Posted in Life, photography

What’s been missing

large indoor events
flights to another destination
trips out of state
family gatherings
weddings and receptions
city tours
church and family holidays

“Jeez, have I been missing out on living because I’ve let my fear drive every single choice I’ve ever made?”~ Rebecca Raisin, Rosie’s Travelling Tea Shop

© 2021

Posted in Life, pandemic life

Running on empty

There’s an old saying – “in like a lamb, out like a lion” – used to describe weather conditions for the first day of March, which happened to be yesterday.

Well, March arrived at our empty nest without making up its mind. Sometimes a lamb, a little mild with some sunshine and no storms. But sometimes a lion with windy, chilly temperatures and even a bit of snow flakes flying around.

Even so, much to our anticipation, spring feels like it’s on its way, so we hope. And we’re also hopeful that the “you know what” may be on its way out. May it be so.

But just yesterday, I complained a bit to Papa that I’m uninspired, especially when it comes to ideas for writing blog posts.  My blog fodder fuel tank is dangerously low. I’m running on empty.

And that’s when the lyrics to a Jackson Browne song started playing in my mind’s jukebox.

“Running on – running on empty
Running on – running blind
Running on – running into the sun
But I’m running behind.”

I couldn’t remember all of the lyrics to Running On Empty, but the chorus above proved fresh in my mind just like it was 1977 when that song was released. When I researched the lyrics, those words seemed to fit our predicaments right now because of the “you know what” we’ve endured for a year.

I thought I’d examine those lines and share my thoughts on them.

“Looking out at the road rushing under my wheels
Looking back at the years gone by like so many summer fields…”

When you reach a certain age of maturity, like Papa and I are, you do realize time is rushing by – under your wheels – and you start reminiscing about the past.

Just lately, Papa and I have been sharing stories of our childhoods and teenage years as well as remembrances about our parents and grandparents with each other because we met as young adults and, believe it or not, there are still stories we didn’t know about one another. Those anecdotes have provided laughs yet also caused us to be reflective and we’ve honestly enjoyed our chats on this subject.

“Gotta do what you can just to keep your love alive
Trying not to confuse it with what you do to survive…

I don’t know when that road turned onto the road I’m on…”

We’ve even revisited some not-so-pleasant experiences we’ve encountered in our 40 plus years of married life and wondered how we landed on that road we were on – when it seemed like the circumstances of life kept us running on empty. But instead of driving us apart, talking those over have drawn us closer. Keeping our love alive is so vital, especially now.

“Everyone I know, everywhere I go
People need some reason to believe
I don’t know about anyone but me
If it takes all night, that’ll be all right
If I can get you to smile before I leave.”

In our current circumstances still thwarted by the “you know what,”  don’t we all need some reason to believe that this will end, that life will resume some semblance of normalcy, that we will overcome fear, hopelessness, depression, anxiety, you name whatever is concerning you?  

“Looking out at the road rushing under my wheels
I don’t know how to tell you all just how crazy this life feels
I look around for the friends that I used to turn to to pull me through
Looking into their eyes I see them running too.”

Life in the last year has been crazy for everyone across the globe. It’s been incredibly difficult, it’s been disheartening, it’s been downright scary for so many. We have all been running on empty, running blind, running behind just as those song lyrics remind us.

Running on – running on empty
Running on – running blind
Running on – running into the sun
But I’m running behind

(Lyrics to the song Running On Empty written by Jackson Browne)

But the lyrics also state as the writer/singer runs on, he also is running into the sun. The sun that shines into our darkness.

And you know what? That evokes hope in my heart. Running into the sun. Running into spring. Running into a change in not just the weather, but a change in our situation, a change in our predicament, a change for the better. Let’s run into that!

As a believer in Christ, I know exactly where that change needs to take place. In my own heart. In my prayers. In my outlook on life. In my hope and faith in the One who delivers us from evil. His name is Jesus Christ and He is my game changer, the One who fills my tank with confidence, encouragement, and inspiration  when I’m running on empty.

