an everyday photo, every day | photography • art • poetry

christmas

The Christmas Moon

The Christmas Moon
The Christmas Moon

The Christmas Moon

This is one of my stories of Christmas magic, a moment in time that really did happen one Christmas night several years ago.

I was driving home on a Christmas night, traveling along a dark two-lane road in a somewhat rural area that was familiar and fairly close to home. As dusk fell the light dusting of snow around me was tending to violet and the perfectly clear blue sky above me was also deepening to violet in the east. As I turned a bend in the road I met with surprise a big bright and creamy full moon perfectly placed above the uneven horizon line, a mix of pine trees and the reaching bare branches of deciduous trees, these nearly silhouetted against the sky. I smiled at the pure beauty of the scene as I drove along, vowing to remember the composition and carry its beauty with me, perhaps someday painting the scene.

As I followed the curves of the road the moon seemed to follow me on my right, a watchful presence as I drove through the deepening twilight. I had just driven my brother back to the nursing home where he was living while recovering from a traumatic brain injury, and then my mother who was living in personal care in the after effects of lung cancer and congestive heart failure. The two places were at least 50 miles apart and the journey took quite some time on both highways and back roads. I had cooked a Christmas dinner at my house, set everything aside to keep warm and gone to pick up each of them. We ate our dinner and I packed a few leftovers for each of them before getting them back in time for dinner medications. At each place I stopped for a while to help them in and to get resettled in their respective spaces and discuss their care with staff. Now I was on my way home to pack up the rest of the dinner, wash dishes and clean up my kitchen, there was very little traffic and the day had been beautiful, clear and sunny though cold and now, alone, I had some time to ponder.

Deep in thought about those two and about my own life since they’d suffered their illnesses, I considered our day then moved to other Christmases, other holidays, other family members, other homes. In my distraction I slowed down with the rises and falls and bends in the road in the growing darkness, still aware of that full moon following me out of the corner of my eye, illuminating the white line on my right, making it very easy to follow.

At one point a small valley opened out on my right, a flood plain along a stream, a familiar thing to one who walks the woods and valleys in Western Pennsylvania: a level area filled with young trees, scrub and brambles which had recently enough been the rich bottomland field of a farm, bordered by a narrow stream that flowed at the bottom of a rather steep tree-covered hill. These small valleys appeared on one side of the road then the other, and with a little traveling the valley would rise up into a hill that bordered the road while on the other side the hill would fall into a valley, up and down, the road, the landscape, the rhythm was comforting, like rocking slowly in a rocking chair.

As I passed this little valley I noticed movement among the trees, probably a deer as this was the time of day they moved about and that was the perfect area for them to be having an evening meal. Though I hadn’t been facing that direction and didn’t actually see anything directly the movement hadn’t seemed to be a deer, and more by intuition than actual fact it had seemed human to me. We recognize these things without realizing, that ancient part of our brain assembling patterns and instinctive knowledge before our slower logical brain can react, and making out of the pieces something we can recognize.

The fact that it might be a person was not a problem, really, the little valley was essentially someone’s back yard and it would not be unusual for them to be walking around there even on Christmas, and while I might wonder if the person was in danger or in need of some sort I would be most likely to allow them their privacy. But something about the figure had also seemed familiar, I had no idea why, probably that ancient brain reacting again, but I trust it when it does that. And even though I wanted to get back home and clean up my kitchen, I slowed down and pulled to the side of the road. If there was a possibility I tried to pursue these little ideals that arose, stopping to explore. At that time, with all the complications of my life, I rarely felt I had the time to spend chasing an illusion, but I didn’t question the need to explore this one.

I had passed the valley by that time so it was now behind me, but I backed up along the berm of the road to a spot where I could see into it.

