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Posts Tagged ‘New Year’

Up North 3

Christmas was beautiful.  Nothing on earth can match the Wonder which came from above, took on human flesh, died, was resurrected, and dwells with us in the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ through His Holy Spirit—God Himself.  Great is Thy Faithfulness.

And now we are moving into what is, for me, an exciting time.  Since winter solstice, when we had eight hours and fifty-nine minutes of daylight here in Nashotah, Wisconsin, we have gained THREE MINUTES of daylight.  THREE MINUTES.  Great is Thy faithfulness, indeed!  Every year at this time, I experience a surge which continues to expand in increments as the daylight increases.

I can handle winter, and find the snow (which we have finally received) to be gorgeous—even though I no longer roll in it the way I once did.  Our corgi, Dylan, rolls in the snow.  Living with the cold is do-able because: a)  I love Wisconsin through sickness and health, till death do us part; b) Joe and I are blessed with a cozy, warm home; and c)  There is plenty of wool around here in the form of blankets, and also wearable art—the fruit of this woman’s endless knit-omania.

I live with the cold, but find decreased daylight to be a piece of work.  Often I wonder if diminished daylight challenges my soul because I was summer-born.  Likewise, is the post-Christmas energy surge due to increased moments of daylight creating a chemical reaction in the brain, or do I begin to get hyper because of past experience and my knowledge of seasonal changes?

A 19th century ornithologist, Johann Andreas Naumann, noted that caged migratory birds exhibit migratory restlessness (Zugunruhe) and turn to the direction of migration at appropriate times, in response to circannual rhythms.  Can human instincts have remained so finely tuned as those of birds, despite our centuries of civilization and cultural conditioning?

The exercise of pondering moot questions never grows old.  As I plug in a CD from our large collection of Celtic music, I wonder if it’s “ethnic memory” that causes my blood to throb and my body to move involuntarily to the music.  Irish Celtic, yes.  And Scottish Celtic?  Well, the shrieking of bagpipes* sends me into orbit like no other sound except that of a train whistle.  God willing, “Amazing Grace” will thunder via pipes and a piper in kilts at my Going Home Celebration when the time comes.

Here is my known ethnicity, although most of my people came to this continent so long ago that I might logically be considered “American”.  My father’s ancestors were Swiss and Alsatian, and my mothers—Scottish and Northern Irish.  The Northern Irish were Scots to begin with, but they were sent by the English Crown from the Scottish Borders to “Protestant-ize” Northern Ireland.**

Now I have loved both of my parents and always will, with equal loyalty.  They were, and always will be, great individuals for whom I’m eternally grateful.  I am pleased to have received, via the gene pool, some of my Dad’s traits along with some of Mother’s.

But yodeling?  Big in the Swiss Alps, I know—but a yodel simply does nothing whatsoever for my soul, regardless of the skill with which it may be performed.  Line a yodel up against Celtic fiddles, Celtic harps, or Scottish bagpipes and I’m sorry but you don’t even have a hint of a contest. 

So why do The Irish Rovers, The Chieftans, and others of their ilk throw me over the moon?  It cannot be from childhood exposure, as we never had that kind of music in my home of origin.  Music was classical (which I continue to love).  My mother was a gifted pianist and I was raised on Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Chopin, Schubert, etc.

For lighter moments we had the comic operettas of Gilbert and Sullivan and some old folk songs such as The Londonderry Air.  But the squealing, banging, and thumping of The Chieftains, and the robust, earthy tunes of the Irish Rovers would never have made it to 85 Park Street and other places where I once lived and breathed and had my being.  My mother was tremendously delighted with her Campbell of Argyll roots, but I don’t recall her doing cartwheels to bagpipes.  So do I squeal, bang, and thump to the Chieftans because of ethnic memory, or is this response simply an acquired taste?

And whether chemically driven or just a matter of understanding how the seasons progress, my passion for lengthening days is far from moot.  It’s a tangible reality which inspires a hymn of praise:  “Great is Thy faithfulness, oh God our Father.”

Margaret L. Been —  December 31st, 2015.

*I love the humorous bit of lore shared by an Irish storyteller at Milwaukee’s Irish Fest:  “The Irish gave the bagpipes to the Scots, but the Scots ‘didn’t get it’.”

**Regardless of Northern Irish roots, my sympathies have always been with the long-suffering and now Republic of Ireland.

