“And this is what we mean by friends.  Even when they are absent, they are with us . . . even when they are weak, they are strong; and even when they are dead, they are alive.”
— Cicero

A light in the darkness -- the Macy star and Westlake tree, Seattle

A light in the darkness — the Macy’s star and Westlake tree, Seattle

“Listen to me: everything you think you know, every relationship you’ve ever taken for granted, every plan or possibility you’ve ever hatched, every conceit or endeavor you’ve ever concocted, can be stripped from you in an instant.  Sooner or later, it will happen.  So prepare yourself.  Be ready not to be ready.  Be ready to be brought to your knees and beaten to dust.  Because no stable foundation, no act of will, no force of cautious habit will save you from this fact:  nothing is indestructible.”
— Jonathan Evison, from The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving

Today’s post is in memory of Alden, my daughter’s best friend, who died one year ago.  Sometimes it is difficult to find the strength to stay open to the joys of the season.  I am privileged to witness my daughter’s courage in this regard.  My heartfelt best wishes to everyone who is suffering the absence of beloved friends and family this holiday season.

” . . . simply living demands all the courage that we have.”
— Adam Gopnik, from Winter: Five Windows on the Season

The Best Day of the Year

December 19, 2012

Macy's star shines over the Westlake carousel, Seattle

Macy’s star shines over the Westlake carousel, Seattle

Westlake Park with holiday lights

Westlake Park with holiday lights

“Gray skies and December lights are my idea of secret joy, and if there were a heaven, I would expect it to have a lowering violet-gray sky . . . and white lights on all the trees and the first flakes just falling, and it would always be December 19 — the best day of the year, school out, stores open late, Christmas a week away.”
— Adam Gopnik, Winter: Five Windows on the Season

I couldn’t resist using this quote, just perfect for December 19th.  In Winter: Five Windows on the Season, Gopnik explores the ways winter is a time of human warmth rather than the more ancient view of winter as a sign of our withdrawal from grace.  I especially liked the essay called “Romantic Winter,” a sentiment that could only arise after the invention of central heating!  “Winter’s persona changes with our perception of safety from it . . . The romance of winter is possible only when we have a warm, secure indoors to retreat to, and winter becomes a season to look at as much as one to live through.”

It’s true.  After a drizzly evening in downtown Seattle enjoying the festive lights, I was happy to return home to my warm, quilted bed!

 

 

 

“Snowflakes spill from heaven’s hand
Lovely and chaste like smooth white sand.
A veil of wonder laced in light
Falling gently on a winter’s night.”
–Linda A. Copp

Paper Star Snowflake

Paper Star Snowflake

Several years ago one of the gift wrappers at the University Bookstore in Seattle was making these holiday snowflakes (or they could be stars, I guess).  She gave me a photocopied set of instructions, original source unknown.  I’ve been meaning to make some of these snowflakes for holiday decorations, but until now, I never got around to it.

My finished snowflake hangs in my kitchen window, a lacy wonder that lets in the light.

Here are step-by-step instructions for making your own paper snowflake/star:

Fold each square in half to make a triangle.  Then fold in half again.  And again.

Fold each square in half to make a triangle. Then fold in half again. And again.

You need six square of paper.  I used 5 x 5-inch squares.  Fold each square in half along the diagonal, making a triangle.  Then fold in half again.  And again.

IMG_8523

Cut slits into each triangle.

Now, keeping the little triangles folded, cut four parallel slits on the solid side.  Cut almost all the way across.

Open the paper squares and press flat.

Open the paper squares and press flat.

Open each piece of paper back into a square and flatten with your fingers.

Cutting some of the inner square just to free two corners.

Cutting some of the inner square just to free two corners.

Next you will bring two opposite points of the inner squares together in a sequence.  In order to do this, you will first have to cut the corners free along one long diagonal fold line.  (Leave the other points/corners so that they are not cut all the way through.)

Starting with the smalled inner square, fold two points together and tape.

Starting with the smallest inner square, fold two points together and tape.

Starting with the smallest inner square, fold two opposite points together and tape into a cylindrical shape.

Turn the square over, and bring the points of the next larger square together.

Turn the square over, and bring the points of the next larger square together.

1. Turn the square over.  2.  Bring the opposite points of the next larger square together and tape.  Repeat steps 1 and 2 until all of the opposing points have been taped in the center.

You've finished square one!

You’ve finished square one!

Your square should now look like this.  You need five more.  Start folding and taping!

Staple three sections together at a point.

Staple three sections together at a point.

Once you have completed all six sections of the snowflake, take three and match up at a point.  Staple at this point.  Repeat with the other three sections.

Finished paper snowflake

Finished paper snowflake

That’s it!  Your paper snowflake/star is complete.

Hanging snowflake

Hanging snowflake

“It is Christmas in the heart that puts Christmas in the air.”
— W. T. Ellis

Poinsettias for sale at Swansons Nursery

“Christmas waves a magic wand over this world, and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful.”
— Norman Vincent Peale

I try not to get stressed with all of the messages crying buy, buy, buy during the holiday season.  But I have to admit that I appreciate the colors, lights, and scents of baking and pine trees during this most dark time of the year.  I can hardly imagine what December would be like without the glitz, commercial or not.

So I made a pilgrimage to Swansons Nursery in Seattle to feed my eyes on the reds and greens of the season.  The poinsettias alone offer such a variety of colors that put Christmas in the air.

Pretty pink poinsettias

Red poinsettias speckled white

Mostly white with a valley of pale pink

Pretty in pink

Poinsettia display at Swansons Nursery

Wreath made from the pages from a discarded book

I no longer do a lot of decorating for the holidays.  I try to keep things simple and choose just a few ways to make the holiday season special and memorable.  This year I’m making some decorations from deconstructed books.