“Keep going, one foot in front of the other, millions of times. Face forward and take the next step. Don’t flinch when the road gets rough, you fall down, you miss a turn, or the bridge you planned to cross has collapsed. Do what you say you’ll do, and don’t let anything or anyone stop you. Deal with the obstacles as they come. Move on. Keep going, no matter what, one foot in front of the other, millions of times.” ~ Marshall Ulrich, Running on Empty

© 2021

Posted in Life, photography

Words for Wednesday: good weather

This time of year when winter’s icy fingers hold us in its grasp and on top of it all, we are still oppressed by the ‘you know what’, I’m finding that my inspiration for writing is a tad absent of late.

No travel. No new sights to see. No fresh and exciting experiences to behold either.

I occupy a spot in front of our home computer and wait for a eureka moment to light up my waning motivation to no avail.

So, I gaze out our home office window and partake the colorless landscape. Still snow blanketing our yard just as it has for over a month now.

Until I can muster up something else to write about, today’s post about weather will have to suffice.

Spring will arrive eventually – even our own Punxsutawney Phil declared that although he advised we would have to wait – and the ‘you know what’ will subside – I have to believe that to be true.

In the meantime, we have weather. Wintry weather, yes. But honestly, I do appreciate living in an area of my country where we experience all kinds of weather in four very distinct seasons.

And my heart soars when the sun appears and casts its shining rays through brilliant blue sky and reflects in glimmering diamonds on the snow-laden ground.

Because you know what? Any kind of weather is good because it means we are alive and experiencing the change of seasons. A reason for thankfulness to the Creator of it all.

“Sunshine is delicious, rain is refreshing, wind braces us up, snow is exhilarating; there is really no such thing as bad weather, only different kinds of good weather.” ~ John Ruskin

© 2021

Posted in family, Life

Tuesday Thoughts

You know that old saying? Time flies when you’re having fun. It does.

When you are enjoying yourself immensely, the hours on the clock seem to rev up to warp speed. When you’re miserable, each minute drones on and on and you honestly believe the wretched day will never end.

Thankfully, even in the midst of this ongoing period of time that appears to drag on mercilessly (I’m tired of saying pandemic), Papa and I spent last weekend with smiles on our faces and joy in our hearts.

Blessedly, after about seven months of not being in each other’s company, we were able to spend an entire weekend with our son and daughter-in-love and their two adorable children – our beloved grandchildren.

Giggles, music making, and lots of playtime filled our hours and time whisked by us. Before we were ready, it was time to part.

That’s when we experienced some tears at the thought of goodbye. That’s when the little ones’ hugs and the “I love you, Nana” whispered in my ear reminded me that times of our family all being together, gathered in one place, have been too few.

And those times disappear as quickly as they come. Because all good things sometimes do come to an end.

But hopefully, not for long.

“Weekends are a bit like rainbows, they look good from a distance but disappear when you get up close to them.” ~ John Shirley

© 2021

Posted in Life

February recipe

It’s February 2021 and I find I’m following a recipe of sorts. 

Take the fact that in our neck of the woods we’re caught in the throes of wintry weather – snow accumulations, icy conditions, and below freezing temperatures. Add to that we’re still locked in the grips of this never-ending pandemic. Then stir in a healthy dose of retirement. Keep warm, safe, and secure in a cozy house because there aren’t many other options.

What’s the end result?  Not a yummy baked cake because Papa and I are trying to eat healthy and watch our carbs. Instead, if you follow this recipe, you wind up with a good bit of time on your hands.

I am not much of a television watcher because I find few programs worthwhile. But occasionally, Papa discovers something interesting on streaming apps that I will tune into with him. We’ve actually enjoyed a few programs on Brit Box, occasionally a good movie or two on Netflix or Amazon Prime. But mostly, watching TV is Papa’s thing, not mine.

So, what does this Mama do instead? I read a lot – either real books I can hold in my hands or eBooks I can access on my Kindle app. I try to keep my mind alert and train my brain by completing scads of crossword puzzles because I’ve reached an age where forgetfulness starts creeping in. I work on Bible studies in hopes that some day in the near future, the ladies group I lead can once again meet in person, face-to-face.

To top off my February recipe, I’ve also been sorting through old cards, letters, and just plain stuff in my overabundance of free time and organizing those things I choose to keep and purging unnecessary and unwanted items.

But sometimes when I have free time like this, I opt to just sit and think. And when I do, I tend to jump into the time machine of my mind and head backwards. And then I wonder, is that a sign of ‘getting old’? When you sit around and re-live the past in your mind?

