Monday, December 31, 2007

Ring Out, Wild Bells

Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,
The flying cloud, the frosty light;
The year is dying in the night;
Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.

Ring out the old, ring in the new,
Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.

Ring out the grief that saps the mind,
For those that here we see no more,
Ring out the feud of rich and poor,
Ring in redress to all mankind.

Ring out a slowly dying cause,
And ancient forms of party strife;
Ring in the nobler modes of life,
With sweeter manners, purer laws.

Ring out the want, the care the sin,
The faithless coldness of the times;
Ring out, ring out my mournful rhymes,
But ring the fuller minstrel in.

Ring out false pride in place and blood,
The civic slander and the spite;
Ring in the love of truth and right,
Ring in the common love of good.

Ring out old shapes of foul disease,
Ring out the narrowing lust of gold;
Ring out the thousand wars of old,
Ring in the thousand years of peace.

Ring in the valiant man and free,
The larger heart, the kindlier hand;
Ring out the darkness of the land,
Ring in the Christ that is to be.

- Alfred Lord Tennyson

Friday, December 28, 2007

All Creatures Great and Small

My parents have been frustrated lately because all their birds seem to have disappeared over the past few weeks. All summer and fall, the yard was teeming with all kinds of birds. Suddenly, there was not a bird to be seen. They have tried and tried to figure out what's happened, but so far have not found the answer.

I spent the past four days with them and only on the last day did I see any birds at the feeders and in the trees. The second picture here shows about 13 goldfinches in a birch tree. A few minutes later, about twice as many were there. And later, there were about a dozen mourning doves feeding on the ground. An improvement, but not the variety they are used to.

Meanwhile, the family cats have been enjoying all the attention they've been getting from visitors during the holiday. They are, in order, my parents' Maine Coon cat "The Colonel" Joshua Chamberlain, my sister's two Rag Doll cats "Misty" and "Remy," and my two cats "May" and "Teddy."

The last picture is one I took out my car window as I was leaving the grocery store this afternoon. I saw this hawk sitting at the top of a tree surveying the traffic below. I can't imagine he would find anything tasty forf his lunch in such an environment, but it was a treat for these eyes =)

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

God Jul

My father is Norwegian (although born in this country, Brooklyn, NY, to be exact), so any Christmas decorations at my parents' home always include a nod to the home country. Here are a few pictures:

Monday, December 24, 2007

Annie Dillard, a must for every Nature Lover

I found this wonderful quote on another blog called A Painting a Day. There was a link there that said "Read Annie Dillard." Well, I'm a huge Annie Dillard fan, so I couldn't resist the call to read. I clicked on the link and there was this quote. I was so excited. I love Annie Dillard! If you are into nature and have never read her work, you must. I especially love her book "Teaching a Stone to Talk." It's a collection of essays that are just amazing. My favorite is "Living Like Weasels." If you were here, I would sit you down and read it to you. Right now. I read it to all my classes, I've read it to my Bible Study class at church, I think everyone should read it and do my best to make sure that happens =) This quote comes from her Pulitzer Prize-winning book of 1974 (I think).

"There are many things to see, unwrapped gifts and free surprises. The world is fairly studded and strewn with pennies cast broadside by a generous hand. But- and this is the point- who gets excited by a mere penny? If you follow one arrow, if you crouch motionless on a bank to watch a tremulous ripple thrill on the water and are rewarded by the sight of a muskrat paddling from its den, will you count that sight a chip of copper only, and go on your rueful way? It is dire poverty indeed when a man is so malnourished and fatigued that he won't stoop to pick up a penny. But if you cultivate a healthy poverty and simplicity, so that finding a penny will literally make your day, then, since the world is in fact planted in pennies, you have with your poverty bought a lifetime of days. It is that simple. What you see is what you get."

Annie Dillard
from "Pilgrim at Tinker Creek."

Christmasy Nooks and Crannies

There are several reasons I love this time of year. Family gatherings are the single biggest reason, but there are others. Christmasy nooks and crannies are one of them. Last night we were at my middle sister's home for supper and gift-giving (they all came to my place afterwards for hot drinks and gifts) and tonight I am at my parents' in Maine. The pictures here show some of the touches of Christmas in their two homes.

My sister lives in a good-sized home as she entertains quite a bit--mostly church or school gatherings. She and her family are so generous, sharing the comfort and beauty of the home they have created. I like it best, of course, when it's just the family as it was last night. There's room enough for all 11 of us however we want to be...cozy in one room or scattered throughout the rooms. As an interior designer, she has an eye for color and beauty, but as a thrifty New Englander, she also has an eye for a bargain. Her home is elegant, but not extravagant.

