Category Archives: Celebrate

The Many Faces of Santa

I am someone who loves diversity. I am fascinated by the food, stories, and ways of other cultures. To me, these differences bring richness, variety, and snap to life.

It is one of the reasons why I used to enjoy going to New York City to visit my daughter. (Alas, my creaky knees can no longer handle the subway system.) So many different types of people—short, tall, thin, fat, brown, white, black, Asian. Wonderful! On one trip, I remember sitting at an outdoor table and just soaking it all in.

I collect Santas, and the ornaments on my tree reflect my love of diversity.

Here is a traditional one.

Here is a fantasy Santa who looks like a wizard. After all, I like to say i was born in County Tolkien, even though I was really born in Kennebec County in Waterville, Maine.

There is also a Father Christmas type who resembles the late great Canadian author Robertson Davies.

And this is one of my favorite Santas.

There is even an Uncle Sam Santa.

Finally, here is a north woods Santa, which honors where I live, north of north, where the winters are still very cold.

The generosity of this season, personified by Santa, embodies a big-heartedness that can embrace all cultures and take in their beauty.

We would do well to carry this lesson with us throughout the year.

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A Circle of Generosity

The first week of December has nearly skipped past, and what a nice week it has been. After working so hard on Library Lost for so long, I have decided to wait until January to tuck into my third book in the Great Library Series. (I am still uncertain about the title.)

Instead, I am going to celebrate this cold season of short days and twinkly lights, a time of year I love dearly. For various reasons, we no longer enjoy hosting big parties, but we do like inviting friends over for tea, coffee, and cookies or warm apple crisp, and that is what we are doing this December. Then there is the Christmas bustle of cooking, wrapping presents, and decorating. I don’t want to rush through the season. Instead, I want to savor each day, each activity.

Christmas can be seen as a time of excess, and to some degree it is. But is also a time of generosity, a time of giving, a time of thinking about what someone else would like rather than what you would like. All to the good, as far as I’m concerned. Simply put, we can’t have too much generosity, a virtue that is often in very short supply, especially in this country.

In the spirit of encouraging generosity, here are a few stories. Last Sunday, we went to our friends Judy and Paul’s house for tea. For a Christmas present, she gave me this lovely vintage post card that she had picked up at a seasonal pop-up called Yuletide in a Yurt. (For readers who live within driving distance of Monmouth, Maine, this is a lovely place to buy locally made gifts.)

Here is the front.

And here is the back. In 1913, Marian sent Bessie this card. Now how cool is that?

Then Judy told us a story of unexpected generosity that had come into her life.  A week or so ago, she and Paul went to a local restaurant to have lunch. As they were making their way to their booth—Paul has health issues and walks very slowly—a woman in the next booth smiled at them as they took their seats. Then, later, when the woman left, she looked directly at Paul and Judy and smiled as she passed by. When it came time to pay the bill, the server told Judy, “The bill has been taken care of by the woman who was sitting in the booth next to you.”

Judy was flabbergasted as well she might be. How often does this happen? It has never happened to me, and I think it was a first for Judy. There was no explanation left with the server as to why the woman paid the bill, but I have a notion that the woman observed Judy and Paul and how loving, patient, and kind Judy is with Paul as she helps him cope with his disabilities. (Readers, Judy really is a wonder.) I expect the woman was moved and wanted to do something nice for them. This is all speculation, of course, but I think it’s a good guess.

After lunch, as Judy was going home, she stopped at a light and noticed a woman standing nearby, with a sign asking for money. Judy noted how worn, tired, and discouraged the woman looked. Digging frantically in her pocketbook before the light changed, Judy found $20, about the same price as lunch, and handed it to the woman.

Now it was the woman’s turn to be flabbergasted. “Thank you, thank  you, thank you! You have no idea how much this will help.”

The light changed, and Judy had to drive away.

And that, dear readers, is a perfect circle of generosity, a lesson to keep not only for Christmas, but for the rest of the year as well.

Look What Came on a Snowy Day: Library Lost!

