MAIN STREET DRESSED FOR THE PARTY

Cee’s Which Way Photo Challenge – December 21, 2016


It’s the winter solstice today. The shortest day of the year … and just two days until Christmas Eve. Welcome to our town. It’s after dark and we are all dressed up for the holidays.

Main Street after dark

Main Street after dark

Main Street southbound

Main Street southbound

The Rectory on the Common

The Rectory on the Common

Cee which way photo challenge

THE CHANGING SEASONS – EARLY WINTER – DECEMBER 2016

THE CHANGING SEASONS: DECEMBER 2016

Evangelical church on the common after dark in December

Evangelical church on the common after dark in December

You never know about December. We’ve had some of our most memorable blizzards this month. I remember one storm, when we still lived in Boston. It hit in early December and dropped 22 inches on the city. Other years, different winters, we have had no measurable snow until late January or February. And, just to confuse the issue, every four or five years, we have a winter with no snow or nearly none. It all depends on the prevailing winds, the polar vortex, and the positioning of Santa’s sleigh in the arctic. Most important is whether or not we are ready for winter to arrive. If we aren’t, an early hard winter is guaranteed.

Our house. After I took this, I realized that we have lived here for almost 17 years and this is the first time I've shot a night photograph of our house.

After I shot this, I realized we’ve lived here almost 17 years — yet this is the first time I’ve photographed our house after dark

I have discovered a direct correlation between how much money you spend on snow removal equipment and how much snow will fall that season. If you spend big money and get a powerful snowblower or tractor that will easily tackle four-foot drifts on the bunny slope we optimistically call “our driveway,” your odds of getting no snow deeper than three inches increases exponentially.

If you spend more than $1500, you may get two back-to-back winters without any appreciable snow. You can bribe weather gods. I have no idea what they do with the money. Do they hang out on the sunny beaches of Jamaica or Waikiki? If I were a winter weather god, those would be my top two choices.

The rectory of the Evangelical church on Uxbridge common

The rectory of the Evangelical church on Uxbridge common

On the other hand, if you love winter sports, you can trick the gods and assure proper snow depths by not buying any snow-clearing equipment. All you need to do is go into the winter snow season completely unprepared. Extra points for failing to switch to snow tires. This will certainly guarantee a blizzard of (almost) epic proportions.

Is this real? True? I’m sure you can find it on Facebook. You can always find the Truth on social media.

Uxbridge Common at night ... just before Christmas with lights.

Uxbridge Common at night … just before Christmas with lights

Last year’s winter was very mild and so far, this season, we’ve had only one dusting plus a modest little snow that melted the following day. No great heaps of snow. It has been very cold and other places not far from here have gotten considerably more winter weather than us. I believe this is because last year, we finally gave in and bought a four-wheel-drive Jeep. For the amount of money it cost, we may get as many as three mild winters.

Snow in the woods in December

Snow in the woods in December

I was trying to find a single picture that screamed “December.” But this month, I bought (second-hand, but in perfect condition) a terrific Leica f1.4 lens for my Olympus OM-D. It’s the lens for night photography.

Last summer's chrysanthemums linger as the season's first snow falls

Last summer’s chrysanthemums linger as the season’s first snow falls

I also got the Topaz Simplify 4 filter set. This has skewed my photographic endeavors in the direction of artistic and experimental rather than my more typical realism. I hope you like the results. I’m having so much fun with combinations of filters, I felt compelled to show off at least of few of them to you. What I like best about this kind of photography is that it is like painting. It’s not just things as they are or were, but as I see them in my mind’s eye.

Bonnie watches the snow falling.

Bonnie watches snow falling

Finally, I could not choose only one photograph. Here is 2016 through all the changing seasons.

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See you all on the flip side of the calendar. Cardinal Guzman has kindly offered to host this challenge again in 2017, so I will look forward to viewing all your beautiful pictures next year.

Enjoy the holiday and the season!

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A CHRISTMAS STORY – GARRY ARMSTRONG

A SIMPLE GESTURE CAN CHANGE EVERYTHING

Marilyn had been doing battle for days with UPS and FEDEX about vanished Christmas deliveries. It was frustrating and not funny. Her frustration got to me too, since I can’t help fight this particular battle. It finally got sorted out, but it left us tired and not feeling any kind of holiday spirit.