When I was younger, I honestly spent very little time just sitting and thinking very often. Instead, I filled my days (and evenings too) with the next thing, the next project, the next event, whatever it was to be accomplished. Always something to do or someplace to be or something to take care of.

At some point along the way, my appointment planner, once filled to capacity on each day of the month, morphed into a simple paper desk calendar with more empty spaces than jam-packed ones.  Whereas I used to awaken each morning with a plan in mind for the entire day, now I awaken and think, “Hmmm, what day IS it?”

So, my mostly empty desk calendar reminds me of a few noteworthy days this month. Two happy, one sad.

During the month of February my last child, our son, was born over 30 years ago. Happy thoughts.

During the month of February, our first grandchild was born six years ago. More happy thoughts.

And in the month of February, my mother, fighting the good fight yet struggling to win, lost her battle with an invasive and vicious (her doctor’s words) cancer over 20 years ago. That’s the one sad thought.

However, I endeavor not to dwell on the day my mother passed from this life to the next. Oh, I well remember it and the grief that engulfed me threatens to swell over me again when I think of it.  

But I choose to remember my mother’s birthday, which will arrive in the glorious spring, instead of her death day. I make a concerted effort to remember the countless, joyous memories of my Mom and her many years of life instead of that last day of her life.

When we learned my mother was ill, I found it no coincidence that Papa and I had just cemented our decision to move cross country from the Pacific Northwest to this other side of the country where my hometown is located. After over 20 years living far away from ‘home,’ our family of five lived with my parents for the last eight months of my mother’s life.

Two thoughts are etched in my memory from the time shortly after Mom died and they come to mind as I write this. 

Following my mother’s death, a family friend shared a conversation with me that she had during her last visit with my mother. The friend asked Mom if my family and I were having any luck finding a new home after moving back. My mother replied to her that she hoped we would not find one but continue living there with her and Dad. That revelation reassured me that having five extra people in the house including three noisy kids under the age of 17 wasn’t a burden to my ailing mother, but a blessing.

The second remembrance that I have never forgotten is a pertinent question a friend asked me shortly after my mother’s memorial service: “Don’t you feel bitter that your mom died so soon, and you didn’t get much time with her after you finally got the chance to move back home?”

My response then would be the same today: “No, I’m not bitter, I’m grateful and blessed that I had the opportunity to be with Mom – 24/7 – for the last eight months.”

Perspective. That’s what I tried to remember then and continue to do now. Some days we will have joy; and some will bring us sorrow. But it’s all about our perspective in life, our attitude towards our circumstances, as well as a faith that God will sustain us through those difficult times of life. Because He does, He will, and He always will do so.

That’s my February remembrance and a good recipe for life.

“Just knowing you don’t have the answers is a recipe for humility, openness, acceptance, forgiveness, and an eagerness to learn – and those are all good things.” ~ Dick Van Dyke

© 2021

Posted in family, Life

History keeping

I’m not a true antique collector, but I do possess several vintage items, classified as antiques, which belonged to family members no longer with us. Those mementoes aren’t worth much in monetary value, I’m sure, but for sentimental reasons, to me they are priceless.

For example, the photo above is an old washstand that once belonged to my maternal grandparents. Since they lived with us during the last few years of their lives, I distinctly remember this piece of furniture being utilized in their bedroom.

After their deaths, it found a home in my childhood bedroom. And when I was a young teenager, I painted it white because it was old and a bit decrepit looking. Years later after I married Papa, this old piece of furniture became ours, white paint and all, until I asked Papa to strip and refinish it.

He only occasionally worked on that project and soon it was relegated to the back burner of importance. A young family to provide for, family activities, and a career to maintain superseded an old hand-me-down. Eventually, he did manage to strip away all the layers of paint and varnish and dismantled the washstand into pieces to do the job correctly.

Then it sat in our basement, unassembled and in need of some repair work, for many, many years. Finally, just a couple of months ago, Papa hauled it out, repaired some broken areas, refinished it, and purchased new hardware for the drawers and door portion of it. And now, it occupies a place of honor in the eat-in portion of our kitchen.

And it gives me joy and provides sweet memories of my grandparents who I loved so much but lost when I was nine years old.

What do I know about this family “heirloom?” Not much, except of course, it belonged to my grandparents and they were married in 1900 – you read that correctly. So, it’s fair to say that this piece is at least 100 years old.  Sometime during the years in which my grandparents, married for 64 years, owned this washstand, the attached towel bar became missing.

