Let it snow

Oz lives in a city where the winter snow falls rarely.

The temperature may dip into the teens for days, the ponds and lakes may freeze, but the snow does not seem to want to come this far, to this place, leaving its snowy white blanket on the Colorado mountains, or the plains of Nebraska and the Dakotas. The trees here, naked and open to the elements, shiver in the wind. Older now, Oz knows the cold is hard on the body. It stings the face, the ice that forms on the sidewalks and roads is an ever present hazard, a fear of a fall and a broken leg or arm.

snow-cabin

Oz recalls younger days, other places where the snow showered the land and blanketed the earth. When snow flurries swirled about. Oz stood in a snow globe world. It was a lovely thing.

Certainly, for the reason that school was cancelled, but also because it transformed the land into a wonderland. There was sledding, snowball fights, building snowman, and the general beauty of seeing a familiar world transformed into an unfamiliar one. When a snowball in the face sweetly stung. When frostbitten hands and feet were ignored as long as one could stand the pain. When falling off a sled was a source of amusement to one and all.

Let it snow. The father or mother of the child knows, that at the end of the day, the child will sleep.

On a more serious note, one recalls standing in the snow alone watching the flakes floating like feathers to earth. A child lifts his or her head to the sky, opens his or her mouth, and goes about the task of catching a flake upon the tongue, experiencing the momentary thrill of the cold before the flake transforms into water.

Let it snow again, a child remembers simple things.

“His soul swooned slowly as he heard the snow falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their last end, upon all the living and dead.” James Joyce’s The Dead.

winter-fence

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all theory is gray

Oz is sipping his coffee and watching the sun rise in the east. In the matter of a few minutes, the color of the sky, first inky black turns to crimson red, then orange and yellow and blue.

Oz was thinking of gray, the color the sky was all of yesterday. Then, it was, that Oz chanced to come across a quote by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, from Faust: First Part.

“All theory is gray, my friend. But forever green is the tree of life.”

Goethe was German and wrote the two lines as one:

“Grau, teurer Freund, ist alle Theorie und grün des Lebens goldner Baum.”
Faust 1, Studierzimmer. (Mephistopheles)

Language and grammar, and the human capacity for understanding restrict our ability to experience thoughts and images. Alas, it is what it is, it is what it seems, and therefore “gray” as Goethe remarks.

Weeks earlier, Oz came across an obscure piece of writing about the weather, gray skies, and how we perceive the same day differently. It was written in 1906. Little can be found about the author, Susan Hanna, other than that she was business manager of the magazine, The Mount Holyoke. One must assume the magazine is associated with the college Mount Holyoke in South Hadley, Massachusetts, the oldest of the Seven Sisters, the female counter part to the Ivy League schools.

The world is the “same old place” my dear friend and here are Susan’s thoughts:

“Yesterday was dark and cold and dreary. The sky was gray, the snow was white; the trees black against the gray and white. The wind came around the corners with an angry cry, and whipped the dry bushes, and swept the snow across the path. The world was angry, it knew not why. It was tired of the ceaseless tossing and motion; tired of being the same old world forever.

Today is different. There is the same white snow, the same sky, and the same trees. But today is not yesterday; for the wind swirls the snow in a circling dance; it draws the bushes and twigs out from their hiding places. It bends the trees in rollicking laughter at the very joy of living, – of being the same old world, in the same old way.

Today is not yesterday, but why is today, today?”

Today the sun rises in the east to chase the gray away. The sky at night was inky black. At morn it turn to crimson red, then orange and yellow, now blue.

yellow-morning-oil

What will the New Year bring?

What will the New Year bring?
Hopefully boundless joy, loving family and friends, few cares and an abundance of God’s blessings, then it helps to have a nut or two to tide you through the winter days, an adventure that lets you venture somewhere you’ve never gone before, and, at the end of the day, a thought to keep you warm in bed, may there be peace on earth.

 

Wassail

Cheers!

If I said, “Wassup!” you’d know what I meant, but what about “Wassail!”

Wassail has its roots in ancient Norse, it rhymes with lass and hail and means “be hale” or “be of good health”.

The word entered the English lexicon in the 5th century with the Saxons, Hengist and Horsa, who came to help the British Celts fight the Picts. Horsa died fighting and Hengist stayed. The story goes that Hengist’s daughter Rowen offered British King Vortigern a golden cup filled with wine, saying,

“Lord King, Wassail!”

The word was new to Vortigern, the wine was pleasing, and so too was Rowen. They marry and the next thing you know, Hengist is the very first king of England, or at least of Kent, where the Saxons and their cousins the Angles settled down and became English.

By the time the Normans arrived centuries later, Englishmen were wassailing each other with a cup of wine. The habit was hard to break. Time changes words and their meaning and wassail was remembered as the spicy hot wine and not the salutation.

Sometimes a glass of wassail will start you thinking. What do other countries use for toasts?

In France they say, Bonne sante. The French being the French and very idiosyncratic don’t pronounce the first e and accent the second “e” to make the long eeee sound.

In Spain and the Spanish speaking countries of the western hemisphere, they say “Brindar.” Literally, meaning “offer” but that doesn’t express the thought, which is a hope that the recipient of the toast may receive all that is good and necessary. Brevity, the mark of a good toast and good sense.

