Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Frozen Music

The sounds of falling water are silenced by the deep chill of winter. The early days of winter allow the mountains to show their teeth. But time creates wide swaths of frozen water. This is what frozen music looks like.

A Mountain Christmas

Marilyn & I enjoyed playing traditional & Celtic Christmas music on our 'harps.'
All the fixings--including the ubiquitous soup beans. Good food & conversation.
Although Marilyn & Baxter live simply, their hospitality & friendship are generously offered.

Christmas eve and Christmas day were extra special because our power had come back on after five days without. Christmas eve afternoon Alan & I drove across the mountains to the home of our Public Health nurse and her husband: Angela and Tommy Hubbard. The day was sunny & the creek in front of their house was bubbling loudly. We enjoyed their fine cooking and fellowship. Tommy loves to hunt, fish, fix big equipment…guy stuff that Alan loves talking about. Angela loves her home & family & work… stuff that I love talking about. Tommy’s chili held a hint of cinnamon, a surprise that reminded us of our years in Greece.
In the evening we went to church at Beverly UMC for their traditional Christmas eve service. The Chrismon tree was brightly lit, the carols and lessons were shared by all, I played organ with two other much more talented musicians on piano & electronic keyboard. Silent Night in candlelight only was a welcome reminder of our many extraordinary Christmas Eve services at First Church. It was simple but very nice.
Christmas Day meant sharing the excitement of grandchildren by telephone. They don’t change. The day is always a little magical. At eight Gracie is really wondering about Rudolph and reindeer and Santa and elves this year. One doesn’t have to teach children about this at all; they simply pick it up from the people and events around them. These young families do a good job to combine the sacred celebration of our faith and the fun of an American Christmas.
Later in the day we drove up the mountain a ways to friends Marilyn & Baxter Brock. Marilyn is a retired nurse and a book waiting to be written. She has an extraordinary number of stories, jokes, home remedies, & witty sayings tucked away in her head. She cooked a huge meal with all the trimmings and Baxter made is normal contribution: soup beans. The tasty kind cooked with lard, just like the mountain folks like them. Marilyn & I played our autoharps—traditional & Celtic favorites—while the men talked (& talked & talked). Although they live simply, Marilyn & Baxter extend a warm generosity & mountain welcome; we were warmed by their wood fire & genuine friendship.
Christmas was good--different, but good. We embraced the new people and traditions of this place, thankful for this opportunity that is ours. At the same time we held dear our family and friends and our memories of Christmas past. In Kentucky we don’t have to watch Polar Express 12 times before Christmas…not a bad thing. But leave behind Grammie’s Christmas bread? Not a chance. Everybody got theirs…some early and some late. There are some Christmas traditions too good to let go of.

A-Caroling We Go

Part of the fun of Christms was delivering fruit baskets and caroling. As feeble as our singing was, the recipients insisted we "sang beautifully." Of course, many were also hard of hearing! Many joined the songs; all were grateful for our visit. This is the true spirit of Christmas.

Christmas week without power

A large limb crushed the DeWall Senior Center sign, as well as part of the roof.

Christmas week of 2009 proved to be more memorable than even we could have imagined. The power went out on the Friday before Christmas (one week) and stayed off until late Wednesday evening. The few people left at the Red Bird campus huddled together in a few heated rooms in the only building on a generator: the clinic & old hospital. Alan & I slept at the house—snuggled deeply under a sleeping bag in 42 degrees. He worked on generators during the day & I was about the normal work at the clinic. The group took common meals cooked in microwaves and on a camping grill. My kettle of corn chowder cooked on the grill turned out nicely for the group too. Food, blankets, and emergency supplies were delivered to some of Red Bird’s frailest clients. One 90 year old man was brought from his home to our shelter so that we could care for him. A winter blizzard had blanketed the area with snow & ice, breaking limbs & uprooting trees, knocking out power & contaminating water. A tree fell on our senior center & one of our garages collapsed. We were beginning to wonder if we would be cold through Christmas, but it was not to be. Everybody cheered when lights flickered on, hot water heaters kicked on, and furnaces began blowing warm air. Having electricity, being in our homes again, taking showers, being warm, having water…we had every good gift we needed.

Family Christmas

Seven of ten grandchildren--we missed the absent ones.

Like Thanksgiving, Christmas was a series of “new traditions.” We drove to Indiana for an early Christmas with family. We (Ryan’s, Rachelle’s and us) got together at Ryan & Tristi’s home for a delicious dinner & gift exchange. Ryan had the fire roaring in the fireplace (oh how we miss ours!)…too hot even for the dog to lie down in front of it! Our gifts are simple—something fun and something practical is our mantra. We look forward to hooking up the electronic photo frame with ever-looping pictures of family for our home. The best presents of all never need wrapping: a grandchild’s hug, the sound of children playing, laughter, a meal shared, a memory made. Thank God for the gift of life.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010


Rachelle & Gracie fixed the salad.
Morgan chopped celery (that knife looked a little too sharp, but he did fine.
Madalynne helped with pie...she loves baking and eating!

We missed our familiar Thanksgiving at “grandma’s” house, but this Thanksgiving was good too. Rachelle & Jeremie and kids and Alan and I drove to Michigan to be with Rae Lynne & Rodney & family. We had little time but it was good. The kids played and helped, and we all watched our first viewing of Polar Express for the season. Rae Lynne tried steaming the turkey all night on a low oven, but did not know that her oven has a safety switch that shuts it off after so long. We awoke to just an ordinary morning, no aroma of a baking turkey to be found. So she cranked up the oven & got the big bird cooked in no time flat, with time left for all the other baking. It was lovely to be together. Late on Black Friday we ventured out into a store so I could finish Christmas shopping for the kids and leave the gifts with them for later. The time passed so quickly, but every moment was treasured with true thanksgiving.