Category Archives: christmas

keeping it real


The yard is abundant on these early December days, at least here in the Deep South. Oddly, even with the shorter days, my hens are still laying at their summer pace and the recent rains have caused my kale and cabbage to flourish and of course, like everyone else here, the orange trees are laden.

ornagesI may have told this story before about my mother as a child during the Depression living in Ville Platte on Beech Street waiting for Christmas morning to find fresh citrus in stockings “hung by the fire”. It seemed such a curious little tale when I was young and she told it to me. But now, I understand it. I understand the resourcefulness in life then as opposed to the surreal waste in it now. Oranges were ripe in December and much needed to prevent colds and flu; what better gift than a gift from the Earth?


With that thought, I continue…How better to decorate your house than with the pine cones laying on the ground this December or snippets of holly and Pyracantha or Nandina? And there is bare honeysuckle vines in the woods for wreaths and pine branches low enough to snap and bring inside for fragrance. Camellias are beginning to bloom here and Narcisse bulbs are ready for forcing…this natural list goes on and on and there is no waste and no plastic to recycle. And don’t forget the best holiday display of all, the kitchen, filled with the smell of baked cookies and cinnamon and mugs of fresh coffee waiting for a minute of quiet time amongst the folly that Christmas can cause.camellias

I am prompted to write this in hopes that it may inspire just a few to leave  a bit of the “made in china” on the shelves of corporate stores and find the real gifts of the season right outside your door. And for those purchased gifts we share, each small town is filled with art galleries and crafters and local wares that become unique gifts for friends and family…check out Main Street before you go to the mall – it will make you feel good to shop small and local. Another Momism from my mother this time of year was, “If I can’t find it at Abdallas, I am not buying it.” I love living in that confine of finding gifts within the perimeters of our town – how simple is that?

Anyway, this is my Christmas “message” or perhaps “rant”. Nothing is as it was before and the world has changed since my mother’s long ago childhood – changed in many good ways – but there are still methods and reasoning from the times when people lived closer to the Earth and hovered around their small communities as they supported and cared for one another.

We can continue, tweaked perhaps, by keeping some things “real” for Christmas.

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for real

It was a picture taken in 1962 that prompted this post. There was a Christmas tree in the background with a little girl in front. The tree was so real – the icicles were thick and sparkly and had been put on by a child, the lights were big and the branches were random on this ordinary Douglas Fir. A special time had been created there with magic and tiny hands – nothing was perfect except the moment and the baby doll she was holding was one like I remember,  the eyes sort of clicked and rolled, the hair was etched  and she was wearing a long gown with tiny buttons – so real and pure. I felt that Christmas morning, that place before now when the emphasis was not on materialism and the world was still so big and “virtual” was not something I spoke of.

Anyway, it was just a snapshot of “then” that made me look at “now” and while some things are much better, I do miss the purity of life that was “then”– the wholeness and the understanding that the things that matter have nothing to do with marketing and consumerism, it was the solid structure of family that was just assumed, and the glory in the everyday things that made us happy. I choose to remain there in that place where Christmas trees had big colored lights and imperfect branches and happiness was  warm socks and hot soup in winter and dragonflies on  clotheslines in summer.

dad and I

 a snapshot of real happiness – balloons and a dad

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hearth, home, and art

There is frost on the roof of my neighbor’s shed and the fire logs in  from last night are embers in my fireplace – in this early morning, this house looks so warm and wonderful. Wonderful to me, not wonderful to any standard for it is a scattered mess of Christmas remnants, holiday leftovers and empty boxes but, for me, it is all as it should be.
I love the days after Christmas, the days that gingerly take us into the new year, into January, the coldest month. I love that I can be home and can piddle and explore this space that has contained my life for nearly 3 decades. I know exactly how the winter sun comes in through the back door and how the sunsets through the keeping room and glazes over the room with amber – it is a friendly cast, unlike the morning sun that reveals the dust and smudges that are always there beneath the chairs and along the baseboards. But the evening sun, that is my friend; it blankets the room in a glistening haze that makes it all seem magical and warm and no mind is paid to the dust.

