The Second Day of Christmas

Crazy Significant Idea

I came up with a crazy significant idea: I would use the 12 days of Christmas to write that particular number of cards each day to people I haven’t written a card to in a long time. Sadly, that means most people I know and love. When it comes to letter writing, I cycle through periods of drought followed by a flourish of letters and then back to drought. My last big letter-writing spree was the year I turned 70. Since then, it has died down until this past spring when I had a little blip with readers of this blog. But, I am in debt in the letter-writing department, and I want to fix that while I can.

When I first thought about it, it seemed simple enough – 1, 2, 3, 4…10, 11, 12, 13 yikes! I just added it up now, and that is 91 letters. I still have enough stamps in my stash to handle the postage, and I was prompted by a box of beautiful woodcut prints I received from a friend at Christmas. Furthurmore, today, I received three beautiful handmade cards in the mail that were so kind and thoughtful and brought such delight to my heart – surely a sign from the universe encouraging me to do this.

Symbolically

And believe me, this is not a grim duty – I deeply want to do it! Haven’t you noticed, too, that sometimes, even the things we say we want to do, we don’t get around to doing them? So this one thing – letter writing – closes out the last six days of 2023 and opens up the first six days of the New Year. Symbolically, it suits me.

What’s the worst that can happen? If I only do the first six days, that is 21 more letters than would have been written. And really, if I sit down with a card, a pen and a person in mind, it doesn’t take that long to write two cards, which is today’s count. And what happiness for me to picture these two friends and splurge with my words on what they mean to me. Maybe I won’t do so well when I am in the higher numbers. However, I don’t know that, so I want to give it a whirl while I can.

Just One Thing

This is the one thing I want to do to end the old year and enter the new one. It is easy for me to make a long list and then ignore it. But to write one thing to do for 12 days seems doable. Next week, when we meet again, it will be day nine, so I will report on how it is going – no matter what. Any false pride is mostly gone now. I am much more of a realist who is never cynical and even encouraging to myself, not just others, regarding our human foibles.

 

 

Recently, I received such a lovely year-end blessing by Nanea Hoffman that I will pass on to you:

“Be a kind voice in this broken-hearted world. Give grace, and be ready to receive it. Listen so well that the person you’re with can rest in your loving attention for a moment. Be a light. Be a light. Be a light.

May you all, dear readers, be filled with wonder.

Notes

1:) I rather like a white Christmas. Especially when it comes with a fireplace, a beautiful tree, wonderful people, books to read and lots of love. Oh, and cookies and vitamin Ch too. Grateful!

2:) I hope you have many restful moments, moodling walks, daydreams, wonderful memories, beauty, quiet moonlit nights, time with friends and family and perhaps a few moments of awe.

3:) Please accept my deepest thanks and appreciation for keeping me company. I love John Tarrant’s quote: “We are born, and we die, and in between, we have the chance to keep each other company, and that’s the thing that counts the most.” A warm and deep bow to you all, Trudy

The Shortest Day of the Year Holds Possibilities

Winter Solstice – Dec 21st 2023

Indigenous people often recognize this day as a day of celebration, ritual, and tradition: “For many Indigenous cultures, winter is a time to connect with the spirits of the past. The December solstice became a time to reflect on and thank their ancestors, share stories, honour their origins, and set intentions for themselves in preparation for the cold months ahead. It’s also a time to recognize everyone’s fundamental interconnectedness—with each other, nature, and the cosmos.” Link to CAMSCA

According to NASA –

“It’s the day of the year with the fewest hours of sunlight. This year, for the Northern Hemisphere, it’s taking place on Dec. 21: the day when the north half of the globe is at its furthest from the sun. In the Southern Hemisphere, the shortest day of the year happens in June. These two parts of the globe have different solstices because of the way the Earth is tilted compared to the sun…

The ancient cultures knew that the Sun’s path across the sky, length of daylight, and location of the sunrise and sunset all shifted in a regular way throughout the year. Additionally, people built monuments, like Stonehenge in England and the Torreon in Machu Picchu, Peru, to follow the Sun’s annual progress and predict its movements.

