Holidays & Seasons Feed

Saying Good-bye

This is a post I've been meaning to write for nearly a month, because it was about that long ago that I took a deep breath and said good-bye.  I think each family has its rituals for marking the passing of the seasons.  In some families these may be well documented and anticipated events (the Soule family of the SouleMama blog do this beautifully).  In others they happen with no fanfare, aside from the occasional grumble while hanging plastic over the windows or removing fall's jetsam from the gutter. 

In my household, I know that spring has truly taken hold when my partner comes in from work and after the customary hellos announces "It's first day of no-socks!" with a smile on his face and a wiggle of his Birkenstocked feet.  At that point my sandals are usually already due for a wash, from being worn in New England's fifth season -  mud.  But Z's adoption of sandals is a sign that the warm weather is really and truly here to stay.  The woolens get washed and hung to dry  (like a reverse version of Christmas) and outdoor living moves into full swing.

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As summer gives way to fall, I see Z return to his beloved black socks without a backward glance.  I wait as long as I can to do the same (not just because I despise matching clean socks together, though that's part of it).  Finally the day comes when only a fool would subject their bare toes to such temperatures and into the sink my workhorse Tevas go.  Soaking in hot soapy water, they give up the dust from my garden, beach sand long trapped in the velcro, stains from popsicles that melted too quickly, as well as the scent of bug spray, chlorine and I'm sure plenty of sweat.  Now they're tucked away like woodchucks and chipmunks, waiting for the return of warm sun and green grass. 

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P.S. If you enjoy picture books (or have kids in your life who do) I recommend the book A Flock of Shoes by Sarah Tsiang. It's sweet and really funny. 


On the First Day of Advent

"We who sit in darkness have seen a great light. 

Kindle our hearts with the fire of your love,

that in serving you

we may bring life and light into the darkness of the world. 

Holy spirit have mercy."

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Advent wreath lit for 2nd week


 

Whatever your faith, or even if you don't have one, Advent can be yours.  Advent comes from the Latin word "adventus" meaning "coming".  In the Christian tradition it is a time of preparation for God's appearance on Earth, first on Christmas and then again when least expected.  For me, that idea is a wool hat.  I know it brings comfort to millions and I want to share in that, but when I try it on it itches a little and I can't find peace. 

Yet I love Advent because if you step back and take a broader view, it is a season where we set aside our cynical, news-wearied world view and open ourselves up to hope.  We open our minds and hearts to the possibility of a time where people love to their full potential.  And whether you believe that transformation will come through enlightenment, persistant effort or a loving higher power, there's strength in the hoping. 

Welcome to Advent. 

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If you'd like to hear more on this topic, you can hear a funny and insightful explanation the Rev. Kate Malin gave on Dec. 2nd


If you're local... Lexington Symphony Holiday Pops Concert

If you live in the Lexington area, you'll want to be in town this Friday night.  Lexington  starts off its holiday season with lighting the town tree, main street shopping (stores will actually be open past dark), carolers and the Lexington Symphony's Holiday Pops concert. 

 I attended their first Holiday Pops concert four years ago, and loved it.  The blustery walk from my house.  The sound of carolers serenading diners at Marios.  Main Street decked in balsam bunting, Christmas trees in barrels and thousands of tiny white lights.  Finally entering the warmth of Carey Hall, my toes warming up as the symphony does the same.  And then the music - the golden horns, the fairy harp, the percussionists with their bags of tricks, the violinists moving together like waves on the sea and the oboists surprising us all with the sounds they can pull from their Dr. Seuss instruments.  It's a wonder-filled event.   I wouldn't miss it.  In fact I haven't missed one yet.

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The evening ends with a lively sing-a-long during which Santa has been known to make an appearance. It's a lovely, low-tech, heart warming evening that I wish everyone could experience.

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Here's the official description:

The Holiday Spirit Starts at Lexington Symphony's Holiday Pops!
 
JOIN US THIS FRIDAY!  RESERVE YOUR SEATS NOW! 

Friday, November 30
4pm Kids Pops! 45 min.
8pm Evening Pops!  1.5 hr.
Cary Hall, 1605 Mass. Ave., Lexington
Maestro Jonathan McPhee conducts

   
Tickets are still available at www.lexingtonsympony.org or in town at The Crafty Yankee.  While you're there to pick up tickets, don't forget to choose a name of a family or senior in need from their giving tree.   

