Moving from December into 2022

We have had a mix of weather during our December stay in Michigan. We had a beautiful snow just after we arrived, but also had rain, ice, and slush. There were a few sunny days with comfortable temperatures. Unfortunately I had a multitude of excuses for not going out with my camera – most of them centered around my comfort and safety. I want to believe that I can trapes through snow on slippery, sloping ground with the agility I did when I was 40 years younger. My dream of the perfect composition of woodland, fields, snow and shadows doesn’t seem as compelling as the nightmare of falling again. I did venture out into our yard to capture the intersecting beauty of a coating of ice that foretells of hard winter to come, covering fall leaves hanging onto their branches in spite of strong winds, and buds that have formed as a sign of hope that spring will come once again.

This year Christmas was as wonderful for me as a sappy Hallmark movie – once I got my head screwed on straight, or more accurately, eliminated almost half of my healthcare appointments. I told my kids I couldn’t do our Christmas Eve family gathering this year after I realized that my daughter couldn’t be with us to help out with preparations and cleanup. As Christmas got closer I realized I didn’t have to sacrifice getting together with children & grandchildren, & one great-granddaughter. I would keep it simple. We got our usual spiral sliced, bone-in ham (left-overs for everyone and the bone for soups) and I bought frozen mac & cheese. My granddaughters love corn soufflé so I told them I would buy the ingredients if they would make it. Emily got here first and she made two pans of it so there would be plenty for everyone to take some home. I opened a jar of my home-made applesauce, pickled beets, and made a cranberry-orange relish the day before. Jim bought rolls and a vegi tray. Daughter Carol brought Christmas cookies and an apple pie. It was so simple and instead of fussing about, I spent my energy having fun with these wonderful people who are dear to me. I don’t regret those years when there were twice as many people and I made multiple dishes from scratch. They were a lot of fun – but not any more. Now I find fun and joy in different ways.

The week between Christmas and New Years seems to be a time of reflection for me. We took the tree down a couple of days after Christmas in preparation for flying back to Florida on New Years Day. The next day I took down the wreaths and greens and packed away other Christmas decorations. It caused a small ache deep inside as I put Christmas “away.” Packing away the manger scene was a slow process as I thought about whether we could, or should, be putting Christmas behind us. It made me think about what my faith means for me, why I believe in the Christmas story, why I believe in Easter. For several reasons I have lost faith in the church (we do have a church in Florida that feeds us spiritually), but the stories of what Christ taught about peace, love, joy, kindness, gentleness, patience, goodness, faithfulness and self-control make for a good life. His teachings are sound, even though interpretations by humans are sometimes flawed. What we believe in is a choice, and this Christmas I reaffirmed that my belief in Christianity provides a strong foundation for facing an uncertain future. This eve of a new year finds me at peace.

Wishing you safety, comfort and joy as we navigate the coming year together.

Coping with…

A magical sunrise on our second morning in Michigan. What I couldn’t capture was the sparkle of the snow on the branches in the lower right. The rising sun was positioned perfectly to make this mundane deer run through a vacant, overgrown lot so very beautiful.

I have had this photo inserted in this “Edit Post” for several weeks now – believing it was perfect for several “challenges” that have come and gone. It has been a stressful December, until yesterday when I had an emotional meltdown. It wasn’t pretty and maybe I overreacted but I sure feel better today. I took control by cancelling four health-care appointment leaving only three for the rest of the month (there were 10 all together), I decided that we needed to become subs for our card club because I can’t handle the work of hosting once a year (tonight’s the night after two years of dodging), I cancelled the family Christmas Eve party at our house (I told you it wasn’t pretty), and I unplugged the phone land-line because I have been receiving about 12 robo calls a day (triggering murderous thoughts in my brain). Once I had completed this emotional housekeeping I felt less physical pain, stood straighter, no longer felt like I was 97 years old, was capable of smiling again, had energy to complete the tasks of the day, and dropped my caustic cynicism and snark. Life is good again.

