Thursday, December 27, 2012

The Twelve Seasons

I have owned the book of this title, by Joseph Wood Krutch, for many years.  Its subtitle is "A Perpetual Calendar for the Country." He devotes a chapter to each month, and I am quoting here from the end of his chapter on December, which he has spent mostly ruminating upon snow.  

But as we approach a full moon, I thought this paragraph was appropriate to us in the Northwest as well.

"On our moonlight walk we take for granted that it was thoughtfully put there in the sky 'to give a light by night.' But who is, or should be, abroad at the dead hour of four? The moon is there, either for some purpose of her own or for no purpose at all. The heavenly machine is going through its changeless changes even while we sleep. There is certainly no lonesomer hour and no more eerie sight.  A dead, white earth; a perfect stillness; and a strange, abnormal moon.  At such a moment anything might happen. Or, what may seem even worse, nothing at all might happen--ever again."

We are turning back toward the light. 

Saturday, December 15, 2012

After yesterday's violence...

In the wee, small hours of the morning just before it's light, knowing others will have more well thought out conclusions, here's advice from a risk detective:

-Love your children completely. Be generous with your time and your own thoughts. Be fully present and prepared to explain yourself. You are their first teacher.

-By personal example and in discussion, make clear that life is a seri
es of choices between right and wrong, and that it is the grey areas we should be talking about most.

-Show them the world. My father had my sister and I reading at least the "People in the News" section of the Des Moines Register from the time we started school. Our reading expanded as we got older, and every night at the dinner table we discussed both the news and what we had done in school.

-Teach them how to make their own decisions. In those dinnertime discussions, my father also taught us how there were at least two sides to every question or issue, and that it was important to identify the "pros" and "cons" of every position. You could say that he grew his own conversationalists.

-To these pieces of advice, I think my husband would add "tell them many stories." You want them to know where they come from and have a rich range of references that include how and why decisions were made.

All this is to say that your job is not really to wield power, but rather to help a young child grow into themselves without making them afraid of the world outside their home. This is particularly difficult right now, when the natural tendency will be to pull back, to hold them close, to know that the world is often a scary place. But here is a place where the advice holds up -- listen to them and talk with them. Help them try to put this horrible event into context even as you are, yourself, trying to do so.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Why I love rock and roll.

From the earliest days, when I saw Bill Haley and the Comets on television, listened to great performers like Little Richard, Aretha Franklin, and most of MoTown, I have loved music that makes you feel like you are full to the top with both despair and joy.

I remember the first time the Beetles appeared on American television too, on the Ed Sullivan Show -- and the furor over whether or not the cameras could shoot Elvis Presley below the waist on that same show.  There's not room here for me to describe my long history with the Rolling Stones (my son used to buy me a CD each year for my birthday) or with Sting and his musicality.  Or with Aretha herself, who I think is right up there with jazz's Sarah Vaughn.

But by far, for me,  over a long trajectory, the greatest rock performer is Bruce Springsteen, The Boss, and his E Street Band.  He makes real music, writes real songs and has a very big heart.   His music both describes and changes the world at the same time -- infusing even awful times with the kind of raw beauty we most commonly associate with jazz.  Everyone knows about the hard times he is talking about.  Everyone wants to rise up.  The music just plain runs over.  It's uniquely the music of America.

So tonight let's give it up for Bruce, my hero for at least 20 years.  Even if you don't know all the words, you know how it goes.  Right here, in the USA.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Festive but not task oriented

Christmas Luminaries, 2011

Color catalogs from the same merchants continue to arrive nearly every week.

I am about to "unsubscribe" to email from other merchants filling up my email box with special deals and dire warnings about shipping holiday gifts. 

Last year, we sent our holiday card and letter out after Christmas and we'll be doing the same thing this year.  

We are going to hold our annual holiday open house, but that is the least commercial event you can imagine.  In some cases, it's the one time of the year that we see old friends....or where people show up that we haven't seen in 10-20 years.  Always a pleasure!

I'm still decorating the house, fitting that into little bursts of time and energy.