Category Archives: Celebrate

Salut April, Salut Earth Month

April is finally here, and with all due respect to T.S. Eliot, it is not the cruelest month. Not by a long shot. In Maine, that honor goes to March, which, thank the weather gods, is behind us for another year.

For many reasons, April is one of my favorite months. The snow melts at a rate that can only be called astonishing. The sun is higher, the days are warmer, and Spring is definitely on its way. In April there is hope that at last Winter has released its bony grip on the land.

Another reason I love April is that our youngest daughter was born on April 22, and that day will always be a sweet day for me. (As will October 29, the birth of my eldest daughter.)

April 22 also happens to be Earth Day. As Earthday.org notes, “Each year, Earth Day—April 22—marks the anniversary of the birth of the modern environmental movement in 1970….The idea for a national day to focus on the environment came to Earth Day founder Gaylord Nelson, then a U.S. Senator from Wisconsin, after witnessing the ravages of the 1969 massive oil spill in Santa Barbara, California.”

I came of age during the 1970s, and I was profoundly affected by the environmental movement. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to state that it has made me the person I am. Along with my family and my writing, my concerns and focus as an adult have always been on the environment.

My teenage self—foolish in too many ways—was not wrong to be concerned about the environment. Forty-nine years later, that concern has been upgraded to alarm as the ravages of climate change become more and more obvious.

Earth Day has now been expanded to Earth Month, where all of April is set aside for celebrating our beautiful planet. Some people scoff, proclaiming such things are gimmicky. They note that every day should be Earth Day, and that we shouldn’t need special designations. Maybe so, but we humans have a yen for symbols and stories, and focused in the right direction, this is a good thing.

Earth Day and Earth Month turn our attention to something of vital importance—Earth, our only home. So bring on the stories, the celebrations, the attention. May they bloom into something more.

I’ll end with a picture of the beautiful Kennebec River, nearly free of ice the beginning of April. I’ve told the following story before, but it bears repeating as it is an example of what we humans can do when we put our minds to it.

In the 1960s, when I was a child, the Kennebec River was so dirty that no one even wanted to stick their big toe in it. There were no eagles, no ospreys, no birds of prey. Nobody sat by the Kennebec River to admire the teeming wildlife. Dank and foul smelling, it was a river to be avoided.

Then came the Clean Water Act of 1972, and slowly the river came back to life. No longer a dumping ground for chemicals and other foul things, the river became, well, clean. Eagles have made a comeback. Ospreys hunt for fish. In the spring, sturgeon jump. In Hallowell and other places, people come to this river to watch the sparkling water and the creatures who live in and by it.

So salut April, Earth Day, and Earth Month!

 

Starlings and Little Fishies: A Follow-up Post to Nobody’s Environmentally Perfect

On Monday, I posted a piece called “Nobody’s Environmentally Perfect,” and the title indicates one of the themes: How those of us who care about the environment often lurch imperfectly as we try to live lighter.  From there, I moved on to Sami Glover’s post in Treehugger, where he questioned how much difference personal responsibility makes when it comes to tackling climate change. I ended with “Nevertheless, Clif and I try to live ever lighter….While we might not be environmentally perfect and perhaps never will be, we have made progress, which gives me hope….Readers, do you have any thoughts about this?”

Readers, you certainly had thoughts about this, and they brightened my day. How wonderful to think of all of you—not only in this country but also around the world—giving serious thought to climate change, waste, and green living. Most readers felt that individual actions do indeed matter, and here are some of the responses from various blogging friends:

This came from The Snail of Happiness, who quoted John Taylor, a climate change advisor in Suffolk, UK: “For me, [climate change] is like a murmuration of starlings. It looks big, but look closer and you will see it is really made up of thousands and thousands of smaller individual actions and choices….Yes, please care about the bigger picture, but if you act in the areas that you directly influence, you have the power to be the bird that turns. So do something in your life today, and be proud and tell people about it. The birds around you will see and follow suit, and soon that change will ripple through out the whole flock.”

Love Those “Hands at Home” noted, “One of my blog pals makes the case that ‘one plus one plus 50 makes a million’–I think that’s the attitude we should take about being little fishies swimming upstream. We can be a big school of fish, and teach the world some lessons!”

Island Time takes waste and packaging seriously. “Humans and their waste, what a huge problem. Everyone has to do their bit… every little bit counts. We recycle everything we can, and more and more I refuse to buy things that include a lot of packaging… Often I will remove the bulky packaging from items and leave it behind in the store from whence it came. If everyone did this, perhaps the stores would tell their suppliers to lose the packaging.”

On the other hand, A Wordy Woman comes at the issue from a completely different angle. “I do it because I feel that it is right and responsible and so it would be uncomfortable and against my own nature to live otherwise. I would feel bad about myself, especially knowing that people in other parts of the world, most of whom are not part of the problem, are already suffering greatly because of a changing climate and associated weather. ”

There were many other wonderful, supportive comments, and if time allows, do read them.

I’ll end with this note of thanks: Blogging friends, you rock. Knowing that so many of you are out there, doing what you can to make the world a better place, inspires me and fills me with hope.

Onward, ho!

Crazy Mainers and Ice Cream

Not far from where we live is a fabulous ice cream stand called Fielder’s Choice. They make their own ice cream, utterly delicious and reasonably priced. Even by American standards, the servings are huge.

Right after Christmas, Fielder’s Choice closed for a few months, but with spring supposedly on the horizon, they are back. In what has become an annual ritual, Clif and I, along with our friends Claire and Mary Jane, went to Fielder’s Choice for opening day.

Here is Clif, posing by the listings of ice cream. No, he is not a double-fisted ice cream eater. Instead, he is holding my peanut-butter ice cream cone. My absolute favorite.