That silent pale yellow moon, now nearly white, still shone on my right, risen slightly higher above the horizon than before, and shone directly into the little space lighting the snow cover to a pale silver violet and the tree trunks to varying shades of pale gray against the charcoal-shadowed hill in the background. Everything seemed still, but I detected movement flitting among the trees, thought I saw the glint of moonlight on hair, on an arm, a dress. I opened my car window and shut off my radio and then my car’s engine. If those were people moving down there, they should be crunching in the snow, but I heard no sound in the crisp, clear air.

But I felt such a strong presence. Quietly opening my door and standing up in the bits of snow and gravel at the edge of the grass along the road, I heard only far off sounds, a plane in the sky, a car traveling somewhere, a dog barking. The air was so clear I thought I’d hear sounds from miles away traveling quickly through the cold, windless darkness, leaving little virtual contrails as they moved through the infinity of a cold winter night, but nothing came up from the valley, neither from hooves nor feet.

And if, instead of being the author, I was reading this and didn’t know the story, I’d be yelling, “You idiot! Get back in the car!” No, this isn’t going to turn into a made-for-TV movie, I remained alone, you are safe to read on without fear. I am cautious and always aware, but didn’t feel in any way threatened, in fact I felt safe and welcome.

As I stood there, one hand on my open car door, I thought I recognized one of the figures out of the corner of my eye, and as it is with focusing on subjects in near darkness the figure disappeared when I looked directly at it. But I knew it was my mother, walking quickly and gracefully as she had done when young, laughing soundlessly over her shoulder before disappearing into the darkness. Then I saw one of my aunts, also laughing but in a conversation with someone else, typically a sour and sarcastic person but here, almost unrecognizable in her happiness. And as I stood there I saw other relatives, aunts and uncles, even ones I’d never known and only seen in photos, just a few seconds each, and all were happy and laughing and moving here and there, the little valley was full of these specters.

Then I realized that each of these were the people I’d been thinking about as I drove along. Had I manifested them? Was I hallucinating? I hadn’t even had a glass of wine yet, waiting until I was back home in my warm kitchen in my stocking feet and wearing an apron, washing my dishes and singing along with the radio as I almost wished I was right then.

But here they were in this magical little valley and what had made me slow my car, had drawn me out to experience it was the joy in the scene, they were all enjoying themselves, happy and laughing, something that had not always been so in real life; some of them, sadly, rarely so. Here they all were together in this little parallel universe.

I had been thinking so deeply about them all as I drove in that deepening twilight under the watchful eye of that full moon, remembering where I had memories of them or simply imagining those who I’d never met. When I create a scene for artwork or writing I visualize it pretty completely and even sometimes I get so lost in these necessary alternate realities that I feel the cold or hot or wind, I have the conversation, I see the light in a person’s eyes. In that manner of visualizing, in that dusky time of day when I feel the veil of reality thin and the closeness of those who aren’t with me along with that magical moon and its light among the trees, my thoughts for those brief seconds became real, and I saw them as I wanted them to be, or perhaps as they really were without the worries and weariness of everyday life, happy to be together, happy to be alive. I will never know which it was, but I would be comforted to know this was how they would all spend eternity.

. . . . . .

The Christmas Moon copyright ©2011 Bernadette E. Kazmarski. All images used on this site are copyrighted to Bernadette E. Kazmarski unless otherwise noted and may not be used without my written permission. Please ask if you are interested in using one in a print or internet publication. If you are interested in purchasing a print of this image or a product including this image, check my Etsy shop or Fine Art America profile to see if I have it available already. If you don’t find it there, visit “purchasing” for availability and terms.


Another Take on the Christmas Story

christmas setting with skull
christmas setting with skull

Look Out Christmas Myths and Stories!

I couldn’t let the year pass without sharing this photo from a neighbor’s yard! The skull was leftover from Halloween…

Looks like the Three Wise Men and all the most popular Christmas characters made it to the manger before the glowing-eyed demon from the depths of the earth rose up to devour them! AND HE IS NOT HAPPY! Oh, and it wasn’t a star that guided the TWM, it was a snowman, that must be where Frosty comes in.

