The Christmas Gang

 

There is an ancient British tradition called Ganging, from the Anglo-Saxon word gangen, meaning ‘to go.’ For fifteen hundred years, in what evolved from a solemn prayer ritual, village folk would gather to go ‘beat the boundary.’ They walked all around the parish to impress upon the youngsters’ memories the place they called home.

 

Their elders dunked them in dividing streams, knocked their heads against bordering trees, and made them climb over the roofs of houses built across the line so they would never forget.

Our family has a gentler holiday tradition, a celebration as much as a reminder. Our Christmas tree is nothing like those featured in House Beautiful. It’s topped with a Star of David, as we also celebrate Hanukkah.

The oldest ornament, a cellulose umbrella, decorated my great grandmother’s tree. We carefully hang Grandma Rhea’s handmade ornaments, dioramas inside blown eggs dressed in velvet. My children’s contributions are made of Popsicle sticks, glitter, and clothespins. The marshmallow snowman has grown sticky and yellow, with a tiny bite taken on the sly from its backside, but it makes me smile, and bookmarks an era.

I hang up the key to the house where I grew up, and recall my childhood, running barefoot through the back alleys of Detroit. The little Polish dancer wears the same costume my dashing husband wore performing with his dance group Polanie. The glass pen celebrates the year my first book was published. A tiny guitar marks the year my husband broke his leg and, instead of sulking on the couch, taught himself to play guitar. It hangs near Eli’s tiny oboe, and Bea’s violin and clarinet. A small glass bottle contains ash from Mt. St. Helens, collected from my pants cuff in 1980, when I was caught bird watching in Eastern Washington during the eruption.

Each Christmas, we carefully remove our ornaments from their tissue paper cocoons. As we hang them on the tree, we retell the stories. It’s like a crazy quilt, where scraps of colorful memories are pieced together and, voila! E pluribus unum! From the contributions of individuals we have compiled a portrait of one family, and from the many generations we have pieced together one history.

Ganging, or beating the boundary, is a tradition that teaches children their limits and sets rigid boundaries. Instead of knocking our children’s heads against a tree, let’s invite them to help create an empowering communal story among the branches of the family tree, free of boundaries and limitations, celebrating their lives, so full of possibility.

All words and images copyright Naomi Baltuck

Click here for more interpretations of The Weekly Photo Challenge: It’s Not This Time of Year Without…

Turning Night Into Day

There was once a wise old rabbi who asked his students, “How can you know the exact moment when night ends and day begins?”

“I think I know,” said one of his pupils.  “Is it when, from a great distance, you can tell a dog from a sheep?”

“No,” said the rabbi.

“I know,” said another.  “It must be when, from a distance, you can tell a date palm from a fig tree.”

“No,” said the rabbi.

His students looked at each other and then at the rabbi.  “We don’t know,” they said.  “Please tell us.”

And the rabbi replied, “It is when you look into the face of any person from any nation…

…man…

…or woman…

…Jew or gentile…

…and see your brother…

…or your sister.”

”And that is the blessed moment,” said the rabbi,  “when the dawn is come.”

c2014NaomiBaltuck

Click here for more interpretations of The Weekly Photo Challenge: Nighttime.

Fifty Shades of Yellow

Purple is my favorite color, and it always has been.  But I love yellow for its cheerfulness.

It’s my daughter Bea’s favorite color.

And she wears it well, don’t you think?

She isn’t the only one.

Whether yellow comes as a tasteful accent…

…a warm background…

…a pleasing bit of contrast…

…or a big splash of color…

…Ma Nature wears it well too.

…and so do her children.

We’ve borrowed this sunny hue from nature to brighten our homes on the outside…

…and on the inside too.

It shines a cheerful light through the darkness…

…and lifts our spirits.

It warms us from the inside out.

Yellow comes in many eye-catching colors and goes by many names…goldenrod, schoolbus, taxicab yellow…

Maize, saffron, lemon…mmm, yellow never smelled so good.

 Yellow means different things to different people.  Does this signal mean approach slowly?  Or go very very fast?

It might depend on whether you’re coming…

 

…or going.

Is it animal, vegetable, or mineral?

Never mind.   That’s neither here nor there.

Want to dance?

All images and words copyright 2014 Naomi Baltuck

Click here for more interpretations of The Weekly Photo Challenge: Yellow.

This Precious Stone Set in a Silver Sea

This royal throne of kings…

… this sceptred isle.

This earth of majesty…

…this seat of Mars.

This other Eden…

 

…demi-paradise.

This fortress built by Nature for herself.

Against infection…

…and the hand of war.

This happy breed of men…

…this little world.

This precious stone…

…set in the silver sea…


…Which serves it in the office of a wall.


Or as a moat defensive to a house,

Against the envy of less happier lands,—

This blessed plot…

…this earth…

…this realm…

…this England.

Words by William Shakespeare, from King Richard II. Act ii. Sc. 1.

