“Listen……With faint dry sound, like steps of passing ghosts, the leaves, frost-crisp’d, break from the trees and fall.” Adelaide Crapsey*
This weather reminds me of an autumn quite early in our marriage when we couldn’t go home for Thanksgiving. We lived in central Pennsylvania, and a baby was due any time. The doctor laughed when we mentioned leaving for New York State and said: “You’ll stay right here if you don’t mind”. Well – of course, we minded, but we did stay. We had a serene Thanksgiving Day (with pizza, I think), and took a stroll over country roads, on what was a mild day just right for walking. And a few days later, our first child was born. I also remembered another Thanksgiving, with one baby and one toddler, when we transported a live turkey from that same place to my parents’ home in New York State. Kerm had won this creature in a raffle, and neither of us felt competent to dispatch, dress and cook a turkey. So ---- he lived in a cage in our cellar for a few days, and then, still caged, rode in the back of our station wagon for five hours, to meet his demise in my parents’ back yard. Sometimes I wonder what we were thinking!!
Now that we’ve had some nippy days with wind and a few snow squalls, the song birds are slowly returning, but still not in the usual numbers or varieties. The squirrels haven’t come back at all. I’m not missing those seed-guzzling rodents, but it is unusual to see no twitching, fluffy gray tails leaping from birdfeeder to tree. I was out today and noticed that the comfrey I had chopped down to roots is sending out green shoots. Not good; I’m sure that tender growth will soon find itself iced into oblivion when the weather reminds us that winter is a fact of life in the northeast.
All of the food and fun of Thanksgiving is behind us (hopefully the gratitude remains), and Advent is upon us. The hanging of the greens at church was this past Sunday and the four weeks of Advent begin this coming Sunday. We have an annual tradition of inviting the Candor Community Chorus from the next village over, to present Christmas music at our church on the first Sunday in Advent --- which is December 3d at 6:30 PM. They perform some of their concert music from the night before, and lead a carol-sing with people in the audience choosing their favorites. It’s a community event with goodies afterward. Then, with our senses sated due to beautiful music, yummy food and the fragrance of evergreens, everyone comes away feeling the Christmas season is off to a good start.
The Sunday before Thanksgiving, our community had a combined service with almost all churches participating. The largest church in town hosted the gathering and was full to the brim. Afterward, we had a dish-to-pass dinner with turkey, stuffing and all sorts of wondrous foods. As the room filled with conversation and laughter, one comment that I heard was: “Are we supposed to be having this much fun?” This was said in jest, for of course we are supposed to be experiencing joy and delight in each other and our common thankfulness. We’d probably accomplish more good things if we combined efforts as well as worship, more often.
Thanksgiving Day, at our house, was quiet. Two friends came for dinner and we had an enjoyable time together. Then Saturday, our sons and their families arrived and we had our usual slightly chaotic gathering with dinner and catching up. As I assumed, there was another foray for deer on the hill, but apparently those creatures were off having their own party, invisible to the hopeful hunter. Following early grazing on crackers, cheese and grapes, our dinner consisted of half a turkey (only one drum stick – TSK!) and a ham, plus delicious roasted veggies (not done by me), potatoes from our garden, salad and two GF pies; one chocolate and one pumpkin. These were new recipes and both were tasty, but the chocolate pie was like eating chocolate ganache --- something one usually does in smaller amounts. Even though we tried to plan for eight people instead of a hoard, we had food left over. Since everyone has now returned home, this has diminished my meal prep for the week. I love leftovers!!
Our granddaughters helped with the hanging of the greens on Sunday. Mostly the church is decorated with the warm and simple elegance of poinsettias, greenery garlands, and tea lights. The exception to the elegance is the children’s tree in the social room just off the sanctuary and quite visible from the church pews. That is a ten-foot wild evergreen --- not pruned at all in the manner of commercial trees. Actually, it is often the top cut from a much larger-than-ten-foot tree. This feral cousin of more sedate trees is decorated with a very diverse collection of created ornaments and ropes of tinsel. Elegant it is not, but it is a way to let the children know they are as much a part of the church’s Christmas season as the grown-ups. Hopefully they will develop balance with the tinsel as they grow older, but right now, the effect is quirky and charming (that’s just my opinion and not always shared by everyone ). Our granddaughters, being a tad older than the other children, were a help in making sure the decorations got on the tree versus being on the floor; they were taller and could use the ladder for higher up. They look forward to being here for this event, and I think the children of this church like having them here to help.
We have now come to the end of one sort of year. There are many “new years” in our 365 days. Most of us consider that we are beginning a new personal year on our birthday. The school year usually begins around September 1st. The Jewish new year, falling in September/October, is past now and the secular new year is, of course, on January 1st. The Buddhist new year follows in February. The Christian church calendar begins with the Advent season. It should be a time for meditation and thoughtfulness about the year past and the year ahead, but usually is filled to the brim with activities. I’m trying to ignore the full-blast stampede to Christmas. I’d like to enjoy those quiet beautiful days in early December, and my peace does not need to be shattered by the desperate cravings of the retail business to solidify their profits for the season. So we mute the TV advertisements, put into recycling all the catalogs with the scary “You can still order if you hurry” message, and I’ve unsubscribed from all the miscellaneous advertising that pops up in my Email. I hope to actively enjoy watching the landscape with all the red, pink and deep blue berries, the birds as they flit from lilac to feeder (avoiding cats ready to pounce) and listen to good music without feeling harried and hounded. Slow down --- relax ----be aware ---- savor! And as the earth turns toward darkness, perhaps we can all be more inclined to look upward to the stars.
“Whatever creates or increases happiness or some part of happiness, we ought to do. Whatever destroys or hampers happiness…….we ought not to do.” Aristotle**
*Adelaide Crapsey----American writer, born in Brooklyn and raised in Rochester, NY. 1878-1914.
**Aristotle ---Classical Greek scholar and scientist. 834 BC – 322 BC. A note here: the happiness referred to by Aristotle is inner joy, not self-indulgence.
Carol may be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.