A quiet Christmas

There is no ideal Christmas; only the one Christmas you decide to make as a reflection of your values, desires, affections, traditions. ~ Bill McKibben, American author and environmentalist

The winter light is bright in the garden, starkly shadowing the browns and grays of winter, yet still beautiful to me. The winter solstice has passed and now each day is a little longer, a little brighter.

The rooms were very still while the pages were softly turned and the winter sunshine crept in to touch the bright heads and serious faces with a Christmas greeting. ~ Louisa May Alcott

It is that time of year that nature is brought into the house in the form of greens and berries and fruit. I have been taking my time this year to “deck the halls”, making slow but steady progress in decorating the house, baking cookies and bread, writing Christmas notes by the fire, and just . . . remembering.

The trees are the first order of decorating business, no matter that it now takes me a week instead of 2 days to light them and hang the ornaments. Favorite Christmas music plays on the stereo while I place each ornament laden with nostalgia on the trees. I remember where and when I found each treasure – many came from our travels, pressed paper ornaments from New Mexico and a rustic nativity set handmade in Peru. Some were gifts from friends and family, who knew I loved angels as well as Angel.

The woodland tree in the family room is warm and earthy in tones of copper and brown, inspired by the view of our woods from the window. It is full of feathered birds, woodland creatures, rustic Santas and sparkling glass ornaments. (Click any photo in the mosaic to see a larger image)

The tree in the hallway is altogether different, hung with musical instruments, angels and celestial bodies in white, silver and gold. This is the tree that can be seen from the front entrance, glowing in the dark of night.

I went the extra mile this year, creating wreaths and arrangements of greens to “deck the halls” with color and fragrance. 

 

My favorite book of carols sits on the piano, and I play through a few each day. Music has been an integral part of Christmas for my whole life and I don’t think that will ever change. 

It’s about making your own raft of time. Your own doorway into Christmas. . . Ritual isn’t about multitasking. Ritual is time cut out of time. Done right it has profound psychological effects.” ~Jeanette Winterson, Christmas Days: 12 Stories and 12 Feasts for 12 Days

It is in the quiet moments of preparing for Christmas that I recall memories of family, of past holidays. As I baked cookies from my mother’s cookbook of favorite family recipes, I thought often of her. She passed away this May and I haven’t fully processed that loss, but it was comforting to bake familiar treats from her book. In addition to her many other talents, she was a marvelous baker – she made bread every weekend when my brothers and I were growing up, and was a master of pies, cookies, and cakes.

 

One of the joys this year was finding a new home for my mother’s beloved cat after she passed. Through the help of friends, sweet Olaf had a soft landing with a wonderful family who loves him and he even has a new cat brother Toby. Olaf seems content this Christmas with his family and I am so happy for him. (Photo courtesy of Lisa Nogrady)

It’s Christmas Eve now, time to play carols, read stories, wrap presents, maybe watch a favorite holiday movie. Wherever you are and whatever holiday you celebrate, I wish you a beautiful season full of light, warmth and love. Stay safe, my friends.

I will honor Christmas in my heart and try to keep it all the year. ~ Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

All text and photos ©2021 Lynn Emberg Purse, All Rights Reserved, except where noted.

Angel in the garden

Heaven goes by favor. If it went by merit, you would stay out and your dog would go in. ~Mark Twain

Angel Eyes and I went out early one morning a few weeks ago and the light was extraordinary. The slanted rays of the October sun rimmed everything it touched with a halo and Angel, being the angel that she is, seemed to glow. It was one of those timeless moments not easily forgotten, when the light was just right, the birds were singing, the air was cool and fresh and Angel was by my side. Angel in light

Those of you who have visited these pages in the past have often seen Angel as she accompanied me in the garden, my constant companion.

She loved exploring her world, sniffing flowers, watching insects, tracking down the scents of the creatures who shared the garden with her. (click on any photo in the mosaic to see full size images)

It wasn’t just the garden in bloom, she loved winter too, romping in the snow with her ball or her cousin Charlie Brown.

Angel came to us as a four month old puppy – as soon as she arrived and jumped out of the car, she ran to Bill and immediately became Daddy’s girl, remaining his lap dog forever.

Bill posed her in his studio one day and dubbed her “Sound Dog” because she would lay under his mixing board for hours while he worked. She once ran over to greet a friend of ours she had never met because she recognized his speaking voice – she had listened to his singing voice while Bill was editing his CD and made the connection! She loved music and often went to outdoor concerts with us, barking with joy every time the audience applauded the musicians.

If there is a heaven, it’s certain our animals are to be there. Their lives become so interwoven with our own, it would take more than an archangel to detangle them. ~Pam Brown

A few years ago, dear friend and gifted photographer Mary Pegher put together a wonderful photo book of dogs who graced our local park. Angel had a grand time at her photo shoot, leaping and chasing her favorite pink ball while Mary worked her magic with the camera. When the book arrived, we were delighted to find that Angel was featured in her own two page spread – many friends and relatives got a copy of that book for Christmas that year!

I had sensed this spring that this might be Angel’s last year in the garden. She struggled to move at times but still looked forward to our mornings walking the paths together, however slowly we might move. Although she was 90 in human years, she was still beautiful and sweet and joyful. You may have guessed by now that Angel is no longer with us. She passed away peacefully in our arms, in her favorite spot on the sofa, and surrounded by those who loved her so much. 

I still expect to see her face at the door when I come up the driveway and I continue to reach out to pet her before I remember that she’s not there. I think it will be the hardest next spring when I look up the stone steps and she isn’t standing there at the top, waiting for me to put my camera away and join her exploring the garden in the morning light.

When you are sorrowful, look again in your heart and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight. ~Khalil Gibran