Sunday, December 23, 2012

Solstice Observations

The Winter Solstice, one of my favorite days, signifies the return of the light from the darkness, since each day will now extend its length leading up to the renewal of life in the spring, though I prefer the idea of life still here, just resting and reflecting. This year, the solstice has brought forth its own version of a Christmas play, one in which confusion and beauty have equal parts on the stage at The Crooked Little House. It's all about timing after all.

The day emerged with strong winds buffeting the house and cold temperatures sending birds to the roosting box, where wee faces of Carolina Chickadees peeked out from the swaying structure in the cherry tree. But two male Red-Winged Blackbirds decided to stick around for much longer than usual to gorge on sunflower seeds. Don't they know it's December and they should be long gone?

Clouds bumbled overhead like a flock of blue-haired women, nudging each other and pointing the way. The Albemarle Sound which is across the street from TCLH was puffed up with whitecaps as far as the mainland, waves crashing onto the pavement, catching the wind and shooting spray upwards of four feet. Even the water level was playing chicken with the street, asking do I or don't I dare to cross?

But the most unusual performances came from the plants. I expected the camellia to have pushed out lots of buds in preparation for an explosion of pink and white blooms in a month or so. But my geranium has decided to join the cast and is now in full bloom with more buds tucked among the ochre tinged leaves. And my lovely quince is flowering way too early instead of in February when I really need the sight of something colorful in the drabness of winter.

Last year I had an ornamental cabbage that I let stay in the ground to see how long it would last. And to my surprise, like the last act in a play, it has encored into a fabulous patch of purple lace.

The Winter Solstice ended in perfection with a blood orange sunset swiped with a streak of crimson.

*I will have a household full of love visiting this coming week so please forgive me for taking next week off from writing a post. All of us at The Crooked Little House, with two legs, four, six or eight, scales and feathers and fur, wish you all a peace filled and joyous holiday season. Please be grateful for those you love and who love you, and keep a soft spot in your heart for everyone else.

"A man should look for what is, and not what he thinks should be."   -  Albert Einstein

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Thoughts on a Cold December Day

While driving down the near vacant beach road this past week I was drawn to the sight of the beach accesses, their parking slots empty of vehicles, looking forlorn with sand creeping up the walkways and steps, nudged along by recent storms. These entry points host a promise of a path leading up and over the dune line, ghostly images of summers past lurking among the spent sea oats. What lies just over that shifting pile of sand is of course the Atlantic Ocean, but I'm never quite sure what else I'll discover. Will the sea be rough and tumble or satin smooth? Are the dolphins cruising past, trying to keep pace with the low flying line of pelicans? Is the wind causing the birds to tuck beak and bill under their wings? Are there treasures of sea glass and shells scattered along the water's edge? But with a strong northeast wind kissing my cheek, I temper my urge to explore and sit in the cocoon of my car, balancing my paints and sketchbook on the dashboard and my lap trying to capture the feeling of uncertainty before me.

December is like that brief moment before crossing over the dune, somewhat predictable yet offering a hint of tingling anticipation, hoping you'll take the bait. You can almost hear, in the gloaming of the day, the earth softly sighing, pausing in this last month of the year to catch its breath and reevaluate what has been learned over the last 11 months and pondering what the next 12 months will teach us. Just as we know the ocean is on the other side of the dunes, we can also be sure next year will bring more of the same; joy and heartache, happiness and woe, excitement as well as boredom and routine, in other words - life.  But the question in our minds is always in what format all this "life" will be presented and what the percentages will be. In this season of hope I dream of more positive than negative, more laughter than tears, all within a new layout to explore.

And finally, at my last stop, I catch a glimmer, a brief glimpse, a fleeting image of what's ahead, and it's sparkling in the December light.

Pasternak says life creates incidents to divert our attention from it so that it can get on with the work it can only accomplish unobserved.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The Crooked Little House Christmas Tree

Here you go Patricia. I am a terrible photographer, and each pic I took of the whole tree turned out terribly. But I managed to get some up close shots for you.
This is my tree topper with Zach's macaroni star.
Here you can see a wasp nest and starfish.

