Tag Archives: Hand-me-Down Bride

The War On Bunnies

Bob’s War on Bunnies occurs every spring in our suburban neighborhood. It’s disgusting, violent and shocking like an outtake from some TV nature show. Worse, Bob leaves it to Mom to remove the inedible body parts–gall bladders, tails, bits of fur–from the porch. Mom’s Aunt Juliet in Ohio reminds her about the dangers of allowing intermediate vectors into one’s home on a cuddle-me basis. Bob spends his evenings with his head in Mom’s lap while she watches The Big Bang Theory and Jeopardy. Late at night, when she should be sleeping, Mom fears she may become the Typhoid Mary of the next global pandemic. She also remembers the kid’s book Horror Classic, There’s a hair in my dirt! by Gary Larsen.

 Bob cleans house—out-of-doors. Although he’s grown a bit timid about attacking squirrels now that he’s no longer a hungry stray balls-out Tom Cat, he still likes to eat bunnies. Along with bunnies, his hit list includes darling chippies, birdies, mice and voles. Voles are the loss leader among the daily offerings; even when there’s nothing else to be out-smarted and slain, there’s always some poor bastard vole ambling near-sightedly past. Yes, my rescue cat is the bane of the local wildlife, except for the fine assortment of parasites he picks up from the guts of his prey. Then it’s time for Mom Picks Up after Bob and Mom does laundry for Bob, along with a trip to the vet for the tablets to de-worm a 13 lb. cat. 

He’s good about swallowing the first pill, but his dose is 1 ½ tablets, so he puts a paw down, or, actually his jaw closes, on my fingers as they attempt to deploy the second half.  That, he seems to believe, is pushing his goodwill in a shameless, numb-nuts duh-human way. He sets about explaining this with saber-like claws and shiny, clean white teeth.  He’s semi-polite, not quite ready to rip my arm off, but he’s firmly in the negative. Mom often has to give up.


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Once a week you find it in the lobby of the grocery store, a freebie paper.  I have a habit of picking these up and reading through. There are the usual advertisers, the churches, the realtors, the auctions, the used car dealers (fewer of those than there used to be), restaurants of the kind that offer daily specials, and  local club listings—chess, photography, computers, knitting, quilting, and a host of support groups. There are a few obituaries, but as I’m not from around here and a hermit besides, I never know anyone—not that I hope to find the few people I do know on that page.  Its prime use is for the fireplace, but there are classified ads, and these are mostly the reason I pick it up. No, not because I’m buying stuff, or looking for more cats, or yard sales, but because I’m a human watcher.  

Every once in a while there’s something interesting.  My most recent favorite read: “Found! One of those things you pick up things with in the 300 block of Mayberry Street.”  This writer had good intentions, but the words to describe the object he’d found eluded him.  Still, he did note the block where he found the “thing,” and perhaps that would reunite the owner with the lost object.

Sometimes the ad gives a picture of the person who wrote it. This is, of course, unintentional, but here’s a good one: “Lost blue tool box full of tools. I’m not sure where I lost it, but it’s blue, full of tools and says Erector on the lid. Reward! Thank-you.”  You can tell that losing the box of tools was a bad thing, but you can also tell that he has probably lost a lot of other important things over the years. Still, I feel good-will toward this writer, and hope someone returns the lost toolbox (blue).

I have adopted cats through these papers, the last one many years ago. The ad I responded to—at a time when I was, actually, planning to adopt—said: “Help. I have 31 cats who need good homes.  Please bring cat food.“ I went to the place—the back of beyond, up a hill and along a dirt road. There I found an old unpainted house and barn. When I stopped my car, I saw cats, most running for cover. The woman, thin and tired looking, with tattoos on her arms, came out to talk to me. We sat down together on the grass. She explained that she had worked at a shelter, but couldn’t take the weekly euthanasia, and so had ended up with “all these cats.”

 I could see straight-away that most of the Cats had no use for people. I watched them skulking under the junkers  and old tractors that littered the yard and prepared to wait while they stared. After a few minutes , the woman  opened the bag of cat food I’d brought, spreading it out on the ground. Skinny cats came swarming from every direction.   After crunching speedily, with one eye on me–the person they didn’t know–most took  off. I’d been watching an orange threesome, scrawny 9 month old kittens. The woman called them “the orange brothers.” She told me they’d all been starving behind an apartment in a nearby dead steel town. 

