The last snowflakes of the Blizzard of 2016 (aka Winter Storm Jonas) fell five days ago, on Saturday evening. According to careful measurements by my husband and daughter, we got about twenty-eight inches. Most of the snow remains very much with us, in far less attractive configurations than the graceful, pristine drifts in which it fell.
Last winter brought frequent snows to Northern Virginia, as my ten snow day posts of 2015 attest. (See here and here.) But we haven’t had a truly stupendous snow event in five years. In December 2009 and February 2010 we were treated to nearly back-to-back blizzards. My daughter has been wishing for a similarly substantial storm ever since. She likes her snow measured in feet. She delights in tossing out the expected routines of daily life for all-consuming, all-day snow play and management. To her credit, she pitches in with the digging out. And the inconveniences that massive snows may bring: they’re simply part of the adventure. What she recalls most distinctly about our loss of electricity during the 2010 storm was using the grill to melt butter for birthday cake icing.
Here she is, barely visible atop a snow mountain at the Reston Town Center after the February 2010 storm.
And, after the more recent storm, atop a snow pile in the parking lot of a local shopping center. I guess she’ll always love to climb snow piles.
On a snow mound at our house during the Blizzard of 2010.
And two days ago, with Kiko on a similar mound in the same place, after the latest storm. Big Snow, happy kid.
Christmas Eve is here again. Much like last year, the day is wet, cloudy, and unseasonably warm. It’s time again for the live nativity at our church. The baby Jesus, of course, is the real star of the show, but he’s small. The camel, however, is quite large, and he tends to be the traffic-stopper. Last year, our camel was not Samson, who was busy elsewhere, but his colleague Zeke. Zeke enjoyed kneeling in the mud, and he therefore appeared in many selfies.
Kiko had the privilege of meeting Zeke, since the camel leaned down for a hello sniff. The year before, Samson stood so tall and aloof that Kiko never seemed to notice him.
We also welcomed this little ox and burro, as well as a sheep and a goat. I’m hoping we’ll see the whole gang again today.
If you have the opportunity to experience a live nativity in your area, I advise you not to miss it. The shepherds and kings may be rag-tag; the baby Jesus may be a doll; Mary and Joseph may be played by a teenaged brother and sister. With luck, there will be a few real animals. I hope you get to meet a camel, an elegant and surprisingly sweet regal creature.
Give the humble tableau a chance, and perhaps, unexpectedly, your heart will be touched. The make-shift nativity could speak to you of a God who turns the world upside down, who sent his own Son to live among us, in the mud and grit, to suffer and die, just as we must do, to wipe away our sin and invite us into the heavenly fold. There is a chance that you might be overwhelmed by a sense of majesty. Stranger things have happened, after all, on Christmas.
May you rejoice in the off-key songs of the tinsel-haloed angels with their awkward cardboard wings. May you feel the power of the light in the darkness, the divine, holy light that will never be extinguished. No matter what. No matter what. Amen.
For a previous Christmas Eve post, with more about that light in the darkness, see here.
To all those serving our country now and in the past, at home and far away, during peacetime and war, we thank you. As for those of us who haven’t walked in your boots, may we never take your bravery, your selflessness and your sacrifice for granted. Let’s honor our veterans this day and every day.
Today, we’re back to sunshine. Yesterday’s continuous rain failed to wash away fall’s colors; it simply spread them around with an artistic flair. The weather is mild. It’s a perfect day to be outside, enjoying October.
It’s a day that makes me a bit nostalgic for my daughter’s younger years. If she were seven or eight, we might be heading to Cox Farms after school. This family-owned farm puts on a fall festival that really is fun for most ages. It’s one of our favorite local traditions. We discovered it with a group of friends we met through D’s preschool.
If you live in a suburban or semi-rural area, you probably have a place like this nearby. In Princeton, there was Terhune Orchards, which my husband and I enjoyed. If something similar existed in Atlanta when I was growing up in the 70s, we didn’t know about it. Lucky for me, I didn’t know what I was missing. Lucky for my daughter, she didn’t have to miss it.
Cox Farms is a low-tech, homespun, rough-around-the-edges place, just as a farm should be. As a preschooler, one of my daughter’s favorite “rides” involved rolling down a hill inside a big pipe. There are mischievous goats to feed, various baby farm animals to admire, a cow to milk, and lots of hand-painted folk-artsy plywood signs. Naturally, there are pumpkins, apples, cider and kettle corn. On weekends there might be a bluegrass band.
There’s lots of hay: hay mountains to climb, hay bale forts to explore and tunnel through. Of course there’s a hayride, during which aliens and assorted odd but non-threatening creatures appear. There are many slides, some of which are quite steep. When we first started going to Cox Farms, D was afraid to attempt any of the slides on her own, so we went down them together. That’s when I found out how much fun a fun slide can be. Apparently, I was slide-deprived (as well as fall-festival deprived) as a child.
