Yule and the Talking Tree

Yule01

The Yule tree is always a conifer because evergreens survive the winter and they are a sign of hope and renewal.

I worked with a lovely Comanche elder for years and he told me the story about taking his children to gather cedar for ceremony.  As the children watched, he asked the tree if he could have part of her dress.  He said he needed a little of her cloak to help the people.

“Dad!  Did you see that?  The tree lowered its branch to you!” his daughter exclaimed.

I smiled and nodded knowingly.  I was taught to honor the plants and trees that I gather medicine from and on more occasions than I could possibly recall, the plants move and respond to voice and request.

trees

In the book, The Hidden Life of Trees; What They Feel, How They Communicate―Discoveries from a Secret World by Peter Wohlleben, the author forays into the scientific explanations and the mesmerizing experiences regarding trees communicating.  Of course there is science behind everything regarding plants growing better to music and singing or trees lowering their branches to offer medicine, but in my work we don’t need to hear the scientific explanations, we just know.  We see it.

tree.jpg

This is a beautiful time of year to go for a walk, go hiking in the mountains, or around a trail in your park.  There are less distractions and you can get to know an evergreen.  You will find them quite jovial.  When you say hello, it will move in a small area.  Sometimes the whole thing shakes without the help of wind or breeze.

Real magic is all around us, beyond cubicles and meetings, beyond television and bills.  It has always been there.  We are heading to Taos for the weekend.  And in the woods there and along the paths evergreens wish those that pass a Merry Yuletide.

Keeping Yule Celebrations Alive

3e7331f731062bf3148a4019704f9b1c--russian-painting-painting-art

The nights were dark and starry.  Cold as the winds blew and the people of the time stayed indoors, lamps and fires lit, families gathered in the dimly lit homes of the land.

The solstice was coming soon and across the lands the sun would shine a bit more each day.  This was a cause for great celebration among the people.  Twenty-thousand plus years before organized religion the families of the ancient lands bundled up in furs and lit lanterns and went from house to house bringing light and song to their neighbors.

The spring prior the God and the Goddess conceived and on December 21st the Goddess would give birth to the son of God, the sun.  The Holly King and his reindeer came around with gifts in exchange for a bowl of porridge.  And during the twelve days of Yule fires were lit, celebrations were had, and light was spread by all.

The newer religions of today borrow the same concepts of celebration and light.  What can we do today to celebrate Yuletide?  Spread light around you.  Compliment strangers and friends.  Check on elders and see if they are well fed and if they need company.  Invite folks into your home for a warm pot of soup and a game of cards.  Give simple, handmade gifts.  Set up twinkly lights and a Yule tree.  Sing and rejoice for the Sun God is coming and will brighten each day.

Xmas card 2017

Happy Yule everyone!

The Power of Letters and Holiday Cards

letterOpening the mailbox, I peek inside, hoping for the seasonal item that I adore, a holiday card.  This time of year as we skip to the mailbox there are more than just bills and advertisements, there are notes and photos and messages of love and good tidings.  Someone took a moment out of their busy day to scribble your address and send you a message of love for the season.  That is indeed special.

Each year I give you my postal address.  I invite you to send me a card and I shall do the same to you.  Such a beautiful tradition, Christmas cards.  Some of these cards have turned into pen pals that I have had and adored for years.  It makes it fun to go to the mailbox all year round if a hand scribed letter should be delivered.  If you would like to exchange letters, please include one!

A letter in someone’s stocking or sent via post simply stating all of the things you love and honor them for can bring an unexpected twist to someone’s day, or life.  We do not hear enough the things that are positive.  Consider in your gift giving taking the time to write someone a letter.  It would surely mean more than any tchotchke that you could come across. letter

In the age of quick messages via media, a hand written letter, note, or Yuletide card is indeed fine.  The carrier walked away with a large stack of mine.  I hope to hear from you!

Mrs. Katie Sanders

1901 Brown Ave

Pueblo, CO 81004

The Storytelling Tree

Ornaments are special.  They tell stories and relive memories on the glistening tree.

20171128_210150

This year when we went on our family vacation and visited the North Pole I picked up an ornament that held nine names.  It helped seal the moment.  We will look back at that ornament and relive the fun we had riding the train and petting the reindeer.

20171128_210159

A glass doll named Sarah that my grandmother gave me when I was very young.  Ornaments from my other grandmother’s tree.  Doug’s first ornament (he grew up Jewish) and our granddaughter’s first ornament mingle on evergreen limbs.  Decades of tales whisper among branches.

