Friday, December 18, 2009
Heading into the holiday week
Last weekend the celebration of Hanukkah began. Now it is just seven days until Christmas day, next Friday. I just returned from the Carlisle Post Office having mailed off that box filled with wrapped Christmas presents for our son and his family in Iowa City. It will surely arrive way before December 25. Other members of our family will be stopping by Christmas week for a brief celebration and an exchange of gifts on their way to Vinalhaven, Maine for the holidays.
Over the past several weeks I have been shopping for gifts in Concord, West Concord and in the Acton area. I want to support the businesses in our community, rather than drive to an impersonal mall, miles away. Believe it or not, I found items on sale, even though it was summer clothing. I know I can get a cheaper deal by ordering books on Amazon.com, but I want book stores to survive in my neighborhood, where I can stroll in and take a look at the Mosquito staff recommendations for holiday gift giving, or check out the New York Times “The 10 Best Books of 2009.”
With the downturn in the economy, there is a noticeable effort this year to simplify events and traditions by focusing on the simpler aspects of the holidays. There have been Christmas concerts and pageants galore. A week ago, Dudley Laufman brought his country dance orchestra to town and with Carlisle’s Jack O’Connor on the banjo put on the traditional Christmas Contra Dance evening at Union Hall. What a wonderful way to start the holidays! There have been Christmas cookie exchanges and holiday parties with friends and for many organizations in town. And a Christmas day potluck dinner is planned for 4 p.m. at Union Hall.
There will be church services held Christmas Eve in Carlisle – at the Congregational Church, St. Irene Catholic Church and the First Religious Society. Some are held before and others after the traditional “Caroling on the Common” at 6:15 p.m. For many years, the late Walter Woodward gathered instrumentalists on the Carlisle Common. Those of us who have joined in year after year to sing Christmas carols under that decorated tree on the Common have also had an opportunity to wish our friends and neighbors a “happy holiday” before heading home for the evening. This year Walter’s son David and his grandchildren, Walter and Ema, will be carrying on that tradition. They are eager for other Carlisle musicians to join with them once again, including college and high school musicians who are in town for the holidays.
By 6:45 p.m., when the singing ends, we will head home for that special Christmas Eve meal of Swedish meatballs that our family enjoys, followed by the reading of Dylan Thomas’ “A Child’s Christmas in Wales.” If the winter weather cooperates, there should be cross-country skiing at Great Brook Farm State Park or the Estabrook Woods, and skating on the ponds or maybe the Cranberry Bog. So enjoy the holiday season and here’s wishing you a Happy New Year.
Wait ‘til next year
I already have a hankering for Spring. I know. I know. Winter doesn’t even officially start until next week. Chill out.
It’s not that I have a problem with winter; winter’s fine by me. I like the change of seasons. Especially here in Carlisle, where we get what feels to me like almost perfectly equal doses of each of the four.
But if you asked me today how I feel about the start of winter next week, I’d say “Does it have to?” As far as I’m concerned, winter can wait. Maybe we can work out some sort of a deal: how about six months of winter next year? I’m ready for Spring to start tomorrow.
This is unusual for me. As a rule, I take each season as it comes, when it comes. And when the next one arrives, as it does every three months or so, I notice. I do.
The warm weather clothes go into the bins and get carried to the basement. The leaves fall from the trees and get raked into piles. The light seems to thin out. It gets dark earlier. The mornings get crisp and I turn up the heat a bit. And I almost always remember to turn it down a bit each night before I get into bed. I fill the birdfeeder. Cardinals, slate-colored juncos and pale goldfinches. It snows. I shovel the driveway. It snows again. I shovel the driveway again. We build a fire. Hot soup.
Then one morning the snow is gone. The goldfinches are bright yellow. There’s the lawn again, pale green. There’s work to be done in the garden.
Karen and I have been gradually replacing swaths of lawn around the house with perennial beds – little by little each year since our arrival in Carlisle a decade ago from our previous abode in unplantable midtown Manhattan. This past summer and early fall, I dug up a whole grassy hill out back and replaced it with an elaborately terraced stone planting bed with large stone steps parading down the center, the path dividing halfway along to offer a choice of routes to the bottom. And I crammed small stones and gravel into all the nooks and crannies under the steps in a vain attempt to make the whole assemblage less inviting to the chipmunks and squirrels. Tons of stone, and then at least a ton of topsoil, humus, and composted manure dumped and then carefully raked around and up to the edges of the stone steps. Pretty cool.
With a detailed drawing of the transformed hill, a handful of photos, and a vague idea of what we wanted, we met with a local purveyor of perennials for a wonderful, free, two-hour consult, and drove away with quite a nice planting plan.
Then I noticed it was getting dark earlier. And earlier. I took down the screens. I brought up the bins of cold weather clothes from the basement. I split and stacked some firewood.
And I knew it was too late to plant perennials. I’m hankering for Spring. ∆
© 2009 The