Our daughter’s first-choice activity was the rope swing with a drop into a foam pit. One doesn’t often get a chance to brag on a child’s rope swing skills, but I must say she had excellent form and always managed to sail to a far corner of the pit. The two photos above are from consecutive years, the first in 2006, the second in 2007. Evidently D’s fall festival uniform consisted of a pink shirt and blue jeans.
For several years when our daughter was in elementary school, we had an annual fall festival meet-up with former preschool friends, a brother and sister, and their dad. It was one of the highlights of the season.
Our every visit to Cox Farms ended with the careful picking of a “free” patch pumpkin. D has always delighted in the perfect pumpkin.
It’s been several years since we’ve done the fall festival. But our daughter is now a regular attendee at “Fields of Fear,” held at Cox Farms on weekend nights for older kids and adults. It includes the Cornightmare, the Dark Side Hayride and the Forest: Back 40. As of this year, she and her friends can even drive themselves.
But at the end of the night, D still picks out a little patch pumpkin.
Early last week it appeared likely that the great beauty of the season had passed. I hadn’t been looking, and I’d missed it.
But my pessimism was unwarranted. Just look!
I understand how Ebenezer Scrooge must have felt, awakening after his ghostly visitations, to realize with elation that he hadn’t slept through Christmas. Scrooge hadn’t missed that momentous, holy day, and I haven’t missed this spectacular season. The sudden, gloomy cold snap didn’t last. Fall is still here, at least for a few more days. And recently, it’s been as brilliant and colorful as it should be.
I don’t have to drive to the mountains or down to the Valley to appreciate the show. Fall is playing just outside my windows. The view down the street, with the trees arching overhead, can hold its own next to any grand sight.
You probably have equally glorious views close to home, too.
Don’t forget to look.
The show is on now, but it’s a limited engagement!
Four years ago, I wrote my first Wild Trumpet Vine post. Like the plant for which it’s named, Wild Trumpet Vine perseveres. There are dry spells, but it hangs on. It’s grown deep roots, and it keeps me rooted to the real, keeps me on track in a world of smoke, dead ends, and mirrors. Life is fragile. Let’s look, live, and love while we can.
Thanks for reading! For more on why I write, see here.
I’d thought I was done with the Key West posts. But then I remembered the manatee mailboxes, and the little blue truck that appears to have spent time on the ocean floor, the toothy back yard sculpture, and a few more oddities. I saw these as I wandered the city’s quiet neighborhoods during our winter visit. They’re among the many sights that evoke the quirky spirit and laid-back humor of this unique place.
On our walk home from Duval Street on New Year’s Eve, we passed this cast concrete postal manatee dressed to party.
A few streets away, on the first morning of 2015, another manatee mailbox balanced a Happy New Year beer can on its head.
In this shady front yard, a creature left over from Halloween, or a year-round ghost?
Gracing a white-columned porch, a Christmas wreath adorned with starfish, crabs and lobster.
No guard dogs needed for this gated compound.
The “Don’t Dredge on Me!” truck, ornamented with all manner of sea creatures, some painted, some three-dimensional, for a diverting, barnacle-encrusted appearance. It protests the proposed and hotly debated dredging of the Key West Harbor Channel for the purpose of allowing even larger cruise ships to dock.
In a classic Key West contrast, the truck, a sort of rolling folk art diorama, is parked in front of this neat white Gothic revival church. The historic Cornish Memorial AME Zion Church, built in 1903, is named for the freed slave who started the church in 1864.
Something that does not belong in a post on the whimsical eccentricities of Key West is the Celebrity Constellation, pictured above, in port during our visit. I include it here only in reference to the little truck that speaks out against harbor dredging. Could there be a need for bigger cruise ships in Key West? Isn’t this ship too big already? Most locals dread the sight of thousands of cruise ship passengers descending regularly upon their island city. But here’s what you’d think would make the proposal a certain no-go: the Channel is located in the protected area of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. It appears ludicrous to argue that dredging could be anything but harmful to marine life and water quality, although proponents jump through hoops in attempts to minimize the impact. While the city voted “No” last year to a feasibility study on dredging, the question is not yet completely settled. May the message of the “Don’t Dredge on Me” truck be heard, loud and clear. And heeded.
Perhaps as well-known as the Hemingway House cats, freely roaming roosters and chickens, and the art they inspire, are a common sight in Key West.
I’m not sure what the artist of this back yard assemblage intended, but I see a pitcher plant monster on legs of tree branches. As Audrey II demanded in Little Shop of Horrors: “Feed me, Seymour!”
The Key West Airport is tiny and charming. On our next visit, we’ll be flying (not driving) in as well as out.
A blog about motherhood, marriage and life: the joys and frustrations, beauty and absurdity, blessings and pain. It's about looking back, looking ahead, and walking the dog.