Monday, December 31, 2012


Another year has run it course and had it way with us, and is speedily trickling away. The bottom-line bean-counter types say now is the time to tally up. Make an honest assessment of the situation. Add the pluses, subtract the minuses. Get a perspective on your personal progress. 

Hmmm. Well, why not? I've never listened much to such folks, but you never know…for once they could be onto something. I'll have a go.

Let's see…

I'm no richer. No wiser. Nor a whit more talented. 

[Excuse me a minute, I have to go down the hall to check this out.………………Okay, I'm back.]

Nope, I looked in the mirror. No better looking, either. Didn't think so. Just the same old mug. Dang!

I am a birthday older—but I quit counting that as a positive once I'd turned 21.

On the other hand, I'm still on the sky side of the grass, which in my book is the positive that trumps everything. Moreover, I don't yet need to wear adult diapers, can clip my own toenails, and regularly feed myself soup from a spoon without dribbling any more on my shirt than I did at age 21…even less, in fact, because I now often do the wash and know how difficult is to get those greasy spots out of cotton fabric, so I'm more careful eating.     

I also know God, Myladylove, my daughter, and Moon-the-Dog all love me, in spite of my countless faults—and I truly love them all right back with all my heart.

And speaking of hearts, my own received a new metronome this May which has made a world of difference—starting with the obvious fact I'm still here to witness another passage from one year to the next. For that I'm grateful beyond words.

Though I won't bore you with their itemization, let me just finish by saying my 2012 personal checklist is simply awash with positives, overflowing with good stuff, bounteous with blessings. And that handful of "didn't get" negatives are too few and too unimportant to be worth thinking about.


Tuesday, December 25, 2012


Joy to the world!

For unto us was born this day
In the city of David,
A Saviour
Which is Christ
The Lord!

Christmas is here!

Glory to God in the highest!
And on earth, peace,
Good will toward men.

From my home to yours,
May your celebration be blessed,
Your gifts be many,
And your life be filled with joy!

And may the spirit of this day
Carry throughout the coming year!

Friday, December 21, 2012


The solstice passed earlier this morning, meaning winter has now officially arrived. But the real news is that in an uncommon natural synchronization worthy of any saccharine Christmas movie from the Hallmark Channel, the weather decided to cooperate by matching the new season with our first real snowfall. 

Not much snow, mind you—something less than two inches. A few additional flakes do keep whirling around out there, but unless these light flurries increase, there'll be no making a snowman, and you'd be hard-pressed to mount much of a snowball fight.    

Still, Moon-the-Dog and I couldn't be happier, since we both love snow and will take all we can get—though a certain member of the household was heard to mutter a few less enthusiastic words as she bustled through breakfast and all those complicated distaff-side details apparently involved in getting ready for work. Of course much of her mood's tone might have been due to the fact she had to be at her office desk a half-hour early in order to participate in a conference call among the bank's various branch managers. In the mysterious way Myladylove reasons through and applies such time-shifts to her personal schedule—which, naturally, becomes my schedule, as I'm first to arise, in order to have our breakfasts ready when she gets up—arriving a half-hour early at work necessitates a full extra hour at home in order to get going.

In case you're wondering, I've asked how such time increases always become so exponential on our end of the equation. I've asked, oh yes indeed, more than once. However, the only answer I've received is one of those female-patented looks which conveys the notion that not only is the answer obvious, but that failure to recognize its logic suggests a flaw in cognitive methodology, and may, in fact, indicate a more serious lack of capability.  

The up side is that an hour early for her means no more than an extra ten minutes for me, since I seldom sleep later than 6:00 a.m.—and only bother setting an alarm clock if I need to get up before 5:00 a.m.

This first snow was preceded by rain yesterday—apparently rather heavy rainfall to the north of here, as the river has been on the rise and getting more discolored all morning. The picturesque view above has changed considerably as the water's come up and muddied. Tomorrow and Sunday are supposed to be sunny, with more rain Monday, and partial clouds on Christmas Day. Which means Moon and I had better get our snowy rambles in today.   


Tuesday, December 18, 2012


Yes…it is really, really, REALLY and intentionally this red!