One of them, the skinniest and shabbiest of the three, climbed into my lap. As soon as I touched him he began to purr, a huge roaring purr. He drooled with joy while I petted him. His eyes were washed out yellow; his fur felt like straw. I could count his ribs and feel his spine.

I felt we had made a true connection—and that was when he bit me, grabbing the skin of my forearm with his teeth and twisting like a bulldog. Just a millimeter short of blood, he leapt off my lap, stood just out of reach and continued to stare, trembling, drooling and purring.

“He doesn’t mean it,” the woman said. “He gets excited.” 

“I know,” I replied.  

As you might expect, this crazy, sick, love-boy—and he was all of those things–is the one I took home.


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My 1950’s Hurricane by Juliet Waldron

Well, the East Coast was just treated to Irene, who rained and blew and left a mess in her wake. The storm came straight up the coast, traversing Bos-Wash, one of the country’s most heavily populated areas. I’m extremely glad I wasn’t in the Carolinas, New York or New England, which seem to have had the worst of it.

Today, you always know a storm is coming. You even witness its gestation, here in the age of overkill. A storm isn’t really “weather” anymore. It’s a media event, a “windfall,” if you like. Every TV meteorologist hams it up, staggering about, microphone in hand, up to their knees in surf. I fully expect to lose one of them soon, to a wave or an airborne street sign.

In 1954 I was nine. We lived in a rural area, just outside Skaneateles, New York. When Hurricane Hazel came to visit, we had two local TV channels that came in reliably, so we knew to expect wind and rain that night. Nothing out of the ordinary was predicted. My parents had a date with friends to go out to dance and hear jazz in nearby Syracuse. They weren’t “afraid of a little wind.” Besides, our house was named “Windswept.” After two years in residence, we were used to hunkering down during upstate gales.

Eleanor, fourteen, was duly brought from a nearby farm to stay with me. My parents left; she and I watched TV together. Outside, it began to rain. There were big gusts, but we weren’t concerned when I went to bed. After all, no one had issued any kind of warning. My room was on the northwest corner of the house. Outside one window was an enormous poplar tree. Tonight it heaved and creaked like a ship at sea. There was a steady stream of cold boring through the leaky windows, so I hurried under the covers.

I couldn’t go to sleep, though. This wind was louder than ever, and the tree began to groan, a noise I’d never heard a tree make before. It was frightening, because I was always keenly aware of the great presence which stood so close against my window. When the electricity went out, I got up and used a flashlight to go downstairs. Eleanor was keeping a brave face, but it was clear she was worried. She’d called her parents a little earlier and they’d counseled her to sit tight. Back on the farm, they had their own problems. They expected her to handle the situation.

My parents had set out candles, a kerosene lamp, and filled jugs with water before leaving. (Power outages were not unusual.) We had flashlights and the rest in hand when things began thudding against the siding. We hurried to sit on the central staircase. By closing doors, here we were away from all windows.

The storm shrieked. The house shuddered at each gust. The wind developed a deep note, each blast ending in a throaty rumbling growl which vibrated the floorboards under my feet. I began to imagine an enormous restless predator, prowling and snuffling around, figuring out how to get inside. Then, with a huge crash and shatter, it did.

Wind screamed and tore at us as we crept downstairs to see what had happened. Debris stung. A huge, leafy branch lay on the living room floor surrounded by glittering glass. It had taken out one window. Mom’s white curtains streamed horizontally. There was nothing to do but retreat up the stairs and wait for my parents, who were having a series of adventures with live wires, fallen trees, etc. getting home. As soon as they arrived, my dad closed the outside shutters and then took Eleanor home. He said he saw stars on his return, almost as if we were beneath the eye.

Our power was out for days. We pumped water by hand from the well and ate out of cans, using our camp stove. The beautiful town, when we finally saw it, was a ruin.  Scores of ancient maples and elms had come down in whole or part, blocking streets and crushing homes. Sustained winds of 90 mph were recorded at the head of the lake, far higher than anyone had expected.

So much of this story would not happen today. Eleanor’s parents and mine would probably not be considered “responsible,” but we kids learned some valuable lessons about “keep calm and carry on.” Even if I do get exhausted by today’s weather hype, I have to admit it’s probably a safer world than back then, when Hurricane Hazel, even in her last throes, could spring such a nasty surprise on a small upstate town.