“Expresar un bien deseado a alguien o algo a la vez que se levanta la copa con vino o licor antes de beber.”

In Russian, they say “Prosit!” but they say it Cyrillic, просит, which is hard to say, and means nothing more than, I beg or pray.

In German, they also say, “Prosit” or “Ein Prosit” which translates as “Cheers!”

But they made it into a song, which everyone sings at Oktoberfest and when wishing one a schönes Neues Jahr:

Ein Prosit, ein Prosit
Der Gemütlichkeit
Ein Prosit, ein Prosit
Der Gemütlichkeit.

Cheers, my friends, it all means the same, we wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

forest-couple-1280

Whose woods are these

stressless recliners, fairy tales can come true

I dare not leave these woods quite yet, something lurks up above, something lingers behind a tree, waiting just for me

… in these woods, lovely, dark, and deep.

I cannot sleep for from the distance in the woods comes a sound, “Who?” it calls mocking me. I dare not answer, my knees are knocking, teeth chattering. Am I scared?

You bet.

Then, I hear a branch crack, needles crunch, and I have got a hunch from the woods there comes for me a dark and hairy beast. Should I run, should I grab a great big stick, or, should I fall and make a tiny little ball? Then, I manage in a tiny voice to call out, father-mother are you there?

Silence, says my father, go to sleep.

forest-sun

Silence

“Some people without brains do an awful lot of talking, don’t you think?
The Scarecrow from Oz”

In the Land of Oz, silence is the most misunderstood art of conversation, and loneliness the most steadfast companion.

person-1280

Oz is a mythical place where one goes to seek wisdom. I say “goes”, but I do not reply that one “finds” the answer. For that one must be willing to listen. More than that, one must know to whom and where to listen.

The curious history of the Ladybug

[In late September of 1916, British and French soldiers renewed their attacks on German lines around Thiepval. At a heavy cost to both sides, the British took the village of Thiepval. Heavy rains fell the first week of October, turning the fields to mud and silencing the guns for a moment. The Daily Telegraph ran the headline, A Quiet Break on the Front.

I am touring the battlefields. Outside the memorial at Thiepval to the more than 72,000 missing British soldiers, whose bodies were never recovered, there in fields in the wheat, I spot a ladybug waiting for an aphid to eat.]

grass-ladybug
Ladybug on a stalk of grass hunting aphids

The curious history of the Ladybug should be told. It is an old tale, whispered by children amongst themselves. Never, no not ever, told to an adult under any circumstances at all. This beetle, quite little, is delightfully charming. What’s more, surprise, it flies like a bird. So gather round children, I will tell you the tale, but promise me, to dad and mom, nary a word.

In England it is not uncommon to call a ladybug a ladybird. This delightful orange insect, which is in fact a beetle and not a bug, can fly away if threatened. English children came up with a nursery rhyme for the ladybug –

“Ladybird, ladybird fly away home,
Your house in on fire and your children are gone”

One explanation for the words comes from the farmers’ custom of burning fields in late fall to rid the land of grasshoppers, aphids, and other pests. But, spare the ladybug if one can, which consumes 50 to 60 aphids a day over a two to three-year life span. In winter ladybugs don’t eat a thing, but hibernate and gather together for warmth and protection.
One other explanation of the ladybug rhyme.
The daughter of King Henry VIII, Bloody Queen Mary assumed the throne of England in 1553, after the death of her younger half-brother James. She ruled for five years. During that time, she reinstated Roman Catholicism and made her point by burning at the stake more than 280 Protestants. At her death in 1558, Elizabeth I became Queen of England and reversed Bloody Mary’s religious proclamation. The saying of Mass was outlawed and Jesuits declared traitors. Priests who continued to say Mass were often punished by being drawn and quartered, rather than burned at the stake.
Thus, the nursery rhyme was a child’s code word to watch out.
The irony is that the ladybug’s name comes from the Virgin Mary.
When their fields were plagued by aphids, farmers prayed for divine intersession. The little orange beetle came and ate the aphids, sparing the farmers’ crops. The beetle became the Ladybug.

grass-ladybug-3
Ladybug

In French, ladybug is coccinelle,” – Insecte de forme ronde, dont le corps est rouge à pois noirs. La coccinelle est l’amie des jardiniers parce qu’elle se nourrit de pucerons .

Remembering winter

For the heart weighed down by woe, on winter’s darkest, coldest night, the hope of Spring will cling.

 

western-yarrow-side
Western Yarrow

I know it is the first day of summer. The temperature here in the Land of Oz has already hit 100 degrees. Not a record, that goes to May of 2014 and 2011 when it hit 100 degrees, but still one hopes the hot weather will wait until  July and August.

western-yarrow

The last throes of winter

The last throes of winter are soon forgotten, the throes of love lost never.

 

robin-left-sharp

If cold is bitter, is heat sweet?
In April it showers and sometimes snows
In May winter’s last throes

Melt in the heat of a golden sun and
In June

Soon, are forgotten
The Robin has built its nest
And hatched its brood
The chicks have broken through
Now its time to rest
By July
There is nothing left to do
Except to bake in the midday sun
And have some fun at the lake
Oh, watermelons do not ripen til August
Just before my love, I lost
She said you taste so bitter and so sweet
Like the lemonade of summer

robin-left-vibr
American Robin in Kansas