Being a non-observant Jew is effectively no religion. It isn’t like being an atheist because it doesn’t imply a belief in no god. My mother was an atheist. I understand what it means. To me, atheism requires as much certainty as any other faith. You have to know something you can’t really know. It’s faith, even if it’s faith in nothingness.


Given my upbringing and personal preferences, I’m mildly uncomfortable celebrating all religious holidays, including Jewish ones. I feel as if I’m wearing someone else’s clothing. Even when they fit well and look good, I know they aren’t mine. Every year when Christmas rolls through town flattening everything and everyone in its path, I bow to its power and supremacy. I enjoy the lights, music,  gifts and season while remaining aware it isn’t my holiday. When everyone is sharing their warm fuzzy memories of Christmas as a child, I have no equivalent memories to share. Not of Christmas or any holiday because my mother, atheist that she was, celebrated nothing. As a kid, I yearned to be part of Christmas. All my friends had trees and got a zillion presents. I would wander around to my various friends’ houses, stay a little while, aware I wasn’t really welcome. Then I would go home. I felt so left out.

When I married my first husband, his family was almost as religious as mine. They were pretty sure they had been — at some point in the past — something, but they weren’t sure what. They celebrated Christmas with enormous energy and enthusiasm, without any bothersome religious overtones. It was an alcoholic’s dream holiday featuring eggnog that might actually kill you. And very tree-ish. My father-in-law hauled in the biggest trees I’ve ever seen in a private home. Paul Bunyan would have been impressed.

That first Christmas (1965), they pulled out all the stops. They had a Jew to entertain. How exciting. A new audience. Jeff passed away twenty years ago, but his mother — she will be 104 in February — still sends a Christmas present. I have one in the living room right now waiting to be unwrapped.

The nine years I lived in Israel gave me perspective. There was no evidence of Christmas. Chanukah was a holiday, but not like Christmas. Passover and Sukkot were big festivals. It was comfortable to be a Jew in Israel. That sounds redundant, but the freedom to live by a Jewish calendar was no small thing. Even if you were entirely non-religious, you didn’t feel the pressure to be involved in what is — theoretically — a Christian holiday, but is — as practiced — Pagan. I like the Pagan part.

Basically, I have no religious affiliation. Jewish by ethnicity and history. And I know a lot about Judaism, admire it, but I don’t practice it and never have. I thought seriously about practicing it but it didn’t fit better than anything else. I’m skeptical of everything, certain of nothing. I have no answers.

So to all of you, Merry Christmas. Have a cool Yule and a grand Solstice. Whatever you celebrate, please — enjoy it! I’ll sing along because I know all the words.



Nothing says color like flowers. From wild to cultivated to hothouse, every color of the rainbow and many the rainbow never thought of are captured in flowers. Rich in scent, evocative, alive.



Red Barn White Snow

As bright as is the autumn, winter is intensely white. A monochromatic world where the intensity of the whiteness makes any other color jump out at you. As does this red barn on a fresh white snowy field. Hadley, Massachusetts.


Weekly Photo Challenge: Focus – Tall, high and far away


Down by the creek

Aldrich Creek runs parallel to Aldrich Street, across the Rhode Island border. Blewicz park is a patch of land adjacent to the creek. It has a launch slip, a couple of picnic benches and tiny parking lot. And it’s beautiful.

Sometimes you can see herons fishing along the shallows. It’s a protected breeding area for trout, so it’s closed to fishing in the spring while the baby trout hatch and grow.

You can’t convince the herons to stay away. They don’t read the signs and I’m pretty sure they’d ignore them if they did.


Aldrich Creek


Aldrich Creek, one of the many tributaries of the Blackstone Rivers, runs more or less parallel to Aldrich Street … otherwise known as Route 98.


Just across the Rhode Island border, there’s a small park. It’s a nice place to go shooting … or fishing. I hear the trout are good.


Today was a perfect summer day. The sky was bright blue with small white puffy clouds which reflected in the water. The air was just pleasantly warm with a slight breeze. And a shooting we did go, Garry and I.



Weekly Photo Challenge: Up – Through Glass To Sky




That’s why they call it a trunk!

75-ItsATrunkNK-2This is the only photograph I have ever published that I took on my cell phone. It was taken on my old Blackberry — my beloved, long gone, and oh how much I miss it, Blackberry. It’s one of no more than half a dozen pictures I’ve ever taken on a cell phone!

These days, I carry a camera everywhere I go, so if I were to encounter this car tomorrow, I could grab the shot on my Canon point and shoot. I’m not sure it would have come out different, but maybe. Maybe not. Given the location — the grocery store parking lot — I’m not sure what else I could have done with the picture. What do you think?


Another view of the steeple

steeple 1I quite a lot of pictures of the old Unitarian Church in Uxbridge, this one taken from the right side by the library. This is a perfect, classic New England church in the middle of town, directly across from the town commons. It’s for sale, in case anyone is in the market for a beautiful white steepled church. It’s as beautiful inside as outside. Just needs a little paint. And a heating system.



Weekly Photo Challenge: The Sign Says Don’t Forget


My first entry. This is definitely a sign of the times. But what times?

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Hollow Tree

Down around the corner where the chickens and the cows live, there stands an old hollow tree.

Hollow Tree 2013 - Marilyn Armstrong

Despite it’s obvious age and condition, it still is sending forth leaves this spring.

Hollow Tree 2013 - Marilyn Armstrong

If I were as old as that tree, I don’t think I’d be producing any leaves. Old man tree is nothing if not determined and durable!

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