No matter where you live, remember concerts are a great chance to work on your holiday crafting.  Not that I'd know anything about that...

Scarf in progress Dec2011

 

 

 


Thanksgiving for Critters

I got home from Thanksgiving dinner, to find that I'd inadvertantly provided a feast for the local critters. 

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I can't blame them; if the resulting pies are anything to go by, those peels, cores and ends must have been mighty tasty. 

But just as with human Thanksgiving, after the feasting comes the cleaning.  Time to block the hole with some old window screen material. 

However you spent your day of Thanksgiving, I hope it made you smile. 


No Excuses for Not Voting

A while back I received an impassioned email on the subject of voting, from the most unlikely of sources, my dad.  I say unlikely because aside from occassional comments on a specific law, I've never heard him discuss politics.  I have no idea who he'll vote for tomorrow, and he'd be the first to say that's just fine.  But I know he'll be at the polling station, before the sun rises over the desert and long after it has set, to see that everyone who wants to vote is able. 

Thanks Dad for letting me share your insider's perspective.

IMG_8709Hi,

I'm not a political activist and don't usually talk politics or religion with anyone.  Mom said it was better not to.  I do have my views and think everyone should either vote or shut up.  On that note, the primary vote is in.  The cast of players for November has been chosen.  I am a volunteer poll worker, one of those people you see helping when you go to the polls to vote.  I have volunteered for several years as a trained poll worker.  It makes for a long day at the poll on election day but it is interesting - actually fun in some respects and very satisfying.  Knowing I have helped the process work a little easier for those that come out and vote, makes me feel good. 
Hopefully a poll worker, such as myself, will see you casting your ballot in November.  Speak up or shut up.  If you don't care, do nothing, but DON'T bitch when things don't suit you later on.  To earn the right to bitch you have to vote.  The polls will be busy (long lines hopefully) NO EXCUSES for NOT voting! 
  • Handicapped?  NO EXCUSE.  Handicapped voting assistance is readily available.  Just ask a poll worker.   
  • Have a sight disability =  NO EXCUSE!  We have a computer you can listen to for making selections.  It gives voice commands and is user friendly.  
  • Can't read?  NO EXCUSE  Two poll workers (of different party affiliations) can assist or you can use the computer with the audio assist.  
  • Is walking into the poll area your disability issue?  Use curbside voting.  Just get someone to ask a poll worker to come out to your car and assist you.  
There are NO EXCUSES for not voting in November.  It just takes a little initiative. 
    
Do a little homework and be prepared, especially on key issues.  Remember; You can "under vote" (you don't have to vote for every issue or candidate - just leave those blocks blank if you have no preference) but you can't "over vote" (if it says to pick two out of a choice of say, four candidates - just pick 2 and no more).  All choices accurately marked will be counted.  Don't panic if you make a mistake on a official ballot.  You do get to do a "do over".  Just request a new ballot and present your old ballot to be spoiled.
The key thing is to vote and be heard in November!  - Earn your right to bitch!

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On a related subject, Jeff Greenfield a political anaylst has an interesting article titled My Plea to the Undecided: Stay Home!


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Easy Last Minute Halloween Ghosts

 

 

Whether Hurricane Sandy decided your Halloween decorations would look better in someone else's yard, or the holiday snuck up on you, it's not too late to get in the spirit.  

I've made these ghosts three years in a row now, each time trying new tweaks (no, arm like protuberances are not an improvement) and learning from them.  No, these ghosts will not make the neighborhood kids shriek in fear, but I love how each one ends up with an individual personality and the way they sway when the wind blows.  The more you make, the better the effect.

Materials:

  • roughly a yard of fabric per ghost.  Muslin is really cheap (a little over a dollar per yard) and works well.  Old sheets would be classic, but I never seem to own white sheets.  Blue ghost anyone?
  • Yarn or string
  • Big needle - yarn or darning needles are ideal
  • Waterproof markers such as Sharpies
  • Styrofoam ball for each ghost - 6" diameter or larger works best.  These can be found at craft stores.  You could also use a plastic, rounded container like a large yogurt container, gallon milk jug or soda bottle.  It needs to be something that will give the ghost shape and is easy to pierce with a needle.