20171128_210254
From our trip to Las Vegas with the children in 2004.
20171128_210328
Ornaments that were given to me by my students in the dance company I had brighten my day. That was a special time.
20171128_210207
A gift from Rodney and Pat some years back. We all dream of getting our own adobes.

The tree is filled with memories of our trip to Las Vegas.  Of our honeymoon cruise.  It tells of Bronco fever and the children in elementary school.  Ornaments that were given as gifts.  Quite a few from New Mexico.  Next weekend we will pick up another.  Everywhere we go, we get an ornament.

20171128_210700
My Andrew at seven years old.
20171128_210315
Shyanne at seven years old and Maryjane’s hand print Santa.
20171128_210219
A very sweet five year old Emily.

When we look at our tree, it clears its throat and begins its sweet reminisce and dreams up ideas for the future.  Future names written on the tree, travels yet to be, but the comfort of home and hearth will always be the theme of our humble Yule tree.

What are your favorite ornaments?

Enchanting Christmas Decor

20171125_170001

Decorating for the holidays is one of the great joys of the season.  Transforming your home into an even more enchanting version of itself adds to the details of Yule.

#1 Adding faux fur rugs and blankets creates a warm, cozy feel.

20171125_170054

Even if the children have moved out, or if you never had children, still hang the stockings.  One for each kid, or one for each dog, it matters not.  No nails or hearth?  Hang them from the curtain rod!

#2 Decorate as if your home were filled with children.  Your inner child will thank you.

20171125_170014

Oh yes, this year we have a fence around the tree!  You can get inexpensive, folding fencing at an agricultural store like Big R.  It keeps puppies and toddlers out, but the kitten is still in the tree!  This year we opted for a faux tree.  It is decked with ornaments from our travels and beautiful creations our children made.

#3 Choose a tree.  Faux trees are easier to put up, last many years, hold onto the ornaments better, are a little sturdier, and don’t die in a few weeks.  But I don’t know if they ever decompose.  Real trees are fun to pick out, make the home smell nice, create a woodsy feel, and can be used as firewood after the holidays.  But we always get one with a crooked trunk, have to tie it to the wall and since I love putting up a tree right after Thanksgiving, it does look pretty shabby by Christmas.

20171127_070001

#4 A wreath symbolizes unity and strength, family and wholeness.  It is the universal symbol of welcome.  Make sure you put one on the door!

#5 Greenery is one of the key ingredients to a festive home.  This stuff costs five dollars at the hardware store.  Once floofed and placed around it instantly becomes Victorian style decor.  The front porch with the ristras and my old grandfather clock look festive with their draping of faux swags.

The bar is set up in festive glow ready for visitors and guests.

#6 Tuck photographs of Christmases past into mirrors around the house.

20171127_070048

20171127_065859

#7 Amaryllis bulbs tucked into potted plants burst forth with tropical Yule flair.

20171125_170134

#8 Scatter twinkly lights and tea candles everywhere.  Winter is ever lovelier with lights.  If it’s going to be dark at 4:30 the indoors ought to be inviting!

20171127_065938

#9 Have plenty of firewood on hand for chilly nights.  I do adore the glorious smell of wood smoke.

20171124_182335

#10 Make sure you get out and enjoy the holidays!  Go see the Christmas lights around town, go to the zoo and see their light show, have dinner by a roaring fire.  If you are in Pueblo make sure you see the Riverwalk, eat at The Place, see our darling zoo, and enjoy the beautiful weather.  And pop by to say hello!

A Thanksgiving Tale

deer

The hazy golden dusk illuminated the sky behind their silhouettes in the cool evening air.  The cars stopped and the elegant family of deer crossed.  The leader had a staggering limp.  Yet the two does stayed at her flank and did not attempt to cross quickly or ahead of her.  The large buck, his antlers glorious and scenic against the autumn backdrop of mountains and sunset color, stayed back with the two infants as they gingerly crossed.

In the chaos of a grocery store I stood looking seriously at disposable pans when an elder gentleman approached softly.

“Are you going to make a turkey?” he asked.

I smiled at the man whose dark tilted eyes revealed close to a century of memories and Thanksgivings.  His wife had fallen, he said.  Thank the Lord she was home from the nursing home and rehab but she still couldn’t walk good.  And well, his hip was killing him but he thought he’d come out and get a few things.  A package of frozen hash browns and a plastic container of diced watermelon well out of season sat in his cart.  One of his children was going to bring them a Thanksgiving feast.

