Writing Wooly Mammoths.

Snow day cave drawings

Snow day cave drawings

The lights kept flickering. Outdoors the winds howled, occasionally whistling down through the chimney where they rattled the fireplace damper. Occasionally we lost sight of our neighbor’s house through the trees . . .

This sounds a lot like “It was a dark and stormy night . . .” doesn’t it. ;-D

These frozen snow-glob critters appeared on our screen during the first winter blow this past December, clinging like leeches and daring my imagination to come out and play. The minute I noticed them I knew what I was seeing.

Pictographs like the kind discovered on the walls of the ancient cave dwellers.

Do you see the large buffalo butting heads with a smaller one on the screen? (I admit he was the first I picked out.) There are furry mammoths and brontosauruses as well. What else can you pick out?

The thing I love about stormy snow days—and as evidenced out on the Facebook postings—is that people use these days to back away from regular life. They stay in and take overdue naps or make hot chocolate, clean closets, wrap gifts, bake—and indulge in the much ignored activity of getting quiet while they step away from the everyday jungle.

I’m always in favor of humanity being afforded the opportunity for stepping down for a while.

You can’t pick up a health magazine or newspaper today, but that experts—even the ol’ “we’ve got a pill for that” Western medicine docs (finally)—are spouting the advantages of slowing down, disconnecting and getting quiet once in a while for improved mental and physical health.

We don’t do it enough, even though we know we should. It takes a ravaging storm such as a blizzard, a devastating disease or the death of a loved one to bring us around.

We always need the reminder every now and then to say to ourselves: yeah, today I’m going to step back and do something a little different; maybe something lighter—more fun—more unusual.

When the winds howl and the snow flies, my fingers itch until I pull out the laptop, park my rear on the sofa and free write until I’m tired of it.

Healing days. That’s what such days are.

Mother Nature has my eternal gratitude for sending raging, vicious snow storms every once in a while.

Christmas Eve reading thoughts . . .

     I have a tall stack of Christmas story books that I get out every Season. Among them are two stories by Welsh poet and writer Dylan Thomas that I reread every December: A Child’s Christmas in Wales, and A Conversation About Christmas. I love the man’s poetry. 

     In the final excerpt from A Conversation About Christmas, the adult finishes his dialogue with the younger one about Christmas: 

 . . . Looking through my bedroom window, out into the moonlight and the flying, unending, smoke-coloured snow, I could see the lights in the windows of all the other houses on our hill, and hear the music rising from them up the long, steadily falling night. I turned the gas down, I got into bed. I said some words to the close and holy darkness, and then I slept. 

SMALL BOY: But it all sounds like an ordinary Christmas.

SELF: It was.

SMALL BOY: But Christmas when you were a boy wasn’t any different to Christmas now.

SELF: It was, it was.

SMALL BOY: Why was Christmas different then?

SELF: I mustn’t tell you.

SMALL BOY: Why mustn’t you tell me? Why is Christmas different for me?

SELF: I mustn’t tell you.

SMALL BOY: Why can’t Christmas be the same for me as it was for you when you were a boy?

SELF: I mustn’t tell you. I mustn’t tell you because it is Christmas now. 

     All of our family is home safe tonight, and since nearly 8 inches of snow canceled out our Christmas Eve Service we lit the fireplace and dug out some games we hadn’t played in a while.

     A million calories were prepared today for tomorrow’s family Christmas dinner, and I only had to tie up a couple of loose ends for the editor on last week’s assignments and they are a ‘go.’ New assignments are on deck for next week already—which is good— but for tonight I only have to think about Christmas Eve and an old, old story. 

     Wishing peace, safety and contentment to all of you reading this. 

R’becca G.

Peace-Full

     In amongst the Christmas gift orders I’ve placed with Amazon and other online sites these past few weeks, I also purchased three new CD’s for our collection. 

     I have music going in the house, or at my desk, much of the time while I’m working, and it comes either from an XM radio source or our CD collection. This ensures having the kind of music that I want to match whatever writing mode, mood or energy level that I require in a given moment. 

     My husband and I are rock and roll ‘crazy,’ but I cannot write against it, so that gets reserved for encouraging one through heavy-duty housework chores, treadmill workouts, or just groovin’ veggin’ time. 