Today, we have even more information about the universe, and we celebrate the solstice as an astronomical event caused by Earth’s tilt on its axis and its motion in orbit around the Sun.

No matter where you are on Earth’s globe – this is your time to celebrate this seasonal change!”

What I like About Solstice

I have always enjoyed that each day after the solstice, we have a little more sun as the days get longer. Granted, it is more of a psychological benefit as the increase is negligible initially.

However, starting Friday, December 22, 2023, we will stop losing daily sunlight, which has been going on since June, and instead finally start to increase it! This gain will be minuscule at first, just a matter of seconds a day, but will steadily grow until daily daylight expands by two daily minutes per day in January and three by the 20th of February. Apparently, the exact amount of brightness gain depends on your location. (I found this information on The Old Farmers Almanac)

This year, I get to do something new. I discovered what looks to be a lovely event close to home—an outdoor Labyrinth at a charming small Anglican church where you can walk with neighbours under the stars (the stars are fantasy) or maybe by flashlight or candlelight, followed by light refreshments. In this time of increasing loneliness for many, I thought I would participate and see what it’s like. I have often walked a labyrinth, but never in winter or the dark or with people I don’t know.

I also like the reflection aspect of Indigenous culture, especially reminding ourselves of interconnectedness.

Trees

And then there are the trees: this is my favourite outdoor one I saw in Quebec City several years ago. Furthurmore, Old Quebec City in the winter season is one of my most favourite places. Still, for now, my neighbourhood is beautiful with lights, a skiff of snow, and children. I can highly recommend the benefits of an evening stroll wherever you are. Sometimes, it doesn’t seem to be worth the effort to do these ordinary things, but I find when I do it, I am always grateful.

My wish for this time of year is that each of you has what you need. And I consider love and friendship to be a need. And if there are two words to describe what I think we need more of, they are tolerance and kindness.

May we all have the courage and strength to acknowledge what is out of our control and do whatever we can to change or influence the things within our control for the better.

 

Here is a tiny excerpt from a poem by Marge Piercy that is worth reflecting on.

“…But remember to bury
all old quarrels
behind the garage for compost.
Forgive those who insulted you.
Forgive yourself for being wrong.
You will do it again
for nothing living
resembles a straight line,
certainly not this journey
to and fro, zigzagging
you there and me here
making our own road onward
as the snail does…”

Notes

1:) Here is the silly and upbeat little video from Sandra Boynton.

2:) My tip for the 26th of December. Find a cozy corner, curl up and read a good book. Give in to heavy eyelids and doze off. Repeat. And always a walk.

3:) Our family book exchange last Sunday did not disappoint. It was a beautiful, restful, companionable and fun evening. (already a Tradition after four years.) Thank you, Iceland. I discovered too late that the link I used to the Icelandic Literary Group was no longer functional. Here is another link (not as good) that will give you an idea of its history.  jolabokaflod 

4:) I will see you next week. May you find ways to enjoy this time that works for you and yours.

5:) Such big thank yous and appreciation for the many ways you continue to encourage me along with my scribbling. A deep bow to each of you. All my best wishes, Trudy 

When Giving is All We Have

“This month, we bring out our decorations and breathe new life into old traditions while creating brand-new customs. I think about verses that are important to me. Thanks to our poet friend Jan Falls, this poem is one of my newer traditions. I doubt the poet wrote this for the “giving season,” but I find it perfect and would like to share it with you again.

When Giving is All We Have by Alberto Rios

One river gives
Its journey to the next

 

We give because someone gave to us.
We give because nobody gave to us.

We give because giving has changed us.
We give because giving could have changed us.

We have been better for it,
We have been wounded by it—

Giving has many faces: It is loud and quiet,
Big, though small, diamond in wood-nails.