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The Loaf Mass

We’ve celebrated the first of the old harvest festivals: Lammas, or The Loaf Mass. Living in an area that’s still mostly agricultural, I’m keenly aware of the seasons, though I’m also darn glad I don’t farm for a living. Our local Mother Nature hasn’t been kind. She started spring with a long stretch of uncharacteristic cold and rain, delaying planting. Then just about the time corn and other temperature sensitive crops began to grow, She sent what our Penn State Meteorologists are calling “a flash drought.” Wheat came in during the first heat, and those waving green vistas created an inland ocean, so this year’s harvest began well. Now sadly, in wide swatches east of us, where six mule teams still pull threshers and barefoot women and children hoe, the corn stands just knee high, leaves curled and blasted.

When I lived in England in the 60’s, I thrilled to walk into our neighborhood’s square stone Saxon church and see great loaves three and four feet high, baked in special lidded pans, some of which were shaped like sheaves of wheat and others like men—leaned against the altar among the floral offerings. When I asked who the men of bread were, I was told by an old sexton that they were “John Barleycorn, the life of the fields.” Here, I would later learn, was a living link to the Celtic Lugh, an ancient god of vegetation who resurrected every year to feed the British countryside.

My Uncle Richard used to give me a bucket of wheat that had come straight from his harvester. Cleaning out the residual dust and chaff and then grinding it took time, but the bread I made seemed to have an extra dimension of taste, a nutty sweetness that apparently gets lost, even from the finest brands of commercial flour.  Every year the Loaf Mass reminds me, swaddled in a/c and distanced from my place in nature by man made things, of a time when my ancestors grubbed dirt and endured summer heat and rain in order to raise the food needed for survival. The impulse remains to say thank-you to the earth, for the gifts which sustain us. August, no matter how hot, always begins at my house with the baking of bread.


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A grandchild of mine was accused, some years ago, of being a “Nerd” because she played War Craft, read and reread Lord of the Rings, and got hooked on TV shows like Fringe and the X-Files.  I wondered about this label at first, because she’s bright, outgoing and swims in a sizeable pod of friends. Then I realized that although the term “Nerd,” is fairly new, the profile remains the same. It’s an inherited condition, even unto the second generation.

My husband was always neat, even, his mother told me, as a child, a born organizer. The system might not always be apparent, but he will explain it to you, and he will back his preferences with inescapable logic. He built and flew model airplanes through adolescence, and in labeled boxes in the basement, beside his mourned for, obsolete darkroom, are the engines. I have not the least doubt they could be resuscitated.

After we married, he worked as a programmer. For fun, he spent a decade studying Ansel Adams’ Zone System. He could bring a loud party with the latest Stones album and a fresh jug of Mateus to a stand-still in five minutes if given an opening. His photography, as he practiced it in darkroom and with endless test sheets and kitchen table grokkings, was inspired. As a result, we’ve got rafts of wonderful pictures of our growing boys.

As for me, I was an only lonely child living in the country. Nearsighted, (“Lizzie Lens” was the standard ‘50’s joke) it was easier for me to read than to relate to a world of other children I couldn’t quite see. I hung out in my imagination, creating an entire world ruled by dogs; I drew charts of their dynasties. Oddly, the dogs rode horses, and I had a box of plastic and china stand-ins. Later, I cut to the chase and simply sat on the floor and talked to myself. When I was little, this was called “good” behavior. As I grew older and the habit of talking to myself continued, Mother had second thoughts. All of a sudden—or so it seemed to me—telling myself stories all the time was “weird.” In the fourth grade a Bambi fixation drove me to write a play–I guess you’d call it “fan fic” today–which was performed by my class. I’ve always been vulnerable to historical biography.   I began with Davy Crocket, but by the time I was eleven, my affections had fastened upon Alexander Hamilton. This was a fairly odd choice for a crush in the age of Elvis Presley.

Next — granddaughter’s parents. Here we have a Nurse Practictioner and a ramblin’ wreck from Georgia Tech who is–no doubt about it– A Helluva Engineer–the kind who devises break-through software and whose basement ceiling is singed by experimental salutes to Ol’ Nick Tesla.   So, when this grandchild puts on her “Talk Nerdy to Me” tee shirt and heads out to play Trivial Pursuit or computer games at the local teen hang-out, I feel a warm glow. She’s a member of Our Clan.



