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Life, Death and Seasons by S.M. Senden

October has begun.

The leaves begin to color; there is a different feel to the air, as summer’s gentle warmth cools and fades with the leaves.  Winter waits impatiently in the wings to come into her own with a chill in the air bringing the fragrance of snow wafting about me, stinging and teasing my sense of smell.

It is not an easy transition.

The seasons seem to do battle for supremacy of the climate. Tempestuous storms rage across the land, hail and tornados threaten as cold and warm fronts collide. We had a string of storms pass through here last night.  More are predicted and a cold front will win the battle for a day plunging us into a fifty degree day before temperatures return to the seventies for a while longer.

It is a season of riotous, gaudy display.

Mother Nature paints her trees in a glorious riot of color. I recall the many falls in the past as a child, walking to the bus stop in the chilly rain of October through the litter of color on the ground. Once and a while picking up a particularly beautiful leaf washed in red, pink, burgundy, orange and yellow with a hint of green, so as not to forget the former lush glory of that leaf. Though we are no longer allowed to burn leaves, someone somewhere always manages to do so. The air is tinged with the fragrance of memories of my past, I am a child again, with my life before me, and I play in the piles of leaves. Do the leaves on the trees miss their fallen companions of summer?

It is also the season of harvest.

Long ago people would hurry to complete their harvest by the end of October, for after that the Pooka was said to come and ruin the crops.  The frosts of November would kill what remained un-harvested. Halloween marked the end of the Pagan year. The hearth would be swept and cleaned, a new fire kindled with the New Year.  The earth would lie as if asleep through the winter, only to awaken in the spring, new life emerging miraculously through the ground that had looked dead and lifeless through the cold winter.

It is a time of change within the cycles of life.

As I contemplate the change of seasons I think about the seasons and cycles, not just of nature, but of life.  I had my birthday last month, and added another year to the increasing number of years lived. I started another annual rotation toward another birthday, like walking a giant spiral staircase that I can not see where it leads, though I go forward with faith that life continues in its succession of days until they come at last to their end.  I wonder what lies on the other side of the veil.

Today, I think of the span of years I have been here on this planet, the places I have seen, the people I have known, the history I have lived through, and the changes yet to come.  I remember meeting a distant relation once, I was twenty she was in her nineties. She made the comment about how she came into the world with gas light, and she was leaving it with men on the moon. Will the changes in my life be as astounding?

It is a time when we come again full circle from where we began a year ago. It is where we will arrive again after another year passes. My wish for us all is that in the year ahead we all know great happiness, great joy, very little pain or sorrow. Just as we can not live without the season where all things die, we must endure the pains and sorrows of life. For, like the season of winter when the earth seems to be barren and dead, we must experience sorrow, so that, we may appreciate joy even more when it comes to us.

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The night the moon sang

My husband, two little boys and I had driven 7 hours north through snow and ice from Connecticut to Maine to see his favorite cousin, Susan. She and her family were house-sitting in a large, lovely 18th Century sea-captain’s home whose sloping lawn stretched down to an inlet of the sea.

The whole world was electric blue twilight when we piled out of the VW and waded the last few feet of their driveway. We stomped our feet to get rid of snow in the unheated  mud room. The kitchen was wood fire piecemeal hot, and Susan was belatedly beginning to work on a sink full of dishes. The family lived for the winter in a few downstairs rooms, and kept the pipes warm for the owners, who were off sailing in the tropics, very upscale and almost unimaginable to us. Sue’s husband was a potter, and while he made beautiful things, from dinner services to exotic display pieces, they were not exactly flush with cash. Beans or spaghetti and homemade bread were probably supper that night; I don’t remember.  It was Susan’s birthday, so she’d made a delicious, heavy, scratch chocolate cake, and I’d brought up Grandma Carol’s family famous “Cowboy Cookies.”

