Thursday, December 21, 2023

Merry Christmas 2023

 In the middle of wrapping presents and listening to good music, I realized it was time to wish you all a deeply peaceful and joyful Christmas. So... welcome!

The big tree near our front door had to be taken out this year. It was sad to see it go, but a small one now stands in its place. Time will fill it in. Sometimes the best gifts come in small packages, and luckily the size of the package does not limit the amount of hope it carries. Hope soars. Hope radiates at Christmas.

And do you see the star in front of the bush?  That star used to top our big tree.  I decided it could shine its light where it is, hung on a small metal post. Our new tree isn't ready for it yet, but the star still glows. "The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it."

We won't put up a tree this year, but I'm decorating the house with some of my favorite ornaments.  Love is at the heart of Christmas, tree or no tree. 

For the past several years, the telling of the 1914 truce titled All is Calm on PBS, sung by an extraordinary men's choir, has been one of my Christmas highlights.  Watch for it! I recommend it to you wholeheartedly.  

My wish for all of you is in the poem below, with my thanks to Linda Mitchell for creating the perfect star for the top of my poet-tree.  


time of year

presents a mystery

That out of darkness

comes a ray of light...A

time to dream, to gather family

To tell the holy tale of that first night

To hug a child and sing to heart's delight

To feast and laugh and bask in family lore

May all these yuletide blessings find your door.

@Karen Eastlund


It is Poetry Friday, and you can find all the Poetry Friday gang at Jone's... click HERE.  

Thanks so much for hosting, Jone!  

Constructive comments welcome! 

Thursday, December 7, 2023

Leaning into the Dark

 Welcome to another Spiritual Journey Thursday, a group that gathers monthly to share insights into our spiritual lives.  Thanks to Jone Rush MacCulloch for hosting this month, and for offering these prompts:

How do you honor/embrace this time of darkness?
Where do you find the points of light in your life?
Find Jone's thoughts and links HERE.

In many ways, darkness is my friend. I have been avoiding direct sunlight for a number of years, and I've come to value the night for its quiet shroud of mystery and beauty. I'm relieved at the summer solstice, when days begin to grow shorter. The hardest time of the year for me is late spring and summer. It's become a joke that I'm always in these clunky dark glasses, so in a moment of solidarity my grands and I made this photo. It always makes me smile.

Recently we rented a house on a quiet lake in the Adirondacks. The first night it rained, but the next two nights were beautiful: the clear deep blue allowed me to see the Milky Way. Have you seen it?  What overwhelming beauty and depth! Its great clusters of stars are both inspiring and humbling. Who am I in comparison? I think we lose this perspective under city lights.  I was so drawn to the dark world that I slept on a couch on the screen porch, looking at the stars and listening to loons and owls. Temperatures dipped into the 40s, but still it felt glorious. Restorative.

It's ironic that the dark allows us to see more stars, and it also points to another truth. We need a time of shadow or darkness in order to appreciate and filter the barrage of the day's events. We need to mull, to let our minds go dark and see what surfaces. Times of dark can facilitate that.

In Genesis there are two days of creation dedicated to appointing and separating the dark and the light. Two days! And God saw that it was good. Night is provided for rest, prayer, mulling and creating

Before the onset of industry and electricity, the darker seasons offered extended time to rest and reflect. Like a seed in the earth, these times were good for germination. At night people gathered
 around a fire as they mended nets, laughed, hugged and told stories. 

Nighttime is still story time, still the weaver of dreams. Many of our favorites feature the night, all the way from Good Night Moon and Owl Babies to Little House in the Big Woods and Something Wicked This Way Comes, stories help us address the challenge and fear of darkness and find a way to endure it.  

Professor A. Roger Ekirch wrote At Day's Close: Night in Times Past, which I've started but not finished. One interesting claim is that the "oldest occupation" is not prostitution, as we've often been told, but instead is night watchman. We have to admit that night demands precautions and can be a trial for many of us. I'm not immune.

Whether you light a candle in the dark or go out to look at the moon, I hope you will find some way to be comfortable in the darkness. Maybe we should practice night vision, searching for night's beauty. If we allow our eyes to adjust and our spirits to be willing, who knows what we will find?

Finally, no matter our attitude, some nights can seem too long. Remember that Christ declared, "I am Light of the World." Remember the Gospel of John reassures us with this powerful statement:
John 1:5  The light shined in the darkness and the darkness did not overcome it. 

May it be so.

Friday, December 1, 2023

Poem written for David Wiesner's Tuesday

 Hello and welcome to Poetry Friday, where children's poets, teachers, and librarians gather to have some poetic fun. Today's gathering is hosted by Anastasia Suen, who shares a lovely poem about first snow. Find her and the rest of the group HERE.  

Recently I decided to use Tuesday by David Wiesner as my prompt.  I was culling through my collection of children's books when reminded of a certain young student, doubled up with laughter, over this book. It is a gem.  

I admit to some pride in this artist because David Wiesner graduated from Bridgewater Raritan High School... our own local high school. Wiesner bloomed on my radar when I was working as a children's librarian in Raritan, when I learned that he won three Caldecott Awards:  Tuesday in 1992, The Three Pigs in 2002, and Flotsam in 2007. Amazing!

Tuesday tells a story in pictures, a tale of considerable mystery and mirth. It is a great conversation starter for you and your children or students, and indeed it was a good prompt for me.

Eerily, eerily
Out of the marshlands
Frogs rise on lily pads
Lift to the sky
Warily, warily,
People look up to see
Frogs flying everywhere
No one knows why

Finally, Finally
On goes the mystery
Snackers and canines and
Cops on the beat
Rescuers mutter and
Lily pads litter and
Something suggests 
There may be a repeat

        © Karen Eastlund

Find Tuesday on Amazon to see several video reviews to further whet your appetite.  Even though published in 1992, it is still available. Highly recommended, this book deserves a place on your bookshelf.

Happy December, everyone!