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Schuyler RIP

We lost a cat recently. He was one of the “legendary” one. Every lover of the domestic feline knows what I mean. These cats have strong personalities and compelling backstories, rather like the best kind of character.

Cat owners usually have a pair or more of the furry dominators in residence, and this is because   “You can’t have just one” is as true of cats as it is of potato chips. The standouts aren’t common. You may only host two or three of these in a lifetime of pet parenthood. It isn’t just that these special cats are sociable, interested  in the doings of their owners and in keeping them company. These cats possess an elusive, mystical aura.  

Schuyler came off the hard streets of an adjacent comatose steel town. He was about two years old when we found him at that Humane Society, with a tail broken in several places and a bad hip.  He called to us, then reached through the cage bars to hook my sleeve. It didn’t take my husband and I long to realize he was the one. We learned that he had been dropped off by some people who couldn’t keep him, but thought well enough of him to try this last resort method of finding him a home. I was working on Revolutionary War  novels at that time, and already had a “Hamilton,” so he was named for another favorite character: “Major General Philip Schuyler.”

He was skinny and roman-nosed. He would always favor one back leg, but when our Vet first checked him out, she said he was basically healthy. “Just feed him up, and he’ll be fine,” was her advice. As you can see from the picture, “feeding him up” was not a problem.

There were three other cats here when he came, but he quickly promoted himself to what the German’s call “Furst” a/k/a  Top Cat. I don’t remember much fighting, but his long Tom-Cat-hood and streetfighting experience probably gave him the edge to psych out his new mates. Schuyler quickly became my husband’s favorite. He spent most of his fourteen years either in his lap or curled up beside him.  He greeted Chris when he came home from work, and said good-bye, too, every morning.  Sky stayed with him tirelessly while my husband endured a slow recovery from cancer surgery.

He was a pretty cat, the kind you’d see in a Flemish painting, curled on a bench in a black-and-white tiled kitchen scene. He had pink paws and a pink nose and shell pink ears. One of my online friends, seeing his picture, observed that he had “TES.” I had never heard of TES, so she explained that her cat also had this condition. She said it meant “translucent ear syndrome.”

Sky was a hunter, as you’d expect from an ex-stray, and merciless to mousies and voles. Many mornings we found them laid as offerings on our front steps. He had a musical purr. He also had a great fondness for doughnuts. We quickly learned that we had to hide these inside a cupboard, because if we simply set them on the counter, they’d be on the floor in the next second, the bag torn apart, the contents spilled and hastily gobbled. So much for the notion that cats don’t enjoy sugar!

Sadly, he’s with his mates now, in our pet necropolis. This autumn, I’ll plant daffodils on his grave. RIP Schuyler.

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Kick Your Ass Yoga Class


I dabbled in Yoga back in the 60’s. The first thing I learned was that I am “white-man-stiff”. A naturally bad back left me unable to touch my toes, even on my youngest, skinniest day. Even the simplest yoga posture was a tough proposition. As a kid, I’d always tried to “be strong” even when I wasn’t, so I really pushed the poses. You can imagine what I felt on the following day.

 I injured my lower back. I froze my neck. I couldn’t bend down to my toddler without collapsing. My eyeballs throbbed. After that introduction, you better believe I approached yoga practice with deep respect for my limitations. I kept it up for a few years, slowly and carefully running through a few postures every day. The most adventurous I got was a sunrise salutation or three. The emphasis in the book I followed was on stretching, focusing, centering, and, finally, relaxing, feeling the welcome tingle of blood flowing in starved places.

 Imagine my surprise when I, now an elder who has been through a couple of large surgeries, thought I’d check into my gym’s yoga class. I found that Yoga has become, over its years in the West, a Type A sport.  The misperception is my fault, for the class is at a Gold’s Gym©. I’d joined one a few years back in order to mess with the machines so that the few moving parts I had left didn’t entirely atrophy. The first yoga class I attended destroyed me in less than 30 minutes. I had to pick up my mat and hobble out the door in utter humiliation while I could still be sure I could drive myself home.

