Posted tagged ‘candles’

What is Christmas? It is tenderness for the past, courage for the present, hope for the future.

December 20, 2018

Today is a beautiful winter’s day. The sky is a bit overcast, but it is in the 40’s anyway. I’m glad I have a few errands to get me outside, including the dump. Henry needs food, both canned and dry, biscuits and bully sticks to keep him busy. I also need to fill the bird feeders and wrap a few presents. My friends and I are going out for Thai food then we’ll exchange gifts, usually a January event for us.

Last night I sat in the living room just to look at the tree and all the decorations. I decided the room was beautiful. It is gently lit. Light comes from the tree and from a huge basket by the fireplace in which sits a plastic fifties light-up Santa and a decorated gourd with white lights shining through small holes. Two trees sit on different tables. One is a driftwood tree on the big table and the other is a stark white branch tree on the table behind the nativity. Both have white lights. My dining room too is lovely. Most of the light comes from my scrub pine tree in the corner and another fifties plastic Santa in front of it. A small set of lights is in the centerpiece among the ornaments and the pomegranates. The small red ornaments shine.

At Christmas in Ghana where I lived in the Upper Region, in Bolgatanga, it was harmattan time. Hot, dry dusty winds blowing off the desert left every surface gritty. The days were usually in the high 90’s or even over 100˚. The nights were cold, down to the 70’s. I had a wool blanket on my bed, the same one which hangs from the couch back in the living room. My mother had sent decorations and a tiny tree. She even sent a paper brick fireplace for my wall. I hung my stocking on it. I was not looking forward to Christmas, my first away from home. Patrick, another volunteer, and I decided to have a party on Christmas Eve. Bolga was not on anyone’s list to visit except during school holidays when volunteers were in town looking to go north into what is now Burkina Faso and Niger. I baked cookies for the first time ever. We bought Star beer. The other volunteers also bought food, a tradition when visiting another volunteer, and beer. We sang carols. We celebrated together. It was a wonderful Christmas.

“Look at how a single candle can both defy and define the darkness.”

February 3, 2018

Today is beautiful with a blue sky and the return of the sun, but it’s cold, an uninviting cold. I have no inclination to go outside. The hot air from the furnace is blowing and keeping the house warm. I won’t even get dressed. I’m nice and cozy in my sweatshirt and my flannel pants. It snowed a bit yesterday, enough to cover the walk and my car windows. I’m hoping the sun will melt the windows clean so I won’t have to brush and scrape.

I always think it is the darkness of winter which palls the spirit so I do my best to compensate. I keep white candles lit in the windows, and their light shines across the dark lawn. In the living room, I light lanterns in the corners of the room. Their candles flicker and leave shadows on the walls. On the hearth, twelve tea lights shine in the votives of the long candle holder, and a gourd filled with white lights sits atop firewood in a basket. The room is filled with light and is warm and cozy and welcoming.

I do love New England and am not tempted to leave for sunnier climes. I am tired of winter, but around this time I am always tired of winter. The two years I spent in Ghana gave me an even greater appreciation for the changing seasons I so love. It was always warm there, and I tired of the warmth. I wanted to be cold, to see my breath on a crisp winter’s morning. I missed the beauty of snow and how wonderful it looks as it falls and how breathtaking the world is after a snowstorm. I wanted to welcome spring with all its colors and sights and smells. Where I lived in Ghana had no flowers. It had baobab and pawpaw trees and fields filled with millet and yams. It had grass, tall and green, but it had no flowers. I missed looking for the first spring shoots to appear, for the crocus and the daffodils.

Spring is always a miracle, and I wait for it with great expectations. Every day I check for the tips of shoots in my front garden. When I find one,  I want to dance wearing bright colors and flowers in my hair.

“I know most people use their phones to tell time, but there’s something very romantic and beautiful about a timepiece.”

