Tag Archives: holidays

Poems for Autumn

Most decidedly, this is a most un-autumn like season. Eighty-five degrees today, what an insult. So, to make myself feel better, I have two autumn poems.

A Twisting Almanac

Like a charcoal colored sea
The night rippled with cold
And I felt on its muscular currents
An unseen armada
Harbingers of the harvest
Of fields bowed to the scythe’s curve
Of twilight’s claws drawn across noontime’s skin
And the equinox arched like a cat across the sky

The wind worried the trees
And from its feral grip
Fell a crisp rain of jagged leaves
That coiled in the wind
And then rose in a helix
Tracing their autumnal DNA,
The cycle of kaleidoscope seasons,
To the distant spark that kindled their beginnings

Fruitful Debris

A broken mosaic
Confused as a shattered puzzle
A pink and cherry bower
That crumbled and nibbled at my feet
Crisp and familiar
Like a cat
My shoes stirred
Beneath the brittle fabric
They pushed at the jagged facets
Of the harvest colored prism
The withered reminders
Of nature’s insistence
That her beauty survives
Even when death
And the photosynthetic drought
Wreaths the ground
With its bloodless garlands

Image result for falling leaves fashion illustrations - vogue - 1920's

 

The Clean Sweep

“I can give you only a scattering of some of the crumbs of one man’s year, and the penny music whistles. Any memory, of the long, revolving year, will do, to begin with.” – Dylan Thomas

Not long ago I was reminded of one of my favorite Dylan Thomas pieces, “The Crumbs of One Man’s Year”. It is a soft, elegiac piece – its reflections scented lightly with rain and gentle regrets. The words are contemplative and full of understanding.

Whenever I read it, I seem to follow the writer on a journey through woods that are eternally harvest-colored, listening to the sibilant rustling of a river, watching the thoughts sailing across it like lost ships. I walk through cold air that is colored in muted pearl and infused with memories.

I thought of this essay when I was engaged on a task that was far less sentimental. I was, in fact, clearing the last remnants of my holiday cooking from the kitchen table. Pecan pieces, sprinkles, sweepings of flour and sugar: all the crumbs of my holiday were brushed away. But I did not lament – save for the poor job of cleaning I had done mere days ago – nor was I sad.

Yet the homely act of wrapping my hand in a faded kitchen towel and passing it over the tired, wooden table made me think. As the crumbs trickled towards me I recalled the year’s Thanksgiving, steeped in expectation and golden, buttery smells. As the scraps vanished into the folds of the cloth I was briefly reminded of Christmas and the flock of cookies that descend on my home like frosted and sweetened clouds. I saw the ropes of silver beads that held aloft the cards and caught once more the coy smell of pine which greeted me like a long-awaited friend for so many weeks.

They would be washed away, vanishing in a vague spiral down the drain. But fleetingly, the crumbs had caused me to remember, and to be thoughtful. And to take comfort that in a year’s time I would be performing the same chore again, and reminiscing – deeply, wistfully – about another year: its promises and its spent possibilities.