Perhaps Santa, Frosty, The Little Drummer Boy and the Holy Family and attendants don’t actually see the demon glowing-eyed skull raised from the depths of Hell to eat them all alive and disappear back down into the soil from whence it came, leaving only a few scorch marks and melted snow.

If I were Santa I’d toss them all into that cute little sleigh and be off like the down of a thistle!

Think Hades wasn’t happy about giving up Persephone this year and he’s come for some more captives?

And when I was in Catholic school, I don’t remember hearing that Santa made it to the Nativity…or was he one of the wise men?

The little Drummer Boy is another story, though his costume is somewhat anachronistic.

And Frosty? Did they have television specials back then?

I guess it’s Christmas á la carte!

See another amusing one from another street

. . . . . .

All images used on this site are copyrighted to Bernadette E. Kazmarski unless otherwise noted and may not be used without my written permission. Please ask if you are interested in using one in a print or internet publication. If you are interested in purchasing a print of this image or a product including this image, check my Etsy shop or Fine Art America profile to see if I have it available already. If you don’t find it there, visit “purchasing” for availability and terms.


Witnesses to the Miracle

christmas decorations
christmas decorations

Witnesses to the miracle

I’m just not sure all these characters were really witnesses to the holy birth. I mean, the first Santa from the left should certainly have given up his candy cane hut to give Mary some privacy in giving birth and shelter the new baby. But perhaps mixing a little metaphor just makes the day interesting.

. . . . . .

All images used on this site are copyrighted to Bernadette E. Kazmarski unless otherwise noted and may not be used without my written permission. Please ask if you are interested in using one in a print or internet publication. If you are interested in purchasing a print of this image or a product including this image, check my Etsy shop or Fine Art America profile to see if I have it available already. If you don’t find it there, visit “purchasing” for availability and terms.


Holiday Lights in the Rain

holiday lights in the rain
holiday lights in the rain

Holiday Lights in the Rain

This particular little house was once a garage to a huge Victorian home. It not only faces the alley but the narrow porch steps right onto the sunken and undulating bricks of the alley. One would think it wasn’t the choicest place to live, yet I always see children and adults around, lots of toys and talk and play; it seems to be a happy little house. I wasn’t surprised to see this complete selection of holiday decorations.

The shining bricks and puddles in the alley reflect the holiday cheer. Note the homemade Steelers emblem in the left-hand window; no display in Pittsburgh would be complete without it.

I usually associate holiday lights with snow, or at least with a clear cold night, but I also love colorful night photography and especially rainy nights.

. . . . . .

All images used on this site are copyrighted to Bernadette E. Kazmarski unless otherwise noted and may not be used without my written permission. Please ask if you are interested in using one in a print or internet publication. If you are interested in purchasing a print of this image or a product including this image, check my Etsy shop or Fine Art America profile to see if I have it available already. If you don’t find it there, visit “purchasing” for availability and terms.

 


