There are the Martha Stewarts of Christmas decorating and then there is me. The tree should, of course, be the focal point and for my own rational reasons (why kill a perfectly good, living tree?), I have always put up a "fake" one. I do realize that it is made of plastics which never biodegrade, that there is no fresh pine or spruce smell, and that it just isn't authentic. I know that the trees are grown and harvested for Christmas so my justification is not rational at all. Still...
To compensate for the trip to the tree lot or the great outdoors with the chain saw, that we didn't take, setting up the tree was a family affair. I might have mentioned being a bit cheap before so it follows that our "fake" tree was small and after its first few Christmases kind of "Charlie-Brownish." Its flimsy plastic stand took some creative mouth positions (as in if you held your lips a certain way) to get standing with the centre "pole" not too far off-plumb. The wooden trunk (read recycled broomstick) featured drilled holes (colour-coded) where you matched the appropriate limb, swore some, and pushed it in. The holes splintered so that the limbs hung crooked and didn't necessarily line up. No matter, strategic placement of the strings of lights held it all together. I did say it was a family affair so everyone "helped." We all know decorating a tree is "woman's" work so more than the needed supervision was provided by the grouchy man of the house, who didn't quite trust leaving the kids and little woman to get the tree up. The kids (just two, thank goodness) helped as best they could. Once the tree was "balanced", we could do the decorating per se. Cue for the man to depart, his chore done until it was time to critique this year's effort. The kids were excited to help. When they were young, the idea of the tree worked, the magic of Christmas was just a couple of weeks away, and once covered by ornaments, we could stand back to admire our work. Even the resident critic might offer a gruff compliment.
O, Christmas tree, indeed.
It's like the "get out of jail free card." After -15, the air feels downright tropical and the sun, the sun is shining. The birds have come out of hiding (wherever they hole up when it's so cold) and are enjoying the warmth and bingeing on the seeds put out for them. The hedge is alive with chittering back and forth. Below the feeder, the melting snow has revealed the spillage they missed. Sparrows especially aren't too shy to gobble from the ground and the rule is he (of she) who gets the best seeds wins.
The forecast is for this kind of halcyon weather to continue. The end of November and the first of December may be the late fall weather we skipped right by. I'll take it. (And try to quell the voice telling me climate change is here AND not good.)
As a baby boomer who at last has to admit she might be entering old age, I am attracted by articles reporting the number of centenarians in Canada. We all like to see a tv interview with an old gal or guy who has defied the odds, lived to 100, and is doing incredible things. Alert, engaged, and feisty. Those are the people we see at 100.
The lucky Centenarians are fit, bright, and relatively healthy. The biggest determiner for these attributes is genetics. Surprise! People who live a longer, healthy life are genetically fortunate. A lifestyle including exercise, good food, and an optimistic outlook plays a role but a person can't live to 100 without the right genes.
People don't like living in the shadow of the reaper but some folk are just surviving in nursing homes and extended care facilities. That is the dark side of old age. It is out of one's control and people do linger on when they would rather be done with life.
Even those who have the genes, so have the health, can have regrets about such a long life. One of my Mother's friends died recently at 101 years. She had told people that she was ready to go. She had had one group of friends and they all died on her so she made a second group. And you guessed it, they died, too. She was working on her third group.
This is not meant to be macabre. Death is a fact of life (pun intended.) In Canada, we still like to pretend it might not happen to us or those we love. There should be more discussion. The legislation to allow some people to end their lives with dignity is a step in the right direction. We need to live life to the fullest and talk about death, too. It's gonna happen.
In the fifties, light pollution wasn't even a thing. For a few years, our electricity was provided by a windmill hooked to a series of glass batteries that were stored behind the porch. There was enough power to have electric lights. Off-grid, eh? Then electricity came to the district. My Dad might have declined it because of the expense but everyone on the line had to sign up or it was a no go.