Night grew deeper. Finally, the kid cousins were extinguished; the adults all talked out. We retired to couches and sleeping bags. It was cold as the hinges of the 9th Circle of Hell in any room without a woodstove, an utterly clear and magnificently dark sky starry night—at least, until the full moon got up over the tall black pines. Then it was like day out-of-doors, the moon balefully glittering down on those crisp, fresh pillows of snow. Susan and I had agreed to wake up later, because we’d consulted the almanac and learned that there was to be a lunar eclipse around 1 a.m. It was the night between our birthdays—mine would be tomorrow. We were a kindred pair of magical-mystery-tour women, both Pisces in the cusp, and not about to miss such a grand celestial side-show.

Exhausted from carbohydrates and driving , I’d fallen into a deep sleep, but in what seemed only a few minutes, I heard Susan urgently whispering.

“Juliet! Get up! Get Up!”

I sat up groggily. I could see her quite well with the moonlight pouring in the windows; it was amazingly bright.

“Get your boots and get downstairs—quick—quick–hurry!”

I did as she asked, for she sounded almost desperate, as if something was terribly wrong. Not only that, but she enforced the idea by rushing out of the room as soon as she finished speaking. I heard her feet going down the stairs rapidly. I got my boots on and followed, fast as I could. When I reached the kitchen, there she was, my coat in hand.

“Is it the eclipse? What’s up?”

“Come on—quick! You have to hear this! It’s crazy!”

I threw the coat on and followed her out the door. The first breath, as we stood on the back steps, froze my nose and made me choke. It must have been zero—or lower—outside. She gestured upward toward the moon, sailing high now over the forbidding, snow robed pines.

As we stood there, trembling, it acquired a halo of dull red as the eclipse began. The weighted branches randomly cracked. I had an odd feeling inside my head; I seemed to be looking up through water.  Next came a kind of hum, a low tone that reverberated through the scene, and then I heard sweet round tones, like a flute or an electronic instrument, ring across the sleeping, snow shrouded land and across the icy ocean at the bottom of the hill.

The veiled moon grew redder; the sweet little song repeated. Susan grabbed me by the shoulder.

“Do you hear it? Do you?”

“Yes! Yes! What on earth…?” I kept looking up and down and side to side to see if anything else was different, but nothing else in reality was in any way unusual.

“Thank God!” Susan giggled. It was a beautiful, melodic –and normal–sound. “I thought I’d completely lost it.”

Well, when the “singing” stopped, we went back inside and attempted to wake our respective spouses, but that was hopeless. Neither of them wanted to leave the warmth of their beds—besides, they knew that the two Pisces women were engaged in some weird, annoying folie à deux

Now if you are thinking about “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” go right ahead.  Our brush with the other happened in 1973, four years before Spielberg’s blockbuster.  In fact, when I heard the tones in the movie, all the hair on the back of my neck stood straight up, as I remembered the night the moon sang to Susan and me.

~~ Juliet Waldron

http:www.julietwaldron.com

 

 

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Got Snow?

The snow pile by my driveway

     Every state in the nation, except Hawaii, has experienced a snow fall, or twenty, this season. I have no idea how many we’ve had since the first one in October, which was unseasonably early, even for Minnesota. It snows and we shovel. The snow bank next to our driveway is taller than I am. That’s a lot of heave-hoeing shovelfuls of snow, often heavy with water. The light, drier, flaky version is less straining to throw.
     The Inuits have fifteen root words for snow, about the same number we have in English. In Minnesota, most of us simplify to wet snow or dry snow. Snow with a higher water content works for making snowmen. Drier snow doesn’t stick together–not good for snowballs, but great for skiing. Wet snow is not as good for skiing or sledding. 
     Growing up in a northern climate, I took many inventions for granted: ice skates, toboggans and sleds, hockey sticks and pucks, skis and poles, snow shoes, and snowmobiles. The old expression, “necessity is the mother of invention” could be rephrased, “finding ways to have fun in snow is the mother of invention.”
     Then there’s ice fishing and all the equipment it requires: an auger to bore through the ice to the water below, adapted poles–a large variety from short ones with sharp points to stick into the ice, jiggle sticks, mini spinning rods, and on and on–fish houses with square holes cut out of the floors in the four corners. Some are portable, made of canvas, others are like little cabins, elaborate and designed for lengthy stays. 

