Archive for December, 2007

Merry Christmas

Wednesday, December 26th, 2007

PeanutSqueaker align=We had a very strange Christmas day today, but life is sometimes strange. This is just a quick post to wish a very Merry Christmas to all of my readers who celebrate it, from all of us here in our little abode: Me, Dr. Leah and the two fuzzballs, Peanut and Squeaker. That’s Peanut on the left, and Squeakie on the right, modeling their holiday finery. I also have a special holiday gift for you all.

Candlelit Service

Leah’s mother and brother were the only ones able to join us to celebrate, but we had a lovely time in the time we had together. Last nights’ candlelight Christmas Eve service at UUSO was a moment of serenity in a busy few days, and a highlight of our all-too-brief family gathering. Leah’s mother and brother both joined Leah in singing with the choir, helping provide the beautiful music we were able to hear. Leah sang a solo version of the Appalachian carol, I Wonder as I Wander, and our holiday gift to all of you readers is the recording I made of her performance. Just click on the link to hear it.

May your holidays, and all your days, be filled with magic and grace.

Welcome Yule!

Friday, December 21st, 2007

At 1:08 am EST (6:08 UTC) on September 22, the winter solstice will be upon us, and the short days of winter will slowly begin to grow longer as we inch towards spring. The roots of our winter holidays can be traced, in part, back to the Solstice celebrations of yore. The holly, evergreens, candles and reds and greens of Christmas are all derived from the pagan celebration of Yule.

This evening, Leah and I attended the Yule celebration and ritual at UUSO, an annual event which brings together members of both the UU and Wiccan communities for the celebration of the Winter Solstice. Though we’d hoped to attend in previous years, this was the first year we made time in our busy end-of-semester/pre-Christmas schedules to attend. It will certainly not be our last, however. One part of this year’s ritual was for each person in the circle to focus of what they personally wanted for the new year, and to distill that down to one word. For me, it was one word from the start. “Joy.” We each said our word aloud in turn, and Leah, who was sitting next to me, revealed her word to be “Joy” as well.

I have always loved the winter festival, by any name, and the most appealing symbols of the holiday to me, it turns out, are those closely linked with Yule and our connection to Mother Earth.  One of my favorite holiday books is The Winter Solstice: The Sacred Traditions of Christmas by John Matthews.  It discusses the pagan origins of Christmas and the remarkable similarities between numerous winter festivals and the Christian holiday.  For anyone at all interested in the origins of our holiday traditions, this book is a fascinating and comprehensive read.

I leave you with these parting words, which happened to be the final words of the celebration this evening:

“Merry meet, merry part, and merry meet again!  Blessed be.”

A sad loss for the community

Wednesday, December 19th, 2007

Ron Wilcox selling his work at UUSO Cookies and CraftsI learned yesterday morning that Ron Wilcox had died Monday night. Ron was both a photographer and an active and long time member of the Unitarian Universalist Society of Oneonta. He had already retired from him position at Hartwick College when Leah and I moved to Oneonta two years ago, but continued to be active in the profession. His fine work was a staple of the Oneonta Farmer’s Market and other community events, where he sold postcards, greeting cards and prints, many showcasing the local area. In fact, Leah and I had seen him just over a week ago at the annual UUSO Cookies and Crafts, where he had a table. I regret not getting to know him better, but his work always gave me something towards which to strive, and will continue to do so in the years to come. It is a great loss for the many communities of which he was an active member – UUSO, photography, and Oneonta, to name those through which I knew him – and undoubtedly many more.

At this busy and preoccupied time of year, see if you can take a moment to send positive thoughts, energies, prayers, etc. to his wife and family.

A Candlelight Evening

Monday, December 17th, 2007

Candles and luminarias illuminate the Candlelight Evening at the Farmer's MuseumToday’s (well, once again it is technically yesterday’s) Oneonta for the Holidays outing took us a bit north of Oneonta to Copperstown and the Farmer’s Museum for their annual Candlelight Evening. The historic village is lit by candles in every window and along every path, while carolers sing and traditional wassail is served from steaming cauldrons heating over open fires. Since the Chamber Singers were again singing for this event, I decided to tag along this year and take some photos. Last year in was rainy and muddy, or so Leah recalls, but this year the weekend’s Nor’Easter left a continuously falling stream of fresh snow to blanket the village and provide the perfect backdrop for classic holiday photos. I attended the Singers’ first set, and then wandered around taking photos as the daylight waned and the luminarias glowed against the white snow.

Traditional candle lanternWe were there less than three hours, but those hours were among the most magical I have spent in recent days. The snow kept the throngs at bay and left many of the venues without performers, but for those who were able to attend, it was a winter wonderland. For me the most ethereal part of the evening was walking next to the chapel in which the Chamber Singers were rehearsing and hearing Leah’s soaring voice emanate from the building, soon joined by the rest of the group, and they once again sang Glory, Glory to the Newborn King. (See my previous entry for more details and to hear them sing it.) As the snow fell around me, and the lights softly began to glow, the air filled with glorious voices. It is these moments that make the holidays, and any day, so worthwhile.

A red farmhouse stands out in the heavy snow

Horsedrawn wagon rides are a highlight of the Candlelight Evening

Sounds of the Season

Monday, December 17th, 2007

The Catskill Chamber Singers perform their holiday concertOn Friday night, the Catskill Chamber Singers held their Holiday 2007 concert, Songs of the Season: The World Around. Leah is a member of this 16-person ensemble, so I am at most of their concerts. The holiday concerts are always my favorites. Friday’s show featured Moses Hogan’s Glory, Glory to the Newborn King as the penultimate piece, with Leah’s soaring soprano taking the solo part. I always love hearing Leah sing, as do many others, and this was no exception. (To hear the live recording I made of the song, just click on the name above. The file is in mp3 format.)

Leah sings during the Catskill Chambers Singer's holiday concertThe Chamber Singers are rather fond of sing-alongs, which can be a bit odd when they are singing “recent” pop songs written before my parents were born, but at the holiday shows, I am always quite familiar with the songs. The concert closed with all assembled singing Silent Night, the perfect compliment to the season.

To hear a bit more of Leah’s singing, visit her website, http://www.leahbridgers.com/