CHRISTMAS – 2012 – AND THE NEWTOWN MASSACRE

Lest we forget – Just a little more than a year ago, there was a massacre of children in Newtown, Connecticut.

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I was shocked to realize that Monday is Christmas Eve. I admit that it’s pretty weird at this time of year to not know what day is Christmas, but I am a disaster in every possible way. Trying to do everything is not merely difficult, it’s impossible. I’m stretched thin enough to be transparent. I’m sure the massacre in Connecticut contributed hugely to my fugue state.

For about a week, we couldn’t even think about holidays. I’m not sure we were thinking about anything. Psychic overload. Plus, there are other issues, stuff I had to deal with that falls under my purview because the end of the year is not only a time for holidays, but the period when we wrap up the business of the old year and get everything in place for the next.

Unless the world ends later today, in which case all I can say is “oops.”

Christmas Cactus

I am changing health care insurance carriers as of January because I can’t afford the program I’ve been using, much as I like it. Changing medical insurance is always hard, but when you are older and have a variety of physical conditions and work with a lot of specialists, it gets wildly complicated and a bit scary.  Moreover, I have a project to which I committed last summer that has a hard deadline just after the New Year.

And at the beginning of last week, I realized my husband needs a new cell phone. It never crossed my mind that upgrading a mobile phone could entail endless hours of calls to AT&T and turn into a Cecil B. DeMille production with thousands of extras and a full orchestra. Getting the phone ate most of a week … and I fear it’s not over yet. We don’t actually have a phone yet. Anything could happen.

When I have a little time and am over the hump of holidays, I’ll tell you all about it. You can’t make this stuff up.

My deadline isn’t flexible. I’ve never missed a deadline and I won’t this time either. I will meet it or die trying. But it leaves Garry to take care of everything I haven’t already done. It’s nothing outside his capabilities … it’s just that he too had lost track of time.

When I told him Christmas Eve is Monday, he didn’t believe me. We had to stand in front of the calendar, proving beyond doubt that somewhere along the way, we lost a week.

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What happened to December? In all the years I can remember, I have never been so completely unready for the holidays as I am this year and what’s weird is that so many other people I know seems to be caught short.

My theory is that the Newtown Connecticut mass shooting affected many of us the same way. Vietnam vets started having flashbacks again. It made my husband remember too many similar things he had to cover during his years as a reporter … and had the same effect on his colleagues, both those still working and those now retired. For a while, it seemed somehow wrong … inappropriate … to be worrying about gifts and wrapping paper.

We didn’t feel festive. We didn’t even feel like we should feel festive. Between events outside our control and a lot of things that just came together to eat our time, Christmas seems to have appeared, popping up like a jack-in-the-box. Friends who normally go all out for the holidays haven’t even bought a tree, much less put it up or decorated their home and property. A strange Christmas, this one. Somehow, it has happened, though with less ceremony than usual.

While I spent the afternoon at the oncologist, my daughter-in-law and granddaughter put up and decorated the tree. They acquired wrapping paper and the appropriate stuff to go with it … ribbon and bows and tape and labels and all. Meals are planned, though groceries remain to be purchased.

In the middle of all of this, my two Christmas cacti are blooming. They, at least, are in tune with the season. The tree is lit. There won’t be wreathes this year because I forgot to buy them and now, it seems too late.

Next year I’ll try to make up for it. I did take pictures this morning to prove, despite obstacles, we shall have Christmas. We may not deck the halls, but it’s still Christmas.

1771 – The First Quaker Meeting House

Conveniently located at the corner of our street and that other road, just short of a mile from our front door, you can see the historic first Quaker Meetinghouse in Massachusetts, built in 1771. It’s right on the Rhode Island border (as are we) and only the happenstance of the way the lines were drawn prevented it from being in Rhode Island like most of the historic Quaker Meeting Houses are in New England.

