Elizabeth

Elizabeth

When her father finished reading, Elizabeth asked, “Father, what will I be when I grow up?” Elizabeth snuggled in her father’s lap where he read to her from his favorite chair.

“You are my princess and someday a prince charming will come along and take you to his castle. Then you will live happily ever after,” her father said.

Elizabeth’s eyes moistened, the corners of her mouth turned down. “But I don’t ever want to leave you.”

Her father put down the book. “It is the nature of things darling. Just as my parents read to me, and their parents read to them. One day you will read to your children. And when you do, you will remember this moment, and I hope a smile will come to your face. Your story has yet to be written.”

Ships in the night
Ah, how short the days, how soon the night overtakes us.


“AH, how short are the days! How soon the night overtakes us!
In the old country the twilight is longer; but here in the forest
Suddenly comes the dark, with hardly a pause in its coming,
Hardly a moment between the two lights, the day and the lamplight;
Yet how grand is the winter! How spotless the snow is, and perfect!”

Thus spake Elizabeth Haddon at nightfall to Hannah the housemaid,…
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Tales of a Wayside Inn, Part Third.The Theologian’s Tale, Elizabeth.

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The Christmas Tree

Christmas Tree
Christmas Tree

Christmas Tree

Dad parks his battered pick-up truck
By a far and distant field
We two imperfect soldiers
For the perfect cause
Take two axes to do the deed
Clad in work boots,
For the snow is freshly fallen
And the rain the day before
Makes the field as Agincourt

Trees in rows
Shielded from the road
Like the French advance on us
Or we on them.
Stooped with broken boughs,
These will never serve
To grace our home

On we march
We two imperfect soldiers
Trodding ever onward
For the perfect cause
With two trusty axes
Upon our shoulders

Deep within the woods we go
Far from city,
Far from crowds
Far from fields the farmer plows
To find a perfect tree
For our imperfect family

Some too young
Some too old,
Some quite solitary,
Tall and straight
With boughs of evergreen
I pause beneath a lovely one
To say, “This will do”
But dad replies,
“A lovelier one awaits”

Through the hours of the day
We walk and talk
Of this and that
Until our words
Slow to a trickle
Thus our thirst abates
And hunger grows

Reacquainted
With each other
Each knows
The day is done
The time has come
To do the deed
And fell the tree
I look at dad,
He at me
In silence,
We agree

This lovely tree.

Were there
Ten thousand
Christmas trees
To face that day
Not a lovelier one
Could be found
To grace this place
We call home
To celebrate
Our imperfect family

The First Jultomte

The First Jultomte

Did you know? In Sweden the Christmas fairy helps Santa give out gifts on Christmas Day. On that day, the children of Sweden call the fairy, Jultomte, for it is the Yule season, and “tomte” is the Swedish word for the house fairy who protects children from harm.

Jultomte
Jultomte

In Sweden, the tomte is special. You see, he lives quietly in the house all year. He hides in the attic or under the stairs and, so, is never seen by the adults. Were he seen by the wife of the house, she might mistake him for a bird or a mouse and shoo him out. Being small and practically invisible, the tomte can protect the children of the house from spiders and snakes and other evil and mischief. And for this reason, and because of the gifts he gives on Christmas Day, the children of the house serve him warm milk and porridge on Christmas Eve.

You ask, how did the first tomte come to live in a house?

Let me tell you.

In Sweden, it was not always the custom to cut down evergreen trees and decorate them. Some say it was the Germans who began the custom in the fourteenth century to celebrate the birth of Christ. That is true, but the Vikings were bringing green boughs into their home long before this.

Before Christianity came to Scandinavia, the fierce Vikings roamed the seas in long boats terrorizing the civilized world. During the long, cold, cloudy winters, when no plundering was possible, the Vikings cut boughs from evergreen trees to remind themselves that spring would come again.

A tall Viking named Claus lived along the northwestern coast with his family of ten children and four grandparents. With so many children and grandparents, he built an extra room to handle the many beds that the family needed.

It was a few days after the Winter Solstice, and the skies were dark and cloudy. Claus decided it was time to go into the forest and gather boughs of evergreen. Putting on his warmest caribou coat and ermine hat, he grabbed his axe and took the sled from the wall where it hung. When Claus got to the front door, the littlest child in the house, Tom, asked to go.

Off Claus and Tom went into the snow. At the edge of the forest they found that the trees were small and thin for the boughs had already been shorn. Deep into the forest they went where, my friends, the fairies of the forest live. These fairies, being quite small and very shy, stay away from humans. A human is quite large to a fairy and a Viking must seem like a giant.

evergreen tree
evergreen tree

Claus and Tom traveled far into the forest where all trees were tall, the trunks straight and the boughs dense and green. Spotting the first tree, Tom was ready to cut boughs, but his father told him to be patient. Tom raced from tree to tree, saying, “this one”, but still his father waited. Then, Tom saw the biggest and most beautiful tree he had ever seen. The boughs were as long as the table the family of ten children, two parents, and four grandparents ate on.

