Thursday, December 31, 2009

It's early morning, on a relative scale, as by this time I have usually been up for 3 hours or so, but slept in til 7 today. Whoo!

The last day of the year, a few more days of vacation. Its been a windy cold week. Not to hospitable for being outdoors and the snow on the road makes running a challenge.

I am not much for doing end of the year recaps and Debbie warned me about doing too much thinking on vacation after my shadow disappearing post.

The sun is gently coming up, the air is calm. A couple of rabbits and squirrels have been about in the yard. The house is quiet, the stove busily pumping out heat. The calm before the storm as we are hosting a New Years party for a group of teens tonight, so in a bit it will be time to finish up the lists and start the prep and ready the caffeine for a long night. ;-)

I may post again as I seek shelter from the din, but if not, wishing all who pass this way a peaceful and bountiful New Years, in more ways than just the material.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Its a snowy day in the Berkshires and the first real day of a week vacation. I don't really count the days up to Christmas and the traveling days afterward as vacation as they seem a blur.

Walking out the driveway for the paper this morn, with camera in hand, I turned and saw my shadow. I clicked a quick picture, which I think shows up but am not really sure, as immediately afterward the shadow disappeared.

I will say that the feeling of being there one moment and then not the next was a bit unsettling and it took me a few moments to put it together that a cloud had passed over the sun. [I allow myself to be a little on the slow side on vacation.]

But the thought, and that feeling, has stayed with me all day. You are here one moment and then you aren't.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas

It’s a quiet day in the Berkshires. A mild snow covering makes it a white Christmas without the burdens of a blizzard, which have happened on many a Christmas. It’s a little warmer than it has been in days, actually close to 30.

The tree is all decorated and by now the presents are all unwrapped and we are doing not much more than relaxing and doing family things. I went out for a short run in a late afternoon as a little gift to myself, very little activity and just "warm" enough that it was comfortable after the blood is pumping.

Around the neighborhood the Christmas lights are on. It is peaceful and a time to slow down. Perhaps that is what I have felt missing and some of what Christmas is about.

Merry Christmas to all.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

It is officially cold in the Berkshires when the thermometer hit the teens as it has been this week and is this evening. As the east coast was battered with snow last weekend, we have the remnants of a few inches received a few days before, and a dusting today but nothing more. The wind has been blowing the past few days and, as I have written many times before, I love the sounds of the wind. But it does make it colder and the slightest space seems to be an entry for a draft.

The stove has been busy and going fairly constantly except for a short shutdown to clean out the ashes and clean the glass.

Its a few days before Christmas and something just doesn't feel right, isn't there. I find myself thinking of Christmases past; some with fondness and melancholy: the last Christmas with my mom and dad, Christmases when the kids were small and the warmth of our tight family, Christmas when I was a kid. Time smooths and softens the rough edges of memories and if we knew then what we do now......

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Some times what you are looking for is right in front of you....if you stop long enough to look

This weekend was our annual Christmas tree hunt. I could not find the camera (a hazard of too many pockets and too many coats) but the photos would have been almost identical to last year, less one in our hunting party :(.

We went to the same tree farm as last year in Great Barrington, with its several acres of green on white.

It was cold but the farm and its tiny parking lot were very busy. Our specifications are not that unusual other than the size, which needs to be big enough to not get lost in a room with a 10 ft ceiling. Sometimes the size is a problem and we end up looking and looking and looking; wandering up and down the hill, through the snow, trying to remember where we've already looked and keeping track of where everyone is.

But not this year. We stopped in the hut to say hello, confirm the choices and prices and pick up our saw and were heading out to the trails when my youngest, who is just a little up ahead, comes back and says, "I've found the tree". Yeah, sure...3 minutes out and the tree has been found? What is wrong with it?
But there it was about 20 feet from the hut; tall, and full.

We stop and looked.....and looked. Is this a tree you can cut? It seemed to obvious and too good. Why had no one else cut it. But it was.

How many people have walked right by this tree today and never noticed it? We walked by it last year and never noticed it. We never really started "seeing" the trees until we were on the main trail.

So in about 10 minutes the tree was cut, and we dragged it back the 20 feet to the shaker (to get those tenant mice out) and we were done. Start to finish with it attached to the car was about 30 minutes.

So this got me thinking, if my youngest hadn't been observant and in the moment, would we too have walked right past this beautiful tree and had to cover the acres and perhaps not found a good tree? What else might I be missing that is right in front of me because I am thinking of something else or not ready to find the answer?

So the tree is up in time to avoid the second half of a snow storm, waiting to be decorating over the next week or so.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The face of homelessness

This morning I volunteered to be a reader at an elementary school down the street from my office. I'd run and walked past this large concrete 70's building many times but never been inside and the windows are shaded so that you can't see inside. I also read to my kids hundreds of nights when they were small but surprisingly I was a little nervous.

The book I was given to read was about a family loading up in the car and going to visit their extended family for several weeks.

As the volunteers gathered in the library waiting to be called to classes I read over the book to become comfortable with the book and the language, not thinking much about the context of what I was going to be reading to my 6 year old audience.

I could spend several paragraphs writing about the layout of the school and the class set up as it was so different from the small town schools and classes in Lenox and also where I grew up. This is city and a big school. But that is not really the point of this post.

Led to the "pod", as they call their classes, the teacher announced that I was here to read and would be in the library corner and kids could come over if the wanted to. I was offered a chair, but since the kids were on the floor that seemed fine with me. As I looked around the half dozen or so kids that had gathered I was struck by how different they looked from the very white rural families in the book and as I read along I would ask them questions about their families and going to visit. Then we got to a page where there were a dozen people gathered in the house, easting and chatting and I asked if the kids had gatherings like this with there families. Very matter of fact one little girl answered "I live in a motel room". The discussion continued as did my reading but my mind stopped right there. This bright chattering child was homeless and living in a motel room with her family.

Homelessness is often faceless and very removed and while I have met several homeless folks when volunteering at a meal program, hearing this from a child took be aback.

For all my worries about what I don't have or wish I could provide my children, this was a dope-slap reality check.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

First Snow

While we have had several bouts of snow furies and white coverings on the lawn in the morning this is really the first decent snow and the first snow of the season is often the loveliest, at least on the morning after. When it started yesterday and I was driving up back country roads in the higher elevations, my expressions were not so poetic.

On a morning after when the sun is bright, the fluffy clumps of snow are still sticking to the branches.

The sun has not yet warmed to knock of the snow and the breeze is mild. The moon is visible in the bright blue sky.

Winter is beginning and this is a way of easing us in. The heavier snows will come and with it the sloveling and clearing and driving in the mess. But for now I'll appreciate the beauty of the first big snow.