Thanksgiving Starts In September

It all started in September.
I was marketing with the Boyfriend, and at one point I stopped in mid-aisle to exclaim, “Where are the roasting pans?  It’s late September!  Where are the cranberries?”
You see, with the beginning of September, the first of the blessed quartet of 3-syllable months, my mind will turn to Thanksgiving.  Thanksgiving, and all of its lovely panic-strewn preparations.  Thanksgiving, the fear, the food.  Thanksgiving and butter.  Thanksgiving and the only marathons that count – the ones on TV.
Now, previously, the holiday would either be a restaurant meal, where one could not ask for seconds, or ask why the gratinee on the potatoes was so flimsy.  (Such a crisp, cheesy roof should be in danger of crushing the entire building, for goodness’ sake.)  And if not at a restaurant, the other Thanksgiving alternative would be one at a relative’s or friend’s home – there, seconds would be available (possibly encouraged, depending on the friend/relative).  But there  one would pay for one’s boldness by helping to Clean Up.  Both of these meals would be full of thanks to be sure, but they would also last only a few hours: a mere nibble out of the year.  For me, when Thanksgiving is in someone else’s hands, the celebrations are always far too brief.
So, years and years ago, I decided to have the meal at my apartment.   And this brought about a paradigm shift in my perception of Thanksgiving.  Between shopping, cleaning and cooking, my prep work begins in October.  And I will begin to sniff around for new recipes in September (doubling my annoyance with the Halloween menus on the covers of all the cooking magazines.  What’s to plan?  Give me – or anyone, for that matter – a a vat full of Heath bars and I’m happy).
I trust the people I invite, so I use the good silver.  Fashion-shaming could make people uncomfortable, but I invariably will greet them at the door wearing a tiara and petticoats, but I mean no harm – so everyone gets a corsage or buttonhole.   Oh, and the secret handshake, obviously.
So, it is therefore safe to say that my Thanksgiving lasts for 3 months.  As a result of this elasticization of the holiday, of this metaphoric conversion into an easy-fit stretch band, I will be sore, weak, and often ill from being maid-of-all-work for such a distance of time.  My sciatica will be erupting.  But it is still glorious.
eating2
Now, I hope this won’t frighten people away from Thanksgiving.  Because no matter how you choose to celebrate this peculiarly American and hedonistic day, please make sure that you do.   For this day was not made to be joyless.

The Nature Of The Feast

Saigyo said (and I only know that he did so, because J.D. Salinger quoted him):

“What it is I know not
But with the gratitude
My tears fall”

Now, many people, both here and distant, have seen fit to make fun of our innocent November holiday.  They say that it is a shallow thing, a mere celebration of overeating and television marathons.

Which of course it is.

But there is another, overlooked, word in that accusation: ‘celebration’.  And therein lies the real meaning of this particular day.  For Thanksgiving is not twisted about with politics or religion – it is uncontaminated with those things.  Instead, it is a celebration of the harvest:  in my case the harvest from Ralph’s and Whole Foods.  It is a celebration of the food you are lucky to see on your plate.  It is a celebration of the people sitting next to you and sitting across from you.    It is such a simple thing.  You are giving thanks for friends and family – people you care for most in the world that you have been able to gather together.  You are giving thanks for the 4 cups of heavy cream I will be putting in my potatoes gratin – thanks that such an act is still legal in the United States.

My mother is Jewish, my father is ½ Italian – perhaps it is in my blood to express affection with food.  But I can’t be positive about the relationship between DNA and dining.  Still, a heavy, festive table is a beautiful thing.

So is a James Bond marathon – parents and Boyfriend have been warned that this will be playing All Day.

A day of Thanksgiving – for all things, anything you can think of – is a pure holiday:  full of emotions so unsullied that indeed tears of gratitude will indeed fall.  And yet giving thanks is so easy to do:  anyone can take part!

By definition, Thanksgiving is a gathering of your own personal, wonderful people, your marvelous families.  It is a day to share the bounty.  Not STARE at, share.  Thanksgiving is a day to give thanks for all that you have.  And that is the nature of the feast.

Thanksgiving-young Rita Hayworth

Happy Thanksgiving, you darling people.

A String of Pearls

It seems that during this fallen month the light has been impatient to descend from the sky, from its burning home, the dying summer planet.  Before the horizon melts into continents of bronze and crimson – a passionate cartography – the radiance has already settled like beads of sweat, like a string of pearls, on all earthly, waiting objects.

Tree Lighting

 A telephone wire, drumming with voices, is transformed into an illuminated rope – a shining cord eager to decorate the chattering world in its holiday embrace.  It stretches for miles, a carefree reminder that the day is weary, the year is ending and a new season has arrived, coating the months in droplets of its sweet, golden light.