January 27, 2018

Today is a disappointment. It was supposed to be a warmish with some sun; instead, it is cloudy with a chilling wind. I do have to go out this afternoon as it is dump day, and I also need a few groceries. Maddie disappeared this morning before I could give her her meds, but she was easy to find. She is upstairs sleeping on a guest room bed. Maddie hasn’t eaten much, but at least she has eaten something.

When I first moved into my house, I had a desk, a TV and a studio couch, all in one room. In the kitchen I had two pots, a frying pan and a toaster oven. I didn’t even have a fridge for the first few days. Though the mortgage was half my month’s salary, I remember sitting in the sun on the small farmer’s deck in a hand-me down blue lawn chair thinking I owned the world.

Last night the house was dark except for the candles in the windows and a few others in the living room. I love my house by candlelight. It feels alive and filled with warmth. I wait a long time before I turn on a light.

I remember learning to tie my shoes though I don’t remember how old I was. My mother taught me how. We sat in the living room, and she tied the shoelaces over and over again as I watched. When it was my turn, I kept tying the laces so loosely the bow wouldn’t hold, but I kept on until I finally mastered the task. My shoes, though, were always loose, and I had to keep retying the laces. It took a while before I figured how to make the bow tight.

I think of kids today with their velcro shoes, never needing to be tied, their digital watches which show the time in 4 digits so kids never learn quarter or half past or any time words and their computers which take away the need to learn cursive writing. I don’t know if those skills are really all that important any more, but I know they were milestones when I was growing up. I remember feeling so proud and accomplished I wanted everyone to know. Hey, world, here I am a kid who can tell time, tie a shoe and write my name.

“The farther we’ve gotten from the magic and mystery of our past, the more we’ve come to need Halloween.”

October 22, 2017

My back is pure misery. I grab things so I can move from room to room. I keep wishing for a Star Trek doctor with his medical tricorder to knock at the door and with one button take the pain away. I guess I’ll just have to keep wishing.

We are again blessed with a warm, sunny day. The house is even cooler than outside. The blue sky is striking. I figure I’ll make my way to the deck in a bit to enjoy the day.

When I was a kid, we always carved pumpkins. I loved to pull out what we always called the pumpkin guts. Every year the pumpkins looked the same when we were done. They had triangle eyes and a triangle nose and a wide grin with a few teeth up and down. The pumpkins went on the front steps. We’d put in real candles and light them. The wind was always blowing them out, but we’d keep lighting them. There is something magical about lit pumpkins grinning in the darkness.

We loved being afraid, not actually afraid but afraid of scary stories we knew weren’t real. My dad told great stories. We all know the hook. I swear it is a universal story. Small parts of it change, but the hook is always on the car door.

I remember walking on the sidewalks and seeing my shadow. It looked tall and eerie this time of year. Add the sound of my footsteps, and I’d keep an eye out to make sure I wasn’t being followed. I never was, but my imagination worked overtime. Ghosts flew.

I still love the old black and white horror movies. They were always on this time of year. When Dracula hid his face with his cape, we knew, without seeing it, that he was about to bite some poor victim. Renfield was one of my favorite characters. He’d do his master’s bidding and eat flies to keep up his strength. Bela Lugosi had the best voice. Frankenstein wasn’t as scary as Dracula. The doctor’s creation never really had a chance. One of my favorite scenes is when the villagers carrying torches and pitchforks follow their dogs to where the monster is. I always felt bad for Larry Talbot who turns into the Wolfman. His fate was decided by Bela, the Gypsy. I still love these movies. Lots of blood and slashers do nothing for me.

I am resting my back today, not that I need an excuse to be a sloth.

“With mirth and laughter let old wrinkles come.”

August 14, 2017

Gracie wanted out close to seven this morning so out we went. I was surprised at how cool it was. When she wanted out again, it was close to ten. I was surprised at how warm it had gotten. My house, though, still feels cool from the AC last night. I wanted to open doors this morning to all that cool air, but all I could hear from my neighbor’s yard was the beep-beep machinery makes when it goes backwards. Shutting the door helped, but I still had trouble getting back to sleep with all the noise, but I did manage. I’m a good sleeper.