When the sun went down, it was dark. Once we got the power we could have a yard light so that going out after sunset didn't put us in danger of wandering off into the wilderness. Eventually, the bulb in the yard light burned out. You can see changing it was going to be a problem. My Dad had his trusty farmhand but someone had to ride up on the lift to change the bulb. It was not going to be Mom. I stood near the back of the lift and with Dad at the controls, was raised
high enough to screw the old bulb out and the new one in. Again, no helmet, parachute, or special shoes to grip the farmhand. The whole operation lasted, maybe, 10 minutes. I wasn't traumatized and am not afraid of heights. I enjoyed being trusted to do this little job.
Maybe there was something about me and being lowered and raised to perform small tasks. I went to a one room country school and I don't recall any policy about cut-off temperatures for going outside. We went outside and when we came in, our mitts were covered with a snow-ice combination. We would place them around the grate that covered the furnace vent. For some reason, it was a couple of feet high and about two feet on each side. The grate had been bent away from the vent's walls and the mittens would fall into the gap and down toward a metal platform. (Not a fiery inferno.) Every so often, the grate was lifted and I was lowered into the vent to collect the mitts. They were a fire hazard and in the day, you didn't just buy new mitts. Kids (and adults) were expected to look after their things.
When I think about it, my parents, my teacher, and other neighbours would likely be reported for endangering their children. We survived to face much more dangerous situations.
We lived on a farm and the running water (when we were old enough) was my brother and myself. The farm had its own well. Like all infrastructure, a well has to maintained. My parents noticed bits of the wooden cribbing in the water hauled to the house. The cribbing had to be fixed and then the fallen bits had to be retrieved.
That's where my Dad and I came in. Him, with his trusty farmhand, a bit like the one pictured above and me, the small enough one. He secured a seat (short plank) to a length of rope and then fastened it to the lift of the farm hand. The well was opened and I, sitting, on the plank was lowered into the well with a small bucket. When I was close enough, I fished the wood from the cribbing out and put it in the bucket. I had had plenty of instruction and warnings about carefully doing the task. I can remember looking up at the circle of light that marked the ground's surface, the intense cold of the well water on my bare feet, and not feeling particularly afraid. My Dad knew what he was doing. Once I had as much wood gathered as I could, I was then raised back to the surface, safe and sound. Our well was repaired and that was that.
Imagine, all this was accomplished without a special helmet (no helmet at all), no safety belt, no padded seat and no waterproof well-cleaning shoes. (Not even a snorkel.) I emerged from the experience, unscathed.
I'm not trying to denigrate safety or caring for kids. (My Dad was the best.) I am saying that protecting children too much doesn't help them in the long run.
I don't have to get up for work, show up for work or do work. (Ha! That's if cooking, cleaning, laundry, etc. aren't work.) I do have a lot of time available and have had for a while. When I was working I talked about how I wanted time to write. So have I produced the great Canadian novel?? No. I do have three drafts of different attempts (although I was never so full of hubris as to imagine they would or could be great.) All that time? I worked teaching for 33 years and my natural laziness now has rein. I write when I want to. I have published a few short stories (even have been paid for them once or twice.) I maintain, sporadically this blog.
Last winter I got brave enough to join a group of people who meet twice a week to paint. Most of them are using water colour and the different styles among the 8- 10 artists are interesting. One lady creates delicate, very pretty paintings. Another can improve upon the images she finds, sometimes on the internet, sometimes in advertising. Her drawing is to envy. Several of the artists have been painting in different media for some time. There is one person working in oils at present and another acrylics. The informal leader of the group is our cheerleader. In her enthusiasm, she grabs your painting, holds at a distance and exclaims, "See, do you see how good it is?" In her "bag of art" she has selection of mats in various sizes and colours. Choosing one of them, she will put it around your art and say, "Just look at it now. O, you have to frame this one." I am back with the group this fall and winter. It is an excellent way to make new friends, perhaps develop a skill and most of all enjoy some cheer as the dark days of December descend.
Retirement gives me the time, but I have found it has nurtured my talent for procrastination. If there is an unpleasant task? Why don't I do it tomorrow? If I've hit a more difficult section of writing? Maybe if I let the subconscious work on it. Should I finish an art piece? Taking everything out without a big block of time isn't very productive. Perhaps, that's my true creativity in the freedom retirement has offered. I can make excuses with the best.
I've been married a long time and often write about everyday events.