The books have arrived! Library Lost, the sequel to Maya and the Book of Everything, is now available. What a thrill to see them, so vibrant and red, in the box.

Library Lost is the second book in my Great Library Series. Two forces, Time and Chaos, battle each other for control of the mysterious Great Library, where all information flows. In the middle of this battle between Time and Chaos is one kid from Earth—Maya Hammond, who has traveled back in time, across the universe, and then home again with a Book of Everything from the Great Library.

In Library Lost, Maya is once again on the move, this time with an Apprentice Book named Ariel. As Chaos gains an edge, it doesn’t take long for the action to spiral into mayhem and destruction. However, Sydda, the Great Library’s director, has come up with a daring but dangerous plan that involves Maya.

But Maya has grave doubts. How can she ever prevail against such a powerful force as Chaos? How, indeed?

Library Lost can be ordered directly from Hinterlands Press. For orders in the United States, shipping is free, and you can get your very own signed copy of any of our books. We are also having a holiday sale: Order both Maya and the Book of Everything and Library Lost for $28, and again, shipping is free.

For those who like or need to order through Amazon, here are two special offers. Through the end of December, the Kindle version of Maya and the Book of Everything will be available for $0.99. And here is an even better deal: If you buy the paperback edition of Maya and the Book of Everything, the Kindle version is free.

My husband, Clif, and I will also be attending several fairs in Maine between now and Christmas. Central Maine readers, all you need to do is click the events button at the top of our Hinterlands website to see where we will be.

A heartfelt thanks to the many blogging friends who not only bought Maya and the Book of Everything but also took the time to write thoughtful reviews on their own blogs. I so appreciate this.

A reminder: The drawing for the free copy of Library Lost will be held on Thursday, November 29. There are still a couple of days to enter the contest, and I will mail the book anywhere on this planet. Anywhere.

Finally, the credo of the Great Library Series can be summed up in three words: Love Your Library.

But, blogging friends, you already love your libraries, don’t you?

 

A Very Brisk Thanksgiving

Yesterday morning this was the temperature, and a brisk wind made the air feel even colder.

There were frost ferns on the door,

and other windows were frosted, too.

No matter. Clif built a fire in the wood furnace in our cellar, and the house was cozy and warm.

This year we had a quiet Thanksgiving, with our daughter Dee being our sole guest. Although Clif and I missed those who couldn’t come, we had an absolutely delightful time. Being movie hounds, we watched two movies. The first was the excellent The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, a dark, haunting Western presented in six episodes by the Coen brothers. The Ballad is available on Netflix. The second movie was the not-so-excellent The Square, which we thought would be a story about modern art and its uses (and abuses) but instead mostly turned out to be the tale of a hapless, bumbling museum director who seemed to be in a permanent state of arrested development. Ah, well!

This year we had a vegetarian Thanksgiving dinner, and it was very good indeed. Clif and I have been going down the vegetarian path for years and are now mostly there. Dee has been a vegetarian since her college days. So we dispensed with the turkey and made the sides the main meal. For dessert was homemade chocolate cream pie, but I forget to take a picture of it.

In the upper left hand corner of the above photo is what looks like a golden roll. However, American readers will recognize this roll for what it is—a biscuit.

Here is a closer look at the biscuits, arrayed in glory on a platter.

American biscuits are something like a scone, but they are not at all sweet and make a fine accompaniment to almost any meal, especially stews and soups.

Biscuits are also good for breakfast, and that’s exactly what we had this morning, along with scrambled eggs made from the beauties our neighbor brought us.

Tonight, there will be leftovers and pies.

The feasting continues!

 

All Dancing Together

Despite the chilly, rainy day—or maybe because of it—despite the sorrows of the world—which are many–today,  a week after the election, is a day for music, for celebrating because gosh darn it there was a blue wave. And blue is my favorite cover.

This song, by the terrific band R.E.M, captures how I feel on this drizzly day. Not only do I love the catchy, upbeat tune and words, but I also love the diversity featured in the video—young people, old people, black, brown, Asian, white, thin, plump. All dancing together.