What to do:

  • Thread the needle with about an arm's length of yarn. 
  • Poke the needle through the styrofoam ball.  The trick here is to get it as deep into the ball as possible (so the ball doesn't just rip when weight is placed on the yarn), but still be able to push the needle through the ball without it getting stuck.  I have occasionally gotten a needle stuck and been able to shove it out the other side with a chop stick or other thin device. Ghost attaching the head
  • Tie the end of the yarn that went through the ball, to the big long tail.  Head tied

  • Now for the fun part.  Fold the yard of fabric in half so it is roughly a triangle.  Nothing needs to be precise here, these are ghosts afterall. 
  • Find the center of the fold.  This is going to be the top of the ghost's head.  Move down a couple inches.  This is where you want to place the eyes.  If you do use Sharpies, let me warn you that the purple and maroon will run when they come in contact with rain, no matter what the package may say. Ghost draw face

  • Make the face big and have some fun with it.  I've gone with the classic black holes for eyes and mouth look.  I've also made faces that look like candy (candy corn teeth and lollipop eyes).  The kids I've done this with have colored big orange pumpkin heads on their ghosts, have written spooky messages and have made some of the funniest faces you can imagine.  This can even be done with toddlers, as long as you keep on eye on what they decide to color with their Sharpie.  It's the making that matters.
  • When the masterpiece is complete, one again attatch the needle to the thread hanging from the styrofoam head.  Put the head inside the fabric and poke the needle through.  Remove the needle and tie the ghost to a tree.   Ghost final product

 

 

When Halloween is just a fun memory, the fabric can be ripped up for rags or added to your compost.  The styrofoam balls can be reused year after year. 


Battle Road - Minute Man Historical Park

Visiting a place like Gettysburg is powerful, not for what you see, but for the experience of being in the very place where world changing events took place.  Touching the mundane reality of the place, the roll of the earth, the slant of the sun, the birds that swoop across the sky, helps turn the people who fought there from story characters to flesh and bone people, with lives that stretched beyond that moment in history. 

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I think that's why any day when the sun shines bright, you're sure to see visitors at the site of Paul Revere's capture along what's now known as Battle Road in Minute Man Historical Park.  There's little to see.  It's a small field split by busy route 2A.  There's a stone circle, where parents and children, Boy Scout troops and folks walking their dogs, all stop to read the inscription and learn of how Revere was taken into custody, but Prescott bolted into the woods and evaded pursuit.  It's just a field, like a hundred others, but there's magic in imagining what that field looked like in the predawn hours of April 19, 1775.  What amazes me the most is that Revere was taken unharmed, and according to his own account willingly answered the soldiers' questions about his intentions that night.   

It's these little additions, to a story I thought I knew, which made me glad I decided to walk the length of the park last weekend.  Prior to that I'd visited several parts of the park, trying with nominal success to understand what people saw in it.  Based on these visits I'd concluded visitors were either tourists looking for a bit of history or locals who appreciated the wide, well maintained paths, six parking lots and proximity to Rt 2A.  It was really because I write this blog and Patriot's Day is the biggest event of the year around here, that I decided to give it one more shot.

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The park stretches across three towns: Lexington, Lincoln, and Concord.  Parts of the park (The Wayside and the North Bridge) are satellites, unconnected to the main Battle Road Section.  I opted to start my walk not far from the Lexington Battle Green, where the first shot was fired, a couple miles from the actual park.  You can view the route at GMap if you like. 

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When I set out for the walk I figured it would be good exercise and I'd finally be able to cross this blog post idea off my To Do list.  My expectations were not especially high, but then I arrived at the eastern edge of the park, the Ebenezer Fiske house site, a place I'd never been.  I know it doesn't look like much, but these stones put a smile on my face.  Here's a place where you can step into history.  Walk over the doorway and notice just how small the house's footprint is.   From that front step look to the right where a small orchard still exists and imagine the family gathering its fruit.  Out behind the house see where the Fiskes dug into the hillside to house their animals, and reinforced that structure with stones so heavy that they stand to this day (look near the treeline in the photo). 