 Limping around the house a day later, I came up with “Kick Your Ass Yoga.” Joke aside, I’m still attending. I found the “second best” teacher in my gym, whose single class is not so full and who is closer to me in age. She’s not the least interested in her resident “cripple.” In my baggy sweatpants and tee shirts I’m likely an embarrassment among all the bendable Lycra Ladies in proper yoga garb. Despite that, and a rise in my daily intake of ibuprofen, I go and follow her instruction as fully as the body Nature gave me can.

 It’s a maxim in Yoga that you are only as young as your spine. I hate to think how old that makes me, but it is also said that where there’s life there’s hope.

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Romance Giveaway for Valentine’s Day. Free ebooks! Everybody wins!

Second Wind Publishing is celebrating close encounters of the romantic kind this Valentine’s Day by giving away free romance ebooks! All you have to do to receive your ebook is to leave a comment mentioning which one of the following books you want to read. We will send you a coupon code to use at Smashwords.com where you can download your free ebook in whatever format you choose.

Hand-Me-Down Bride by Juliet Waldron:

Hand-Me-Down BrideSophie is far from her German city home, newly married and even more newly widowed. She is left virtually penniless and adrift in post Civil-War Pennsylvania, where she is resented by her dead husband’s family. The last thing she expects is to be is attracted to another member of the scornful Wildbach tribe.  

Karl Joseph is still trying to forget the war, as well as the painful relationship he had with his father. He’s the first member of his proud family to want to “just be an American.” The last thing he wants is a German wife!

Hand-me-Down Bride blends all the elements of a tender romance with a genuine, old-time country setting.

Nora’s Soul by Margay Leah Justice

Nora Kendall believed in angels. Once. But then she lost her brother to cancer despite all of her prayers – and she lost her faith in all things angelic. Now, she is a lost soul who wanders through life like a sleepwalker, playing it safe and leaving the risk-taking to others.

Kyle Cameron is one of those risks. Burned by a bad marriage, his only concern now is providing a stable life for his children, who are left motherless by the unexpected death of his wife. This means working overtime to grow his architectural firm into a viable business – and leaving the care of his children to the care of someone he trusts. Despite his past connection with Nora, Kyle isn’t certain that she’s the right person for the job. He also doesn’t want to reconnect with her and repeat history.

But fate – and the machinations of two angels – has other ideas.

Fate and Destiny by Claire Collins

Discovering Destiny was the last thing Andrew Greer expected.

 Alone in a desolate cabin, Andrew Greer was perfectly content to wait out the blizzard with his adventurous dog, Shadow, as his only companion. Fate decided differently. When Shadow discovers the unconscious and injured woman, Andrew has no choice but to take her to the safety and warmth of his retreat.

 Destiny weaves a tale of kidnapping and murder. Is she the witness and victim to the crimes? Or is she really a conspirator getting away with murder? Andrew is determined to protect Destiny and find out the truth. Can he find the real killer before it’s too late? Or has he already found her? Only Fate knows for sure.

Images of Betrayal by Claire Collins

Abandoned by her family, Tysan works as a waitress in a cheap diner. One cold evening, a beguiling, rugged young man barges into her life. He possesses the remarkable ability to take photographs of events that have not yet happened. Ty narrowly avoids a harrowing death in a disastrous explosion, only to be drawn into a dizzying cascade of conflicts involving a new family that takes her in, Walker-her apparent savior, David-her new admirer and her own family. Kidnapping, betrayal, obsessive love and courageous lovers co-mingle in this romantic thriller.

Lacey Took a Holiday by Lazarus Barnhill

She sold her soul for a bottle. He stole it back.

Lacey Grady is “a woman of leisure” and an alcoholic. Andy Warren is a bitter and jaded WWI veteran whose wife and only son died during childbirth. When Andy recognizes that Lacey is drinking herself to death, he kidnaps her out the brothel where she works and takes her to his mountaintop farm.

Besides being a sweet romance, Lazarus Barnhill’s Lacey Took a Holiday is a profound and profoundly moving story of redemption.

Indian Summer by Dellani Oakes

Lg51ROsDmoLXLIn the spring of 1739, Gabriella Deza stands poised on the verge of womanhood.  A product of her guarded upbringing, she is naive in the ways of love until dashing Manuel Enriques declares his love for her.  Quite by accident, Gabriella uncovers a plot hatched by British spy whose job is to capture the town and fort, Castillo de San Marcos.  Armed with her information, Manuel embarks on a dangerous mission to entrap the spy and save the town from being overthrown by the British.  Unfortunately, Gabriella herself is caught in the trap and kidnapped.  Can Manuel find and save her before it is too late?