Note the down jacket Clif is wearing, and the next picture will illustrate why my cone was in no danger of melting. Here, standing by a snow bank on a cold March day, are three lovely Mainers with their ice creams. We northerners sure know how to have fun.

To complete the frosty theme of this post, here is snow-gauge Clif in the front yard.

And in the backyard.

I hate to be pessimistic, but it seems to me that even though Fielder’s Choice has reopened, spring is not right around the corner. Not by a long shot.

Food, Fun, and Folderol

The holidays are over, and our eldest daughter is back home in New York City. What a grand ten days we had with her, and as always, I’m a little blue that all the fun and folderol are over.

We are, ahem, a family that is more than a little obsessed with food. On Christmas Eve, our tradition is to have a homemade cheddar cheese soup that I’ve adapted from a Moosewood recipe. It’s a lovely, rich soup, and we gild the lily, so to speak, by adding broccoli and tortellini.

Dee loves waffles, and whenever she comes, Clif whips up some of his wonderful, light waffles, made at the table and served hot. For a side, we had Morningstar Farms veggie sausages, which are a tasty substitute for the real thing.

For a Christmas present, Clif and I received a gift certificate to one of our favorite restaurants—The Last Unicorn—in Waterville. There was enough on the certificate to treat Dee to lunch, and off we went to Waterville. How festive The Last Unicorn was, and the food, so reasonably priced, was absolutely  scrummy.

Speaking of presents and scrummy…as is our wont, we had a dash of fantasy during this holiday. For Dee, we bought her this confection at  Scrummy Afters for a Christmas present.

It is chocolate, of course, but without too much imagination, one could imagine that a little dragon is starting to crack the egg. Dee couldn’t bear to chop it up, and she brought the whole egg back with her to New York.

This must have been the Year of the Dragon as Dee bought me this adorable ornament to add to my collection.

However, this holiday season wasn’t all food and dragons. We are a family of film buffs, and what better thing to do when the weather is cold than to watch movies? Let’s just say our tastes are what you might call eclectic, ranging from the Transformer movie Bumblebee to Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse to the fabulous Shakespeare series The Hollow Crown: The Wars of the Roses. (The latter being a DVD set and another Christmas present for Dee.)

And guess what? We liked them all. For those who are tempted to sniff at today’s popular culture, I want to remind you that once upon a time, Shakespeare was part of the popular culture in Elizabethan England.

Now that the holidays are over, it is time to get back to work. Book Three in my Great Library Series is slated to be published in 2020, which seems like a long way into the future. However, as I’ve barely begun working on Chapter one, I’d better chop-chop. A lot of effort goes into writing and publishing a book, and 2020 will be here before I know it.

Happy, happy New Year to all my blogging friends. I wish you good health, good food, good companionship, and lots of creativity.

 

 

 

A Wonderful Week Ending with a Benediction

Yesterday, the rains lashed and lashed, clearing the driveway—a good thing—and melting most of the snow—not such a good thing as my perennial gardens are now exposed. If we have a cold snap, the plants will be in serious trouble. In Maine, rain in the winter is most unwelcome.

Still, I had such a wonderful, wonderful week that the rainy weather could not dim my pleasure.

First, our friends Gayle and Bob invited us over to view their collection of Santas, a truly impressive sight. This picture shows just a sample of the many, many Santas decorating their house.

After viewing the Santas, there were cookies, eggnog, and tea.

And finally a gift, a new Santa ornament to hang on my tree. This one is very special as it features a dog—reminding me of our beloved Liam, who passed in May. Also Santa’s hat makes him look like a real Mainer. I have a jacket with that very same pattern. Gayle and Bob, many, many thanks for an utterly delightful afternoon, for the cookies, and for the special ornament.

A day or two latter, a little package from Ireland came in the mail. My blogging friend Shari sent me these two lovely handmade ornaments, and how pretty they are on our tree. Thanks so much, Shari!

As if all that weren’t enough, Clif and I had the most extraordinary experience on Thursday at one of our favorite places to eat, the Red Barn, a modest restaurant that serves delectable seafood.

While we were eating, a woman who works at the Red Barn brought out a huge cake and carried it to a small woman in a bright red sweater. The woman called out, “Happy 100th birthday, Josephine.”

Everybody clapped, and everybody sang “Happy Birthday” to Josephine, which, by the way, was my grandmother’s name. As I clapped and sang, there were tears in my eyes. (Later, on the Red Barn’s Facebook page, I would learn that Josephine is called Mémère, French Canadian for grandmother, and Mémère is what I called all my grandmothers.)

Here is a picture of the oh-so-lovely Josephine.

Then, everyone at the Red Barn received a piece of the birthday cake as well.

Naturally, I had to go over to wish Josephine a happy birthday.

“So generous to bring a cake and give everyone a piece,” I said to the man and woman who were with her, and by that time I was so overcome with emotion that I didn’t even ask how they were connected to her.

“That’s the way she is,” the woman said. “Always so generous.”

I turned to Josephine and said, “Happy birthday.”

Josephine smiled at me, took my hand in her own warm one, and squeezed it firmly and affectionately. It is not every day that a 100-year-old woman squeezes your hand, and it felt like a blessing of sorts, a benediction.

I made my way back to the table, grabbed a napkin, wiped my eyes, and blew my nose.

That benediction stayed with me the rest of the day while we finished our errands. It is with me now, and it is something I will always remember.

A timely reminder that gifts can come in the most homely, unexpected places and  that chance is often involved. Forty minutes either way, and we would have missed Josephine’s celebration.

And, so dear readers, with this I close the year. I will be taking a break from blogging until the beginning of January.

Whatever your beliefs, whatever you celebrate or don’t celebrate, I wish you many blessings in the upcoming year.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

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.