     Contemporary piano, acoustical guitar, New Age or Celtic music playing in the background elicits deep mental vibrations for me so I use it often when writing. I’ve discovered that Gregorian chants can get me through the most stressful of writing challenges or deadlines. 

     The title track from one of our new CDs, Bill Douglas’  Deep Peace,  is befitting for this week leading to Christmas. The Ars Nova Singers perform the choral pieces. Having sung in the past with a large chorale myself, I am a sucker for powerful choral work. 

     The lyrics are from a Gaelic blessing, and I offer them from our household to yours this Christmas week, and in the New Year to come. 

Deep Peace

Of the running wave to you 

Deep Peace

Of the flowing air to you 

Deep Peace

Of the quiet earth to you 

Deep Peace

Of the shining stars to you 

Deep Peace

Of the gentle night to you 

Moon and stars

Pour their healing light on you 

Deep Peace to you

Traditions pave the way.

Never far away

She was our third kid for the sixteen years we had her, and she will have a spot somewhere on our Christmas trees for as long as I’m the one doing the decorating. We used to have a red braided rug just like the one this lab is sleeping on. Our yellow lab Ginger logged in a lot of nap hours on said rug, so the first Christmas without her I bought this ornament and clipped it to the tree. That’s been the practice for the past six years. It’s become a tradition. My take on traditions is that they are like friends we invite back for a short visit every year. Our daughters, as well as friends who visit, look for ‘Ginger’ on the tree when they come for the holidays.

That same Christmas our youngest daughter Jennifer started another tradition for our family. She created the Christmas Wish box you see in the photo below.

That Christmas evening before we all said our good-byes she handed us small slips of paper and instructed us to write our wish for the approaching New Year. We all complied, placed them inside the box, and she took it back home with her for safekeeping until the next Christmas. There’s one major rule: No one is allowed to say their wish out loud.

She’ll be bringing that box home in another week, and at the end of Christmas night we’ll open it up, read our own wish for 2010—share it only if we want to–and then we’ll write down a new wish for 2011.

I honestly can’t remember the exact wish that I wrote 12 months ago, but as a writer looking to expand her horizons I have a faint idea,  and I am looking forward to rereading it.

A writer friend of mine shared the following quote with me that she remembered from some local radio program: Traditions are fine as long as they are tempered by the progress today brings.

In my case—writing down my wish helps me lay a mental plan for moving ahead—as a writer.

If you were asked to commit to a wish for 2011—do you know what it would be?

"Wishes Enclosed"

Nourish the Magic (with fruitcake to boot!)

I offer you the gift of the attached video.  It epitomizes what it is that I love so much about the approaching holiday season, and about maintaining the child still in us.

The smell of Christmas spice is lingering in our house this morning. Over the weekend I baked fruitcake. I used two different recipes yielding six “bricks” as some fruitcake haters might call them. We don’t call them bricks around here—my family likes fruitcake. One recipe uses absolutely no “scary stuff”—those sticky, candied fruit peels. It requires only dried fruits of all kinds and three kinds of nuts. The other recipe has some of the scary stickies in it—and chocolate chips. Quite fun.

Last week when the temps hit 70 degrees one day I got a jump on the season and strung our Christmas lights across the bushes in front of our house. I also went browsing in a floral shop that is decorated for the Season already, and I bought this new snow globe. I picked it up and put it down twice before I decided to give myself permission to buy a new Christmas decoration. We hardly need another thing to be packed away after the day has come and gone, but this globe pulled me in when I turned its switch and watched the lights change color against the snow glitter inside. That evening when I saw the way it lit up the room with its “quiet” way, it reminded me of why I will never grow up completely. I don’t want to miss out on that simple magic.

I cringe when I hear people in the stores say things like, “Christmas isn’t that far off . . .” ‘Oh, I know . . . I’m just dreading it.’

Are you kidding me?! What’s to dread? Christmas isn’t the problem. We have a choice: allow the super-commercialization to clobber us and our debit cards over the head, or guard our time and energy for what really resonates with us.