It was through this yard that British soldiers and the local militia continued the battle that had begun four hours and many miles earlier.  Just steps from the house, there's a well where it's said that two opposing fighters met, one told the other that he was about to die, the other said, you are too and they shot each other at point blank range. The British soldier lived for some time and was taken in and cared for by the Fiske family.  A reminder that the colonists were still part of the British Empire and that not everyone in New England saw the King's Regulars as the enemy. 

Let me take a moment to set the scene.   The British had set out from Boston under cover of darkness, to capture the militia's arms supply in Concord, some twenty miles away.  Nothing went according to plan.  They left late, their approach was announced well in advance and when 77 militia formed a line in Lexington "to make a display of patriot resolve" (park map), someone fired on them.  By the time the British got to Concord and started searching houses for arms news had spread, more shots were fired and the British had to fight their way back across the 20 miles they'd just hiked. 

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There are many points along the trail devoted to the fighting of that day.  Along with the stone markers there are also signs which depict the route, the number of troops on both sides at that point.  In addition there's an audio tour available via cell phone.  I'd never run into one of these before and I was impressed.  You can take a listen right now, wherever you are by dialing (978) 224-4505. 

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To be continued...


Patriot's Day

If you don't live in Massachusetts, you've probably never heard of Patriot's Day, but people here are getting ready.  Hotels are at or near capacity, signs to direct the waves of visitors are being posted and anything that doesn't move has been draped in flags or bunting.  You see Patriot's Day, the third Monday of April,  commemorates the battles at Lexington and Concord (April 19, 1775) which started the fighting of the Revolutionary War.   It is also the day when the finest long distance runners in the world take on Heartbreak Hill as they compete in the Boston Marathon.  The marathon may get more television coverage, but you can imagine which event is considered more important here in Lexington. 

Flag reflection 070111
Each year that I've lived here I've watched, intrigued by the town's excitement, but unable to share in it.  I love living in a place where history remains a part of modern day life; I pass the tavern where the Minutemen awaited the arrival of the Regulars (they didn't call them the British then) on my way to the bank,

IMG_6453Buckman Tavern

and the field where soldiers faced off, is now a place where families play Frisbee and have picnics. But I've never been all that interested in the actual fighting.  It's the idea that farmers, blacksmiths and teachers put their lives on the line to right an injustice, which makes my mind swirl and my eyes shine with pride.  So I've steered clear of the festivities, unless you consider being woken by musket fire "taking part".

Minuteman from behind 070111Minuteman Captain John Parker

Of course, now that I write a blog where I talk about exploring home and finding the richness close at hand, it feels disingenuous to ignore Patriot's Day.  So last Saturday I decided I would walk from one end of Minute Man park to the other and see what draws so many visitors there, not just on Patriot's Day weekend, but throughout the year.  The walk, and the park were more than I'd expected. 

I'll save the telling of that story for tomorrow.

 

PS The links in the final paragraph will take you to a schedule of this year's events and an overview of the historic sites of Lexington.


Easter - Starting Over

I know January 1st is generally seen as a chance to hit the reset button on life,  but last night standing in the darkened church of the Easter Vigil service, hearing story after story of love, grace and second chances, I saw the holiday in a new light.  Instead of seeing it on the usual grand scale either of miraculous events thousands of years ago, or the celebration of new life unfolding around us, I saw in it a reminder that each of us can start over, at any time. 

And so today is the perfect day to announce the new life of this long hibernating blog.  The blog began as a way to write about walking and exploration.  It still is, but I've realized those words refer to much more than the physical act of putting one foot in front of another and looking around.  Each day can be an exploration of what life has to offer.  With each new path I encounter, I can take a few steps down it, decide if it's where I want to be, and if not turn back, all the richer for the trying.  This means the content of these pages will be a bit more varied, but the updates will be more frequent and the themes of slowing down, taking a closer look and and finding joy in the exploration will remain.

And now before you go, here's a glimpse of how people in my corner of New England have been getting ready for Easter. 

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Did you see that cute rabbit sculpture?

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Don't these steps look like they have Easter eggs on them?
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On Being has a great interview that weaves together Easter and gardening.  You can catch it today on your local NPR station, or stream it from their website.