is "Lights!" alone when thinking of the many lights decorating homes and businesses around the area. When we drive on the nearest highway, we see lights on so many rural homes that show up for miles and miles on a clear night. The light displays in our little town are also spectacular..there is one home that must have many thousands of lights in their display–the whole back yard, front yard, and the entire house are covered in multicolored lights; all the trees are decked with lights, all the railings on decks….it is quite a Light Show ! Between Christmas and New Year it is our custom to "take a ride" in nearby towns and the city and see all the lights on display there. I look forward to it each December. I can understand why lights have played a big part in the month of December for many long years going way back to lit candles in windows and on the Christmas trees (now THERE is a real fire hazard–candles on evergreen trees!) But people did it and watched carefully while the candles were lit. I remember a "candle tree" in my grandmother’s farm home before REA brought electricity to the rural areas. I thought it was more spectacular than our electric tree in town! December is a dark, dark time of year….I am sure even ancient peoples wanted to have extra light at this dark time of the beginning of winter; I would speculate that large bonfires might have been part of ancient Christmas celebrations. For the best light show of all, one only has to look to the sky on a clear night! "Oh how beautiful the sky, with the sparkling stars on high…" begins an old Danish Epiphany carol and hymn. The song is delightful and so are the words….continuing…."how they twinkle brightly gleaming, how they glitter, gladsome beaming, as they draw our hearts to Heaven!" Other verses describe the coming of the Wise Men to Bethlehem. When I finally realized that those 3 wise men did not show up on the "first Christmas eve" in Bethlehem, shortly after the Shepherds left the little stable, I was shocked and disappointed….someone pointed out that when the Wise Men arrived, Jesus, Mary and Joseph, had moved into a vacant house in the village and the Wise Men probably got there a few weeks after the birth of the Christ Child! I have since adjusted and understand the season of Epiphany better now. It is amazing what Christmas pageants done in school or church can teach a young child—the Wise Men always showed up right after the Shepherds in all the pageants I ever took part in!!!! The amazing "light" from the Star of Bethlehem has been the subject of much speculation also—most astronomers try to say that it was an unusual alighnment of 3 bright planets or some bursting Nova in the heavens. I choose to believe that like many other wonders, God provided that Star in His own miracle-working way…He did not need to line up any planets or have Novae burst—He can do the impossible, then, and still today. But you have to be a True Believer to choose that option and I am one. "With God nothing is impossible" is in the scriptures. The Lights of Christmas—-the beautiful skies filled with uncountable stars and galaxies and the little lights on homes and on Christmas trees all tell of the LIght Of The World and brighten up a dark and dismal time of the year. Just think, by Dec 25, we will have a few more minutes of lights each day! Another miracle that happens each year at this time.
It is the day of the winter solstice…the shortest day, the longest night, and the first day of winter. It also marks the time when the earth begins to tip back so the northern hemisphere will gradually get more day light and less of the long nights. I always look forward to this day because I do not enjoy the months when it gets very dark very early. This time between Dec. 21 and March 21 is the most exciting time of the year…for me anyway. By the third week of January, the lengthening days are noticeable and by tournament time in February we are seeing some real progress, daylight-wise! I just read the WRITERS’ ALMANAC online because I knew there would be something about the history of the winter solstice and there was! According to W.A. the winter solstice has probably been observed by people for over 30,000 years before there was any serious farming or settling down done. Ancient stone structures like Stonehenge in England, seem to have been built as observatories for the movement of the sun…actually it is the movement of the earth. On Dec 21 the sun shines through one of the openings designed in the stone structure and this also happens on June 21 in another opening. People still flock to Stonehenge on Dec 21 and June 21 and maybe on Sep 21 and March 21. We visited an ancient Mayan site in Yucatan in 2005 and saw the same sort of stone alignment in an ancient Mayan "temple" where the sun would stream through an opening in a rock wall on March 21. it is fascinating how people have looked to the sun for the changes in seasons for a long period of time. All of this is most interesting but for me it marks the beginning of the earth tipping back again to bring us more light and less night…i highly approve and marvel at the Creator’s omnipotence and divine Wisdom in creating all this and sustaining it as well.