But I’m happy to see this antique repaired, reassembled, refurbished, and in functional usage once again.

In the last few months, (because honestly, what else is there to do in this ongoing restriction of our comings and goings?) I’ve cleaned out closets and drawers in this empty nest. To say there is much to be purged from this home is an understatement and I just commented to Papa that we have lived in this house too long – over 20 years now, more than double the time we lived in any other home – and have acquired too much stuff.

His reply was, “You want to move?” Heck, no! But when we moved often in the first 20 years of our marriage, we did jettison unnecessary items each time, but now…well, we’ve found ourselves surrounded by more possessions than we truly need.

So, while blitzing through this and that, casting aside items to eliminate or donate, I concluded that some family heirlooms (and I use that word loosely), need attention. Both Papa and I can identify those items and from which family member we inherited them, but our offspring may not and probably do not have that knowledge.

Let me confess right here that I am an organizer deluxe. I prefer to have my ducks all in a row and to be able to find them exactly where I placed them. And now, with more time on my hands, my inclination for putting things in order advanced to the next level. Okay, don’t worry, I’m not obsessive compulsive about it; I’m just getting a better handle on what’s here and where it is.

I’ve often read articles that suggest at the first of a new year it’s a smart idea to take inventory of your household goods, document or update that, place it in a safe location, and if for some unforeseen reason, you have a catastrophe and lose such possessions, you then have an accurate record of them.

We hadn’t updated that in more years than I care to mention, so another project presented itself to be accomplished.  Using my DSLR camera, I took photos of all the rooms of our home, uploaded them onto a flash drive, and placed that, along with a hard copy list of household goods, with our other important documents.

Upon completion of that project, I realized that perhaps those family keepsakes passed along to us should be documented as well.  So, I created an Excel spreadsheet with each item’s description, where it’s located in the house, and most importantly, from which family member it originated, and placed that with our home inventory information.

What our offspring/heirs choose to do with those items will be at their discretion, but at least, they will understand why we kept the mementoes and the family significance behind them.

Maybe it’s because Papa and I have reached a certain age of…maturity… but we now wish we had paid better attention to family stories and asked more questions about some of the keepsakes we now possess. Since both of us are the youngest in our families and our parents were older when we were born, there’s family history we just don’t remember or even know. And such information didn’t seem important to us while growing up.

Papa never knew his grandparents since they were either deceased by the time he was born or shortly afterward and for those same reasons, I only knew one set of mine who died when I was in elementary school. Hence, many of our family’s stories died with them. All we really know for certain about most of our ancestors are their names and vital dates like birth and death.

I have one cousin still living and a couple of years ago, he presented very thorough genealogy information, going back a couple hundred years, to me in a three-ring binder. We also have a fair amount of family genealogy about Papa’s ancestors as well.

When I read through the several generations worth of names written in that information, I find myself wondering what those ancestors were like. What kind of people were they? What was important to them? What were their lives really like, especially those who lived so many hundreds of years ago in a country different from our own?

Maybe that’s why some of the keepsakes seem so special to me. They provide a link to our past that we wouldn’t have otherwise.

Whatever the reason, my hope is that our children and grandchildren can learn a bit of family folklore from the memorabilia we’ve chosen to keep. Whether they opt to retain possession of those, pass them on to their progeny, or dispose of them will be beyond my control. But at least, they will know the family historical significance of each keepsake.

“Not everything worth keeping has to be useful.” ~ Cynthia Lord in the novel, Rules

© 2021

Posted in holidays, photography, Valentine's Day

Vintage valentines

It’s possible a Valentine greeting may come your way this week.

Even though Papa and I don’t really celebrate this holiday called Valentine’s Day, I do pull out a couple of simple decorations to add a bit of color to this drab winter month. By now, I start growing a tad weary of wintery and snowman decorations and am ready to relegate them back to their storage bin.

After purchasing Valentine greetings to send to our three grandchildren, I began thinking about how that tradition of sending cards began so I researched the subject. Because I have four vintage Valentines that are little treasures to me, I wondered when sending valentines became “a thing.”  

Two of my vintage valentines appear to have been attached to the front of another card, which is missing, probably destroyed in some way. The other two are still intact and considering the ages of all four, they are surprisingly in good shape.

