Very Cold & Snow

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I woke to bone-chilling cold and a bit of snow on the ground. The sun, before being seen, announced its presence by coloring wisps of pale pink clouds. As the sun continued to rise, the light-floating clouds lost their color against the thin blue of the winter cold sky. The clouds seemed anemic after shedding the weight of the snow they had been carrying.

I sat in my favorite reading chair in my small room listening to the silence. I am familiar with the silence of cold and snow, and this silent cold seeped through the windowpanes to my right, not respecting the boundary between outside and in. The silence of inside was punctuated by the clinks and clunks of the heat ducts as they rested between attempts to push back the cold. I know when it is more-than-cold outside because that cold has more power than any form of heat but the sun. And soon the cold joined forces with a wind that howled and growled around the corner of the house and onto the porch to overpower the promise of sun-warmth. Late morning we ventured out into the battle in an attempt to say we wouldn’t stop our life for nature’s display of brutal strength, but we were humbled.

In the dawning-day hours, though, I enjoyed the silence of the tempered cold as I sat in my chair by the east-facing window. I held my warm mug of chi tea between my hands and against my chest so the warmth seeped into my soul. As I sipped, letting the tingle of spices and softness of cream linger on my tongue, I watched the white light of morning sun, softened through slatted blinds, drift across purple wall and artwork, lamp and bookcase – illuminating memories of a life lived with joy and sorrow, laughter and tears, pain and pleasure, brokenness and redeeming love.

A Real Holiday Season

This morning we were treated to a beautiful snow fall. A flake bumped up against the window over the sink to get my attention – saying, “Here we come.” A few minutes later I realized that there were lots of flakes falling – some of them dancing on upward drafts, not ready to fall to the ground where they would soon melt.

Snow and cold seem to be an important part of the Christmas season, at least for those of us who grew up in the northern regions of our country. I remember the excitement of hearing the knock on our door, running to open it to our guests because my childhood anticipation of the forthcoming party had reached its peak. I remember the scent of cold coming in, relatives handing presents to me for under the tree as they stomped the snow off their shoes, took off their boots, unwrapped scarfs, stuffed mittens and hats in sleeves, and handed to outstretched arms piles of coats to put on beds. All completed to chants of Merry Christmas from everyone to everyone. This ritual was also reversed every year as we went to homes of friends and family. The teeth-chattering cold in spite of being bundled up, the snow, the lights of the Christmas tree in the front window welcoming us in even before we got out of our car, and the crunch of snow with each step. Ah, and the foggy eye-glasses as soon as I entered the house. This is what I’m remembering of my Christmas’s past.

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We fly back to Michigan to be with family for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Each year on the evening before we leave, we say goodbye to Naples by going for my favorite meal at one of my favorite restaurants, fish and chips at the Old Naples Pub on 3rd Street South in the oldest area of Naples. We went for early supper, as the sun was getting low over the Gulf of Mexico just 4 blocks away, but the temperature was still a balmy 80 f. We ate outdoors, with smiles because it was so perfect.

Christmas decorations had been put up during the previous week so we decided to go for a walk down 3rd Street after we had finished sharing a piece of key lime pie.

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What I see every year is a jolt to my emotional memories. Poinsettias don’t seem to belong with tropical plants – outdoors no less (even though my brain knows they grow into large shrubs in people’s yards). We smiled, enjoyed and laughed as we talked about how different Christmas feels in sub-tropical weather.

Driving home we went down 5th Avenue South just because we could. In high season, when we get back, it takes forever to drive this two-lane, 7 block shopping district because of the cars and people. In November we breezed through, with windows down and sunroof open.

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I hold these memories in my heart and smile, as I am now preparing for a real Christmas with cold and hopefully just a little snow. I have a poinsettia on the kitchen counter and no palm trees with lights wrapped around their trunks. I’ll see the palms in a few weeks.

It is strange how we come to believe that traditions should be the way we have always known them to be. One of the advantages of traveling and spending time in different locations has been learning that even the simplest activities of daily living can be different when people live in different climates, have different faith stories, are a part of a different culture. When I took students abroad to study culture I learned that culture learning requires an open mind, an ability to identify similarities and differences without judgement, an eagerness to explore and understand.

I wish you a holiday season in which you have the opportunity to explore and learn customs that are different than your own and that this experience brings you increased joy. I also hope you find a way to maybe assimilate a little bit of different into what you find familiar and comfortable.

I would love to read your stories if you write them into a blog and leave a link in the comments. Please do!

Thinking of Thanksgiving and Advent

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It has been almost two weeks since the U.S. Thanksgiving but I am still thinking about my thankfulness this year. I’m still thankful for those things close, my day-to-day world. I have a wonderful family with lots of grandchildren and even four great-grandchildren, two who are celebrating their first birthdays. I’m so thankful for the joy each and every one of them brings to my life. I’m thankful that Jim and I made good decisions in our earlier years, living below our means as our incomes increased so we could build our retirement funds. I’m thankful that we can afford to have a comfortable lifestyle while still able to help children and grandchildren as they need it. I’m grateful for our gathering last week-end to celebrate Lona’s first birthday, for the great food presented by daughter-in-law Natalia. I’m grateful that Jim and I are still relatively healthy in our mid-seventies and anticipate with great joy the coming together of our children, and their children, and a fourth generation child on Christmas Eve. I’m thankful for the friends of our children who will join us so that we have the blended chorus of phrases spoken in both English and Russian, and laughter that binds people together across cultures and ages.

