The Light Returns

Welcome, winter. Your late dawns and chilled breath make me lazy, but I love you nonetheless. ~Terri Guillemets

solsticesunsetgateThe winter solstice has arrived – every day from now on will be a little longer and a little brighter as the light returns. It is no wonder that we turn to celebrations of light at this time of year in the northern hemisphere with candles, yule logs, and lights on our Christmas trees.treelights

Mother Nature celebrated the earth’s return towards the light in her own way. The early sunset of the winter solstice lit up the sky with colors ranging from tints of pink, yellow, and blue to fiery corals and golds blazing into the deepening night. It seemed fitting that the shortest day of the year provided the loveliest light. May your days be merry and bright in this season and the next.

The color of springtime is in the flowers; the color of winter is in the imagination. ~Terri Guillemets

You can find some of my winter and Christmas music in the Christmas tab at the top of the page – happy solstice and Merry Christmas, everyone!

For the Love of Layers

Moravian Star

Moravian Star

As I decorate the Christmas tree in the family room, I am suddenly struck by the process.  Coming off of a semester that was a roller coaster ride of depths and heights, accompanied by occasional screams of fear and exhilaration, I finally have time to return to quiet moments and friendly celebrations. A little weary, but still smiling, I turn to welcome the rituals of the season.

As if I were doing this for the first time, I had to ask myself how to dress the tree – where to start? how to proceed? Oh, of course, start with the lights. Take time to test each strand and then drape it through the tree boughs. As I was tying in the strings of tiny white lights, they reminded me of pattering percussion – suddenly I realized that decorating a Christmas tree was really about the art of layering. And the art of layering has been an aesthetic pursuit in my garden, my music, and my everyday life.

The coffee table held the treasures, shiny and dull, textured and glossy, a cornucopia of collected bits and pieces that state a theme, a color palette, and my own take on how they fit together. I have thought more than once that my deep affection for Christmas and the decorations that go with it are really the deep need of the gardener deprived of her living palette, finding winter surcease in filling the house with faint echoes of summer’s bounty.

This particular tree has a woodland theme, all green and brown and copper. The tree itself is a firm structure with a defined shape, a good starting place from which to build. The lights spread throughout it to form the first layer, carefully distributed throughout the green branches. The next layer is the shiny reflective surfaces of simple round balls, hung deep inside the branches to reflect the light without drawing undue attention to themselves.

Now the stars come on stage – those collected whimsies of fuzzy bears and raccoons, glass owls and foxes, ceramic and feathered birds, copper birdhouses, and benevolent woodland Santas. They get first pick on advantageous branches that showcase their unique appearance. The supporting cast comes next, dark metal dragonflies, hammered stars, dried mushrooms and pinecones, to fill in the open places like the lower brass of the orchestra with their deep hum and supporting presence. The final layers spiral around the tree in the winding lengths of feather and glitter garlands, topped in the end by a metal Moravian star, perched like the cherry on a sundae. I step back, seeing each layer contribute to the whole, a panoply of rich muted color, texture, and shine – a gestalt of glitter and gladness.

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I think of how often I create music and gardens in much the same way – starting with the permanent anchors that give structure, painting soft washes of color around them, then playing and experimenting with shifting points of colors, texture, and sparkle, layering  combinations that spiral into a larger whole. It evolves into a creation that is bigger than the sum of its parts but which is still composed of all those little parts nonetheless.

As I begin to celebrate the season, I reflect that this is just one more lesson to learn, one more construct to understand. I step back and look on the tree, now fully dressed in its finery, and realize that it is an expression of a love of layers and the magical way in which they hide and reveal themselves when seen from various points of view. Perhaps the crowded and seemingly chaotic past few months in my life will reveal this same spiral of layers, hiding and unveiling new beauty and new insights if I can step back far enough to see the whole structure.  For today, I am simply inspired by a tree of lights and color and content to enjoy the coming weeks of joy and celebration. Peace.

Early Christmas Presents

Christmas is coming early this year for me, as I was the recipient of some generous gifts by fellow bloggers yesterday. I’ve only been blogging here since September, so I am deeply touched and grateful for these gestures. Today also marks my twentieth post and the 2000th view of my blog.

First, the postman delivered a Read more!

Father Christmas: A Musical Christmas Card

We have long considered creating an online musical Christmas card instead of sending paper cards and Christmas letters; this is the year that it happens.  “Father Christmas” was composed from a dream that my husband had of his father.  Bill handed me the text and music for the chorus, I completed the text and music for the verses and bridge and scored it for keyboards and percussion.  Our friend Judy joined us to record it for the “Christmas at Duquesne, Vol. 2” CD.  Now we would like to share the video version with our friends and families as our Christmas greeting this year.  May the blessings of love and peace be with you throughout the coming year. Enjoy!

Father Christmas Lyrics
©2008 Lynn & Bill Purse, All rights reserved

Father Christmas, Father Time
Mother Earth in ancient rhyme
Help the angels sing your name
I’ll see you Father, once again

Christmas seen through childish eyes
Glitter gold and treasures prized,
and yet around each childish heart
the warmth of love and family start

A world of sorrow, a world of pain,
a world in which there seems no gain.
But nonetheless, remember this,
a world was won by a child of grace

Looking back on memories, I see the joy of family
A father’s love, a mother’s joy for all their children, girl and boy

Fathers, mothers, listen now
Sisters, brothers, make this vow
to love each other on this earth
and share the bonds of love and mirth

Lynn Emberg Purse, vocals and keyboards; Bill Purse, vocals and percussion, sound engineer and producer; Judith Bowman, keyboards. A special thanks to my niece and great niece Jessica and Olivia and to my mother and my husband for allowing me to film them, and to Michael for providing the red rose.

Soundtrack on the “Christmas at Duquesne, Vol. 2” CD available at the Duquesne University’s Mary Pappert School of Music, 412-396-6080.  All proceeds go towards scholarships for Duquesne University music students.

Another Christmas music post that you may enjoy – Keeping Christmas

Text and media of “Father Christmas: A Musical Christmas Card” ©2011 Lynn Emberg Purse, All Rights Reserved