We had game night last night and an early birthday for me as my friend will be out of town for my real birth date. I wore my Happy Birthday tiara and blew out the candles to a rousing rendition of Happy Birthday. To make the night perfect, I won all three games we played. I was the birthday girl and the champion.

When I was a kid and it was close to my birthday, I’d sit on the front steps waiting for the mailman. I was hoping for birthday cards with money tucked inside. Usually it was a dollar, a huge amount in those days when even a quarter went a long way and my fifty cent allowance every week made me rich. One grandmother sent money while the other usually gave gifts. I still have a couple of Bobbsey Twin books with a Happy Birthday message from my grandmother. I was eight.

It was sunny earlier but is now cloudy. The weather says partly sunny today. I figure that’s an optimist’s view like the half full glass.

Today is a quiet day for me, on purpose. I am foregoing a dump run. I’m just not in the mood though I’d be hard-pressed to define a no dump mood. It is just a sense of it. I will go to Agway as I need small cans of Gracie food, the ones she has in the morning. I am also going to buy some plants on sale to fill in empty spots in the front garden. The bird feeders need filling again. The hungry avians emptied them in two days.

That’s all. I got nothing else. Oops, one more thing: tomorrow I am having my other eye done so no Coffee. I’ll see you on Thursday.

“To be overcome by the fragrance of flowers is a delectable form of defeat.”

June 1, 2017

The rain yesterday was torrential at times. We even had thunder and lightning. Not once did the sun make an appearance. It was too busy shining in Boston. Gracie and I left for the dump when the rain was misty, but by the time we got there, it was pouring. I figured I was there anyway and might as well get rid of the trash. My sweatshirt got soaked. I decided right then and there I deserved one more stop, the chocolate store, the best decision of the day.

My eye is clear, but I still have to take eye drops four times a day. My other eye will be done June 6th.

The early morning was lovely. The air had a crispness almost more fall than summer, and it had the best after the rain smell, both fresh and clean and smelling of flowers and mulch. I stood on the deck watching Gracie and taking in the morning. Finally, we both went inside: me to coffee and the papers and Gracie to her morning snack. It will be warm today, a welcome change in the weather. I’ve already opened a window.

I’ve got to empty the water in the outdoor furniture covers so they can dry and then be put away. My deck still looks like it’s winter. A lot needs to be done. Plant shelves need to be sanded then repainted. The clay pots need cleaning before they can be filled with flowers, the same with the deck boxes. Placing the candle hooks in the pine trees will take a bit of ingenuity as some of the branches were lopped off during the fall clean-up. Lights on a few backyard trees have to be replaced. They died over the winter. I’m hoping for lots of warmth today, enough to dry everything so I can be outside on the deck reading and enjoying the air. I’ve had enough of the house.

“Poor, dear, silly Spring, preparing her annual surprise!”

April 3, 2016

“In the lane snow is glistening…” We got a dusting of snow last night. It is wet and heavy. I know this because I went out and made a snowball to throw at the spawn of Satan eating from the suet feeder. The snowball was the perfect heft for an accurate throw, and I hit the spawn dead on. It sort of jumped in surprise then took off on the deck rail down into the yard.

The sun has just appeared backed by a cloudy blue sky. The wind is dying down. The day is beginning to have possibilities. We didn’t go to the dump yesterday as it rained all day, but it looks as if today might just be the perfect dump day. Strange, I never imagined myself talking about the perfect dump day or any dump day for that matter. It seems I’ve turned into such an odd conversationalist.

The snow is dripping off the roof mimicking the sound of a rain storm. I can see small clumps of snow falling from the branches. I filled the bird feeders the other day so the birds are many and varied. My usual gold finches, chickadees, titmice and nut hatches are here as are house finches, woodpeckers and a sparrow of sorts I don’t know by name. I’m sure the doves are here as I did throw seed on the ground for them.

