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.
I did something powerful this week; I reached a breakthrough in my healing, my getting past the deep emotion attached to losing my mother; I went to City Park in New Orleans and I had Elizabeth with me (and a camera). It has been almost exactly 15 years since I was there. It was the last little adventure I had with my mom before her death in august 1997. She didn’t feel well that summer of 1997, tired and not much enthusiasm towards things but she did want to see Elizabeth ride the century old carousel “before I die” she declared. How often do we carelessly use that catch phrase, “before I die” – I never took it literally; sadly, however, it was prophetic .
Anyway, we did go to the City Park in New Orleans that summer – my mom, myself, and all five of my children – Jon was 16, Will 14, Matt and Drew 9, and Elizabeth 2. It was a fun day, we had spent the night before at the Hotel Monteleon on Royal and went to the park the next morning. The old oaks were still there as well as Storyland – things I remember as a child . The big feature, however and the reason for the visit, was the carousel. It was, at the time, 91 years old.
“Since 1906 little kids and kids at heart have enjoyed the “flying horses” of City Park’s antique carousel, one of only 100 antique wooden carousels in the country and the last one in Louisiana. The carousel, featuring the masterwork of famed carousel carvers Looff and Carmel, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and its renovation garnered national attention and praise from the National Historic Preservation Society.”
My mom was so right in her prediction – Elizabeth loved it, again and again and again. I see my mom sitting on the nearby bench watching Elizabeth go around and around. I wondered why she was so intent on and content to just sit there. Now I understand , she was feeling so badly then; there was a yet unknown cancer inside and these were her last days. I look back, as we all sometimes do, with regret. I had no idea that my barely 65 year old mother was that sick and that this trip would be the last one with my 2 year old daughter.
I often go back to that day and relive all that I can to keep the memory alive, but until yesterday, I have not been able to go back to that physical place. After hurricane Katrina, I was so sad that the park had taken on so much water and damage but thanks to the good people of New Orleans, the park is as it was. I was able to see a bit of stress on some of the ancient oaks but I feel certain they are being cared for and will outlive me. Elizabeth was a good sport for me and let me photograph her around the park – we went to the places I remember her going with my mom.
Curiously , the girl operating the carousel saw us and when the last child was gone, asked if I would like a picture of Elizabeth on one of the horses.
With a bit of a blur through the lens, I saw her again and I knew my mom was there , perhaps on the bench, watching.
Getting more content each day – it’s working. I have turned over lots of happy moments hidden underneath unsuspecting circumstances and around dubious corners. The heat is stifling; I suppose I could complain but I refused to say, “it’s so damned hot out there” nope, not me, I came into the house and told everyone about the symphonic crooning of frogs out there in the rain filled ditches – sounds of summer that go magically with the loud locust mating calls later in the day – Nature’s small creatures doing their very big part to make it all jive, I need to do my part to make my environment positive and therefore, productive. Going to the gallery today – went through the woods yesterday…picked pears and remembered my mom when I walked by her 4 o’clocks that have bloomed here for 25 years and always remind me of being 7, a new house, a new baby brother, and a little scattering of seeds someone had given her…the simplest of jestures, a small act of kindness still being enjoyed today, 50 years later – how’s that for positive energy!!
into the woods
my mom’s 4 o’clocks