Its story is old, the plot worn and the pages too,
But we read this book, anyway, over and again:

Giving is, first and every time, hand to hand,
Mine to yours, yours to mine.

You gave me blue and I gave you yellow.
Together we are simple green. You gave me

What you did not have, and I gave you
What I had to give—together, we made

Something greater from the difference.

When Giving is All We Have

Gift-giving

is an honourable and important tradition across the globe, and yes, it is commercialized. However, we mustn’t let commercial interests make us cynical. Let’s enjoy our gift-gifting however we see fit and pass on beautiful things that others might love, along with brand-new things. More and more people are making things, which I admire, although I am not good at it yet.  The bottom line is to do what is important to you however you choose. And pay no attention to the siren call to buy more of “the right” stuff – the perfect gift! Personally, I love handwritten and handmade cards, and I keep them forever. Furthurmore, I love the gift of stillness that often settles for a few moments when we stop to admire the beauty that catches our attention.

This  Sunday, my small Ottawa family will have our third or maybe fourth annual book exchange. A gentle evening where we exchange books we bought for each other (by previously drawing names) and sit by the fire for a couple of hours and read together, with our favourite chocolates close at hand. Oh yes, a glass of wine and hot chocolate for the children. It is our adaptation of the Icelandic tradition of jólabókaflóð . We love it.

Speaking of family, I would be remiss not to republish another favourite paragraph of mine by C.S. Lewis on this subject:

Affection

Affection is the humblest love-it gives itself no airs. It lives with private things: soft slippers, old clothes, old jokes, the thump of a sleepy dog’s tail on the kitchen floor. The glory of affection is that it can unite those who are not “made for each other,” people who, if not put down by fate in the same household or community, would have nothing to do with one another.

Affection broadens our minds: of all natural loves, it teaches us first to notice, then to endure, then to smile at, then to enjoy, and finally to appreciate, the people who ‘happen to be there.’

Made for us? Thank God, no. They are themselves, odder than you could have believed and worth far more than we guessed.”  C S Lewis

This particular excerpt from CS Lewis has always appealed to me. I suppose it represents what I find in my own large, extended and crazy family. A motley crew for whom I have the greatest love and affection and I am also aware that they have affection for me. How lucky is that?

Tolerance

In an era of continual judgment about everyone’s shortcomings, I have come to value the human capacity to be able to tolerate each other’s foibles,  blind spots,  and just plain old-fashioned mistakes. Along with all the beautiful things we love about each other, the “whole catastrophe” makes up our lives.

It is the same with friends – we will all disappoint each other from time to time. It can’t be helped. Life is not about ensuring that everything is designed perfectly just for me, or you, or the next person.  Like death, we all know disappointment will happen.  It can not be avoided. We are human beings. Perfectly imperfect.

Affection

is one of my favourite words. It rises to the top of my list every year in December, as this season prompts so many memories of joys and sorrows. Affection for all the perfectly imperfect people who have been part of my life and a humble affection for my own humanity. We are all in this together, so let’s make the most of it.

May you create moments of enjoyment amid giving and receiving and experience affection every ordinary day.

“I don’t think I’ll last forever,” said Peach.

“That’s okay,” said Blue. “Not many folks do.

But until then, you have me, and I have you.”

-Peach and Blue, by Sarah S. Kilborne, 1994

Notes:

Thank you for taking the time to read my weekly blog posts. I feel very fortunate to share my blog with each of you. May you have what you need this December, and may you retain some of the sparkle you had as a child, wide-eyed with the wonder of it all. See you next week. Warmest wishes, Trudy

Sometime Things Don’t go From Bad to Worse

Celebrating when things don’t go from bad to worse.

I love this small poem, although I understand through the grapevine that the poet wishes she had not written it. This is an unfortunate appraisal because sometimes it is accurate, and we need words for that, too. Things can still be bad but we get to celebrate that they aren’t worse. So, I went looking to find this poem and dedicate it to all those people and occasions where it has been true.