Getting ready for spring takes more time than getting ready for winter. The outside furniture has to be uncovered and cleaned. All the decorative items like the fountain, the painted tables and the tree candles have to be brought from the cellar. The three bins filled with summer I keep stored under the deck have to be emptied then filled with the furniture coverings. The pictures have to be hung on the house wall facing the deck. The gnome and the flamingo are last on the deck. They formally announce the beginning of summer.

In the front and on the side, the gardens need to be cleaned and the dirt overturned. Two branches too close to the house on the front pine tree have to come down. The lawn needs tending. When the weather is warm enough, flowers need to bought and planted to fill any empty spots. The annuals in the herb garden need replacing. The window boxes for the deck need to be repainted this year then filled with flowers and herbs. The small vegetable garden will only have tomatoes as they seem to grow best there.

In winter the furniture gets covered and all the gardens turn brown. The front yard gets its last cleaning. The dead flowers are cut. The deck is bare and abandoned. Only the feeders are left. It never takes long to ready the house and yard for winter. I always think it’s the saddest day, the day I have to admit fall has finished its course, the day the gnome and the flamingo come inside.

It is so easy to love spring.

“One good thing about music, when it hits you, you feel no pain.”

November 17, 2013

The dog’s snoring and my back screaming woke me up this morning. I’m not sure what was worse, but I’m leaning toward the snoring. It was relentless. Each snore had different levels of multiple snores and on a couple of spectacular snores her jowls fluttered. I could take the noise only so long so I dragged myself out of bed. Gracie is now on the couch beside me, and yes, she is snoring but single snores, quiet snores. Those I can handle.

As for my back, I think it had to do with the way I was sleeping with my body contorted and curled around the dog and cat. I don’t start out that way as we all go to bed in our traditional spots, but when I’m asleep, they usurp. Gracie is the worst.

Yesterday my neighborhood was a hub of activity. The house on the corner was getting a new roof. From my deck, I heard the sound of the old shingles being removed. There was an odd scraping sound then a short interval then the scraping again. The time between the sounds was always the same length as if the man was working from a score. I heard the rhythm of the nail gun. It was four notes, a pause then four notes again repeated over and over. I was hearing the symphony of work.

The birds are many today. My chickadees are back. Several were at the big feeder while another was at the suet feeder. I love that I can see those feeders from my kitchen window. I usually wash my favorite cup and glass so I can have them the next day, and the birds are my amusement. Washing dishes is never work. It’s bird watching.

As one of my birthday presents, my friends gave me wooden books ends with a zebra on each end. I carried them around the house looking for a spot knowing that when I add anything, the domino effect comes into play. My house has no empty spots so it becomes a question of where does everything go when you add something. I put the bookends on the microwave and then searched for and found 5 or 6 cookbooks of African food to go between them. One of them is Ghana Chop, the cookbook Peace Corps gave us. To put all of this on the microwave, I had to move a double enamel coffee pot, a cup and saucer with a candle, a very small candelabra, a small glass with a candle and two other large glasses with candles. I walked around the house carrying them trying to figure out spots for their new homes. The two large glasses went back on the microwave, the small one on the butcher block, the cup and saucer also went on the butcher block and the coffee pot went on the floor beside the bookcase; however, I had to move an old glass milk bottle to make room. That last one stymied me. It just didn’t fit anywhere so I ended up hiding it behind something on the bookcase. It was my only failure.

“…it was so rich and exotic I was seduced into taking one bite and then another as I tried to chase the flavors back to their source.”

July 25, 2013

Okay, this may be difficult to believe but it is actually chilly and damp. That’s right: I said chilly. It is 66˚, and I’m loving it. All the windows and doors are opened, and Gracie is in and out at her pleasure. The day is dark and cloudy. It’s a candle sort of day, and I have a few lit in here and some of the electric ones lit in the living room. They shed just the right amount of light and make the house feel cozy. The candle closest to me flickers and its flame moves with the breeze. The scent of this candle is coffee.