Let There Be Peace on Earth

Sunset-14

Before you begin, let me tell you that this really happened, and I actually took notes immediately after so I wouldn’t lose any of the details. It is recounted through my perceptions, but the actions described here are real. It was one unforgettable moment.

~~~

On a dark, misty, not-quite-raining Sunday afternoon just before Christmas, I walked across an uneven, wet parking lot toward Dollar Tree, my mission: three or four pairs of 2.75 or 3.0 reading glasses that I could leave around the house or carry with me as need be since I was recently finding myself unable to read smaller text. I’d probably also pick up some other one-dollar-doodads that I really didn’t need.

It wasn’t cold, just dreary, especially since we had had a very pretty snow a few days before that had mostly melted leaving piles of dirty ice in parking lots and cinders and salt on the streets and caked on cars.

Ahead of me I saw an older woman emerge from the passenger side of a neat, clean silvery sedan parked near the end of the row and close the door, leaving someone, presumably her husband, behind the steering wheel.

She was slender and slight, dressed in an unwrinkled light blue poplin raincoat belted at the waist and had no hat on her short, mousy-gray permed hair. I thought of her leaving a very plain white Protestant church with a wreath on the front door, her husband in a navy blue suit, holding the passenger door for her as she got into the car; she had asked to stop here on the way home for something. She walked quickly with her head down and did not look up at me as I passed her but only glanced sideways without raising her head or turning in my direction, and said nothing.

I admit my outfits can look interesting at times, with my penchant for making and wearing colorful crocheted berets and hats, sometimes adding a scarf over a sweater or two and usually a long skirt with colorful tights and clogs or boots of some fashion. Some people say it looks cute or “funky”, some people just look, and I know that it often looks like I couldn’t decide what to wear or like I’m packing extra clothes, and while I’ve overheard “bag lady” I still get plenty of compliments. But my outfits are generally a reflection of what’s going on inside my head and heart and this is different every day and rarely monochromatic.

Even though the older woman didn’t look like the typical Dollar Tree patron in that area, in fact, she didn’t look like the typical patron of anything in that shopping center, she certainly looked as if she was heading for the door. Reaching the door ahead of her, I opened it and held it for her to pass through.

She stepped up on the sidewalk and hesitated, looking at the door, then glancing at me, as if she wasn’t sure she trusted the situation, as if I might close the door in her face or hit her with it. I smiled when she looked at me and nodded my head, and that seemed enough to encourage her to trust me as I held the door for her. She nodded at me, not making eye contact, and hurried past me into the store with short, quick, silent steps. I entered behind her and let the door close behind me.

Dollar stores are generally a little chaotic, but before Christmas they reach a peak of excess that is generally overwhelming. The merchandise displayed in no particular order turns into areas of color and texture and blocks much of the light from the ceiling fixtures, the scents of candles, perfumes and spices float in from everywhere, and once you add in the musical cards, conversations and Christmas music piped in from above, even the most focused person can become completely disoriented.

Patrons dressed in winter clothing wander up and down the aisles and among the displays of stuff clutching an armload of t-shirts and window cleaner and kitchen utensils and a box of rotini pasta with startled expressions darting about for anything they might have missed and would regret not purchasing when they got home. Maybe it’s a merchandising tactic by the store, but when everything is $1.00 you don’t need to worry about appealing to customers, and shoppers can afford to lose focus and pick up a few things they hadn’t come in for but might use later so it’s worth a cruise around the store.

I lost track of the older woman as she entered the store and turned right past a display of fake red-and-green-and-glitter poinsettias wrapped in sparkling red and green foil. I remembered where the display of reading glasses was, so I headed straight into the store, past the line at the front to the end of the counter where the spinning racks of reading glasses and sunglasses were displayed.

I don’t know what was playing when I came in, but above the din I heard gentle piano chords begin a melody joined by strings, not at all unusual for a holiday tune but when it led into the first words of “Let There Be Peace on Earth”, the Vince Gill version, I smiled. I knew this song, and I really loved its clear message accompanied with a simple melody. Vince Gill’s version is very straightforward and unadorned, not a big resounding production, and I find that very comforting.

