danniewriter

Foto Phriday

Christmas Pansies

One of the things I love most about living in the U.S. is the vast diversity of geography and climate in our 50 states. Among other things, it guarantees that weather is always an appropriate, informative, entertaining, and reasonably safe conversation to have with strangers.

“You’re from Minnesota? What’s the most snow you’ve ever seen?”

“You live in Louisiana? Is the humidity down there as bad as they say?”

Sometimes there is this tendency, especially on social media, to try to “outdo” uncomfortable weather conditions with someone living in another part of the country.

“Oh, you think 100 degrees is hot? In Phoenix, we consider that mild in June.”

A hearty Dakotan might say: “Wait until you have to function at 30-below … and that’s air temperature, not wind chill. Wind chills are for wimps who want to think they know what real cold is like.”

And so it goes.

As a recent transplant to Mississippi, I find myself hesitant to comment about balmy weather in December, for fear that my friends and family in colder climes will think me insensitive or obnoxious. Having arrived in Gulfport the end of August, I am all too aware that the proverbial shoe will be on the other foot come the dog days of summer that extend into November.

Truthfully, the only thing I’m really prone to gloat about, and it’s not really gloating more than weeping with gratitude, is the price of gasoline down here right now. ($1.82/gallon for Pete’s sake!)

The fact is: I am fascinated by the change in climate, and consider it an integral part of getting to know my new home. So, when I post photos of Christmas pansies, or comment that “here it is a few days before Christmas and the swimming pools down here are still full,” … it’s not meant to rub anyone’s nose in the snow outside his window. Like every time I drive down Beach Boulevard and see the Gulf of Mexico, it’s just a reminder to pinch myself: “Yep, I’m really here.”

Merry Christmas!

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A Dickens of an impact

The frontispiece of the original printing of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. (public domain photo)

I love movies, but am no longer someone who “must” see a film on opening weekend; sometimes I’m even a year late.

Falling squarely in the better-late-than-never category is The Man Who Invented Christmas, which I missed in 2017 but now intend to add to my “best Christmas movies” collection.

The film follows Charles Dickens’ frantic and very bumpy road in writing A Christmas Carol. His family in dire financial straits, Dickens needed a bestseller. A frequent speaker on the charity circuit after the tremendous success of Oliver Twist, Dickens was keenly aware of society’s poorest of the poor, even as he wrestled with personal money woes.

In reference to the title of the film, obviously, the celebration of the birth of Christ pre-dated Dickens’ lifetime, but how the day is celebrated definitely was impacted by the novella.

With the success of the small book, Dickens inexorably linked the holiday with overt expressions of compassion and generosity toward the less fortunate. In a 1998 article, The Washington Post shared examples of the book’s instant impact in 1843. Here is just one:

A young Robert Louis Stevenson was beside himself after reading A Christmas Carol for the first time: “I want to go out and comfort some one; I shall never listen to the nonsense they tell me about not giving money— I shall give money; not that I haven’t done so always, but I shall do it with a high hand now.”

The book has never been out of print. It has been adapted for the screen dozens of times. It is performed on thousands of stages, small and large, every year. I would argue that every red kettle, every toy for a tot, is linked in some way back to this small book with its huge message.

I read it every Christmas, for no particular reason other than the sheer joy of experiencing Dickens’ words. Now, having watched The Man Who Invented Christmas, and having dug into the story behind the story a bit deeper, I love and appreciate it even more.

Just as the fortunes of every retailer rise and set on the period of Black Friday through Dec. 24, non-profits depend, mightily, on the public’s generosity this time of year. Without Dickens and his novella, how different that picture might be.

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Foto Phriday (Sun Worshipers)

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This was a day or two after Christmas. Since then I can’t remember the last time I needed my sunglasses.

Winter is a gray business in the Ohio Valley. It has led me to cherish even more the memories of Christmas in Georgia last month. Of course winter, quite often, is a gray (or gray/brown) business in Georgia, too, but there was abundant sunshine at my sister and brother-in-law’s home in Toccoa. The photo above was taken from the front yard.

Since returning to Louisville I have pretty much altered my routine on the spot whenever the sun has managed to break through the gloom. My dog, Chip, is on notice that walk-time could be at any moment depending on the presence of shadows outside.

As I’ve longed for sunbeams, I decided to select the best sun worshipping photos from our Christmas vacation in North Georgia. I love, and long for, these and other shadows to come.

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Shadows on the front porch.

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I like how the sun gleams on the red metal chairs. My dog, Chip, is dozing in the background.

Fatigue, nagging concerns, a long to-do list, it all gets shoved to the back burner on days such as these.

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My brother-in-law, enjoying the rays with his dog, Cricket.

My sister and I grew up in the country but we have been suburban dwellers for decades. Our parents were both country kids. This place in Toccoa, built in 1922, is fairly new to my sister and brother-in-law, and there’s really no way to overstate how wonderful it is to hear cows instead of sirens and have stars as the primary form of outdoor lighting.

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The same sun that can be unbearable in a Georgia summer makes winter chores bearable. The addition of grandchildren can make them a pleasure.

To really get an idea of the restorative and languorous properties of our solar system’s greatest star, just observe its magical effect on the canine members of the family. I call it being “sun drunk.”

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Cricket and Allie, soaking it in.

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My own version of the Sunchip.

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