Catching up with Hugh’s Charity Christmas Topper Challenge

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The Overlord headed home yesterday with his mini John Deere ride-on tractor, fish puzzle, and toddler drum set. Naturally, his favorite finds were a cardboard wrapping-paper tube (his didgeridoo) and a cardboard box (the perfect size for an Overlord Jack-in-the-Box).

I’m in holiday recovery mode. I drifted into dreamland around 6 pm last night and climbed from bed well after dawn. I might dismantle our little tree today, but not before catching up on Hugh’s Charity Christmas Topper Photo Challenge!

100_1025The Overlord was part of the decorating team this year, so prior to the event, I sorted our ornaments into 2 piles: “kid-proof” and “not this year.” We went with a small tree, no garlands, zero tinsel, and minimal lights. Without power, I couldn’t check the strands to see if they worked … When the power finally came on, only the top half of the tree lit up. Oops.

For this year’s tree topper, I risked a porcelain angel after the Overlord was tucked in bed. She survived, though she needs a bit of glue prior to next year.

100_0144Power finally returned on Christmas about 1:30 in the morning. It came with a coverlet of snow – a rare pleasure here in the rain forest and perfect for Christmas morning.

Christmas and New Years are times when my wishes for peace are ever present in my thoughts. Hugh’s Photo Challenge is a lovely way for me to partake in something kind-hearted. Thank you, Hugh, for making it so very easy 🙂

This post is part of Hugh’s Charity Christmas Topper Photo Challenge. Hugh will donate £1 to The Dogs Trust for every Christmas Tree Topper photo, up to a maximum of £250.  The challenge is open until Tuesday, January 5th, 2016, and he will publish a post on Twelfth Night, January 6th, showcasing everybody who participated in the challenge and letting us know how much we all managed to raise.

If you want to participate and help Hugh raise £250 for The Dogs Trust, here’s how:

1. Take a photo of what sits on top of your Christmas tree.
2. Create a new post on your blog entitled “Hugh’s Charity Christmas Tree Topper Challenge.”
3. Add the photo(s) you have taken to the post and tell us a little about what them.
4. Create a pingback to his original post or leave a link to your post in the comments section of his original post so that other participants can view your post.

It’s just one more wonderful way to celebrate this Blogland Community.

Ice Moon

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The dawn of between-time rises gray and slick with ice. Sheets of rain turn to sleet, to snow and back to rain, the cold raw and penetrating. The first of the winter moons rims the shunting clouds in silver, the ice moon, when the world requires far less effort.

When I started writing fantasy, I found myself contemplating worlds without the modern convenience of electricity, worlds without light switches and clocks, furnaces and gas ranges. Logistics needed to be attended to, and I paid attention to the way the moon and stars lit the forest’s night sky, the way the cloud cover blocked or magnified light.

I began taking short lightless walks at night (despite the cougars and coyotes). There were nights when the woolen darkness was so thick I couldn’t see the ends of my fingertips and nights when the luminous moon cast long blue shadows. I began writing with greater attention to the seasons, the phases of the moon, the natural rhythms of the wilderness that were integral to my characters’ lives.

In the Dragon Soul Trilogy, the Ice Moon begins with the full moon’s appearance in the early winter sky. Here in Oregon, the Ice Moon bares her full face on Christmas.

My blog’s green summery background has been irking me a bit lately, so I thought for a year I would follow the moons through my fantasy world. Welcome to the Ice Moon. Happy solstice.

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Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus

Image from wikimedia

Image from wikimedia

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exists, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy.
~Charles A. Dana

The Overlord’s parents decided to be truthful about the existence of Santa Claus. He’s 2 years old, mind you.

“You don’t believe in Santa?” I asked my daughter, aghast at the notion.

“We don’t want to mislead him or lie to him,” she said.

“How do you know there’s no Santa?” I asked, sensing her ambivalence. “How do you know there’s no such thing as magic?”

Her mother writes fantasy. What did she expect?

This conversation got me thinking about how little I actually “know.” I’m fairly certain I know my thoughts and feelings and perhaps a glimmer of what I perceive with my senses. But that’s about it. I drew a pie chart to demonstrate:

Pie Chart

Figure 1. Pie Chart of Ignorance

There are various things we humans agree upon and, therefore, have decided are “true.” For example, many of us believe gold is valuable when, if you think about it, it’s really just rock. Collectively, we ascribe values to all sorts of tangible items, and we conform to these “realities.” Move into the realm of thought and the tendency is no different.

What is “real” and “true” for me changes over time as I gain experience and ask the what-if and why questions that rattle around in my pea-brain. I imagine scientists also ponder imaginative possibilities. Otherwise, discoveries would only occur by accident. For scientists, theories become fact when proven. Yet how often are “truths” revised as more evidence surfaces, as our knowledge grows? All the time.