Let there be peace on earth
and let it begin with me.
Let there be peace on earth
the peace that was meant to be.

In addition to my interesting clothing I also tend to sing along with anything I know, but it’s often completely unintentional as familiar words and melody flow through my thoughts and I simply begin to hum or sing—not loudly, but people can hear me. Of course, because I knew this song I began to sing along, softly, as I spun the glasses display and tried on one pair after another, purple, silver, flowered, tortoiseshell, looking in the teeny mirror to make sure I wasn’t completely over the top and picking up other packages to see that I could read them.

With God as our father
brothers all are we
let me walk with my brother
in perfect harmony.

I also looked around the store to see how the vision was with the glasses, even though they were meant for reading. A display of greeting cards began on the other side of the glasses display, and I saw an African-American couple who had been pulling out one card after another reading and laughing or discussing. An aisle of figurines of all shapes and colors and subjects opened up beyond the sunglass display, and there I saw a Hispanic-looking woman and girl—I presume because I had heard them softly speaking Spanish—likely mother and daughter, picking up various figurines and discussing them.

Let peace begin with me,
let this be the moment now.

Now, however, I noticed that the Hispanic mother and perhaps daughter, too, also seemed to be singing along with the song; their lips moving slightly as they browsed their shelves, and I seemed to hear from them the lyrics I was singing.

With every step I take
let this be my solemn vow…

I know I was staring at them trying to focus and determine if they really were singing along, and the mother looked up at me with a smile of recognition as her lips and mine moved with the same lyrics. I smiled back; we didn’t know each other, but we certainly had something in common.

…To take each moment
and live each moment
with peace eternally.

We kept singing softly as our glances broke apart, but we kept smiling.

Let there be peace on earth
and let it begin with me.

I turned back to the glasses display, finally on the fourth pair, while the song went into an instrumental section. When the song began again, with the child singing this time, so did I, and so did the African-American couple looking at the cards. I looked at them, they looked at me, we smiled and kept singing softly.

With God as our father
brothers all are we
let me walk with my brother
in perfect harmony.

I was overcome, and as is also typical of me in emotional moments, my eyes brimmed over and tears dropped down my cheeks. I glanced down and pulled a used tissue from my pocket, dabbing at my eyes, but kept singing.

To take each moment
and live each moment
in peace eternally…

Far too emotional to consider browsing the store, I turned to the counter with my glasses to check out. Just then I recognized the older woman’s blue raincoat already in line. I stepped in behind her. She was holding several stuffed toys and humming the last bars of the song.

Let there be peace on earth
and let it begin with me.

That really finished me off. I found another tissue as I began to wonder about this woman who was so uncomfortable in these surroundings.

Because she looked too old to have young children of her own, and she appeared to have the means to buy better toys, I wondered who the stuffed toys were for and why she would go to Dollar Tree to buy them. I imagined a scenario of some single mother she had heard about in church, a neighbor or perhaps an errant daughter with her grandchild; the sermon had nudged her conscience and she was acting as quickly as possible. Perhaps that was the reason for her apparent discomfort, or perhaps she stopped here after church every Sunday but didn’t want anyone to know she was helping someone. I knew my imagination was running away with the facts, but the whole experience had opened a flood of ideas that I could barely follow.

When radio stations pledge to play Christmas music from Thanksgiving to Christmas they really have to lower their standards to keep the selections varied, and while some pop holiday hits have become classics, others are just inane. But then, anything would be inane after that experience. I somewhat like “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree”, but not right then.

The one thing I do know is that there in that discount store, among that mixed group of us—the uncomfortable older woman, the Hispanic mother and daughter, the African-American couple, myself and possibly others—there was peace on earth, at least for those minutes when our hearts met in the simple wish described in the lyrics. And perhaps they each carried it away as a tender memory, just as I did.

 