He pulled from his inner pocket a photograph of his son to show me.  Two photos, actually, side by side on a funeral program.  A handsome young man in a navy uniform and one of the young man as a joyful middle aged man.

“This is my boy,” he says.  “He got sick from the war and died.”  He didn’t elaborate.  He just folded the three year old paper and placed it back into his inner pocket.  “Once he died my wife and I went downhill.”

Now, the crowds in the aisles bustling with noisy carts and lines of folks faded as I watched him hobble away.

The family of deer safely crossed and nimbly flitted through the fencing.  They stood together grazing in the golden field.

May we all keep the spirit of Thanksgiving in our hearts tomorrow.  I am thankful.

Happy Thanksgiving!

5 Ways to Make Thanksgiving Perfect

glassHere are a few ideas for Thanksgiving to help keep the spirit of gratitude, family, and love involved while also helping you make it go smoothly.

turkey

*Remember, there is always room for one more. 

I remember one particular year that I was alone and not really in a great place, I called a family member that was hosting Thanksgiving to see if I could come and was told there wasn’t any room for me.  I mean, I would have sat on the floor if necessary.  I just needed the company. So, if there are last minute people that want to come.  Borrow a folding chair!

candle

* Make sure you ask people to bring things. 

If you already have your traditional menu planned, request something from it.  Most of the my family and friends are coming down and staying Wednesday night so they can’t really make something.  But rolls, drinks, cranberry sauce, pies, that type of thing can be bought and brought over.  Sure, I could make all those things-in fact, the Martha Stewart in me insists that I do- but I know those little things can make a big difference between my cooking most of the big meal and enjoying the day or becoming overwhelmed with too many details.

girl

*Make everyone feel welcome.

Whether it be your daughter’s new boyfriend that just got out of jail or your mother-in-law who didn’t get much sleep last night.  Smile, hug, ask questions about them, really care.  We never know what any given person is going through and this is a meal to express our gratitude and be near those we love by sharing a meal.  Keep that in mind above all else.

table

*Take a deep breath and laugh.  It doesn’t have to be perfect.

I will have my puppy and two crazy grand-dogs running through the house.  The turkey may not cook right.  You might drop a pie.  The dog might eat the sweet potato casserole.  Aunt Sue might break into tears over a lost love. You may run out of whiskey.  This Thanksgiving, I want you to see everything with new eyes.  Every person there is alive this year.  Memorize the moments.  Watch people laugh.  Smell the turkey cooking.  Hear the ice clink in your glass.  Pet the dogs.  Have an extra helping.  These moments are precious.

table-2.jpg

*Decorate Simply

A huge, ornate centerpiece is going to end up in the way and you will be sad that you have to move your beautiful decorations!  Try a nice napkin with mix-matched dishes.  A votive in front of each space.  Print off papers for people to write what they are thankful for.  Most of them the guest can color.  Childish?  We should be a little more childish.  Sprinkle some leaves on the table.  Or have the kids go collect some.  Place a mini pumpkin on each plate. (I for one do not like getting up during conversation to refill my plate at a buffet.  In fact, I usually won’t.  Much easier for folks if all the food is on the table and we can just pass it around!)

Put on some nice classical or jazz music.  Something that won’t clash with the volume of laughter and conversation.

You might not be able to use your hundred year old dining room table.  I will be moving all the couches and chairs into one section of the living room so that I can line up two long folding tables.  I will be able to seat fourteen comfortably in this little house by simply rearranging a little.  Folding tables are more compact but still offer lots of room. Your house doesn’t have to look perfect.

Light tea candles all over the house.  They will burn for two hours and create an enchanting ambience.

If you are in a good mood, your guests will be too.  If you are flustered, they will be too.  It’s just a meal with loved ones.  Enjoy!

 

Cocktail Hour and the Thanksgiving Drink

20171114_174503‘Tis the season for a warming drink as the cool nights descend.  My husband stoked the fire in the wood stove.  The night was ink black with the stars glistening like twinkly lights and the smell of wood smoke and fallen leaves remind us that Thanksgiving is near.

I poured us each a cocktail.  We don’t often do that but we should.  We both go-go-go from before dawn until this moment where I am scurrying to get dinner made and the puppy is running around with the remote in his mouth.  When the day doesn’t slow down fast enough, our own cocktail hour is really grand!