Love is on the Wind, an anthology of love stories by the authors of Second Wind Publishing

Some of the stores included in this anthology are: “Love Transcends” by JJ Dare, “A Good Day” by Suzette Vaughn, “A Weeping Moment” by Christine Husom, “Fractured” by Dellani Oakes, “High Court of Love” by Amy De Trempe, “The Perfect Kiss” by Jerrica Knight-Catania, “Puppy Love” by Claire Collins, “A Hunt and a Kiss” by Juliet Waldron, “A Time for Dreams” by Mairead Walpole, “Stormy Weather” by Sherrie Hansen.

So, which book do you want to read? Hand-Me-Down Bride, Nora’s Soul, Fate and Destiny, Images of Betrayal,  Lacey Took a HolidayIndian Summer, or Love is on the Wind? Now’s your chance!

This offer expires on 2/20/ 2011.


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It’s hard to recreate a time when there were no words, only feelings.

 Moon/Tree/Clouds. These are the first things I remember. Crib slats casting black shadows on a summer smooth sheet. White face through spreading branches. Next, a perfect silver disc lending its sheen to arching branches. The sugar maple that grew behind Grandparents house was enormous.

 (Perhaps it had been brought west to Ohio by a homesick Yankee.)

 Of course, I knew nothing about it. All I knew was that the spreading maple was good to see, the harmony of black and white, the leafy patterns, made a sound in my head like a clear note. I was entirely secure. Outside the broad leaves with their sharpened edges barely moved against a velvet sky. Moon face gazed down serene; a cloud edged in rainbow and silver slipped past. 

 In the next room, women’s voices. They cared for me, two young, one old, getting ready for bed in the spacious bathroom on the other side of the door. It was big enough to accommodate one at the dressing table mirror, a bather in the claw foot tub, one at the sink running water–or, perhaps, even “enthroned,”  as indoor plumbing was the first improvement my Grandfather made after purchasing his house. He had jokingly called it “a girl’s dorm” for years, and now here I came, the newest female–the one quietly wondering in the room full of moonlight. Sleep was impossible bathed in silver, but it wasn’t frustrating or lonely. Body comfortable, I didn’t need to cry and call them to me. After all, the women were nearby–and so was the Moon.

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Currier & Ives, Story in a Picture

  Just got our 2011 (Ye Gods & Little Fishes!) calendar from our friendly insurance company, but am still admiring 2010’s December’s page.  (As my mother used to say, “Another year, shot to hell.”) Anyhow, this particular calendar has been a household staple since the ‘60’s. It always features pictures by Currier & Ives. We have grown fond of these Victorian scenes, even the ones awkwardly rendered, in a style now officially dubbed “primitive.”   This month’s scene isn’t as carefree as usual. It’s a humble creek- side home with a lean-to covered in straw before and a tacked-on shed behind. A woman and child stand out front, apparently watching a neighbor family coming to visit. Over a rickety bridge they march, a family of five, the mother carrying a baby in her arms. Everyone else is carrying wood. The oldest child has a bundle in his arms; the smallest, accompanied by a bouncing black dog, drags a fallen branch. The man is bent beneath a heavy load of neatly sized firewood.

 There’s a Christmas theme here, but not one too many modern consumers with charge cards burning in their pockets would immediately recognize. We see no man at the house, and my husband and I, melancholy by nature, have decided that he has died. We imagine these visitors are bringing not only their company, but a plain necessity, wood to feed the little home’s winter hungry fire. Tellingly, there are no cows or pigs in the farmyard, only a few ducks floating in the still unfrozen creek. Perhaps this woman has had to sell her livestock. No one in the picture looks prosperous, but it seems those that have a little are sharing with a friend on the brink of losing everything. Things are tough at that creek side house, but at least there are neighbors who care and who are willing to help out.

 Christmas is the time of year to celebrate, and in the last 100 years it’s become about corporate balance sheets and “shop till you drop.” To me, this scene is a reminder that it’s also a time to remember the old folk song about “there but for fortune…” or, if you prefer, the more modern admonition to “Put a little love in your heart…”


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