Here are the promised shots of the front-door redo…and for Robin, a shot of the Christmas tree and a few decorations.

Scotch pine, 9-plus feet, with droopy star.
Otherwise, we're as rushed as ever trying to keep up…still shopping nightly and every other available minute (but almost done!), mailing packages off to distant kin, adding to lists, checking things twice, being as yet undecided what to buy for one another, and not quite to the point of even thinking about food for the upcoming celebration meals—all the while trying our best amid the glorious melee to not allow everything to become all work and no play, and watch the holidays zoom past without really enjoying them.

Droopy star.

Not the always easiest line to keep. 

Is it possible to be having a good time while being frantically exhausted?
The week's real news was a beaver in the Cottage Pool the other morning. A rare treat. I spotted it swimming along the bank, just beyond the stone steps leading down to the water's edge. It's the first beaver I've seen hereabouts in months.

I'd taken Moon out for her morning constitutional just after dawn, and while she did her business, ambled over to look at the river. The beaver was practically at my feet, and didn't seem too concerned—just gave me rather speculative look, and doubtless decided I posed no threat, given my early-morning dishevelment and the desperate clutch I had on my coffee mug, as if I were still barely a sip away from falling asleep on my feet.
My favorite ornament.

Beavers are apparently wise critters…


Tuesday, December 11, 2012


For the second time in the past few days, a Carolina wren has flown into the cottage and found itself trapped. Neither time did we actually see the little bird dart inside. Last's night's visit was only realized some minutes after the fact, though I should have known something was afoot—er, a'wing—after glancing down the hallway from the kitchen and noticing a couple of small woven baskets, which usually sit on a high shelf, scattered on the floor near the back door.

Huh? I thought to myself. Wonder how they got knocked off?

At that moment  I was busy keeping a close eye on a tray of Bruschetta toasting under the broiler. Timing is critical when doing Bruschetta, with perfect browning and bitterly burnt being a matter of mere seconds apart. My supper creations—slices of fresh Vienna bread, rubbed with garlic, salted and peppered, drizzled with olive oil, and topped with bits of cheese, bacon, and chopped veggies—were moments from their delectable completion…and therefore there was simply not time to puzzle over the oddity of the fallen baskets.

Then Myladylove toodled down the hallway and turned left into the laundry room to check the dryer. "Eeeeek!" she yelled, executing a dandy Olympic-class backpedal from a half-squat position into the hall. "There's a bird in here!"

"Probably a wren," I said, flipping on the oven light for a bread check: Thirty more seconds. "You're safe," I added, because while Myladylove is not exactly afraid of birds, she can be disconcerted when meeting one unexpectedly in close proximity.

"Get in here and let this thing out! Now!"

"Just another minute," I said, stalling for the sake of the Bruschetta…and, I must confess, for the entertainment of watching a full-grown woman doing the quick-step avoidance waltz. Which is, I think, an odd reaction from a gal who's spent much of her life outdoors, often camping and living ruggedly, including a few years on an Alaskan island where a trip to bathe in a nearby stream necessitated carting a suitable firearm along as well as soap and towel, just in case a grizzly wandered by. But you'd have thought it was a bloodthirsty pterodactyl she was playing dodge-'em with instead of a half-ounce wren. 

"NOW! This bird will poop in the house!"

"That'd mean the Mayans got it right, I guess," I said. Perhaps it wasn't so much mild phobia as good housekeeping causing the impromptu comedy.

"I have no idea what you're talking about," she said, as I came to rescue both her and the wren—after first, of course, taking my Bruschetta from the oven.

"Poop," I said, grinning as I passed around her in the hall. "I'm referring to the possibility of the wren pooping inside. That happens—and I'd say it's more like a probability, given the way you've been frightening the poor bird with all your didoes and yelping—and sounds to me like you think we'd be looking at the end of the world…meaning the Mayans called it."

My writing room is located directly at the end of the hall across from the laundry. The wren had been flitting from one to the other. "Which way?" I asked Myladylove. She pointed right. I looked in my workroom toward the desk. The wren was sitting atop the Mac; no poop on the screen that I could see. The bird saw me and flew up onto a wire shelf adjacent to the printer. I picked up a camera and snapped a quick shot. The wren flew onto the floor and hopped under the desk.