And if I’m ever reincarnated, I want a voice just like Kate Pierson’s.

More Birthday Brouhaha

As I have written in the past, our philosophy is to celebrate early and celebrate often. Along with escaping Hurricane Florence, Shannon and Mike had timed their trip north to coincide with my birthday, which was yesterday. Since Clif’s birthday is a week from now, we figured a double celebration was in order.

Yesterday was a sunny day—not too hot, not too humid—so off we went to the Red Barn for seafood and chicken. I, of course, had a lobster roll. Utterly delicious, with just a touch of mayonnaise to hold the lobster together.

Then, for dessert, a whoopie pie.

After lunch, it was onward to Waterville to see the new waterfront park by the Kennebec River. Since the late 1960s, when in a fit of urban renewal all the buildings were torn down, a piece of land off Front Street had been empty and pretty much neglected. Not anymore. How spiffy and lovely it looks.

We walked across the Two Cent Bridge, a suspension bridge that connects Waterville to Winslow. Time was when walkers had to pay a two-cent toll to cross the bridge, but that time has passed.

For no fee at all, we went across the bridge, where I took a picture of Shannon and Mike.

Here’s a shot down the blue, blue Kennebec River, toward the Hathaway Mill, which no longer produces shirts and is instead used for businesses and apartments. (You can’t really see the Hathaway in this picture, but it is on the right past the bridge.)

And here’s a shot up the river. On the right is the old Scott Paper Company, which looks deserted. So many factories closed, and while they polluted the Kennebec River, they also provided good-paying jobs. So far, nothing has come to take their place and lift the area’s economy.

But it was too fine a day to brood on a stalled economy. (I’ll save that for another day.) After walking across the bridge and along the river, we went to Cancun, a Mexican restaurant in Waterville, and had drinks at a table on the sidewalk.

Happy birthday to us!

A Labor Day of Blue Skies and Water

On Sunday, we took Dee to the bus station so that she could return to New York City, where she lives and works. Always so sad to see her go, but what a fun time we had celebrating our birthdays.

Monday was Labor Day in this country. Here is a short explanatory blurb from Wikipedia: “Labor Day is celebrated on the first Monday in September. It honors the American labor movement and the contributions that workers have made to the strength, prosperity, laws, and well-being of the country. It is the Monday of the long weekend known as Labor Day Weekend. It is recognized as a federal holiday. ”

Very fitting that we should honor laborers who made the workforce a better, safer place. However, for many people it is the long weekend marking the end of summer. Tourists aplenty come to Maine on Labor Day Weekend, but luckily for us, central Maine is not a hot spot for vacationers, and the roads are fairly quiet.

In keeping with our quiet area, we decided that Monday would be a no-car day and that we would bike along Maranacook Lake, one of our favorite places to ride. The day was hot but beautiful, and after our ride, we sat on a bench at Norcross Point to watch the water, the boats, and the sky.

Hydrangeas are in bloom, and I liked the way the blossoms look with the sky as the background.

Also, I liked the way the two bright kayaks punctuated the water. Blue and pink, pink and blue.

As we sat at the park and watched people paddle and swim, we reflected how lucky we were to live in a town where there is ample access to free public areas by the lake. Not every town has this, and in Readfield, the town next to ours, their beach is billed as “a user supported beach.” The town charges $40 per family for an annual permit.

Certainly, $40 is not a great deal of money, but lots of people in central Maine live on a tight budget, and I wonder how many families decide they can’t afford the fee. Much better, in my opinion, to have the beach and the park free for all to enjoy. (I do realize that taxes pay for the maintenance of the Winthrop beach and park, and I am happy to have a portion of my taxes used this way.)

After these musings, Clif and I decided to head home. And what did I see? Leaves just beginning to change color.

It is September, after all, and while the calendar tells us that autumn isn’t here until September 23, the trees are telling us otherwise.

Soon, the most  beautiful season of the year will be upon us.

In the meantime, Clif and I will enjoy as many evenings as we can on the patio.

Those days are numbered.