 I am so happy to be here at this point in life , both physical and metaphysical,  where I see beyond, this place beneath the surface of youth and beneath the surface of “dust”. I have been there. I have had my share of superficial moments and I am happy that I did; it enables me to understand it all a bit better. What I can’t seem to understand, however is getting stuck there – life is one big reveal but it seems sometimes some people don’t turn that page.


 Like you, I look ahead to the new year with hope for a better world and a new batch of goals for myself. I need to write then down this year so that next year I can read them. Not to check them off or to see if I was successful, life is not a “test” – but, hopefully, to see growth, growth in my interpretation of what is important. It seems life is somewhat of a funnel – our expectations and wants are so huge and diverse when we are young and as we get older they tend to funnel down and we want only the intangibles , we understand more about want and need and how true happiness only comes from within.


Anyway, nothing about that today on this crisp winter morning when the house is still, the coffee pot is full and the long December day is ahead. I have not painted in 3 days now and I am feeling the void. I have to start something today, just some paint on a surface, just a burst of color to give more purpose to my day. I wish more people could find the courage to create – art soothes your soul. In our art classes in the high schools there is barely a word spoken – all typical classroom problems disappear and the space becomes a zone, a zone of Zen, a space to be you and to reflect. I just don’t think enough people understand the value of art.
Vincent van Gogh got me through college and still lingers in my life – when I think of pure art, art for the sake of art, I think of him. One summer I was able to go to the south of France and through the windows of the train I saw the cypresses, van Gogh’s cypresses, and time transcended and I grew more appreciative of his work and who he was. His short life was filled with reveal and he turned pages rapidly, too fast, for he reached the end before the world realized who he was.

 I end this post-Christmas, post season of commercialism entry with a quote from him that I hope may inspire you and become something to build upon in the new year. Remember art is not just paints and canvas, it is private words in a journal, a poem on the back of your lunch bag, a walk in the woods, a meal well prepared, a small garden or the just way you wear your hat…


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looking within

The first day of winter is cold here, I am glad. Yesterday morning was not so good for me – there was an issue about too much money and the company we use for our charge card business. The details are not worth typing but the vulnerable and helpless feeling that eventually caused anger was something that barreled into my quiet morning and set the tone for my day – some high tech contemporary garbage that intrudes into our lives and we have to find resolve with some automated robo system- you know what I’m saying!  

At some point, I just wanted to drop out of this 21st century hocus pocus, virtual, click click, digital, plastic world – I wanted to isolate myself from this insanity. I thought of ways to retreat – liquidate, find a simple house in a simple town and detach. All of this happened the morning after I had been to Lafayette to buy a few paints and a brush – I became witness to and part of the Christmas shopping mania in a big city/town. I really could not absorb how much stuff is out there for us to buy – I don’t have the mental capacity for that amount of volume – anyway, thus began the perfect storm – let me out of this century!!

Well, I’m still here…and today is much better. I have my new paints, the weather is Christmassy, my house smells like evergreen and I’m in Loreauville where there is no mall or big box stores – only my chickens and my patch of earth that I have lived on for nearly 28 years. I think the point of all this rambling (and venting) is that we all go through these little dust storms but then it gets better, the dust settles. But during this storm I was forced to reevaluate some things and I reached a higher level – and that’s what is supposed to happen. Is that what we call wisdom?

Today begins the winter solace the full cold Moon will be out on the 28th – hopefully in a clear cold winter sky. I find so much opportunity for reflection and renewal in the middle of winter as I watch how Nature sheds her luster and her protection so nobly – how she is brought to her bare bones and survives it, she gets through it only to reintroduce herself in spring. She does this each year. I suppose this is some kind of cleansing, purging that is necessary to grow and, because of my beliefs, I feel it is something I should follow – unlike man’s decrees; Nature’s laws are consistent and non-discriminate. So, I begin this winter with that in mind – the season to purge – both my thoughts and my things and in spring I hope I have looked within and am ready for the awakening of another opportunity to bloom.