In the late 1700s, Valentine greetings were handwritten expressions of love and mysteriously signed, “Your Valentine.” But in Europe and the United States by the mid-19th century, especially around the year 1850, pre-made Valentine greetings began to be marketed and become quite popular.

From a couple of articles I read, the themes and styles of those cards were particular to a certain time frame or era. For example, valentine greetings from the early Victorian times of 1850-1880 included single-sided cards made from die-cut paper lace or fabric lace. Often pieces of ribbon or silk were fashioned on the cards or flowers and leaves made of silk or paper were used. Some greetings were hand-painted designs, and some had flaps on them that could be lifted.

From the 1880’s into 1900, Valentine greeting cards were mass produced and printed by means of color lithography. (Merriam-Webster definition: a method of printing from a flat surface (such as a smooth stone or a metal plate) that has been prepared so that the ink will only stick to the design that will be printed.)

Valentines made during this era included postcards, cards that opened, fan-shaped cards, and pop-up type of cards using honeycomb paper. Often those cards’ motifs were hearts, birds, flowers, and cherubs and valentines became more popular to purchase and send.

By the onset of the 20th century, more modern themed valentine cards were printed in different shapes and more detail. Some even depicted pictures of movie stars on them. Using word play with clever puns also became popular.  

After perusing this information, I surmised that the four vintage cards I have are probably from the time frame of the late 1890’s, the early 1900’s, and 1920’s.

The first two cards pictured below are remnants from larger cards as each bears a glue mark on the backside.  This one has a color lithograph of flowers and a woman’s hand upon which a dove is perched. That piece is cut out and glued onto a scalloped rectangular-shaped piece of punched cardboard. It bears this message: “Only happy hours.

This next card remnant is a tiny pale pink paper envelope with a glossy, color lithograph of a man’s hand extending a spray of flowers and a painted scene declaring the words “To my friend” glued onto the scalloped flap of the envelope. The envelope itself is glued onto a scalloped rectangular embossed paper. And that piece must have been on the front of a larger card.

Valentine number three is a scalloped card that actually opens up. On the outside, a paper lace overlay covers the front of the card. A young child peeks out through a “window” in the lace and in addition to the “portrait,” the gold printed card has white hearts on it, pink roses, and in one corner colorful butterflies and in the opposing corner, more pink roses. The inside sentiment reads: “Oh this would be a happy day, If you would but be mine. And if you’d very kindly say, You’d be my Valentine.” On the back is printed Whitney Made Worcester Mass. Made in USA.

My last little treasure is a cut-out stand-up card with the greeting “With Love To My Valentine.” It is more intricate and detailed and again features a young child surrounded by hearts and flowers. On the fold-out bottom which acts as a stand for the card it reads “To my Sweetheart.” On the back, Made in Germany is printed.

I’m certain my little Valentine treasures aren’t worth much, but I like them and keep them encased in a sealed plastic baggie to protect them. If I were clever, I’d figure out a way to display them that wouldn’t harm them in any way, but I’m not that crafty. If you have any suggestions for me, please let me know in the comment section below.

And in the meantime, may your Valentine’s Day remind you that you are loved, whether you receive a greeting card or maybe even a little bit of chocolate or not.

“All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn’t hurt.” ~ Charles M. Schulz

© 2021

Posted in family, Life, Love

A valentine special

Photo by Rinck Content Studio on Unsplash

When February rolls around on the calendar, a lot of folks’ fancy turns to celebrating Valentine’s Day.

Love it or hate it, this holiday is a mushy-gushy popular one with the masses if you consider all the merchandise available in stores and online.

Papa and I do not celebrate Valentine’s Day with each other any longer. After three years of dating and 43 years of marriage, I truly don’t need a stuffed teddy bear wrapped up in a big red bow holding a fragrant or fake rose or a box of chocolates to tell me that my husband loves me.

He demonstrates his love for me every single day by the way he treats me, the loving ways he supports me, and in his kind manner of doing things for me. And I strive to do the same for him. So, we banished the cards and gifts a long time ago as truly not necessary because really, shouldn’t every day be like Valentine’s Day?