All images copyright 2014 Naomi Baltuck

Click here for more interpretations of The Weekly Photo Challenge: Happy Place.

Click here for more interpretations of The Weekly Travel Theme: Silver.

Here are links to more of my posts on England…

Where Are We?  Where’s Walter?  And Where Is That Fleeting Moment?

Tempest in a Teapot

Does This Make My Butts Look Big?

The Very Picture

The king was plagued with the heavy burden of responsibility. “Drought and famine, war and rebellion, disease and disaster, one after the other!  I must find a way to quiet my troubled heart, so I can sleep at night!”  He offered a reward to the artist who could paint him a picture of perfect peace.  Artists came from all over the kingdom, each bringing his own vision of peace.

 

One painted a sheltered mountain valley.

Another a pristine lake, still and calm, a perfect mirror to reflect a clear blue sky.

There was an orchard in full bloom.

Fluffy clouds with silver linings.


Cheerful sunny days.

And so many sunsets!

The king studied them all, and at last he decided.  He chose a painting of a waterfall, tumbling down a mountainside, beneath a dark, angry sky.

“But your majesty,” said his counselor. “Why this painting? This is a portrayal of chaos.”

“Look closely,” said the king.  He pointed to a sheltered spot behind the waterfall, where there was a ledge between the jagged rocks. Upon that ledge a mother bird had built her nest.  Snuggled beneath her wings, safe and warm, were her precious chicks.

“I understand now,” said the king. “Peace happens not only where there is an absence of strife and suffering.   In the midst of chaos, if there is calm in your heart, will you know the true meaning of peace.”

(Mrs. Bradford Ripley and Her Children, 1852. By Robert Walter Weir, Detroit Institute of Art)

(Sculpture for his friend Robert Arthur by Samuel Murray, Detroit Institute of Art)

Copyright 2013 Naomi Baltuck

Click here for more interpretations of The Weekly Photo Challenge: Enveloped.

Click here for more interpretations of the Weekly Travel Theme: Peaceful

Whatever the Hell It Takes

Well?  What do you think?  Is it half full or half empty?

Do you see a gray cloudy day or blue skies?

Is the task before you huge and daunting?

Or are you ready to dig in?

Of course, your perspective will be affected by where you are…

…where you’re going…

…or your current situation in life.

Timing can certainly affect your perspective.

When you have no control over certain events, you can still choose the lens through which you look.

Will this injury leave a horrible scar or provide material for a good story to tell the relatives back home?

Is this an obstacle to folding clean laundry, or the cutest kid in the world?

Do you feel the damp and see the darkness, or admire the view?

It’s not always this easy to find a happy place….

…or even the light at the end of the tunnel.

Sometimes you have to write yourself a better ending.

It helps to have someone who understands.

Who can lend a hand.

Who can help you put things in perspective.

If you can’t change your path, then do whatever the hell it takes to change your perspective.

Sometimes the glass really is half empty, but who says you can’t fill up the darn thing?  In fact, fill up another one too, for a friend.

All images and words copyright 2013 Naomi Baltuck.
Click here for more interpretations of The Weekly Travel Theme: Refreshing.

A Celebration of Fenestration

The Latin word for window is “fenestra.”  The old English word for window, “eagbyrl,” means “eye-door.”   Just like a door, it can be used for peeking out…

…or peeking in.

Whether you are looking in or out, there are so many things to see, just behind the glass.

The earliest windows were holes in a wall.

Narrow slits, to let in a bit of light with the cold air or to shoot an arrow through.

The ancient Romans were the first to use glass.

Then came windows of animal horn or hides, cloth, and in the Far East, even paper.

The Inuit people say, “Don’t let the window of your home be so small that the light of the sun cannot enter.”

Elizabeth Kubler-Ross said people are like stained glass windows.   They sparkle and shine when the sun is out…

…but when the darkness sets in, their true beauty is revealed.

In the Ukraine they say you don’t really see the world, if you look only through your own window.

And what a world there is out there to see!


There is another old saying, “The eyes are the window to the soul.”

…and one that says a smile is a window on your face to show your heart is at home.

The world on either side of your window can be sad…

…distant…

…daunting…

…and scary.

All the more reason to let the light in.

Let your window’s light shine like a beacon…

…and reflect upon the beauty of our world.

All the windows of the world!

All words and images copyright Naomi Baltuck

Click here for more interpretations of The Weekly Photo Challenge: Narrow.

Benchmarks

A bench is like an old shoe.  Whether in use at the moment…

…or long since abandoned…

…its former occupants leave their mark.

All over the world, these are the true thrones of the people.

They provide company…

…entertainment…

…a sense of belonging…

…a place to rest…

…to reflect…

…to escape the worries of the workaday world…

…or not.

Oh, the stories they have heard…

The sights they have seen…

Those benches have been warmed by the flesh and blood of people who have loved…

…and sometimes lost. Who’s to say?


But the next time you see one, sit and rest a spell.  As you take the bench, and watch the world go by, don’t judge too harshly.