Sometimes by Sheenagh Pugh    (A link to Princton University)

Sometimes things don’t go, after all,
from bad to worse. Some years, muscadel
faces down frost; green thrives; the crops don’t fail,
sometimes a man aims high, and all goes well.

A people sometimes will step back from war;
elect an honest man, decide they care
enough that they can’t leave some stranger poor.
Some men become what they were born for.

Sometimes, our best efforts do not go
amiss; sometimes, we do as we meant to.
The sun will sometimes melt a field of sorrow
that seemed hard frozen: may it happen for you.

 

And then I found this poem on gratefulness.org by a favourite poet

Improvement

The optometrist says my eyes
are getting better each year.
Soon he’ll have to lower my prescription.
What’s next? The light step I had at six?
All the gray hairs back to brown?
Skin taut as a drum?

My improved eyes and I
walked around town and celebrated.

We took in the letters
of the marquee, the individual leaves
filling out the branches of the sycamore,
an early moon.

So much goes downhill: our joints
wearing out with every mile,
the delicate folds of the eardrum
exhausted from years of listening.
I’m grateful for small victories.

The way the heart still beats time
in the cathedral of the ribs.

And the mind, watching its parade of thoughts
enter and leave, begins to see them
for what they are: jugglers, fire swallowers, acrobats
tossing their batons in the air.

 

Now, I want to keep going, finding more words to celebrate small victories that suddenly loom large. Let’s accept the small blessings that come our way and enjoy them while we can.

And one more –

I know I posted this poem in February, and want to do it again. Hopefully, you have forgotten it by now. :-)) Ada Limon is the current post laureate of the US

 

Wonder Woman Written by Ada Limón (If you click on her name, you can go to the Onbeing Project and hear the poem read aloud.)

“Standing at the swell of the muddy Mississippi

after the urgent care doctor had just said, Well,

sometimes shit happens, I fell fast and hard

for New Orleans all over again. Pain pills swirling

in the purse along with a spell for later. It’s taken

a while for me to admit, I am in a raging battle

with my body, a spinal column thirty-five degrees

bent, vertigo that comes and goes like a DC Comics

villain nobody can kill. Invisible pain is both

a blessing and a curse. You always look so happy,

said a stranger once as I shifted to my good side

grinning. But that day, alone on the riverbank,

brass blaring from the Steamboat Natchez,

out of the corner of my eye, I saw a girl, maybe half my age,

dressed, for no apparent reason, as Wonder Woman.

She strutted by in all her strength and glory, invincible,

eternal, and when I stood to clap (because who wouldn’t have),

she bowed and posed like she knew I needed a myth—

a woman, by a river, indestructible.”

From The Carrying by Ada Limón (Minneapolis: Milkweed Editions, 2018)

 

And I will bid you adieu with one quote from James Clear’s newsletter:

“Musician Nick Cave on the power of small actions:

“The everyday human gesture is always a heartbeat away from the miraculous.

Remember that ultimately we make things happen through our actions, way beyond our understanding or intention; that our seemingly small ordinary human acts have untold consequences; that what we do in this world means something; that we are not nothing; and that our most quotidian human actions by their nature burst the seams of our intent and spill meaningfully and radically through time and space, changing everything.

Our deeds, no matter how insignificant they may feel, are replete with meaning, and of vast consequence, and that they constantly impact upon the unfolding story of the world, whether we know it or not.”

Source: The Red Hand Files, Issue #216 (lightly edited for clarity)

​Notes

1:) I received an invitation for a free five-day winter reset with qigong teacher Munira Jiwa. I asked her if I could invite those interested to join. It is Monday Dec 11th- to – Friday the 15th for 30 minutes 7:00 am MT; 9:00 ET You can sign up here. She is an excellent teacher

2:)Courage does not always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, ‘I will try again tomorrow.”- Mary Anne Radmacher

3:) Thanks to my friend Patricia Ryan Madson for the little watercolour card. And thanks to all of you who join me here once a week. With deep gratitude, Trudy