“This is the one, papa!” he said, and his father agreed. But as Claus came toward the tree with his axe, Tom saw deep within the tree a small face and two eyes frightened by terror at the sight of a giant coming at him with an axe. The face behind the eyes was like that of a small boy, or so it seemed to Tom. And Tom thought that he had found a playmate. Tom smiled at the pair of eyes and winked, and the fairy winked back.

tomte, house fairy
tomte

Then Tom said to his father, “Do not cut the boughs. Let us take the whole tree, for it is so lovely.”

Claus, being a practical man said, “In the spring I will use the tall trunk of the tree as a mast on my longboat.”

Jultomte

Tom and the fairy became the best of friends. Now and then, bits of food disappeared from the dinner table, for Tom did not always like what was prepared for him and fairies, after all, must eat too. This, my friends, is how the first fairy came to live in a house, but that is not the end of the story of the Jultomte.

When Christianity came to Sweden in the eleventh century, the Vikings ceased their raids on foreign lands and quietly settled down to a life of farming, but chopping down a tree was now a tradition that father and son did each year.

On Christmas Eve, the Swedish family would decorate the tree with candles, and baubles, and ornaments made of straw and corn husks. The tomte, who had come with the very first tree, was now a very old man. Though old, he was no bigger or taller than a titmouse, possessing a long white beard and a wizened face. The tomte is excited by the arrival of the tree. Unseen he jumps within the brightly decorated boughs remembering for the moment the forest and long ago. The very smallest children who hang the ornaments see the tomte within the trees and they wink at each other.

Jultomte
Jultomte

So it is that the children of the house leave warm milk and porridge out Christmas Eve for the tomte, and the tomte, in exchange, leaves gifts on Christmas Day. And when the children of the house grow up and leave the home, or, God forbid, if the children are ungrateful and leave nothing for the tomte on Christmas Eve, then the tomte returns to the forest and waits for another family.

This is how the Jultomte of Sweden came to be.

Wasted Time

Do not think it wasted time to submit yourself to any influence that will bring upon you any noble feeling. — John James Ruskin

Fields of red and gold
Fields of red and gold

John Ruskin (February 8, 1819 – January 20, 1900) was the leading English art critic of Victorian England, also an art patron, painter, writer, philosopher and philanthropist, and finally social thinker.

In 1884, he gave a series of two lectures to the London Institution entitled, The Storm-Cloud of the Nineteenth-Century, an anecdotal account of the effects of industrialization on weather. In forty years of observation, from 1831 to 1871, Ruskin concluded, storm clouds were gradually gathering and staying over the skies of Europe.

In those old days, when weather was fine, it was luxuriously fine; when it was bad—it was often abominably bad, but it had its fit of temper and was done with it—it didn’t sulk for three months without letting you see the sun,—nor send you one cyclone inside out, every Saturday afternoon, and another outside in, every Monday morning.

In everything that Ruskin did and wrote about, he emphasized the relationship between nature, art, and society. Family remained for him the core unit around which society is developed.

John Ruskin was a contemporary of Scottish-American naturalist and environmentalist, John Muir. Ruskin’s writings and works influenced both William Morris and Gustav Stickley, and the Arts and Crafts Movement of the early twentieth century.

Directions to Neverland

“Second star to the right and straight on ’til morning. ”

Sir James Barrie, Peter Pan

Directions to Neverland
Directions to Neverland

My favorite book and movie of all time has to be Peter Pan. It is a book filled with childhood memories, of adventure and even love. It is a special book for, in it, one can always return to those pleasant days of childhood in our dreams. And yes I remember, when I, a child, left the movie on a warm summer evening, looked up and there saw the moon larger than life with two bright stars to the right.

“So come with me, where dreams are born, and time is never planned. Just think of happy things, and your heart will fly on wings,  forever, in Never Never Land!”

One can find ceaseless wonder in rereading Peter Pan.

For instance, why is it that the author uses the distinct double negative, “Never never” to describe the magical land where Peter and the Lost Boys live? Is it not that “never never” becomes “ever” and then “forever”?

Enjoy!

Wake up to a Stressless day!
Wake up to a Stressless day!

At Traditions Furniture, in Downtown Overland Park and Wichita, where dreams come true.

On the street of by and by


On the street of by and by
One comes to the house of never.
Cervantes

With the remake of the live production of Peter Pan coming back to television, I could not help but wonder on how many streets, in how many cities, and how long would it take for me to find “never never land” and wouldn’t it be nice to have Wendy along?

True or false?

the street of by and by on the way to the house of never
the street of by and by on the way to the house of never