Saturday, December 31, 2011

A snapshot of the past.

I took this picture on Christmas Eve. We were driving home after spending an afternoon with my daughter admiring the big decorated Christmas tree and lights and shop windows in Bridgeport Village. Heading through the last of the holiday traffic, we stopped at a red light. I looked into the side mirror on the passenger side of the car, got out my phone and snapped the photo.

I saw the perfect reflection of the sun setting into the darkening landscape.

We’d just passed by these bare, gray trees silhouetted against the sunset but I hadn’t even noticed. I hadn’t seen this wonderful sight. And if I hadn’t looked into the mirror next to me, and seen the reflection, I’d have missed it.

It made me wonder. How many sunsets do I miss every day? While I’m driving through traffic, talking on the phone, checking my email or hurrying make it home?

Today, on the eve of the New Year, seems like a perfect time for reflection.

Time to see the past in the mirror. Take a snapshot of the sunset of this year sinking slowly behind us and admiring the beauty of the year that started out with bare trees and expectation, budded into blossoms and fruitful experiences, then changing leaves and lives; finally, letting go and letting the past mulch, knowing it’s not all about loss but fertilizing our future.

Maybe it’s only by looking backward that we can see how much we’ve moved forward.

It’s been a year of moving forward for all of us. New skills learned. New relationships made. New ideas and challenges. Some things worked well, some things didn’t.

Twelve months ago, it was a new year. I had no idea what it would bring. I was learning to throw clay on the wheel and struggling. I didn’t know why I was playing with clay instead of metal. It just felt right even if I kept doing it wrong. I persisted. My daughter was engaged and there was a wedding to plan. I had forgotten how something so wonderful can get so very complicated and stressful. I struggled to make it the best day for her that I could. My son moved into an apartment. That meant another room was full of memories, toys and dust. I boxed books, washed walls and repainted. The old carpet was ripped up and replaced with new. Now, my home is refreshed and re-nested and renewed. And for my husband and me, our lives together are renewed as well.

We were at a red light. Stopped in the present, I was able to see the reflection of where we had been in the mirror. I snapped a shot of the past. Then the light changed and we moved forward.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Frosting inside and out.

I woke up this morning to the sun glistening off frosted rooftops. It’s such a beautiful beginning to the shortest day of the year. Celebrating the solstice goes back to my celtic roots when people toasted the return of the light with fires and feasting.

Walking through the park with Jilly, I admired natures artistry. Leaves sculpted into shape by the cold and painted with silvery frost. Icy sculptures were everywhere around us, from the tips of the grasses and reeds to the leaves on the pathways. Even the roads were crisscrossed with a plaid embossed by tire treads up, down and across the streets.

The sun burst across the lake. As we walked along the paths, I admired the sparkle everywhere. The ice softened the edges of the gravel and bark dust rendering them as landscape art instead of mulch. But practicality and beauty is Mother Nature’s forte and today was just another of her many wonders.

And some I almost missed. As I was taking another frosty foliage photo on my cell phone, a tall silhouette moved behind the reeds. It was a large, blue heron oblivious to the frosting everywhere, moving slowly and softly in search of a fishy breakfast. I gasped and changed my focus catching this close up photo of one of my favorite birds.
Later cozy and warm in my own home, I enjoyed a different kind of frosting. I heated up the oven and made one of my favorite Christmas cookies, Chocolate Kringles. My Gram used to make these for me and she sent me boxes of homemade cookies when I was away at college. She died years ago, but her recipe lives on. I bake Kringles every Christmas and now, my daughter bakes them too.

And as everyone knows, everything is better with sugar. Especially this time of year, it’s the one time I don’t have to feel guilty about baking. My Grandmother Gallacher taught me to make shortbread from scratch when I was a teenager. I make her Cherry Cake every year, too. But this year, unable to find sweet red cherries, I substituted sweetened cranberries. I hope she doesn’t mind and if it turns out well, I’ll have to change the name to Cranberry Cake.

And change is good. Today, we celebrate the change of the seasons, the change from darkness to more light. With winter’s frost decorating the world and sugar frosting cookies and cakes, we can taste the sweetness of life all around.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Birthdays. Beaches. The flow of life.

I started celebrating my birthday this week with a trip to the beach. I do love the beach. Watching the sunset. Sipping champagne. Nibbling treats. All while watching the waves roll in and out.

It’s life in an ongoing panorama. The water flows in bringing mussels, sand dollars and seaweed. The seagulls and crows crowd in to feast. Then the tide washes out the cracked and empty shells. I’m not being morose, really. But let’s face it, life gives and life takes away.

And it’s not all bad. I breathe in and out. There are new presents, thoughts, friends and family that come into my life. And there are things that no longer fit, help or work that need to flow out of my life. Some things, like the half-buried seashells stuck in the sand, take a little more time to let go of than others. But, like the shells, the sand shifts and slowly releases them into the flow.

Watching the sunset sink into the sea, I see all the years come and go. I remember the good times and the bad. I’m grateful for the good and hope I learned from the bad. I know everyone says growing older is growing wiser but I’ll have to wait and see about that. Right now, I’m still growing and learning and making mistakes and trying to be kind to myself along the way.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Falling fast into winter.

Fall came late this year and winter, it seems is early. It’s not officially winter according to the calendar, but it’s here.

Leaves are delicate frost sculptures at my feet.

The lake is a frozen landing strip for the ducks.

The fog rolls in thick over the lake.

And then, the sun comes out blazing. Bouncing off the frost covered bridges and spreading sparkling lights all around.

Winter, even unofficially, is wonderful.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Forest for the trees

Picture by Martha Benedict

Without forests, we would lose our true roots. We are just one of the wonderful creatures of this big world. Sometimes, I forget that, but I was fortunate this month to be part of a fiber installation, Forest For The Trees, in California that brought attention to the wonders of our wild world.

Sponsored by the Arroyo Arts Collective and Yarn Bombing Los Angeles, this site specific installation is a collection of knit and crochet pieces built on site. Fiber artists from around the world sent knit and crochet trees, ground cover, flowers, even monsters and rare birds.

I contributed my aluminum screening and crocheted mythical bird, Phoenix. I made the bird from recycled materials. I’m proud to have been one of the artists to create this fiber forest installation at Avenue 50 Studio in Highland Park, California.