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Add that we have been intermittently under siege from “whatever is going around,”while trying to fend off another of the seemingly endless viruses that leave us feeling old and tired. Factor in the latest appalling, comic strip news from the president-elect. We are bummed out. Wishing the holidays were over before they had begun. Whether you celebrate or not, this ought to at least be a season with hope for a better New Year to come, but this one? Good riddance to 2016, but 2017 was not looking better.

Is there no silver lining? Anything to look forward to?

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Bleak thoughts were racing through my head as I made a deli run to pick up a few items. I flashed a smile to the friendly lady at the counter. Civility is a requirement, even if I’m feeling down. She totaled up my purchases while I pulled out my debit card and started to hand it to her.

“Nope,” she said. “Not need, it’s all paid for.” indicating I wouldn’t need my card.

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I looked around confused.

The gentleman standing next to me smiled and softly said, “Happy Holidays”.

I left the deli, a bit stunned, but smiling. Sometimes, the world surprises you. In a good way. Maybe there is hope after all.

ECLECTICALLY YOURS – ODDBALLS AT CHRISTMAS

Cee’s Odd Ball Photo Challenge: 2016 Week 50


The oddest thing about this week is that it is two weeks before the end of the year. I’m still not sure how we got here so fast.

My house is full of religious iconography. Ancient symbols live harmoniously together in display cases and shelves. This one is from the mantle in the living room. It is a very old bronze of Vishnu riding Garuda, a (modern) bronze dancing Ganeesh, a very small Christmas tree, all against a backdrop of Bergman’s “Jerusalem.”

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May your holidays be eclectic!

A cowboy nutcracker guards the fortress

A cowboy nutcracker guards the fortress

Merry whatever you celebrate! It’s all good to me!

AND IT COMES AGAIN …

Thursday photo prompt – Christmas Present – #writephoto


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The little tree sits neatly on our coffee table. Not a big tree. No lights on it, there not being any convenient electrical outlet nearby. Yet it is satisfying. Pretty, festive, neat. Cheerful without taking over the house.

I remember the big trees of years past. Hulking great trees covered with easily shattered glass ornaments. Shivering with lights and tinsel. I recall all the the years of not being able to decorate the bottom of the tree because cats found the shiny, dangling glass balls irresistible. The dogs found tree an overwhelming temptation too, especially the boys. No amount of heart-to-heart conversations about Christmas tree etiquette with them ever convinced a dog to not imbue the tree with his own personal essence.

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People always called Christmas pines real trees, as if there was something intrinsically superior to cutting down a living tree, hauling it indoors, then decorating it. Only to watch it slowly die. Then dragging it outside to be collected as trash, or give it a Viking funeral in a bonfire.

I’ve always hated taking the tree down. It wasn’t unusual for me to leave it up until Valentine’s Day or later. I hated watching it die and refused to admit it was. Like the cut flowers I  never throw away until they are completely crisp and brown.

This little tree is an elegant fake. It will never die because it has never lived. It can return every Christmas and will never become trash on the curb. I prefer it this way.

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The surprise is how much we enjoy our small, quiet Christmas. It doesn’t feel like deprivation. We can watch “It’s A Wonderful Life” and “A Christmas Story” again. Maybe add “White Christmas” as a bonus. Cuddle the dogs.

No more maxed out credit cards or guilt over not buying the right gift … or spending weeks decorating, wrapping, and preparing. And ending up exhausted, with an empty bank account and a vague feeling of disappointment. This year, my one big blowout gift is for us: I’m getting a team in to clean the house. I’m neat, so it’s not a disaster area. I do the best I can, but cleaning this place thoroughly is beyond me these days. So happy Christmas to me! We shall go into the New Year clean.

christmas red door wreath

Christmas day will be a dinner with friends. He’s not feeling too well, so we’re going there. I understand. These days, our health and the health of friends is not a given. We keep fingers crossed that it’s going to work out and everyone will be fine — and the weather will coöperate.

Maybe this was the way it was supposed to be. Warm, friendly, quiet. Low key — with not a single shred of disappointment. Merry Christmas and Happy Chanukah. And a joyous anything else you celebrate. Whether you are having a crowd or just yourself, may it be a time of comfort and joy.