It was a chilly afternoon in the fall. I was about seven years old, and my grandmother had invited me and some of my church friends to her house to start a group for girls of m age that would meet once a month. We were to have some fun, some snacks, and do a little project as a contribution to the community. The one I remember was using old Christmas cards to make gift cards. We cut pictures from cards with pinking shears and used them for covers on small folded pieces of construction paper. We then punched a hole in the corner and put a bit of ribbon through the hole so that the gift card could be tied to a package. I'm not sure what happened next with those little cards, but I do remember that the creative process was very satisfying to all of us. We were somehow now drawn into an adult world where what we contributed would make a difference.
Some people finish their holiday shopping in August, or even on December 26 for the next year! It works well for them. It would not work well for me because I have to confess that I love the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, and yes, even the chaos.
I don't mind the last-minute wrapping, or even the hunt for that present I know I bought but can't find because I put it somewhere "safe."
If you research the phrase "old chestnut" you will see that there is a literary explanation that an "old chestnut" is a tale that has been told so many times that it is no longer funny or interesting. If you research how long chestnuts stay fresh, you will find that they must be stored under very precise temperatures, and even then will not keep long.
Sometimes I feel like climbing into my linen closet and curling up by the ironed pillow cases and the bar of scented soap. It is probably the only place in all of my living spaces that is, at the moment, quiet and serene.
Today I have been trying to capture our one-hundred-plus-year-old tree with my two-year-old camera. I can't do it. And I realize as I try one angle and another, one frame and another, it isn't the camera's fault.
The tree was here long before we were here, long before this house was built, and there are so many dreams and hopes caught in its branches and feeding those green, green leaves, that no one lens, no matter how technologically adept, can catch it.
It's February 1973 and we have been in our new-old house in the San Fernando Valley for two and a half months. I don't know it yet, but I am pregnant with our first child. I am a transplant from the Westside of Los Angeles, and the valley is a little rural, a little unfamiliar compared to the more cosmopolitan (if you could call it that in 1973) Westwood, Hollywood, and Santa Monica of my previous world.
I still work at UCLA, so every weekday I make a roundtrip over the Sepulveda pass or the 405 freeway.
Whenever I see old family photographs, they often look as if the whole gestalt of that moment were peaceful, tranquil. If by some magic you could go back there now, maybe you could wander out of the frame and enjoy the picnic, the party, the holiday, that was the occasion for the photo. People seem to be enjoying themselves because after all they are all smiling, right? You don't get what went on before the moment caught on film, or after. All you have is a person with a smile, or maybe a funny face.
I recently took a road trip to Sacramento, driving alone up the I-5. This is a trip I made many, many times when I was working, and although the I-5 has never been known as a picturesque drive, I always loved it. The California landscape is never boring to me. The mountains are lovely, even sensuous with their undulating contours and changing colors. Wild radish and mustard, lush California lilacs, line the roadside.
Cleaning up a fairy garden means that first you have to find all the fairies and give them a bath. Then it may be necessary to refresh a little paint here and there, no matter how hard they try to resist. And if they have left their Winter Solstice decorations up, you must retrieve those, clean them up, and find safe storage so that they can be used again during the appropriate season. There is always a question of how the furnishings have been rearranged, as well.
This picture breaks my heart.
Government business in government buildings grinds slow, inching along while endless conversations and copy machines murmur and people are restless in folding chairs, on dirty seats stained with coffee or soda or maybe even body fluids. Rehearsing what you will say, not paying much attention except to track your turn, you wait. If you want to be heard, you wait.
There is a particular longing, ever-present, and unnamed
permeating into areas ordinarily inaccessible if circumscribed by specifics.
How, then, can it be a particular longing?
But it is something -- something unclaimed, wandering loose, or sitting forlornly, like lost luggage.
Driving North, 1959
What is your Christmas dream? Every year I start spinning holiday fantasies long before Thanksgiving. I find myself rummaging around in early Christmas memories and building a chain that links to the present.