Tuesday, December 22, 2009

merry christmas.

I prefer winter and fall, when you feel the bone structure of the landscape - the loneliness of it, the dead feeling of winter. Something waits beneath it, the whole story doesn't show.
~Andrew Wyeth

this time, next year.

I am really missing Paris and London lately. Yesterday my husband said, "I wish we were in our little flat" - referencing a flat he rented 3 years ago with a view of the Basilique du Sacré-Cœur.

This photo hangs near our bed so that we see it every day:

I understand it's snowing in Paris this year, but yesterday, three years back, my husband and I got engaged near the Seine river. It was very, very cold and clear and absolutely magical. He proposed on the winter solstice, the darkest day of the year, and we shared a bottle of champagne at a restaurant, funnily enough, called the Equinox.

On that trip, among the Christmas decorations we saw, were these flocked Christmas trees sold on street corners:

As far as I know, these trees were real. There is nothing like a real tree and the smell of pine or fir, which is one reason, I suppose, we've never bought an artificial tree. However, this year we were concerned about being "green" and attempted to buy a live, potted tree. We ran into several hiccups: (1) Local stores had limited quantities and tended to quickly sell out and/or despite all my work at the gym, I couldn't carry the tree without help (dirt is heavy); (2) We would need to find somewhere to donate the tree (I was told school districts were a good place to start); (3) Many of the trees were Juniper, which my husband is allergic to.

So. In the end, my husband went out to find a potted tree that he could carry on his own and came home with a cut tree - a lovely 6-foot Noble Fir. Christmas trees can be recycled and mulched into fertilizer, after all.

However, were I to go artificial next year (and I'm speaking for myself because I'm pretty sure my husband would draw the line at a "cashmere pink" tree), I might be inclined to go all the way, in the spirit of the Parisians, with one of these tinsel trees (sold at Target):

Or, to be really crazy, how about a tinsel palm tree?

Or, and I think my favorite, are these aluminum, vintage trees, which can be found on ebay.

I've seen some more modern versions in people's windows that are just frames strung with lights. A bit austere, but pretty at night.

And, I have to say, I missed out on the Bay Leaf wreath this year, but... not next year. This one is from Williams-Sonoma:

Friday, December 18, 2009

warmest winter wishes.

(As seen on Rachel Ashwell's Shabby Chic blog)

When the propensity for excitement is high, so too is the possibility for disappointment. I generally like holidays and having some tradition. It mixes things up. And the holidays provide a good excuse to be both more decadent and more restrained, and also more charitable.

I have been trying since December 1st to get a Christmas tree and, for various reasons, we still we do not have one. And we missed my company holiday party. And, with my holiday card plan foiled, I am still scrambling to send out a helter-skelter mix of holiday cards.


I got a non-holiday card in the mail the other day that reminded me why I love greeting cards: a card that is sent when one isn't expected, hand-written with a very specific message. It made my day, and if that's not holiday spirit, I don't know what is.

So the holidays aren't going as planned. But in lieu of a tree and decorations, we've been doing wintery, cozy things like staying in to watch movies and cooking elaborate dinners. Instead of Christmas music I've taken up opera. Maria Callas on sunny, cold mornings. And (ahem, dear husband), there has not been a hot buttered rum to speak of, but that will soon be remedied. I haven't found Christmas where I was looking for it, but all things said and done, there has been plenty of cheer. Happy holidays.

Friday, December 11, 2009

in print.

I currently have a short story in Slush Pile literary magazine: here.

My husband calls it my "sci-fi story," although for people who truly love science fiction, it will probably be a disappointment. I was hesitant to put it out into the world because it's different than other things I'm writing or have written. The story deals with the hypothetical disappearance of birds in the nearish future.

The truth is, I read far more short stories than newspaper articles, for better or worse, and I learn things (or don't) in each. For me, the one begets the other. The process of writing often prompts me to begin researching, to learn new things about the world, and to look closer, sometimes, than I otherwise would.

While I was writing, I came across this digital illustration by Fooka Designs, entitled "No Place to Call Home":

The print hangs above my desk.

But the original inspiration for my story came from this article by Jonathan Franzen: Letter from the Yangtze Delta, “The Way of the Puffin” in the April 21, 2008 edition of The New Yorker. In the essay, Franzen goes to China to inspect a factory that makes toys but notes, along the way, how few birds he is able to spot. Somehow that sparked something in me, an "Imagine if" sort of scenario. I was mostly amusing myself at the time, but when I got to be more serious about it, I had a hard time tempering an imaginative vision of the future world with what might actually be possible. At times I felt I was under-doing it, and at other times, going overboard.

But just this last week, my husband sent me this link to photos of pollution in China, and they are as terrible and sad as you might imagine they would be - for the environment, and for the people. My story is not really about industrialism or environmentalism, and it's not meant to be political or advance any sort of agenda. That said, I want to include these other links because they're examples of real reportage of things really happening.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

send a card to soldiers overseas.

Regardless of your politics, this is a pretty nice thing to do.

The Xerox Let's Say Thanks Program takes cards designed by children and lets you select and personalize one, which Xerox then prints and sends to a member of the US Armed Forces. The process is very, very easy. All they ask is to enter your first name, city & state, and to select from one of quite a few pre-written messages of thanks.

It's not a Christmas card, and you may lean fervently toward pacifism (as I do), but my brother served in the Navy, and risked his life at times, and I am very thankful for his service and his safety.