A temporary village of fish houses on the lake

A number of years ago, I was at work at our local county sheriff’s department. The jail overlooked a lake. Two officers from Texas came to pick up a prisoner we were holding for them. One of them asked me, “What are all them little shacks out there?” I said, “Well, that’s a lake and those are fish houses.” He said, “Oh, I heard about that, but I didn’t think it was true.”
     It made me realize it is a difficult concept to understand. The lake freezes over and continues to freeze until it is thick enough to walk on, then to drive a car on, then to support the weight of a pickup. Fish houses are hauled out, sometimes pulled out by hand before the ice is safe to drive on. Before long, frozen lakes turn into small villages.
    

Hoar frost on the trees

     A lifetime in Minnesota has rewarded me countless snow and ice experiences, some funny, some scary, some fun, some dangerous, some painful, some calming. There are many things I appreciate. Hoar frost covering tree branches is breathtakingly beautiful. A good blizzard provides an unexpected retreat from outside demands. Moonlight on snow brightens a dark night. The way children look and smell when they come in from an afternoon of sledding delights the senses. I find the cold and snow of a Minnesota winter refreshing and renewing.

Christine Husom is the Second Wind Publishing author of Murder in Winnebago County and Buried in Wolf Lake.

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Winter Weather

When I was a child, I remembered praying for snow. Not because it was pretty or fun to play in but because school would be cancelled. I think many children have these memories. My son won’t.

 

While he was born in a “Northern” state, we moved when he was far too young to remember the magic of seeing the years first snow fall. He remembers playing in it when he was two, or so he says, but not the simple joys of snowman, snowball fights, nor waiting for the newscaster to read off those school closings.

 

Southern Mississippi is a different world than my winter memories. Now though, he can say he saw snow once as a child. The memory of sitting in class and hearing other children squeal outside. The teacher going to the window and in utter shock saying, “It’s snowing.”

 

The entire class running outside to see snow, many for the first time in their lives, even the teachers and school staff standing outside to see the rare occurrence of snow falling so far south.

Now he wishes each day for enough to stick that he can build a snowman. Maybe someday.

Suzette Vaughn

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Pens, Paper, and Word – Oh, My

An unprecedented event happened two days ago that made me realize how dependent I am on my technology.

I live in the Deep South, nestled in a small town above a warm lake fed by the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico. Our inclement weather usually involves hurricanes and thunderstorms. Most of the time, we coast through the winter complaining that it’s never really winter weather down here during the cold months of the year.

Many a winter holiday, such as Christmas and Thanksgiving, see the Deep South populace roaming around in shorts and t-shirts. The most snow that we might see every decade or two would be around a half-inch that quickly melts as soon as the sun rises.

Not this year. Yesterday, December 11, 2008, my daughter called me at six-thirty in the morning to tell me it was snowing. Expecting to see a light dusting of white on the ground, I was stunned to see three inches of snow already with more coming down. Before the day’s end, I had seven inches of snow in my yard.

Excitement quickly turned to dismay with the cracking sounds of snow-laden limbs falling from trees in the neighborhood. In the white stillness, the sounds echoed like rifle shots.

Shortly afterward, the electricity went out. Now, I’m used to the electricity going out during hurricane season, but not during the winter months. This is not supposed to happen, especially when I am trying to finish writing my latest book.

Although I have access to power and Internet right now at my daughter’s apartment, I will have to go home eventually to a darkened and cold house devoid of power and heat.

I realized how very dependent I am on technology. I rely on Word to help correct my erratic spelling errors and I depend on the Internet for research pertaining to my writing.

Most of all, I need power to keep the laptop going so that I can write. It has been a very long time since I have had to write the old-fashioned way. I am not sure if I have a notebook to write in and I do not know if I even have a pen that is not dried up and useless.

Over the last twenty-four hours, I have come to appreciate the authors before me who wrote lengthy novels with only pen and paper or, in older times, quill, ink, and parchment.

J J Dare is the author of “False Positive” and “False World,”

the first two novels in the Joe Daniels’ trilogy

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