Listen to the stories it has to tell.  They won’t be so very different from your own.

All words and images copyright 2013 Naomi Baltuck.

Click here for more interpretations of Travel Words Bench Series#9.

Click here for more interpretations of the Weekly Travel Theme: Benches.

True Confessions of a Tacky Tourist, and the Be-Very-Lated Sunshine Award

I’m a bad dog!  Aside from 2012 Blog of the Year Awards, I haven’t posted an  award since last May!   Those bloggers who honored me with these nominations have probably forgotten all about it, or long since given up.  But I’ve kept track, because I knew I’d get around to it……………………………………..eventually.

Here are the four simple rules of the Sunshine Blogger Award.

1. Display the logo on your blog.  2. Link back to the person who nominated you.  3. State 5 facts about yourself.  4. Pass the award on to 8 (or 10) other bloggers, and link to one of their specific posts so they get notified by ping back.

As long as I’m spilling the beans, all five facts will be the true confessions of a tacky tourist.  I hope you will still respect me in the morning.

5.  Yes, we are the tacky tourists your cool friends warned you about.

4. We didn’t get a magic carpet video in Cappadocia because we were running late, and our travel companions would’ve shunned us. But we wanted to.


3. We have discovered many practical and economical uses for a quality  zoom lens.

2. I must also confess that, in our travels, as hard as we tried, we were rarely able to embarrass our teenagers…

1. …Or get ourselves arrested.

Here are links back to the bloggers who nominated me for The Sunshine Award.  Be sure to check out their blogs–you will not be disappointed!

Sarah Potter of sarahpotterwrites is pursued by the muses of prose, poetry, and music.  She is a very fine poet, a heavenly singer, and a novelist.

Micheline of Micheline’s Blog features art, music, books, history, and current events.  Very classy!

Paula of stuff i tell my sister shares just that–all the stuff she shares with her best friend who is also her sister.  It’s like sitting at their kitchen table.

Carol of Loethen Art Designs, Creativity, Camera, and Computer!

Rara of rarasaur, where frightfully wondrous things happen.  She has a fun, quirky, natural voice that I really enjoy.

Maggie Myklebust of flyawayhome is an American author living in Norway.  She shares her life on her blog and in her memoir Fly Away Home.

Now I get to pass forward The Sunshine Award to the following bloggers.  Please take a minute to pay them a visit.

Nikki of imayfly has a fun fresh voice with a wry sense of humor.

Island Traveler  of thisman’sjourney is refreshing and inspiring.  If you ever need a little hit of sweetness–and sunshine–check out his blog.

Tess at How The Cookie Crumbles is a sharp writer, and I really enjoy her flash fiction.

Naomi at The Teatime Reader has excellent taste in books, and reviews them for her readers intelligently, perceptively, and eloquently.

Christine of Texana’s Kitchen is funny and smart, a great storyteller, and she always leaves you with a great recipe to try out.

Russel of Russel Ray Photos will give you great photography tips, as well as share pearls of wisdom from his wise old Grandma!

4AM Writer will give you tips on how to balance your writing and your life.

Ruth of Ruth E. Hendricks Photography will give you sweet glimpses of sunshine and shadow in her beautiful photography.

The Geek Goddess of Two Different Girls will take you to interesting out of the way places and make you smile every time!

I have more be-very-lated awards to post, and many more great blogs and bloggers to introduce you to.  I don’t want to overwhem you, so I will dole them out like Blog Candy.   Thanks for stopping by.  Warmly, Naomi

Shadowplay

What is life?  The flash of a firefly in the night, the breath of a buffalo in the wintertime.  It is the little shadow which runs across the grass and loses itself in the sunset.  –Native American Blackfeet–


Every man has a different idea of beautiful…best to take the gesture, the shadow of the branch, and let the mind create the tree.–Wm. Faulkner

A man cannot jump over his own shadow–Yiddish proverb

Beware the dog–it’s shadow will not bite.  –Danish proverb–

Worry gives a small thing a big shadow.  –Swedish proverb–

If you stand straight, you need not fear a crooked shadow.–Chinese proverb–

Observe carefully, and you will find wisdom even in the shadows. –African proverb–

One can live within the shadow of an idea without grasping it.–Elizabeth Bowen–

The shadow is often more interesting than the object itself.–Ellen Thompson–

There are dark shadows on earth, but its lights are stronger in the contrast.–Charles Dickens–

Imagination is the real and eternal world, of which this vegetable universe is but a faint shadow.–Wm. Blake (1757-1827)

No hill is without gravestones, no valley without shadows. –South African proverb–

Like our shadows, our wishes lengthen as our sun declines.–Edward Young–

Count your nights by stars, not shadows; count your life with smiles, not tears.–Italian proverb–

All images c2013 Naomi Baltuck

Click here for more interpretations of The Weekly Photo Challenge: Shadows.

Click here to see Turkey, a Land of Light and Shadows.