Friday, December 31, 2010

I hope all your holidays have been filled with momentary -- and lasting -- joys.
As I mentioned a while back, I tend to procrastinate.
So it came to pass that on Christmas Eve, as the sun sank and darkness crept in, I was on our front porch stringing Christmas lights.
To my credit, I had hung the greens and bows many days earlier, so the house looked decked, but only in the daytime. I kept waiting for a semi-balmy day to finish the job, but this December proved a bit stingy with balmy days.
Thanks to detailed instructions my husband engineered a few years ago, stringing the Christmas lights is a pretty straightforward job: Plug in two extensions cords on the left, one on the right. Connect three sets of lights, flip the switch and you're done. 
In theory.
This time around I followed the instructions, plugged everything in and saw … darkness, no rainbow of lights.
I tromped over to the outdoor outlet and checked those button things (known to enlightened others as a ground fault circuit interruptor). 
I pushed the buttons. Several times. 
No lights.
I went back into the house and checked that the outdoor switch was on. It was.
Sigh. I stood perplexed in the dark, and tried to think what the problem could be. Unfortunately there were just too many possibilities: the lights themselves, a plug, an outlet, an extension cord, the switch? My meager electrical knowledge database was … overloaded.
I almost called my husband out to help, but a bit of pride stopped me, along with a little voice that said, "Come on, Cathy. You can do this."
I tromped down the steps once more and tried a last, voodoo-esque move: I unplugged both extension cords and replugged them -- but in the opposite outlet.
Bink! We had Christmas lights! 
I felt downright merry.

Playing with long exposures is fun!
(Our daughter gave me the idea.)

Friday, December 17, 2010

The final days of autumn have a tough act to follow.
After the fireworks of summer and fall foliage, these days leading up to winter are far more subdued.
Even among the browns and grays of early December, flashes of color can still be found.
The flash that stops me every time is a purple one: the tiny magenta berries growing in a nearby front yard. (The bush is appropriately named Beautyberry.)
The orange of pumpkins past still survives, perched on doorsteps, or lolling in the (not so green) grass.
Wild grasses bring out their beige at fall's end. Those soft tufts are so beautiful, especially backlit by the sun.
Green, thankfully, is willing to stick around, and I'm not just talking about pine trees. The other day I was surprised by moss, growing at the bottom of a telephone pole.
Winter is almost upon us, and the colors are fading, but the good news is that they never leave us completely. In the gray times, you just have to work a little harder to see them.
Ah, the universe does love her metaphors.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Seen in passing: a small host of sparrows, gathering beneath the bumper of a car parked at a nearby Wawa. 
They seemed so tiny, with the tail end of the car looming over their feathered heads. Seemingly oblivious, they hopped and pecked, discovering crumbs left behind by a human. I hoped the driver wouldn't come back before they finished their feast.
Winter's coming, the ground is freezing and worms are hard to come by.
I guess a convenience store isn't just for people.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

A memory of last winter.

It's back.
I'm talking about snow season, which apparently doesn't need to wait for winter. For those of us who live near Philadelphia, our first flakes arrived on Thanksgiving morning.
I was out in the yard with our dog when I heard the slight hiss and crackle of frozen rain. I saw a dot of snow in mid-air, but thought, no, that can't be. It's too soon.
I was wrong there. The view from our kitchen window not long after confirmed it: 'Twas snowing -- and hard. As my husband and I looked out into the snow globe, the phone rang. It was my mom, calling from the other side of town, making sure I didn't miss it. (Thanks, Mom.)
We sat at the table and watched the flutters and swirls. My husband especially liked the big, fat flakes, which he said looked like feathers. (I have to give him credit for good imagery.)
Perhaps it's genetic, but I felt compelled to make sure both of our own kids  didn't miss it. In 21st century style, I texted them, and, like good college students everywhere, they were both still asleep. Hey, I tried.
I still remember listening for the school closings on the radio. Years ago they used to read all the names on KYW, though at some point they switched to the number system. (Come on 301, come on 301!)
My mom once put a note on the bathroom door that read something like: Snow day: Go back to bed, you lucky ducks.
Maybe that's why the sight of snow still fills me with happiness. It reminds me of childhood: sledding, making snow angels, climbing mountains left by the plows in the park around the corner, skating on the frozen creek -- and sleeping in on those unexpected days off from school.
Snow can also be a pain: seemingly endless shoveling and scraping; dicey driving; cold, wet mittens and boots; almost frost-bitten fingers.
I don't think about those things when I see those first flakes. I see only pure, clear beauty, and marvel at the wonder of the world. 
'Tis the season.