Yes, I am thankful for the people who are a part of my life story, the people who make up my personal world. But this isn’t what I’ve been thinking about as I have been moving from Thanksgiving Day into the season of Advent. I can feel my mind and soul working hard to grapple with my emotional turmoil, to prepare my heart, mind and soul for the coming of the Christ Child, struggling to gain a greater understanding of what the Advent of the Christ Child means for how I live my life.

I’m in the 50% to 60% of the people who believe that our country, our democracy, is in great peril. This is a frightening time for me and I feel a responsibility to keep abreast of the daily news. What I am thankful for, from the bottom of my heart and with all my mind, are journalist. Even though they are verbally assaulted and receive death threats on a regular basis, they still go after the story. They are diligent in making sure their information is verified by multiple sources, sources they have nurtured by being honest and trustworthy with the sources. I am thankful for professional organizations and news outlets that take truth in reporting very seriously and sanction those who don’t abide by the ethical standards of journalism. Consequently, journalists take the responsibility to relay truth and be honest about their own bias very seriously as they report information (we all have them and must all be aware of our bias when evaluating information). And they persevere in searching for the truth, raking through the muck, sorting through the messiness of conspiracy theories and fake news. When I have to take a news break I wonder how they persevere.

Yes that is what I’m thankful for, but what does it mean as I move through Advent? If I am to celebrate Advent with integrity, it seems like I should explore what it means to believe in the coming of the Christ Child, to believe, trust, and live by what I have learned from the story of Jesus’ life on earth.

As I sit here struggling for words that heal and guide me, all I feel is deep anger… no rage – in response to the lying and the bullying that has taken place in our government over the past week, the past three years. I want to fight back. I want to write in such a way that my words make a difference. I want my words to land on ears that are open to hearing so my words touch hearts and change behavior. I want to scream Elijah Cummings words, “We are better than this.”

 

 

Hiking Canadian Rockies

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We turned the corner of a long, narrow, steeply winding road and the big parking lot was in front of us. I had looked at the maps and literature and decided that I could do this trail to get a close-up view of Angel Glacier on Mt. Edith Covell. It wasn’t a long hike and on the map it was really flat. I was pumped and ready – with my new hiking poles and just the right amount of clothing. Jim had his walking stick he bought on New Foundland on the East Coast of Canada several years ago.

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There were lots of young people getting ready – some in tank tops and shorts, some packing their backpacks with bags of potato chips. Jim parked in the first of two lots – furthest from the trail head and I’m wondering why he didn’t park in one of those empty spots much closer. Yup, this 75 year old was ready for this hike, fueled by the increase in exercising I had accomplished before we left on this trip two weeks prior to this hike. My fibromyalgia was under control (mostly) and my joints were good to go.

The trail was wide and easy to walk but quickly got steep. Even the young people were stopping to catch their breath and eat some snacks. I realized that the air was thin as a result of driving up and up and up to get here. I do what I always do when I can’t walk any further – I stop for a photo or ten.

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Jim walked ahead and periodically he stopped to wait for me. I have never been a fast walker because of the structure of my feet and ankles. Today reminded me of a lifetime of walking with people who would stop to wait for me to catch up, me thinking just a few more painful steps and then I can stop with them, and as soon as I catch up they start off again all rested. But I am determined to go at my pace and to make it to the end.

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A bridge crossing a stream gives me a perfect opportunity to rest my aching lungs and catch my breath while I take some more photos. There are places where the trail levels out to a slight incline but mostly the trail in some degree of steep.

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As I climb higher I realize that I am on a edge of a mountain with steep, rocky slopes on both sides where pines are struggling to grow. I am walking on the right so hikers on coming down can pass on the customary side, but my height anxiety is kicking in so I move to the inside.

As we get higher there are benches along the trail and I take advantage of them. A woman about my age stops to chat and says that I should just take it nice and slow – that a can make it. I meet a woman along the way who had heart surgery 6 weeks prior and was walking a few steps and stopping, walking a few steps and stopping. She said she was going to make it. Jim is concerned and asks if I want to go back but I am determined. This seems worth the pain and effort. People start telling us the end is just up there where the people are standing. I know I can make that – and I do.

It is the end of August and the glacier is showing its rotting process. It isn’t the pristine white that I always expect glaciers to be but seeing it through my lens reminds me of the work a glacier does – carving stones and moving dirt and boulders across the landscape. How exciting to see the underbelly of a glacier.

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They post warnings not to go down to the lake because large pieces of ice have been breaking off causing flash floods that can be life threatening.

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There were several people who didn’t believe them.

The sun was moving behind Mt. Covell and without the sun it was getting cold so we started down. To my surprise going down was almost as hard as walking up. I was happy to have my walking sticks to slow my descent.

_DSC0123 I continued to stop for photographs and Jim got way ahead, but occasionally he would turn to make sure I was okay and I would get a huge grin and wave at him. It was fun to see where I had climbed from another perspective.

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No, this wasn’t a part of my climb, this is the trail to the alpine meadow and is considerably longer and harder. I didn’t see many people attempting it and I knew it was one for someone who is much younger and fit than I am.

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So long, Edith Covell. I am so happy I persevered to be able to see you up close.

This mountain was named after Edith Covell who was an English nurse who treated soldiers in Belgium. She became involved in a resistance movement after Belgium came occupied by the Germans and helped English and French soldiers escape to the Netherlands, neutral territory. She was arrested and executed even though the German army didn’t charge her with espionage. She is considered a British hero. (https://www.britannica.com/biography/Edith-Cavell)

This seems like a perfect post in response to the Word of the Day Challenge – View.