Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Just Before Christmas

I recently received a call that an acquaintance had had a stroke and was unconscious. Until I got the news today that she had slipped from that coma into the long sleep, I could keep believing that she might come back again. She had so recovered against all odds the previous time that she could rue the loss of the hearth rug that they had taken away to minimize the risk of her falling again. When we visited unannounced one day, she insisted on making tea and only asked me to carry the tray. Between that visit and out good intentions to stop by again, she had called my friend excitedly to announce that she was driving again. That was only a few weeks ago.

Tomorrow is not promised for any of us. I will miss her great Auntie Em smile--the kind of smile that has to be earned over many years of good and bad times so mixed into a chutney that the details are lost and only the dominant flavour of cheerfulness remains.

I ache more for my friend whose grief shows on her own sturdy, life-worn face. I'll help her pick up the pieces and carry on. I'll pull out the funeral clothes all too recently used and hope for good weather as we walk to the cemetery to say our final goodbye.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas Present for Castlehill: Voting for People's Choice Award

We just got word that Castletown Heritage Society has been shortlisted for an EPIC award. In addition to selecting a winner and runner up from each country, there is a people's choice award. To be in the running for that award, we need votes. The link below, I think, will get you there and then you just click on the Like button.

Thanks to modern technology, you can like us from anywhere in the world, so I hope my family and friends in US and NZ will feel free to cast a vote as well as all us locals.

Meanwhile, Merry Christmas. And I need to get cooking!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Beyond A Christmas Carol: Dickens on Christmas

We all have our own ghosts of Christmas past, present and yet to come and Mr. Dickens urges us to invite them all to settle in around the hearth with us.

"Therefore, as we grow older, let us be more thankful that the circle of our Christmas assocations and of the lessons that they bring, expands! Let us welcome every one of them, and summon them to take their places by the Christmas hearth."

May this Christmas be another addition to warm you at your hearth wherever you make it.

Merry Christmas.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

"Sharn and Silage"

It was warmer outside than inside the house thanks to a combination of broken boiler and unusually mild weather. It was just what I needed to get me back on my favourite walk up the hill. It is so much easier to walk when not hunched against the cold and the wind or dodging rain clouds. It has been too long since I walked so I was aware of my legs and arms as they tried to find the familiar gait. I was more preoccupied with my own thoughts until I was on my way back from the top of the loch.

I had passed them without even a glance on the way up, but a half dozen lovely ladies of the bovine variety were munching away at silage and giving me not much more attention than I had given them on my first pass by. It was the smell that called me back. Silage.

Silage is not the fresh green grass of spring, but it carries with it that aroma of greenness--of warm summer afternoons tinged with the slight disappointment of the first hint of autumn. It is a reminder of summer and long warm days and it is a lifeline to be rationed through the dark time until the grass comes again. For now there are heaps of carefully wrapped bales, but no one knows how long the dark and the cold will last or how quickly the grass will come on in the spring. All that is contained in the aroma of silage. It used to be just grass to me.

Sharn. "What is 'sharn'," I asked the writer's group, having found it in a poem by the group's tutor. The country people laughed. Sharn is cow shit--in the vernacular. More particularly, it is the loose excrement that makes a suprisingly round cow pat that dots the summer pastures. Like silage, sharn has some of the Caithness summer in it.