My place, by contrast, is very small. There is only one room where we can all gather, with little room for anything else. Books take up most of the space in each room,k so when the whole family comes, it is a close, full room. That's why we eat at my sisters and just have drinks at my place! It's hard to stay out of each other's way...good thing we don't mind being cozy with each other.

My parents' home is spacious, too, with a cathedral ceiling in the living room. My dad is a musician, so there is always music filling the air. Right now, for example, beautiful Christmas music soars through each room, and candles are lit in each window, creating a feeling of warmth and completeness.

Tonight, it will be just the three of us, but tomorrow, the rest of the family will join us and we will laugh and talk and enjoy being together. I look forward to the time with everyone.
But for now, I'll quietly enjoy the nooks and crannies.

A Wish for my Blogger Friends

What is Christmas? It is tenderness for the past, courage for the present, hope for the future. It is a fervent wish that every cup may overflow with blessings rich and eternal, and that every path may lead to peace.
~ Agnes M. Pharo ~

Saturday, December 22, 2007

The Shepherds Had an Angel

Christina Rossetti is one of my favorite English poets. Her poetry is simple, childlike, yet profound. Here is another of her Christmas poems. (Pictures are of the trees on the school grounds and around my condo, taken Friday afternoon.)

The Shepherds had an angel
by Christina Rossetti

The shepherds had an angel,
The wise men had a star;
But what have I, a little child,
To guide me home from far,
Where glad stars sing together,
And singing angels are?

Lord Jesus is my Guardian
So I can nothing lack;
The lambs lie in His bosom
Along life's dangerous track:
The willful lambs that go astray
He, bleeding, brings them back.

Those shepherds thro' the lonely night
Sat watching by their sheep,
Until they saw the heav'nly host
Who neither tire nor sleep,
All singing glory, glory,
In festival they keep.

Christ watches me, His little lamb,
Cares for me day and night,
That I may be His own in heav'n,
so angels clad in white
Shall sing their Glory, glory
For my sake in the height.

Lord, bring me nearer day by day,
Till I my voice unite,
And sing my Glory, glory,
With angels clad in white,
All Glory, glory, giv'n to Thee,
thro' all the heav'nly height.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Dust of Snow

We were supposed to get a mere dusting of snow today. I woke up fully prepared to see just that on my car. I looked out the window and was surprised to see barely a whisper of snow on the windshield. But on my arrival at school by 7 a.m. it had started to snow...and didn't finish until somewhere after 6. All day long, it snowed. A beautiful shaking down of frosty flakes sometimes so think you could barely see. The younger kids ran out joyfully to recess to make snow angels. The older kids begged to go out, too. The pictures were taken early in the day, and, as usual, don't really capture the beauty...

By Robert Frost

The way a crow
Shook down on me
The dust of snow
From a hemlock tree

Has given my heart
A change of mood
And saved some part
Of a day I had rued.

Knitting Obsession

My sister is teaching her Creative Arts students to knit. They are using a beautiful, soft homespun, that makes up so easily. It's been the most amazing thing to see them all over the school, boys and girls alike, knitting scarves!

Even in class, they knit, paying more attention than every before. They knit in the library, in the lobby, in the office, on the train, riding to and from school.

A few have begun a business, selling their handiwork for $15 to earn money for their mission trip this spring. For some, it's been a calming experience, very hypnotic.

I highly recommend it to teachers who have students have are having trouble settling down or using study halls constructively =)

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Christmas Eve

Christmas hath a darkness
Brighter than the blazing noon.
Christmas hath a chillness
Warmer than the heat of June.
Christmas hath a beauty
Lovelier than the world can show:
For Christmas bringeth Jesus,
Brought for us so low.

Earth, strike up your music,
Birds that sing and bells that ring;
Heaven hat answering music
For all Angels soon to sing:
Earth, put on your whitest
Bridal robe of spotless snow:
For Christmas bringeth Jesus,
Brought for us so low.

~Christina Rosetti

Thursday, December 13, 2007

First Major Snow Fall

Treacherous travel. . . Snowfall 2-3 inches an hour. . . Don't go out if you don't have to. . .

Those are the headlines that sent thousands of people home from school and work early today. We closed at noon and were actually able to lock up by 1 p.m. But by then, it was already crazy out there. I cleared off my car on one side, went around and did the other, and then went back to get in the car. Got back to the driver's side and it was already covered again! What is normally a 7-11 minute commute (depending on the lights) turned into an hour crawl.

We're looking at a foot or so, perhaps, with snow continuing until at least 2 a.m. And more coming Saturday evening. Of course kids are hoping for a day off tomorrow, but I am not optimistic about that. Not yet at least. Meanwhile, though, I'm enjoying the view from my living room =)

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

School with a View

These pictures were taken about 8:30 this morning from the front door of our school. I thought the sky was quite amazing. You can't tell, but the trees are covered with ice and the sun shining on the branches was spectacular.