I stepped out, crossed the hall, turned the laundry room's lights off, then turned the interior hall light off, opened the back door, and turned the outside light on. "You stay there," I told Myladylove, "and herd the wren back down the hall should it head your way."

The wren was perched on the fireplace mantle when I reentered my workroom. The bird didn't seem too frightened. Black eyes gave me a sharp, quizzical scrutiny. "You need to head back to the roost," I explained. The wren flew across the room to the wall of built-in bookcases, where it sat, still keeping me in close watch. "Out this door and turn right," I said, stepping back to be less in the way of the flight path to the back door.

And in a sudden whirr of wings, the tiny Carolina wren was up and out…and gone.

But probably not for long. I'm sure the accidental visits occur because it's electing to roost in the stone cottage's deep and thus protected back door inset. Whenever one of us goes out, the open door and flicked-on porch light prompts the startled wren to fly the wrong way, into the house. That's usually the scenario with visiting wrens. Almost certainly, we'll be shooing the bird out again before too long.

At least I hope so. Carolina wrens are one of my favorite birds.  However, I can't say those sentiments are exactly shared by every member of the household.          


Friday, December 7, 2012


The chickadees have been at my window feeder since dawn. Occasionally they're joined by goldfinches, house finches, titmice, nuthatches, and house sparrows. And from time to time a red-bellied woodpecker flaps in with a ratchety-squawk, proprietorially shoos everyone else away, furtively gobbles a seed or two, then bolts like a burglar surprised while filching the silverware.

While that goodwill Christmas spirit of fellowship and charity may be strengthening daily in most of us, beneath the ol' red-bellied's natty black-and-white houndstooth-checker waistcoat and sporty crimson skullcap, beats a heart as miserly as Ebenezer Scrooge's before Marley came clanking up the steps. I'm thinking a close scare from one of the neighborhood cats that sometimes stalk through the yard, and maybe a few feather-curling sips of strong eggnog, might do that grumpy bird a world of good…which doesn't, I suppose, put my own Christmas spirit in the most magnanimous light.

It's dark and drizzly outside and the weatherman says we'll have rain for the next few days—at least through the weekend. Not cold, just wet. Which is fine, since our time will be spent gift shopping and decorating the Scotch pine we cut down and brought home Wednesday afternoon. We do have some decorations in place already, but for me, it isn't until the tree is up, trimmed with countless ornaments, colored lights, yards of sparkling garland, and glittering icicles, plus the glowing star topper, that the house really seems truly ready for Christmas.

For now, I have a stack of Christmas CDs I'm feeding into the player and the house is filled with beloved music. I put a pot of chili together earlier that's delectably simmering very slowly on the stove. I also have a column to write—though it's deadline isn't until next week—and a few touches on the new woodstove hearth to complete, which means, first, a trip to the big-box hardware store. At the moment, while waiting for a UPS delivery before I leave, I've decided to give into the urge to bake something…the question being, what? Bread to eat with the chili? Or cookies or cake for dessert?

Maybe, if that UPS truck doesn't show up right away, both.  


Sunday, December 2, 2012


I love the Christmas season in its entirety—from carols to fruitcake, gift-shopping to tree-trimming…all the music and fragrance and bustle. But most of all I love the feeling—that mood of joy and wonder and compassionate goodness which, in spite of greedy commercialism at every turn, somehow yet takes hold of our human heart to steadily draw us toward a place greater than ourselves, where desire and purpose becomes interwoven with the divine. 

For me, Christmas is all about that journey renewed—an annual arc through time and memory, faith and belief, spirit and blessings and love; a passage from darkness into light, following along a sweet and familiar path, to a destination that is home. 

Today is the first day of Advent, the initial step along the road to Christmas. Seeking to mark that seasonal pilgrimage, and as a way of sharing this ongoing celebration, I decided to post a daily card, each with a photo and quote. I hope you enjoy this Riverdaze countdown.