One of our offspring doesn’t care much for this holiday, not even when she was a teenager. To her, Valentine gifts and mushy greeting cards just seem overly showy and even insincere. I fear she resembles her mother when it comes to outlandish, unnecessary gifts and grandiose words of affection because those things don’t fill our emotional tanks like they do for some folks.

Instead, show us how much you love us by your actions – kind of ‘put your money where your mouth is.’ And by that I mean, don’t spend money on gifts, just mean what you say and prove it with your actions.

But since Valentine’s Day is fairly successful as a consumer-driven holiday, obviously many people enjoy the gift, card, and flower buying and receiving. Now please don’t think I’m berating those of you who love receiving or giving gifts, I’m not. I understand each person has a different “love language” and that may be yours. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.

Of course, the focus of Valentine’s Day seems to center on romantic love, but not everyone has a romantic relationship. So, maybe the holiday would prove more meaningful for everyone if we included demonstrating our love for our families, love for our friends, love for our neighbors, love for our fellow humankind – the way God intends for us to love one another.

When I recall Valentine’s Day in the past, I remember using construction paper to decorate a shoebox which I took to elementary school to be used as a “mailbox” for simple Valentine cards from my classmates. But two other fond memories of this holiday are foremost in my mind and both came from my father’s actions.

When I was just a youngster around three or four, my daddy sent me a big Valentine card in the U.S. mail. He could have just brought it home with him that day but instead he mailed it because he knew it would make me feel special. What a surprise that was and how excited I was to receive my own personal mail addressed just to me! That experience was such a treasure that I actually still possess that card – one I’ve kept in a safe spot for over 60 years.

The second memory is what my father did every year. On Valentine’s Day, he always brought home a big heart-shaped box of chocolate candies for my mother and three smaller ones for his three girls – my sisters and me.

This tradition continued even after my sisters, who were several years older than I was,  married. Dad still bought all of us Valentine candy. Years later after I married Papa and moved out of state, I continued receiving a package in the mail just in time for Valentine’s Day. A heart-shaped box of chocolates from my Dad.

At some point, we told Dad he could stop buying us candy since we really didn’t need those extra calories. I don’t know if he was disappointed with our decision or not. But now, I realize that those red and pink boxes bedecked with ribbons and filled with chocolates wasn’t the point.

It was the thought that counted. It was a loving husband and father reminding his wife and daughters that he loved and cared for them and in his eyes, they were special.

I remember my father’s loving gestures, which extended far beyond Valentine’s Day, with some melancholy tears brimming in my eyes, as I prepare little packages filled with Valentine goodies for my three grandchildren.

Do they need those little gifts? No, not really. But since two of them live in another state and Nana and Papa can’t visit them as often as we’d like (especially now), we must send Valentine greetings by mail.

All three of our grandchildren will receive special mail addressed just to them and those packages are reminders from Nana and Papa that we care about them, we love them, and they are all so precious to us.

So, in a way, we will celebrate Valentine’s Day this year by sending our love in a special package by mail.

“A bell’s not a bell ’til you ring it – A song’s not a song ’til you sing it – Love in your heart wasn’t put there to stay – Love isn’t love ’til you give it away.” ~ Oscar Hammerstein

©  2021

Posted in Life, photography

When winter delivers a wonderland

I have a difficult time understanding it. Why some people hate snow, that is.

I hear folks complain in person or on social media about snowfalls; they grumble and gripe and they rush to the nearest store for bread, milk, and toilet paper (sounds familiar, doesn’t it?).

I understand that behavior if a blizzard of mammoth proportions is heading your way and you need to be prepared. Of course now, adding a threat of snow during this pandemic continuation, people rush to their phones, tablets, and laptops to order those items online.

But I wonder why people dislike snowy weather so much. Especially here in my neck of the woods – Penn’s Woods that is – otherwise known as the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.  

My snarky side (and believe me, I do have one!) wants to remind them that for heaven’s sake, people, we live in this place located in the Northern Hemisphere of the earth, at roughly 40° latitude and 79° longitude where winter is distinctly one of the four seasons and descends upon us as surely as night falls on daylight due to the sun setting.

Winter in this clime equals cold temperatures and often snowfalls.  Don’t like it? Move south. Hate snow? Find a different location and climate to live in. It’s not like snow flurries and frigid temperatures are an unusual occurrence in winter here.