So, just because something can’t be proved using our limited senses and machinery, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. Just because we can’t discover or measure it now, doesn’t mean we won’t in the future.

I enjoy this uncertainty. I like living with fathomless possibilities. This is where the heart of faith and spirit lies. For me, this is the realm of ghosts and angels, a sentient symbiotic planet, karma and destiny, aliens and gods. I can believe in our ability to manifest the universe through our choices, that words can change a life, that thoughts have tactile power, that love can be sent through the air like an arrow or a wave, that our understanding/categorizing/defining/ values may be flawed because we see only a minute sliver of the whole picture.

So, I’m open to the possibility of everything, to the existence of magic … and the presence of Santa Claus.

Happy Holidays.

Block Party

If anyone hasn’t discovered Mike Allegra’s blog, heylookawriterfellow, consider this an early Christmas gift. Every post is pure fun. He had me rolling this morning.

heylookawriterfellow

Blocks!Always be careful what you wish for. Last year, when I secretly decorated the house for Christmas (as documented in a recent issue of The Boston Globe Magazine) I was filled with a sense of personal triumph.

Ha HA! I thought. The house is decorated exactly the way I like it!

Little did I know that last year’s bit of derring-do would lead to a new family tradition: I am now The Official Holiday Decorator. In other words, my wife no longer cares where the carolers go.

So while Ellen educated young minds and Alex nursed his post nasal Niagara Falls, I set up the village, manger, Santas, sleds, fake packages, and our ever-growing platoon of Lenox snowmen.

I decided that my new decorating responsibility also included throwing out all the holiday doodads that sprinkle glitter over my freshly vacuumed floor. Which reminds me:

Dear Extended Family,

If you…

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Instructions for a Bad Day

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It’s one of those days when the blogging brain is still in bed. The Overlord stayed over last night (without his mom and dad), and it’s like sleeping with a bandaid, his little body stuck to me all night.

So, today my sleepy head offers up a spoken word poem by Shane Koyczan entitled Instructions for a Bad Day. Not that I’m having a bad day at all – we’re going to make “dirt soup” in the garden and feed the ducks from the fish deck. Yet all humans have those days at some point, don’t we? And there are times when the world weighs a little heavy on the heart.

This is one of those inspiring treasures, perfect for any day.  I recommend a listen. It’s worth every second.

Credit: A compilation of worldwide YouTube content, the crowd-sourced documentary “Life in a Day” by Kevin Macdonald, and local footage by Jon Goodgion. Audio is the spoken word poem “Instructions For a Bad Day” by Shane Koyczan.

For the Grimdark Fantasy Reader

bone wall image for blog2

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The point of her shovel chips the ground where she drops it. She presses her foot on the blade’s flat rim and pushes. Clods of dirt break free, tossed aside to tumble and slide down the slope. Rimma presses her lips behind her teeth and digs into our bone wall alone. Her shovel has gouged a well nearly a foot deep when she hits something hard. She widens the hole’s edges, digging around the thing until she can lever it up. On her knees, she reaches in and pulls from the soil, the first long, pitted, ivory bone.

More shovels join in the excavation, the exhumed grave widening and deepening until shovels aren’t required, the bones resting on bones like loose gravel, bones nestled in bones in pockets of air, a tomb built of millions upon millions of bones. They rise from the top of the wall one at a time, in handfuls, in bouquets of rib bones, the thick-clubbed remains of arms and legs, blades of the back and hips, butterfly bones of the spine, hollow-eyed grinning skulls, the delicate twigs of fingers and toes.

The People watch with sober faces as we unearth their past, our past. I wonder if they’ve clawed into these walls before, if this vision is as fresh and tormenting to them as it is to us. The bone wall extends for miles. How far and how long will Rimma dig? I don’t believe she can stop.

“That’s enough, Rimma,” I say, squatting beside her. “Peace, Sister.”

She sits back on her heels, eyes closed, a tiny skull in her lap no larger than her clasped hands, an unborn child perhaps. She raises it over the open pit, and when her fingers open, it drops clattering back in, the toothless jaw snapping off. I believe that if I didn’t stand there, at the rim of her experience, at the edge of the gaping hole in the bone wall, she would have leaned forward and fallen into the grave herself. Without a word or glance, she rises to her feet, and with the shovel over her shoulder, trudges back up the spoke to Heaven.

~The Bone Wall

Yep, a little promotion 🙂

Peace

Flood Update: We are safe and dry and have lights as of late last night. Thank you for all the kind thoughts and comments. All is well.