One of many whelk cases that wrap throughout the branches of the tree.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Gifts of the Season

As Autumn drops its last leaves, exiting through the back door, winter slyly takes up residence, settling in with brisk winds, cooler temperatures and its own delights. I wake slowly in the morning now with a sense of calmness, realizing I no longer have to jump out of bed and get the day going. With my season over, I have the luxury of time, at least for a few weeks. While the rest of the world is wrapped up in the shine and sparkle of holiday shopping, I dream of my children arriving home and throwing my arms around them, breathing in their essence as I did when they were babies.

All the Christmas crowds and endless advertising to get me to spend money on things I don't want sets my teeth on edge. I'd rather spend my time admiring nature and how she has adorned herself this time of year. Pyracantha bushes host weighty clusters of ribbon-red berries from top to bottom, their gifts for the birds. The mimosa tree drips seed pods that sing their own carols when accompanied by a frisky north wind, and my rosemary bush is bursting with heavenly lavender blossoms. And each evening, the western sky shines brighter than any Christmas lights a store can offer.

When my children were young, we always had a real Christmas tree, trekking into the woods to cut our own or walking down rows and rows of precut trees looking for the perfect shape and size. But secretly, I always yearned for one of those vintage silver trees that are now quite popular and priced crazy high. Their silver branches remind me of icicles escaping from roof lines, the sun glinting off freshly fallen snow and fragile, glass-thin patches of ice along the edge of a pond or the Albemarle Sound.

Last year, I found just such a tree, about five feet high, at a yard sale. The owner stoked his chin and pondered as to whether he really wanted to sell it after all. Perhaps he saw the longing in my eyes, but he ended up letting it go for a very good price. The tree now resides in the far corner of my dining room, laden with glass ornaments from my childhood as well as newer ones in the shapes of owls, fox and birds. Real starfish and crab shells are nestled into the branches and whelk cases wrap around the tree like garlands tossed up by King Neptune. Bird and bee nests can be spotted near the top. And my tree topper is and always will be a macaroni star my youngest son made when he was just a toddler. This year it is surrounded by an assortment of feathers from my collection. At night, the little white lights cause the reflected colors to shift on the branches when the air is disturbed by a passing feline.

I have done some shopping for things I know will be meaningful to my family, and soon I will begin baking and filling the freezer with favorite treats. I don't have visions of sugarplums dancing through my dreams. But as I close my eyes each night, I anticipate the laughter and love that will resound throughout The Crooked Little House as the year comes to a close. I cannot think of a better gift.

"Wisdom comes with winters."   -   Oscar Wilde

Sunday, December 2, 2012

The Comfort of Wild Things

There's just something about the night sky that comforts me and helps to put things into perspective. Whether it's the sweep of stars, witness to all that we mortals have done, or the unruffled indigo stretching as far as the eye can see, I'm not sure, but I am constantly drawn to my deck on a clear night. If you stand quietly in the dark and empty your mind of all the unimportant things that clog us up each day, you can almost feel the heavens breathing in and out, full of life and promise that all will be well. And while we dream on our earthly plane, order is kept in the universe.

A new sketchbook for night drawings.
 So at 4:30 on Tuesday morning, before preparing to leave for the hospital, I wandered out to the deck to contemplate the sky and commune with nature before releasing control of my life to others, not an easy thing for me to do. The first thing I noticed was the stillness. Most of the Thanksgiving visitors have departed, full of turkey and good cheer. This left the streets in darkness with little light pollution, allowing for the stars to shine their brightest for those of us that make this island our home. Never have I seen such brilliance, perhaps because of the uncertainty I was feeling.

I should have known that besides all of my well-wishers of the human variety, another being would appear to offer his own version of, "Get well because I love the treats you leave me each night." My friend Silver appeared, climbing onto the picnic table where he can count on finding a pile of sunflower seeds each night. I've told you about this old fellow before. We've been friends for years. I have sketched him over and over again and was lucky to be able to do so on this cold morning. He's getting older and I have no idea how many more years I will have with him. When the time came for me to go inside and prepare for the day ahead, Silver took his leave, ambling over to the trumpet vine where he shimmied down using his gorgeous pink tail to keep a firm grip.

Notice his tail wrapped tightly around the vine.

I am happy to say I am quickly returning to normal and am anticipating enjoying many night skies with Silver by my side.

"I know perfectly well that at this moment the whole universe is listening to us, and that every word we say echoes to the remotest star."                             -   Jean Giraudoux