“It is the life of the crystal, the architect of the flake, the fire of the frost, the soul of the sunbeam. This crisp winter air is full of it.”  ~ John Burroughs

Winter can be invigorating particularly when the outside temperature is brisk and crystalline flakes fall gently to the ground. When everything is covered in fluffy snow looking like marshmallows exploded, creating a beautiful scene, I wonder what’s not to like about a winter wonderland?

Writing those two words – winter wonderland – dials up my brain’s music box which immediately brings songs to mind with just a word or two. And although, Winter Wonderland is usually considered a Christmas song, I like to sing it to myself all winter long when snow drifts down from the sky. 

That song was written way back in 1934 with music by Felix Bernard and the lyrics by Richard Smith. When Guy Lombardo released his rendition, it became one of the biggest hits of the year.

One version of the song, which I don’t hear very often, starts out with this lovely description of a winter wonderland:

Over the ground lies a mantle of white,
A heaven of diamonds shine down through the night;
Two hearts are thrilling, in spite of the chill in the weather.

Love knows no season, love knows no clime,
Romance can blossom any old time
Here in the open, we’re walking and hoping together.

Doesn’t that sound like a great song to sing, not just at Christmas, but all winter long, especially during the month of February when Valentine’s Day rolls around?

Any time a blanket of snow, shimmering like diamonds and decorating the trees with cottony fluff, envelops my world, it compels me to break into the rest of that song:

Sleigh bells ring, are you listening?
In the lane, snow is glistening,
A beautiful sight, we’re happy tonight,
Walking in a winter wonderland!

Over the years, Papa and I enjoyed walks in a winter wonderland, especially when we lived in parts of the country where snow was a rarity to some degree. And those walks always make my heart happy and my outlook in life positive. So, I do question why someone could hold such animosity over a snowfall.

Maybe snow-haters just don’t like the fact that snow makes one slow down and might even cause you to stay home. In this rat-race world where everyone wants instant gratification and is on the go constantly, we’ve forgotten how to slow our pace down. Take time to just pause, sit and watch the snow falling. Snow can force you to do that and perhaps that makes some folks bristle at the weather.

Of course, there are also people who are fearful of driving in snowy conditions. Safe driving in snow can be accomplished but again, it forces one to slow down, take time, allow extra minutes for the drive. You can’t drive like a bat out of you know where when it snows. Perhaps when snow falls, it causes some to be even more impatient than usual.

Or maybe folks are so cranky about snowfalls right now because we’re still suppressed by virus pandemic restrictions and mandates and they are just plain weary of being relegated to staying home, not getting out, etc. Of course, snowy weather can cause us to feel constrained as well.

But here’s food for thought. When Richard Smith, a fellow native Pennsylvanian, wrote the charming lyrics to Winter Wonderland, he was receiving treatment for tuberculosis in a Scranton, Pennsylvania sanitarium.

Inspiration for the song lyrics occurred while he was ill and isolated in a Honesdale (his hometown) hospital. When he peered outside his hospital window, he observed the town’s park covered in glistening snow – a winter wonderland. And inspiration soared.

Maybe we should take a hint from his experience.

He was quarantined, isolated, ill with a nasty bacterial sickness that also was a pandemic. He wasn’t free to travel, let alone go outside and still, he used his time to appreciate the snowy scene outside of his window and pass on his inspiration to countless people with the lyrics to a song that became a well-known classic.

“Close your eyes. Hear the silent snow. Listen to your soul speak.” ~ Adrienne Posey

Maybe it’s all about our attitude when it comes to the conditions of life we must face and endure – even wintry weather. Maybe we need snow to cause us to stop and listen to our hearts and souls, to make an attitude adjustment and partake of the magnificent beauty of God’s wondrous creation – snowfall.

For me, pandemic isolation or not, I will always enjoy walking (and witnessing) a winter wonderland. The serenity of a snowy walk proves calming, soothing, but invigorating all at the same time and I am so thankful that I’m able to do so and thankful for the God of the universe who gave us His creation.

“There’s just something beautiful about walking in snow that nobody else has walked on. It makes you believe you’re special.” ~ Carol Rifka Brunt in Tell the Wolves I’m Home

© 2021

Posted in Groundhog Day, travel

Prognosticator Phil

Today is February 2 – Groundhog Day.  It’s a pretty big deal here in my home state, especially in this part of the commonwealth – western Pennsylvania – and not just because it was the subject of a Bill Murray movie by the same name in 1993.