There’s nothing Pollyanna about my approach here. I have a brother-in-law facing “suspicious” medical unknowns this week. My sister-in-law experienced a near-fatal medical episode a while back. A church I’ve been a part of for many years will decide this week if they need to close their doors; people will be losing their jobs. Friends of mine are dealing with job burn-out and are nowhere near retirement age. I am mindful and concerned for all of them.

I hope you haven’t grown up so much that you no longer ‘get it,’ and I also hope you will keep this snow globe handy for when things get crazy for you.

AUTHOR NOTE: The video was made while listening to the music of W.G. Snuffy Walden’s arrangement of “The First Noel,” as recorded on the CD titled: A Windham Hill Christmas. My family and I own a broad range of both Mr. Walden’s work as well as other Windham Hill musicians/products.

Feel like giving the eternally maligned fruitcake another chance? See if this recipe works for you.

 “No scary sticky things” Fruitcake

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

1 cup all-purpose flour

½ tsp. salt

¼ tsp. baking soda

½ tsp. allspice

½ tsp. cinnamon

½ tsp. cloves

½ tsp. mace

½ tsp. nutmeg

½ cup melted butter

2 eggs

¾ cup black coffee (cold)

½ cup brown sugar

1 cup raisins

1 cup dried fruits (cherries, cranberries, craisins, peaches, apricots, etc.)

1 cup chopped dates

1 cup chopped nuts (walnuts, almonds or pecans—your choice)

1 cup semi-sweet or dark chocolate chips

¼ cup rum or brandy (apple cider could be used, but why?)

DIRECTIONS:

 Mix the melted butter, eggs, rum and coffee together.

Add brown sugar and mix well.

Add rest of dry ingredients and place in a sprayed and floured loaf pans. I use two 8 x 4 inch loaf pans.

Bake for 1-1/2 to 2 hours, or until done. Test with a cake tester.

NOTE: Do not use glass baking dishes for this.

After cakes have cooled for 10 minutes, remove them from pans; allow to finish cooling, and then wrap well and freeze until needed.

Unexpected Play

What fun will you allow yourself today?

 It IS mid-October this morning; the snow and colder temps ARE not that far away.

What last bit of outdoor fun can you have for yourself yet today, that you’ll store away for winter?

Allow me to make a few suggestions:

  • Pump up the bike tires and go for a ride.
  • Take the motorcycle out for a spin—and stop at the local ice cream joint and have something you haven’t had in a while. Cherry nut?  Pumpkin Blizzard?
  • Go after some apples at the closest apple orchard. Eat a caramel apple, if they have them.
  • Buy a couple of big pumpkins and set them by your front door—just for the hell of it.
  • Eat your lunch at a picnic table in a park today. Pull out your notepad and see if you can describe the sounds the leaves make when they fall from the tree. Record all random thoughts; you might amaze yourself.
  • 

Forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair.  -Kahlil Gibran

Rainbow Living

I have the following poster by Susan Ariel Rainbow Kennedy framed and hanging in my office.

I don’t care if you are a writer, CEO, lawyer or garbage collector; SARK’s advice in this collection isn’t lost on any of us.

I hope your writing, creative or otherwise, is going well for you today.

Rebecca

 

HOW TO BE AN ARTIST

By ©SARK90

 

Stay loose.

Learn to watch snails.

Plant impossible gardens.

Invite someone dangerous to tea.

Make little signs that say Yes! And post them all over your house.

Make friends with Freedom and uncertainty.

Look forward to dreams.

Cry during movies.

Swing as high as you can on a swing set, by moonlight.

Cultivate moods.

Refuse to “be responsible.”

Do it for love.

Take lots of naps.

Give money away. Do it now. The money will follow.

Believe in magic. Laugh a lot.

Celebrate every gorgeous moment. Take moonbaths.

Have wild imaginings, transformative dreams, and perfect calm.

Draw on the walls. Read every day. Imagine yourself magic.

Giggle with children. Listen to old people. Open up. Dive in. Be free. Bless yourself. Drive away fear. Play with everything. Entertain your inner child. You are innocent. Build a fort with blankets. Get wet. Hug trees.

Write love letters.

 

SARK (Susan Ariel Rainbow Kennedy) is a best-selling author who offers inspiration and guidance to people for living more authentically, and being actively creative on a daily basis.