I don’t know that I will write again before Christmas so I wish you pure and pronounced moments during this holiday season that will become soothing memories in the years to come – moments that find you outside looking at the Christmas sky, moments that include hugs and warm smiles and moments that find you alone in a cozy chair stopping to think about yourself and what is really important while welcoming this starkness that is winter. For it is this nakedness, that allows us to find some answers exposed there against the bareness and beauty that is Nature.
Happy Christmas.


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"Where are you Christmas"

Today was warm here, not very Christmassy but kind of nice to go outside and find some December gifts. There is nothing as beautiful as nature, there is nothing in a store to buy that comes near that beauty.

 I am ending the day with a hot cup of organic coffee and a teaspoon of honey from my bees of summer – I can’t express how wonderful this moment is to me. I decided to cap it off with a blog post just to make it memorable. Unfortunately, however, I‘ve not much to say. I am waiting on a cold front to arrive early tomorrow and cause the Christmas spirit to stir – at least I hope so, for it is not here. I draw on childhood memories to help get me there. I have so many and so many different focuses.

The ones about Miss Sue are so pure and deep. They are connected to nature; they are about cutting cedar trees in the woods, trees with bird’s nests and moss in them, and getting sticky sap on your carcoat and gathering giant pinecones from a place near the bayou and bringing them home to just be. They are about giving her a gift of homemade food and a late December visit by the fire. Those memories stir me, those memories made me. She was untouched by the commercialism of Christmas.

 Another memory is about my dad and the colossal effort he made one year to put together a huge wreath made from cedar boughs from the woods – this thing was engineered and I’m sure, the source of much stress – for him. I don’t know why he did it – but I remember it.

 I remember my mother too, of course I remember her – the manifestation of Christmas for me – the giver, the miracle worker, the one who created the magic; she defined it for me.


 Of all the things about Christmases past, most are not about things.

Those people are gone now and so are the Christmases of   childhood but, as is evident with this post, their spirits remain a constant in my life.

I don’t have the tree up and I have not been shopping, instead, I wait patiently for the arrival of the Christmas spirit.

I gathered these gifts from the December yard today – citrus from the trees, camellias to put in vases that were a birthday present from a dear friend and narcissus bulbs dug up in my yard at Thanksgiving to be forced bloomed for Christmas.
Christmas is the day that holds all time together. 
Alexander Smith
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my snowman from Berry Tales 🙂

I try to recall the details of early December of last year – what I was doing, what worries I had – funny, but I can’t remember much negativity. I know something was there annoying me, concerning me, but, I obviously got through it. This lack of recollection makes me think about time and its magical effect, its purpose, really. I think of the figurative concept of moving through time – it carrying you forward as it washes away the troubles and concerns, leaving behind the good stuff – like little pebbles on the beach after the tide rolls out – smooth and shiny and brilliant from a cleansing; that’s what’s left of December 2011. I think of the early days of last December and I feel happiness. The twins were about to embark on a wonderful journey then and I know I was filled with apprehension and worry, but now, I just naturally go to that place of happiness, omitting any negativity that was running parallel to the good stuff that went on and I attach myself to that state where I felt happy. Hmmm, those pockets of peace restore us and time protects us, perhaps time is Nature’s Prozac.


It seems time is a gift in many ways. It heals, we all know that – and it sometimes washes away the things that are not so pleasant, leaving behind those that are – those memories that we need to keep, the ones that allow us to go on in gladness, for we must go on. It’s built in, this spirit we have to move ahead, to get better and to look forward. Like I posted before, we all need something to look forward to, whether it is a big event like a graduation, a big move or just a simple moment like the green beans sprouting in the garden – something good to anticipate – that keeps us healthy and  makes us happy.


I suppose time tweaks our memories a little – those days of childhood were probably not as gleeful as we “remember” but those “photo shopped “memories give us happiness now and what could be wrong with that? The bumps and bruises will all heal and fade away and , hopefully, we will all be left with a rich golden resin that was our childhood, one that we somewhat mimic for our children. Time is our friend.