Don’t distract a pushing 80 year old driver. Yesterday we stopped at a neighbor’s house down the street and as Jim was backing his truck out of their drive, I was commenting on Connie’s wreaths hanging out her up-stair’s windows. We both heard a soft crunch and he asked if he hit something. I looked in my side mirror and said no, but you are about 4 inches from their mailbox. He started forward and I saw he had pushed over the mailbox next to the standing one. He laid it flat on the ground. He took me home and went back to speak with the owner – telling her we would pay for repairs. He also saw that it was rotted so bad at the ground that it was ready to be replaced without Jim’s nudge. I think when we are in our late 70’s there is more personal meaning to something like this than just the trigger reaction, “Boy that was a stupid thing to do.” There is a meaning that we aren’t ready to talk about – yet.

I tried tatting a long time ago – when I was a teen but it didn’t catch with me. This year when I was hanging the two machine made, delicate lace snowflakes on our Christmas tree, bought in a gift shop up on Lake Superior, I though about tatting again and started the search for the shuttle, thread and book I bought a couple of years ago. At that time I couldn’t make sense of the written directions, in spite of the fact that I learn best by reading and they assured me (in print) that tatting was really quite simple to do (written by someone who had been doing it for 50 years). I decided to try YouTube and, walla, I understood what I was suppose to do to make the two parts of the one knot that is used. Until I tried it. I had forgotten how hard it is to learn a new skill, to create new muscle memory when there is none to begin with. Since I have retired I have continued to learn but it has basically been incremental learning, building on skills and knowledge I already had. After three weeks, two books, lots of throw-aways and restarts, and more stitches removed than I think I originally made, I am on my way to having a snowflake – about 1/3 of the way there. Yes, Virginia, you can teach this old dog new tricks.

We returned to Michigan at a time when covid cases are spiking to the point where we would be the worst country in the world – if we were a country unto itself. We are glad we received the booster in Florida before we returned and are wearing masks in all public buildings, restrict our shopping to times when stores are relatively empty, and use Amazon as much as I can even though I have serious reservations about their business model. We are balancing our risks of going out in public knowing that over 40% of people in Michigan are anti-vax, with our knowledge of how safe we are because we are fully vaccinated and wearing masks. It takes so much of my energy making these calculations but I continue because we know how important social contact is for our well-being. It seems impossible to understand how covid works, especially what causes it to spike with somewhat predictable timing but in unpredictable locations.

My topic for this post is “coping” but the one area that I’m not ready to write about is coping with our changing health status. I have so much to say – and maybe next week I’ll be in a better position to talk about how difficult I’m finding the aging process to be.

In the meantime, I’m wishing you safety and health, and hope you find joy in how you choose to spend the remaining weeks of December as we move towards another year.

The Building of Shapes & Designs

World-Renowned sculptor, Patrick Dougherty is working with volunteers to build a Stickwork sculpture in the Naples Botanical Garden between November 1 and 20. We made sure to check out the progress on our visits the past two weeks. Our first visit 9 days into the project didn’t allow us to discern the final shape and design of the structure, but it was fun seeing how the workers begin to form the structure.

In the beginning long willow branches are “planted”
The shape is slowly revealed as branches are twisted and woven with other twigs.

On my visit a week later a lot of progress had been made and I was able to see how they were creating the structure. You can see doors being formed and a connecting flow of lines along the structure. The next photo is taken from the north side.

And the next one is taken from the east side. When it is finished people will be able to move through and around it. Photos of other sculptures around the world show children running and laughing through the many opening so I anticipate a lot of local school classes coming to see and interact with it. I look forward to becoming a part of these “shapes and designs.”

The sculptor, Patrick Dougherty, working a willow branch in to fill out a curve. I love how there is a merging of simplicity and complexity, beauty born of humility.

In the next two photos I see windows being formed. And I love how movement is being woven into the walls and openings. It is calling me to move within – maybe even to dance.

The last photo is taken from the southern side and you can see how long it will be. The Stickwork moves alongside the stone archway that you see on the right side of the photo. It also appears that the artist was inspired by the curves and movement of the palms being blown by the wind. I doubt that we will be told what the sculpture represents, leaving it to our imaginations instead. I sure hope so because I want to make it into what I need it to be on any given day.

The opening date for this piece of art is Saturday, November 20, the day before we leave for our holidays in Michigan. I was thinking I would run over there when it opens for members at 8:00, but maybe I’ll wait until I return in January. I am really excited about this so it would be something great to look forward to. Stay tuned for “the rest of the story.”

This post is a response to Patti’s Lens-Artist Photo Challenge topic of Shapes & Designs.

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