It isn’t in weekly use any more, but services are held there on Thanksgiving morning and many people arrange for weddings and other important celebrations to take place there. I think we will have our 25th anniversary vow renewal there. It will be our 3rd renewal. Just 2 years to go! If we all stay healthy, come on down!

The church is unheated. They’ve rigged up a sort of warm air blower to take the worst of the chill off, but even at Thanksgiving when deep winter hasn’t arrived, it’s cold inside. You need an overcoat.

It’s spare, plain, and simple inside, as you would expect. And beautiful, as you would also expect.

Located at the intersection of Rt. 146A and Rt. 98, if you find it, you've almost found us. Let me know if you'll be in town!

Located at the intersection of Rt. 146A and Rt. 98, if you find it, you’ve almost found us. Let me know if you’ll be in town!

It is a registered national landmark and is well maintained. You cannot get inside unless it’s one of the special occasions when it’s open to the public, but you are always welcome on the grounds. Hard to get a good angle on it since it’s awkwardly placed on top of a hill, surrounded by trees, its own road, and the intersection of Rt. 146A and Rt. 98, but I’m going to try it again with the widest lens I have and some close-ups of windows and doors … if it ever stops raining here.

Off to Connecticut today to pick up a car that friends are passing along to us as they got something ever so much spiffier. It will be good for us as it’s an all-wheel vehicle that will serve us well in the upcoming winter.

Funny about living here. It’s not yet the 4th of July, full air conditioning season. But thoughts are already turning to winter. Warm weather is brief in New England. This year, as soon as May ended, it turned into the monsoon season, nothing but torrential downpours, 100+ temperatures, followed by more rain. Interspersed with tornadoes, thunder and lightning. It’s the green time of year. Not just leaves. Everything is green with mold from dampness.

My gardens are drowned. My two baskets of fuchsia are still doing okay and one begonia is trying to hold on to life, but there’s been no sun. Plants can’t live in mud. There’s no air in mud and our soil is clay and hard. It doesn’t drain. So summer’s been a washout. Literally.

I hope we manage to squeeze in a few glorious weeks of autumn between season and season. It’s our reward for surviving the rest of the year and maybe it will stop raining long enough for the leaves to change color before they are washed away!

Snowy Woods and Stream

Late winter snow in a Connecticut woods. The frozen stream waits for a bit of sunshine. 

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melting snow

Melting snow runs down from high peaks, into creeks,
over flowing waters, carry off layers of the forest floor,
nutrients, twigs, leafs and insects are all swept clean,
little creeks bulge into violent streams, and mighty rivers
churning, tumbling, and roaring down waves, into the ocean’s mouth.

Melting snow on the forest floor uncovers chains of small islands,
spreading under pines and oaks and elms, low lands and high lands,
contrasting, the dark colored ground against the white melting snow,
the season of change calls to awaken the forest floor,
with a splash of melting snow, and a degree of heat,
natures cycle is complete.

michael andrew
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A few hours later, the stream is flowing. Sluggishly, still a bit icy but moving, the little waterfall flows down the rocks between still snowy banks.

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Melting

The big snow from early this month is melting. It’s good because that’s what has to happen, especially is the weather is not finished with us. If more snow is to come, better there be less snow and ice on the ground when if does.

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Melt-off is messy. It seeps into foundations and basements, makes the rivers and streams overflow. Everything and everyone feels damp. Old bones ache in sympathy. The world is sodden and chilly.

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Today, though the rain is falling heavily accompanied by wind and occasional dollops of sleet, we have to drive home. Like it or not, we’ve been away longer than we intended and it’s time to go home. Here in central Connecticut, the stream that was frozen when we arrived last Sunday has broken free of winter’s grip.

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It’s flowing enthusiastically … more so with each passing hour as I watch it from the windows here in the kitchen. Spring will come. Soon or sooner, but it will come.

All taken with the Canon Powershot S100. It’s the only camera I brought with me and it has done the job splendidly.