I write this because it is nearly Christmas; it is the Christmas that you will reflect on next year and in the years to come. These moments are so fragile and so over anticipated and in 2012, so over done – Christmas has become the biggest retail extravaganza in the world. We have come a long way since the gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh; now it’s diamonds, Apple, and Mercedes. I hope we can all disregard most of that hype and understand that those things will most likely be forgotten; time will not keep a list of material things. It will, however, help you to remember the warm wishes, the still and cold night when you look up at the vastness of the Christmas sky, the afternoon spent in the kitchen with a child, the smell of cinnamon and evergreens, the macaroni ornament from someone’s first grade year, and the fleeting moments with the people you love. Time will only leave behind that golden resin that was this Christmas.

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the little things

It is the first day of December now. I am just a bit curious as to why the months fly like days. I ask myself if I am too busy. Maybe. But there is nothing to take away, everything I do must be done so I suppose I need to not worry about the hasty passage of time and just enjoy the quick views I get and be grateful that I have purpose; soon enough I may find myself with time on my hands and I wonder what I will do to fill those long sought after slots of day – something I have thought of throughout all of these days of raising children. Who will I be then?

 Life shifts and transforms – each experience carries you to another level – hopefully a higher one. I am so much richer now as a person and an artist for experiencing all that I have and for most of this richness, I thank my children, for they have taught me more than they know; I hope I have much more ahead to learn. Anyway, I go forward with this gift of today and hope that by its end I will have answered the questions I ask, helped those I could help, and enjoyed the moments I have.

Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things.

Robert Brault





I looked back on my weblog, back to 3 Decembers ago and found this post – and I am reposting a small part of it. It is something I think powerful to read again at the threshold of this season of contrast – this season that “celebrates” spirituality with materialism and consumption.


Christmas gift suggestions:

To your enemy, forgiveness.

To an opponent, tolerance.

To a friend, your heart.

To a customer, service.

To all, charity.

To every child, a good example.

To yourself, respect.



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 The toxins of this holiday season are getting to be too much, for me. I have cycled 57 Christmases – Christmases where getting a record player from the green stamp store and a 45 in 8th grade was wonderful to this aberration they are still calling Christmas – yeah we are buying into it – the media wins! On one side we have them telling us 1 in 7 children in America are hungry and on the other they tell us that a diamond or a luxury car is what we have to buy to show we love someone. I don’t really care what people have on their Christmas list, I am just saturated with the emphasis on materialism.   I think in terms of the great art and literature and thinkers of the past and imagine what this focus on money and materialism would have done to their creativity? I’m confused. I’m out.

Anyway…I have been “gone” for a while; I have been painting – a lot. I have a body of new stuff that I am doing and I can’t seem to get enough of it. A small gallery in Lafayette is giving me some space and I am so pleased with this opportunity. Art is a peculiar thing – pure art and artistry have nothing at all to do with money and business, those two entities are actually nemeses, but it is the way we validate ourselves, making a purchase – tough conflict. I am doing “peace” crosses – a throwback from my time in the 60s I suppose.
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November 3, 2010

it’s coming

These early days of November are so welcomed. I walk through the woods with intention and look forward to the vivid sunsets that close out the cooler days. I know the holidays are near and I am happy to finally be able to avoid the hype and commercialism and, instead, experience their intention. There is such peace in removing value from things. I think in terms of my mother’s childhood and stories she told of Christmases – images that could fit comfortably within the binds of a Louisa May Alcott book, images of home and family and I strive for similarity. I also have stored in the clutter that is my memory images of my childhood and the Sears Wishbook and shiny new bicycles under the Douglas fir. Those Christmases were fun and so cherished and appreciated, for each gift was heartfelt and acquired from sacrifice but, unfortunately they became the gateway to the runaway train that is now the commercialized Christmas I have come to deplore… the balance was lost, the intention is gone – Christmas can now be found at Best Buy, not there in warm kitchens filled with scents of cinnamon or under covers waiting for the magic of the morning. I will be careful to not be a part of that machine that is about to flip the “on” switch and take from us the meaning of the upcoming season.
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