Last night two of my friends and I went down-Cape to Eastham for dinner. We went to Karoo’s, a South African restaurant, and it was wonderful. The waitress was perfect as were her suggestions for food and drink. For starters, I had a combo plate and could make a few changes. I went with the monkey ribs instead of two snail rangoons. They and the peri-peri chicken were my favorites. For dinner I had Durban Bunny Chow, and it was so good I left only a few forlorn potato and carrot pieces on the plate. The drinks went down easily. Sadly, we had no room for dessert. I need to go back there and try more. That ostrich sattay (their spelling) and the bobotie looked darn good, and I could manage another couple of those drinks.

When I was growing up, we never ate exotic food except Italian and Chinese. One sit-down restaurant was Chinese, and there was a luncheonette up town with mostly stools. I don’t even remember if it had tables. Other places were take-out sub shops, pizza places and a Carrol’s, a McDonald like hamburger spot. It was cheap enough, but my parents never bought dinner there. I don’t know why. Later, high school later, we all used to hang out in the parking lot leaning against the cars and drinking shakes or cokes. That town now has an Indian and a Thai restaurant and still has that Chinese restaurant as well as a wonderful Italian restaurant. It also boasts a Burger King and a McDonald’s just over the line in the next town. The seafood restaurant always has a line, but we mostly do take-out.

My first strange food was, as I’ve mentioned a million times, in Ghana during training. I didn’t eat a lot of it. No one told us what we were being served so we were all pretty cautious. Breakfast with coffee and rolls was the most popular meal. I do remember the first time I ate goat. It was at my live-in. It was in some kind of soup. I knew it was meat, but I had no idea what kind of meat, and no one told me, but I tried it anyway. Other than having a lot of bones, it was pretty good. After that, I tried just about everything. That ostrich I mentioned will be next!

“I love how summer just wraps it’s arms around you like a warm blanket.”

May 16, 2013

Today is supposed to be warm, maybe even hot. Yesterday Skip, my factotum, was here all day getting the backyard and deck ready for summer. Looks like the timing was perfect. The vegetable garden was weeded, its fence mended, candles hung in the trees, furniture uncovered and cleaned, Gracie’s holes filled, including the one closest to China, backyard ornaments put into the ground and my favorite new addition set up from the heavy pine tree: two stars hung together with five tails extending from them all in white lights. I put them on the timer and last night the stars were beautiful. A few things remain, like planting the veggies and adding flowers and herbs to the pots and getting the shower ready, but that’ll wait until it’s warmer every day. I can’t help it. Seeing the deck ready makes me excited to be out there every day.

When I was a kid, and it was summer, we never stayed in the house, even when it rained. We’d find a leafy tree and stay under it to keep as dry as we could. Most days, though, we’d spend at the playground on the field at the bottom of our street. There were two college students there and at each of the playgrounds in town. They ran all the activities. One summer I painted a tray, and it was the best painting I’d ever done. Every summer I’d make lanyards or bracelets out of gimp. I could do all different knots. The first one I learned was the square knot then the round and then the flat. The round was for the lanyard and the flat was the best for a gimp bracelet. I made pot holders on that square loom with the hooks where you wove the cotton. I think I gave my mother one for every Christmas for years. I played horseshoes, checkers and softball and learned to play chess and tennis. For years I spend the entire day at that playground. The local paper, The Independent, had a playground section once a week,and I got my name in the paper a few times for winning at horseshoes and for being the winning pitcher in softball. Nothing makes a kid happier than to see her name in print.

I out grew the playground and spent summers round the house more. By the time I was a teenager, my friends and I were at the go out at night stage. I was on a drill team and we had drill practice two nights a week, and once every couple of weeks we’d go the drive-in. Some nights we just hung around the way teenagers do. My mother didn’t seem to miss the potholders.