~~~~~~~~

This post is part of “Friendship Friday” on Create With Joy.

Friendship-Friday-Button-150

. . . . . .

All images used on this site are copyrighted to Bernadette E. Kazmarski unless otherwise noted and may not be used without my written permission. Please ask if you are interested in using one in a print or internet publication. If you are interested in purchasing a print of this image or a product including this image, check my Etsy shop or Fine Art America profile to see if I have it available already. If you don’t find it there, visit “purchasing” for availability and terms.


Christmas Book Tree

Christmas Book Tree
Christmas Book Tree

Christmas Book Tree

It’s a Christmas gift to all readers—but it’s all year round and you don’t even have to celebrate Christmas to enjoy it! And it’s free—visit your local public library!

This is the book tree from Andrew Carnegie Free Library & Music Hall from last year. Somehow I never posted this photo!

. . . . . . .

All images used on this site are copyrighted to Bernadette E. Kazmarski unless otherwise noted and may not be used without my written permission. Please ask if you are interested in using one in a print or internet publication. If you are interested in purchasing a print of this image or a product including this image, check my Etsy shop or Fine Art America profile to see if I have it available already. If you don’t find it there, visit “purchasing” for availability and terms.


Christmas Myths and Legends

skulls at christmas
skulls at christmas

Look Out Christmas Myths and Stories!

I couldn’t let the year pass without sharing this photo from a neighbor’s yard!

Perhaps Santa, Frosty, The Little Drummer Boy and the Holy Family and attendants don’t actually see the demon glowing-eyed skull raised from the depths of Hell to eat them all alive and disappear back down into the soil from whence it came, leaving only a few scorch marks and melted snow.

If I were Santa I’d toss them all into that cute little sleigh and be off like the down of a thistle!

Think Hades wasn’t happy about giving up Persephone this year and he’s come for some more captives?

And when I was in Catholic school, I don’t remember hearing that Santa made it to the Nativity…or was he one of the wise men?

The little Drummer Boy is another story, though his costume is somewhat anachronistic.

And Frosty? Did they have television specials back then?

I guess it’s Christmas á la carte!


Conceptual Christmas Tree

corinthian columns in library
corinthian columns in library

Conceptual Christmas Tree

It’s one of the columns in the library with the fancy Corinthian frills at the top, red light shining from one direction, green from another.

We’re getting ready for the big event at Andrew Carnegie Free Library & Music Hall tomorrow, and all the fancy lighting is set all around the house. It’s the annual benefit, read about it on the website, and join us if you can!

. . . . . . .

For a print of any photo, visit “purchasing” for availability and terms. For photos of lots of black cats and other cats—and even some birds as I first published this post there—visit The Creative Cat.


The Christmas Moon

photo of moon over hill
photo of moon over hill

The Christmas Moon

This is one of my stories of Christmas magic, a little interesting moment that really did happen one Christmas night a several years ago.

A few years ago I was driving home on a Christmas night, traveling along a dark two-lane road in a somewhat rural area that was familiar and fairly close to home. As dusk fell the light dusting of snow around me was tending to violet and the perfectly clear blue sky above me was also deepening to violet in the east. As I turned a bend in the road I met with surprise a big bright and creamy full moon perfectly placed above the uneven horizon line, a mix of pine trees and the reaching bare branches of deciduous trees, these nearly silhouetted against the sky. I smiled at the pure beauty of the scene as I drove along, vowing to remember the composition and carry its beauty with me.

As I followed the curves of the road the moon seemed to follow me on my right, a watchful presence as I drove through the deepening twilight. I had just driven my brother back to the nursing home where he was living while recovering from a traumatic brain injury, and then my mother who was living in personal care in the after effects of lung cancer and congestive heart failure. The two places were at least 50 miles apart and the journey took quite some time on both highways and back roads. I had cooked a Christmas dinner at my house, set everything aside to keep warm and gone to pick up each of them. We ate our dinner and I packed a few leftovers for each of them before getting them back in time for dinner medications. At each place I stopped for a while to help them in and to get resettled in their respective spaces and discuss their care with staff. Now I was on my way home to pack up the rest of the dinner, wash dishes and clean up my kitchen, there was very little traffic and the day had been beautiful, clear and sunny though cold and now, alone, I had some time to ponder.

Deep in thought about these two and about my own life since they’d suffered their illnesses, I considered our day then moved to other Christmases, other holidays, other family members, other homes. In my distraction I slowed down with the rises and falls and bends in the road in the growing darkness, still aware of that full moon following me out of the corner of my eye.

A small valley opened out on my right, a flood plain along a stream, a familiar thing to one who walks the woods and valleys in Western Pennsylvania: a level area filled with young trees, scrub and brambles which had recently enough been the rich bottomland field of a farm, bordered by a narrow stream, and behind that a rather steep tree-covered hill. These small valleys appeared on one side of the road then the other, and with a little traveling the valley would rise up into a hill that bordered the road while on the other side the hill would fall into a valley, up and down, the road, the landscape, the rhythm was comforting, like rocking slowly in a rocking chair.