On the other side of the building, where my office is, the male cardinal made his appearance, a brilliant spot of red against the sparse leafless trees. I tried to get a shot of him, but he didn't show up through the window, and from that distance. Not to be a stalker or anything, but I hope to capture him at some point.

I've been thinking about putting up a bird feeder outside my window. I'm afraid, though, that it might get too distracting. Then again, there are moments when I need the distraction =) I'm lucky in the view, summer or winter.

Photos: Looking straight out of the front door; looking to the right towards the entrance to the school; looking to the left towards the English (my) classroom and the playground.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Hand Crafts at Home`

I've recently acquired some pretty handcrafted items, some practical, the others just decorative. They are the kind of thing, though, that just makes me smile when I see them. Two of the towels I found at the Blue Door Peddler in Maine. The other (middle) I found in one of the shops I browsed through in Vermont in October.

The hanky dress came in the mail last week from a long-time friend of mine. She actually sent two. I'm not sure what I will do with them. Perhaps hang them on my tree? I don't know, but they sure are pretty =) (She made them!)

Friday, December 07, 2007

Leaning into the comfort of God

I've been studying A Man for All Seasons with my seniors this week. It's Robert Bolt's account of Thomas More's life and his unwavering devotion to his religion and his God, even in the face of losing his life. I first saw the play live early in my college career and was riveted by the performance. The story has haunted me ever since, and when I started teaching British Literature, I knew it would have to be one of the things I shared with my students.

For context, we first watched an old (1953) black and white movie chronicling the story of Martin Luther. I saw this movie at a church prayer meeting when I was probably 7 or 8. There's a in it scene where Luther is at the Diet of Worms, firmly stating that "I cannot and I will not recant. Here I stand, I can do no other." I love that scene! Sends shivers down my spine even now to think about it. Happily, my seniors responded as I'd hoped they would, and found the story inspiring as well.

Now, they are in the midst of Thomas More's equally inspiring story, although ironically about
staying true to the religion that Luther opposed. The point is not so much the religion as the uncompromising devotion to it. Today, to begin the class, I shared a prayer that More wrote from the Tower of London where he awaited his execution. We found his words uplifting and encouraging, especially the line where he talks about leaning "into the comfort of God's love." I needed to be reminded of that today. I needed to actually do that today, leaning into the comfort of God's love....

Give me the grace, Good Lord

To set the world at naught. To set the mind firmly on You and not to hang upon words of men's mouths.

To be content to be solitary. Not to long for worldly pleasures. Little by little utterly to cast off the world and rid my mind of all its business.

Not to long to hear of earthly things, but that the hearing of worldly fancies may be displeasing to me.

Gladly to be thinking of God, piteously to call for His help. To lean into the comfort of God. Busily to labor to love Him.

To know my own vileness and wretchedness. To humble myself under the mighty hand of God.

To bewail my sins and, for the purging of them, patiently to suffer adversity. Patiently to bear my purgatory here. To be joyful in tribulations. To walk the narrow way that leads to life.

To have the last thing in remembrance. To have ever before my eyes my death that is ever at hand. To make death no stranger to me. To foresee and consider the everlasting fire of Hell. To pray for pardon before the judge comes.

To have continually in mind the passion that Christ suffered for me. For His benefits unceasingly to give Him thanks.

To buy the time again that I have lost. To abstain from vain conversations. To shun foolish mirth and gladness. To cut off unnecessary recreations.

Of worldly substance, friends, liberty, life and all, to set the loss at naught, for the winning of Christ.

To think my worst enemies my best friends, for the brethren of Joseph could never have done him so much good with their love and favor as they did him with their malice and hatred.

These minds are more to be desired of every man than all the treasures of all the princes and kings, Christian and heathen, were it gathered and laid together all in one heap.


Photo from

Saturday, December 01, 2007

The Blue Door

Whenever I visit my parents overnight, I try to stop by the local primitives dealer in the village. The Blue Door is crowded with interesting sights and smells and I like to go there just to see and sniff, if nothing else.

I especially love going there at Christmastime, as there is a theme to the shop, more so than usual. In every nook and cranny, there is something to remind you of Christmas, whether it is a garland, a sign saying "joy" or "peace" or other such greeting, or a Santa doll. You just feel more festive by being there.

My mother and I wandered through last Sunday. I bought a Christmas ornament and some embroidered kitchen towels, but I just as easily could have come home with much more. Only where to put it? That's the dilemma...and why I usually go to look. There's not much that I need, truth to tell. Sometimes just looking is enough.