I am more of a craft beer and snobby wine girl and I don’t like most hard liquors.  I wanted to try whiskey though.  I’m Scottish after all and I have had a few swigs from men in kilts’ flasks at the Celtic Festival.  What I made (oh, it probably isn’t new at all but it was new to me) was a delicious autumn drink.  The apples played off the essence of the barrel in the whiskey.  And the cinnamon added seasonal cheer.

20171114_175049We picked up one of those single servings of Makers Mark to see if I’d like it. (I did.)

I had some apples that were in need of being juiced.  Freshly juiced apples make this recipe.

Fill a high ball glass half way with ice.  Add whiskey.  Add four ounces of fresh apple juice.  Add a sprinkling of cinnamon.  Sit down!  It’s been a long day.  Dinner can wait five minutes and the puppy can go outside for a second.

This would be a delicious drink with roasted turkey and all the fixings next week!

What is YOUR favorite cocktail?

Before You Give to a Charity (really helping those in need)

homeless

‘Tis the time of year for charities.  To give to those less fortunate.  To share some of our blessings.

We often gave money to organizations that helped the homeless.  Then we became homeless ourselves after losing our rented farm.  We opted not to go on welfare, but rather to work very hard to get jobs and get back on our feet.  About this time two years ago we were out of money and hungry.  You can only eat so many dollar burritos from Taco Bell with found change.  We looked into getting a food basket from a local charity that distributed them.  I didn’t have a coat, I was freezing.  We were really struggling and not a single organization could or would help us.  They gave everything to the “poorest” in the county.  Well, you couldn’t have been poorer than us at that moment.  You have to work pretty dang hard to be the poorest in the county.  You have to get on welfare and food stamps, and you can’t try to find work or you would lose your pay out every month.  No thanks.

Then we have the homeless organizations that we gave to.  Those are intended to serve the perfectly able folks with signs-who make more money than anyone I know- on the corners of busy streets.  We did a farmer’s market for years in a park that was popular with the homeless.  They stole, took drugs in the park, excitedly went and got free food from the food kitchen, and had no desire to change their lives.  Or they wouldn’t be homeless anymore.  It was a lifestyle they chose.  They were the first to admit it.  And that really surprised us.

Now, this all sounds a little harsh, but let me be clear, there are people out there that need your help.  They just don’t have cardboard signs and are working hard to try and make it.  They are the elderly on your block who would love company and a meal with someone.  It’s the single mom who can’t afford new coats for her swiftly growing children.  It’s the friend at work whose wife is sick and they need help with meals and cleaning the house but would never ask.  There are people all around you who could use a bit of charity and mercy and help.

Only a few cents goes to the people large charities serve.  If you were to just look around you could have a much more powerful impact, make a personal connection, and strengthen the community you are in.  I will forever be grateful to my old neighbors who showed up at my shop with a box of home canned food, squash, a winter coat, and a hug.

Before you write a check to a big charity, look around and see if anyone near you could use a little holiday help.  We all need a little help here and there.

(Thank you to all of our friends that pitched in back then with money, a place to stay, a dinner, and hugs.  We never imagined we would have been in that situation.  Amazing how much can change in such a short time. We are really grateful for all we have now.)

 

It’s Halloween!

costume

I walked to the mailbox and found inside a letter.  It was from my dear friend, Pat, who sent us a Halloween greeting.  I love her poems and wanted to share it with you!

It’s Halloween

It’s Halloween!  It’s Halloween!

The moon is full and bright

and we shall see what can’t be seen

on any other night.

 

Skeletons and ghosts and ghouls

Grinning goblins fighting duels

Werewolves rising from their tombs

Witches on their magic brooms.

 

In masks and gowns

We haunt the streets

and knock on doors

for trick or treats.

 

Tonight we are

the King and Queen

for oh tonight

It’s Halloween!

20171028_192521
The Milk Maid
20171028_192735
Third Eye Blind

Tonight we will light a fire in the wood stove and add a few chairs for wandering souls.  Make a warm meal and pour a pumpkin beer.  We will fill a bowl with chocolates for the neighborhood ghouls.  And enjoy Halloween in our new home.

IMG_20171025_191049(1)
Shimmer the Genie

Wishing you all a fun filled Halloween, a sweet Samhain, and a happy New Year.