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Clean Palette 2

Except for last minute baking, I’m ready for Christmas.  Tree lights are glowing.  Gift bags, stuffed with presents and labeled according to family groups, are neatly arranged around the tree.  Our out-of-town family members’ gifts (to Colorado, Washington, and California) have arrived at their destinations.  

With approximately 46 family members, Christmas preparations are no small accomplishment.  But, by God’s grace, I’ve managed to do it again.  Online shopping and the plethora of available gift cards have made Christmas traditions incredibly easy.  And it’s fun to shop throughout the year—finding gifts at art fairs, antique shops, and bookstores.  Some of the items have been produced (painted, grown and dried, knitted, etc.) right here in our home.  By December my storeroom is groaning with bounty, eagerly waiting to be wrapped or bagged.  A sense of order reigns.

While savoring the process of preparation, I focus on the Greatest Gift of all: our Lord Jesus Christ and the salvation He has provided through His shed blood, for all who will believe.  God Incarnate died to pay our sin debt, and rose to give us Eternal Life.  Through the Abundant Life of His Indwelling Holy Spirit, we have peace in the midst of turbulent times.

As the earth turns . . . !  Now that may sound like a silly soap opera title.  But the revolving of the earth around the sun, season after season and year after year, is far more exciting than any human meladrama ever imagined!  The revolving of the earth is a God drama, and it never grows old. 

Some individuals are acutely sensitive to the turning of the earth and seasons, and I’m grateful to be one of those people.  In our souls, we actually feel the turning which accompanies seasonal changes in the amount of daylight.  The turning surges in our blood and bones, and we respond with anticipation and joy!

Thus when we plummet headlong toward the darkest day (approximately December 21st this year), those of us who turn with the earth anticipate the very next thing—an increase in daylight which will begin shortly after the solstice.  By Christmas Day, we’ll have gained one minute of daylight.  According to my charts, New Year’s Day will bring an additional 4 minutes!  The sun rises later for awhile after the solstice, but daylight compensates by increasing substantially at sunset.

This after-solstice turning is illustrated by the above photo: a clean palette representing a new year.  Recently I got up in the night, determined to make a fresh start at my bridge table studio.  I really do believe in setting New Year’s goals, because (reasonable) goals inspire me to new adventures.  

My art goals for 2013 are:  1) slow down, deliberate more thoroughly, spend days (or possibly weeks) on a single painting and 2) work bigger.  The sheet of ARCHES 140 lb. cold press paper pictured above is larger than I have successfully negotiated so far.  I’ve tried working on a sheet this size, only to botch up part of it—resulting in cropping and matting smaller renderings from my initial attempt.  Perhaps the goal of slowing down will facilitate a shift in the size of my “masterpieces”.

I know I’ll start in on the sheet and clean palette before January 1st.  When I’ve learned to paint this size to my satisfaction, I hope to graduate to the American standard full sheet of watercolor paper which is 22″ x 30″.  For that undertaking, I’ll outgrow my bridge table and will need to clear off 2/3rds of our dining room table—leaving a commodious 1/3rd on which my husband can relax over his meals.*  (I’ll sandwich my miniscule servings into a space at the edge of my palette—while being careful not to crumb up the work in process.) 

Human goals notwithstanding, only God knows what 2013 will bring!  Someone recently posted the following comment on one of my blogs:  “I think Obama was re-elected so Americans will put their trust in God rather than politicians.” 

A wise statement!  Perhaps this will be the year when our nation returns to the premise on which we were founded.  Perhaps 2013 will be the year when our Lord returns for his own!  God is faithful and He will fulfill His plan as promised in Scripture, as the earth turns . . . !

Margaret L. Been, ©2012

*Praise God, I have a husband who heartily applauds my makey lifestyle.  He has been apprised of my desire to paint big, and he’ll be interested in whatever is going on at his dinner table!  I could set up an art camp in the middle of our living room, and he wouldn’t mind a bit.  But he does have his very own room for lounging in a LAZY-BOY, resting on a daybed if desired, viewing whatever sports are in season, and working at his own paper-inundated computer desk. 

It comforts me to note that some geniuses (among them, reportedly, Albert Einstein!) have had messy desks like Joe’s.  My desks are picky neat, so I’m obviously not very brilliant!  But I never mess with Joe’s space, other than the occasional perfunctory swipe of the woolly duster on his TV screen and around the pictures (my art) on his walls.  

Joe’s room is his domain—although he did buy a comfy chair on wheels which can be rolled out of a corner so that I can join him to watch National Geographic lions, or whatever.  We are highly compatible!  🙂

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