“It’s a freakin’ holiday entirely based on the power of a psychic rodent. If that isn’t the epitome of awesome, I don’t know what is.”  ~Flying LlamaFish

What may seem bizarre and absurd to others is normal in the small hamlet of Punxsutawney, where the weather predicting groundhog Phil lives and prognosticates.

When our famous rodent emerges from his hibernating hidey hole (or burrow) to check on the state of the weather, a bright sunny day will cause him to see his shadow on the ground.  

Supposedly, this rattles him enough to cause him to scurry back into his comfy home and stay there for six more weeks – hence predicting more winter weather to come.  

But if the day proves cloudy, there won’t be a shadow to frighten Phil back into hibernation, so the groundhog stays above ground indicating spring weather is on its way.

I grew up with this folklore legend and can remember, as a child, cheering for his spring prediction and groaning over the thought of six more weeks of winter with my classmates in elementary school.  

How did this unique tradition begin? According to history, German immigrants living in the Punxsutawney area observed Groundhog Day as early as 1886. February 2 became Groundhog Day because they based it on a European tradition of predicting the length of winter by noting weather conditions on Candlemas, which was an ancient Christian festival held on that day.

“If Candlemas Day be fair and bright,
Winter will have another fight;
But if Candlemas Day be clouds and rain,
Winter is gone, and will not come again.” ~old rhyme

Furthermore, if Candlemas Day proved sunny, the legend stated an animal, such as a hedgehog, would cast a shadow and that indicated more winter weather to come. The immigrants found no hedgehogs in Punxsutawney but there were plenty of groundhogs.

So voilà! The Punxsutawney Groundhog Club was established in 1899 and to this day, the club’s inner circle (the guys who wear formal wear and top hats on Groundhog Day) are the officials responsible for Phil and the Groundhog Day celebration at Gobbler’s Knob.

Gobbler’s Knob.  Isn’t that a hoot of a name? Supposedly, the name originated from gatherings of the Groundhog Club, who would actually hunt groundhogs and “gobble” up what they bagged or some say it may have come from the abundance of turkey gobblers in the area.

During our visit there, we didn’t see any turkeys, but we did spy a groundhog darting into the brush, although it wasn’t the famous Phil.  He hangs out in his own private burrow in town, a climate-controlled spot located in the Punxsutawney Memorial Library. You can watch Phil from inside the public library or from the outside where we said hello to him.

Because we visited Gobbler’s Knob on a quiet summer Sunday afternoon, we had to imagine thousands of people gathered there on a February morning just to witness Punxsutawney Phil emerge from his burrow during all the hoopla. After wandering around, I captured photos of “the spot” where Phil publicly declares his weather forecast during the celebration (shown below).

Groundhog Day at Gobbler’s Knob is quite an event, as ascertained by our oldest daughter who visited the site with friends during her college years because it was something to check off her bucket list. Of course, this year due to the pandemic, the celebration will undoubtedly be much smaller, all masked up and social distanced, and actually a live-feed virtual broadcast will take place.

After departing Gobbler’s Knob, we drove back into the quaint and friendly little town of Punxsutawney where we spied Phil in his not-so-private “burrow” and strolled the streets to locate large groundhog statues painted in various arrays and stationed in front of shops or public buildings. (The photo at the beginning of this post is one of those positioned outside the library.)

According to Punxsutawney’s Groundhog Day powers that be, ol’ Phil really IS old. They say he is the original groundhog, the only one after all of these 100 plus years, because he drinks a magic elixir every year that keeps him going for seven more years.  Uh-huh.

But just because Punxsutawney Phil is ancient doesn’t mean he’s behind the times.  He’s got his own Facebook page, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram.

You can check those out and everything else you wanted to know about Punxsutawney Phil but were afraid to ask at the official website. You can even order Punxsutawney Phil souvenirs from the shop, Groundhog Stuff here.

Whether Punxsutawney Phil sees his shadow or not, spring eventually will arrive since the official first day of spring noted on the calendar is six weeks from now. I guess we don’t need a prognosticating groundhog to tell us that, but it’s still a fun tradition. 

“The trouble with weather forecasting is that it’s right too often for us to ignore it and wrong too often for us to rely on it.” ~Patrick Young

© 2021