Electric Wire

The overeager radiance wraps around the lines like Autumn’s DNA, rich and bright.  It glows with life: linked baubles with the veneer of harvests, of feasts…an alchemy of joy.  In that time of year when both sun and moon appear at once in the sky – the one growing weaker as the other becomes stronger – light becomes a solid, thick with color and meaning.  It merges with the earth, it sinks into the ground, and makes the world a golden circle of celebration.

I Talk To A Memory

 

"Who and what are you?"
"I am the Ghost of Christmas Past."
"Long past?"
"Your parents bought me when you were a child.  Do the math."
"And you come to me now?"
"You used to be crazy about me.  Also, I've heard you had a bad week, so I thought I'd come around."
"Oh – well, that's pretty considerate…so why did I like you so much?"
"I was a good-looking Christmas decoration – you know, distinctive.  And who knows?  Maybe you had a Bambi fixation as well.  You were an odd kid."
"And now?"
"Oh, you're still pretty peculiar.  What's this about you and insects?"
"Forget about that.  What I meant was, why would I like you now?"
"Listen, time takes its toll, Miss Fifty-Years-Old.  It's true that my antlers are melting away, my neck is cracked and my paint is withered.  So, shall I be going?  I mean, I don't want to take anyone's attention from that leaning-tower of a Christmas tree you have up there."
"You've got some lip for a Ghost."
"Look, I think I can do you some good."
"Well…you are kind of cute, in a recently-unearthed Herculaneum kind of way…"
"Oh, that's nice.  And you're telling me I'm the mouthy one."
"Listen:  what good can you do me?  I have lots of decorations here."
"How many are tied to your childhood?  That you loved with such enthusiastic innocence?  You used to lie close to the tree, smelling its green smell and staring at me – memorizing my face, to see you through the rest of the year."
"I did that?"
"Yes – you were kind of cute, too.  And I'll leave out the Vesuvius reference."
"What else do you remember?"
"Pink tulle Christmas tree ornaments…"
"Yes!  I still have them?"
"Already seen and noted.  I remember your mother's money tree, the year you two dressed in matching nightgowns, your cat Pandora covered in tinsel…you don't remember these things?"
"Not until now…"
"Hmmph.  Clearly you need help."
"I've forgotten those past Christmases…all they meant…could you help with this one?"
"You're thinking about work, aren't you…and those stupid events in January – am I right?"
"Yeah."
"Ha!  I am that good.  Anyway, I've come here to remind you of your past happy times and to fast forward them to this holiday season."
"Then can you stay with me?  I want to remember.  Would you mind?"
"Not at all…by the way – I don't know when you last cleaned this table…but you missed a spot."

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Hog For The Holidays

I generally tend to ignore motorcycles.  To me they are loud and uninteresting, like so many things in Los Angeles.

But when a motorcycle decides to truss itself up for the holidays, I feel that I must reassess my opinion. 

Walking home from work today I noticed that the bike was gone, leaving its autumnal accoutrements behind.  I rather believe that its owner rode his bike out, after parting the pumpkins carefully – and when he returns he will just as carefully pile them high once more.

People must find their holidays where they can. 

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A Burst Of Fun

Last Sunday, Santa Barbara gave a shout of happiness.  Within the course of an afternoon, I watched a parade walk blithely into the holidays, and I attended a festival which celebrated the softest, the shyest and the most beloved of animals.

Boyfrirend and I took the train up north.  After suffering through the urban debris of Chatsworth and Simi Valley, the train swung towards the coast, and we were able to see the ocean's thumbprint on the sand, the birds running just beyond the sea froth.  For the rest of thte way we traveled around the water, watching the Channel Islands emerge from the blue marine fog as the morning progressed.

We have a favorite cafe in Santa Barbara, where we always have breakfast.  Instead of toast you get a basket of fragrant coffee cake, scones and pastries.  So we reclined outside, watching the foot traffic on the sidewalk slow, as people started to gather on either side of the suddenly empty street.

Something was about to happen.

