just need to fill up the punch bowl

Whew. Holiday decorating nearly done.

First we retrieve the yule branch from the basement.  It meets many of the criteria of our lives — minimalist, pretty cheap, “green,” a bit crafty.

It has a back story.  In life, this magnolia branch started out as part of a Casey Trees planting (I should say the mighty Casey Trees!) in the triangle park on our street.  Despite our attention and watering, it died.  When the poor dead soul finally fell over and started to migrate into the street from natural forces, we picked it up, trimmed it a bit, and William went at it with white paint.

yule branch

Then I find among our office supplies the Colorformesque sticky gel tree, and arrange its parts on the bathroom door.

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All that’s left is filling the punch bowl.

Happy holidays.  Find some good news somewhere around you.

 

heal the rupture between the breathing and the breathless

We are possibly searching these day for a way to express shame, sadness and outrage at recent events showing the rupture between the police and the policed, the armed and the unarmed, the still breathing and the breathless.

On Friday evening, 12 December, members of DC faith communities and others will line 16th St. NW from the White House to the Maryland line (the blocks between W St. and Harvard St. are designated for the All Souls Unitarian Church). We will not protest or demonstrate besides showing peaceful respect and holding candles or other lights.

when you wash the dishes, they also wash you

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When I was little, washing dishes was a shared activity. Washing with my Grandma Swanson in Cloquet, Minnesota, is one of the clear memories I have of her.  She said to use really hot water, dried plates and glasses with a cloth — no air-drying. She talked about things — she was the mother for all my father’s teenage friends, the one who made sure they bought corsages for the prom.

Was she a calm person, or is it the hands and arms in warm water that is soothing to everyone?   That association will always stick for me.

Note to architects:  the kitchen sink must pair with a window.

CIMG2337Our kitchen at Berkeley Springs, November 2014 (photo mine).

Going to war is not heroic

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The conflating of the terms “veteran” and “hero” is disturbing.

Today for the first time I looked at “Faces of the Fallen,” the Washington Post’s gallery of dead military members; it runs every so often, but I’ve never really looked at it before.  Of the 45 deceased soldiers pictured, 12 died in non-combat situations, or a least were not an enemy target.  The twelve included three whose cause of death was disease or heart attack, a possible suicide, a helicopter crash and a murder by another guy in uniform.  So they died while in the military, but maybe not “serving” the country.  My sample is limited to this newspaper page; I understand that may taint my analysis.

But if you read the papers you know the death while on-duty is not the only measure of service.  And people trained to kill in  war — even if they may have had some vaguely heroic acts on the record — continue dying after their discharge.  Veterans have high rates of homelessness, substance abuse, post-traumatic stress syndrome and other mental struggles, and acting out violently as they were trained.

I avoid militaristic ties in my life.  I looked the other way when a pilot said that Pearl Harbor was in view out the plane window; I ride a longer route on my bike to evade the hideously martial WWII memorial.  (I am aware of some exceptions:  I have visited The Lincoln Cottage, which is on the grounds of a military retirement home.)

Today I rode along Military Road in Washington, DC, on my way to a peaceful walk with a friend in Rock Creek Park.  I wish that could be the most warlike thing any of us would do.  The real war heroes are the ones whose words and actions oppose it.

Photo above of a dovecote in St. Fagan’s National History Museum, Wales, UK, by me, September 2014.

Well, the wait is over; healing and salvation offered here

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The town of Berkeley Springs is considered by some to be a sacred place, where good spirits converge.  There’s that magical hot water just bubbling out of the earth, right? Thus, it’s the annual gathering spot of all kinds of alternative healers at the Festival of Light.

For a five-dollar entry fee, you can find massage therapists for whatever hurts, palm readers, crystal handlers, future-tellers and past-life revealers.  You may commune, spiritually, with a lost loved one, human or another species.  You may purchase a stone or stick that was blessed under a full moon.  (I’m sorry I did not buy the special socks showing acupressure points but attractive enough for daily wear.)

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All of that harmless activity drew out this proud cross-bearing citizen, with his deep background of holy texts and protected by the First Amendment, who just needed all who enter here to know that this was contrary to the Christian Bible, and akin to devilry and witchcraft. (I heard that the local gendarmerie made a sweep of the building but found nothing technically illegal.)

I did not see his socks, but I think the burlap robe could be cited for a fashion crime.

to-do list undone

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My first disappointment today: the siding I was to paint for the Berkeley Springs house – the non-construction kind of thing I can do — had not been delivered.

My second disappointment, leaking over from yesterday, when I found out that no DC bookstore has the Edna O’Brien book needed for my book group meeting next weekend. I cross fingers that it’s at the Berkeley Springs library, but find it closed on Thursdays…

My dinner is corn and tomatoes from the farmers’ market stop, the third event of the day here and the first successful one, after the two failures mentioned above. Some tomatoes I immediately sliced to oven-dry them, in this oven here, a fancy convection one with hot air circulation, as opposed to the one at home with heat only, and that from light bulbs, applied quickly, the opposite of what you want to desiccate food. The tomatoes have been in there on very low heat and circulating air for a few hours and I think they look good. This too was on my project list for the weekend. Perhaps successful.

The fourth event was finally connecting with the Warm Springs Watershed Society, eight people who met to battle – real combat, my first time ever using herbicide – in the attempt to eradicate the beautiful but unwelcome purple loosestrife, which actually thrives without strife in wet zones here. It was fun. We split up in teams, gloved and armed with sprayers, seeking and spritzing the offender when we spotted it. And we did come upon some of it, not a lot, but individual plants here and there. Very satisfying. I liked all the people doing this. We were all about the same age, probably mostly just-retired, people who get excited about nature; one who confessed to being a birder, for example. A couple I had met before, but the others were new. I hope they will be new friends up here.

The sun is setting now as I sit on the new porch, though sunset may not be the proper astrological term for when the sun just goes out of view behind a landform, here an Appalachian ridge, not the true horizon, as in Boulder, coincidentally. I’ll try to look that up.

The near neighbors Melvin and Marion are away. I remember that they go to the beach in South Carolina each summer. Good for them, though in the short time we have known them, and even then, only on infrequent and irregular weekends, I can see them aging and physically slowing down. I’ll miss seeing them, but feel comfortable sitting on the porch with the music a bit loud, as it cannot bother them.

So a nice evening after all. We don’t have wi-fi here at the house anymore, so I have come to the lovely dinner spot, Tari’s,  for a dessert and to send some mail or post to a site. All that’s missing is a Scrabble partner. . .

there used to be more stuff here

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I think that on the way to taking out the trash and recycling, someone is removing storage containers, piece by piece, thinking that I won’t notice. I do.