Wreath made from paper cones

My first project was this wreath made from the pages of a discarded book.  First I rolled several pages into cones, and then I stapled them onto a wire wreath form.  I started with three cones in a row, and then overlapped the next three cones, and so on, around the form.

Standing trees made from discarded paperback books.

Detail of folded trees

Each of these standing trees was formerly a paperback book.  I didn’t use a pattern, just began cutting with a scissors — starting with the horizontal cuts — and then trimmed and folded each page to get the desired shapes.  I hope to end up with a small forest on our fireplace mantle.

I’ve written about other holiday papercraft projects over the years.  If you’d like to see more, check out these links to past posts:

 

“Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever flowing stream.”  (Amos 5:24)

Historical photos of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in non-violent protest

Reviewing a life in photos from Life Magazine's Remembering Martin Luther King Jr.

“The top 1 percent of Americans now take in roughly one-fourth of America’s total income every year.  In terms of wealth rather than income . . . the top 1 percent now control 40 percent of the total.  This is new.  Twenty-five years ago, the corresponding figures were 12 percent and 33 percent.”
— Joseph Stiglitz

There is a revolution going on.  As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said in his Letter from a Birmingham Jail, “Oppressed people cannot remain oppressed forever. The yearning for freedom eventually manifests itself.”

Today is a national holiday to honor MLK.  It’s a good day to reflect on the parallels between the Civil Rights movement he led and the current Occupy movement, whose participants are channeling their discontent with public demonstrations and civil disobedience.

” . . .  every political protest is an appeal to a justice that is absent, and is accompanied by a hope that in the future this justice will be established; this hope, however, is not the first reason for the protest being made.  One protests because not to protest would be too humiliating, to diminishing, too deadly.  One protests (by building a barricade, taking up arms, going on a hunger strike, linking arms, shouting, writing) in order to save the present moment, whatever the future holds.
To protest is to refuse being reduced to a zero and to an enforced silence.  Therefore, at the very moment a protest is made, there is a small victory. . . . A protest is not principally a sacrifice made for some alternative, more just future; it is an inconsequential redemption of the present.  The problem is how to live time and again with the adjective inconsequential.”
John Berger,  Bento’s Sketchbook: How Does the Impulse to Draw Something Begin?

“People here [in England 1848] expect a revolution.  There will be no revolution, none that deserves to be called so.  There may be a scramble for money.  but as all the people we see want the things we now have, and not better things, it is very certain they will, under whatever change of forms, keep the old system.  When I see changed men I shall look for a changed world.  Whoever is skillful in heaping money now will be skillful in heaping money again.”
— Ralph Waldo Emerson

When we are all so consumed with “getting ahead” and material success, I think it will be difficult to change the prevailing culture to one of “enough” and sustainability.  I am part of the 99 percent.  So if I want to see change, a fairer balance, what should I do?

"Strings of street lights" at Westlake Park, Seattle

“City sidewalks, busy sidewalks,
Dressed in holiday style.
In the air
There’s a feeling
Of Christmas  . . .
— from “Silver Bells” by Ray Evans

The colors and sounds of the holidays cheer our dark days of December.  Here are some photos from an evening in the city:

Lobby of the Fairmont Olympic Hotel, Seattle

Carolers in Nord Alley, Pioneer Square

Gingerbread Exhibit, Sheraton Hotel lobby

Carousel and Macy's star, Westlake Center

Santa photos behind the plate-glass window at Nordstrom's

Wish upon a star

“O Star of wonder, star of night,
Star with royal beauty bright.
Westward leading, still proceeding,
Guide us to thy Perfect Light.”
— from “We Three Kings of Orient Are” by the Reverend John Henry Hopkins

 

Coconut Kiss Cookies

It’s nice to have cookies on hand for holiday get-togethers, and this year I started my baking with a recipe for Coconut Kiss Cookies from Thimbleberries Pattern Party by Lynette Jensen.  This is a new recipe for me.  My daughter and I will likely make some of our more traditional recipes in the next few weeks.

Balls of dough rolled in coconut

Cookies ready for the oven

Readying the Hershey's Kisses for the topping

Tray of Coconut Kiss Cookies

Coconut Kiss Cookies

1/3 c butter
3 oz cream cheese
3/4 c sugar
1 egg yolk
2 tsp almond extract
2 tsp orange juice
1-1/4 c flour
2 tsp baking powder
5 c flaked coconut, divided
48 Hershey Kisses

Cream together the butter, cream cheese, and sugar.  Add and beat the egg yolk, almond extract, and orange juice.  Add the flour, baking powder, and 3 cups of the coconut.  Chill the batter for 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Shape dough into 1-inch balls and roll them in the remaining coconut.  Bake 10 – 12 minutes.  Immediately after pulling from the oven, top with one Kiss per cookie.

 

A rainy December evening at Westlake Mall

Giant tree at Westlake Mall and Macy's Star

Holiday carousel at Westlake Mall

Artificial snow falling inside Pacific Place shopping center

Chasing snowflakes at Pacific Place

“I sometimes think we expect too much of Christmas Day.  We try to crowd into it the long arrears of kindliness and humanity of the whole year.  As for me, I like to take my Christmas a little at a time, all through the year.  And thus I drift along into the holidays – let them overtake me unexpectedly – waking up some fine morning and suddenly saying to myself:  “Why, this is Christmas Day!”
     — David Grayson

My husband and I had a date downtown this week for dinner and a movie.  Downtown Seattle is a magical place at night, full of holiday shoppers, families in their dressiest clothes lined up for photos with Santa, and plenty of sparkling lights.  I enjoyed our evening out during this especially festive time of year.