We saw a single police escort drive by.  Then…after a pause, it started.  A Children's Costume Parade.  Bank after bank of strollers pushed and wagons pulled.  Children – the majority couldn't have been older than five – appeared as pirates, princesses, devils, angels, dragons, dinosaurs.  Strollers were veiled in spider webs.  Wagons were stuffed with hay for tiny farmers.  The Red Barons touched ground, holding onto a cardboard tri-plane.  Two bee-keepers walked by, one holding the smallest of bees, fast asleep.  I saw a wagon edged in turquoise waves with a pretty pearl inside, led by a glittering mermaid:

There were zombies, practicing their walk of the dead:

I saw a cowboy, bound for the North Forty:

A pirate stood at the stern of his ship, on the lookout for the King's navy:

There was a bunny who had escaped her warren to enjoy a bright afternoon's festivities:

But from where had that bunny come?  Well, after watching the parade until the joy was too much to bear, we walked to the celebration, the epic sprawl, the magnificent frenzy…The Santa Barbara Bunny Festival.

Behold…bunny croquet:  reel as Anastasia decides to lay down and graze instead of running the course!  Bunny bowling:  gasp as Zeus strikes down a pin with one pass of his mighty nose!

Shudder at the thought of bets lost, reputations ruined, fortunes destroyed!

Behold…bunnies on display!  Proud owners walked amidst us lower un-bunned types, allowing us to meet their furry compatriots:  Poptart, Emily, Piper!

Spy…on the decadent world of caged bunnies!  Scheming:

disapproving, sleeping, eating!  But don't step inside, lest you become another victim of the dreaded carrot hazing ritual!

Marvel…at the agility of Buster, as he takes stock of his surroundings, decides that a makeshift warren is no place for a handsome champagne-colored bun, and makes his escape!  Shake your head at Buster's bad bunny luck as he lands in the lap of his owner, sleeping in a lawn chair close by.

The excitement.  The swirl of activity.  Boundless, bounding bunnies.  It was all around.

Boyfriend and I visited every stand, watched every competition, observed every corner of the lagomorphic throng.

This BunFest was sponsored by the Santa Barbara chapter of B.U.N.S. (Bunnies Urgently Needing Shelter).  There were bunnies waiting for permanent homes; pretty, pale Cristin was one of them:

It was such a lovely day.  I saw only smiles.

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Card Attack

When it comes to greeting cards I am a terrible, terrible snob.  For just the right one I will search alot, pay alot, and not mind one bit.

So naturally around this time of year, I like to consider that the Greeting

Game Is Afoot.  But this year I was having no luck at all.  Everything I saw either featured illustrations poorly rendered, garish colors or boring 'woodcuts'…oh, how I cursed them!

So I decided that I would make
my own cards.  Why not?  I had
made them before, but had
somehow got out of the habit.  The process is an easy one, and the idea is perfect for a girl who likes to play dress-up:  I simply take a photo of my garish mug (I just go to the nearest precinct), and paste it over the face of someone who takes my fancy; someone I wouldn't mind being for a tiny while.  And I do it old-school:  with scissors, tape and a xerox machine.  (the day I learn to Photoshop, Stonehenge will melt)

This year I found three candidates.   Door #1:  Camille Clifford:  I could be the original Gibson Girl, approaching 6 ft. in height and wear a clinging floor-length gown, which would show off my 14-inch waist to best effect. 

Or I can take a look behind Door #2:  I can take the place of Adolf Meyer-Watson, taking over the costume he wore to the Devonshire House Ball, in 1897.  I would then be able to wear:  "a grey satin tunic elaborately embroidered in steel with ruby velvet trunks".  "Ruby velvet trunks"?  C'mon!

But all doors must be opened.  Door #3:  We would find Margot Asquith, coming to this same Ball as a snake charmer, with a gold snake wrapped around her bodice, a headpiece about to take flight and a spangled white gown.   Which did I choose?  Do you have to asp?

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