As I passed this little valley I noticed movement among the trees, probably a deer as this was the time of day they moved about and that was the perfect area for them to be having an evening meal. Though I hadn’t been facing that direction and didn’t actually see anything directly the movement hadn’t seemed to be a deer, and more by intuition than actual fact it had seemed human to me. We recognize these things without realizing, that ancient part of our brain assembling patterns and instinctive knowledge before our slower logical brain can react, and making out of the pieces something we can recognize.

The fact that it might be a person was not a problem, really, the little valley was essentially someone’s back yard and it would not be unusual for them to be walking around there even on Christmas, and while I might wonder if the person was in danger or in need of some sort I would be most likely to allow them their privacy. But something about the figure had also seemed familiar, I had no idea why, probably that ancient brain reacting again, but I trust it when it does that. And even though I wanted to get back home and clean up my kitchen, I slowed down and pulled to the side of the road. If there was a possibility I tried to pursue these little ideals that arose, stopping to explore. At that time, with all the complications of my life, I rarely felt I had the time to spend chasing an illusion, but I didn’t question the need to explore this one.

I had passed the valley by that time so it was now behind me, but I backed up along the berm of the road to a spot where I could see into it.

That silent pale yellow moon, now nearly white, still shone on my right, risen slightly higher above the horizon than before, and shone directly into the little space lighting the snow cover to a pale silver violet and the tree trunks to varying shades of pale gray against the charcoal-shadowed hill in the background. Everything seemed still, but I detected movement flitting among the trees, thought I saw the glint of moonlight on hair, on an arm, a dress. I opened my car window and shut off my radio and then my car’s engine. If those were people moving down there, they should be crunching in the snow, but I heard no sound in the crisp, clear air.

But I felt such a strong presence. Quietly opening my door and standing up in the bits of snow and gravel at the edge of the grass along the road, I heard only far off sounds, a plane in the sky, a car traveling somewhere, a dog barking. The air was so clear I thought I’d hear sounds from miles away traveling quickly through the cold, windless darkness, leaving little virtual contrails as they moved through the infinity of a cold winter night, but nothing came up from the valley, neither from hooves nor feet.

And if, instead of being the author, I was reading this and didn’t know the story, I’d be yelling, “You idiot! Get back in the car!” No, this isn’t going to turn into a made-for-TV movie, I remained alone, you are safe to read on without fear. I am cautious and always aware, but didn’t feel in any way threatened, in fact I felt safe and welcome.

As I stood there, one hand on my open car door, I thought I recognized one of the figures out of the corner of my eye, and as it is with focusing on subjects in near darkness the figure disappeared when I looked directly at it. But I knew it was my mother, walking quickly and gracefully as she had done when young, laughing soundlessly over her shoulder before disappearing into the darkness. Then I saw one of my aunts, also laughing but in a conversation with someone else, typically a sour and sarcastic person but here, almost unrecognizable in her happiness. And as I stood there I saw other relatives, aunts and uncles, even ones I’d never known and only seen in photos, just a few seconds each, and all were happy and laughing and moving here and there, the little valley was full of these specters.

Then I realized that each of these were the people I’d been thinking about as I drove along. Had I manifested them? Was I hallucinating? I hadn’t even had a glass of wine yet, waiting until I was back home in my warm kitchen in my stocking feet and wearing an apron, washing my dishes and singing along with the radio as I almost wished I was right then.

But here they were in this magical little valley and what had made me slow my car, had drawn me out to experience it was the joy in the scene, they were all enjoying themselves, happy and laughing, something that had not always been so in real life; some of them, sadly, rarely so. Here they all were together in this little parallel universe.

I had been thinking so deeply about them all as I drove in that deepening twilight under the watchful eye of that full moon, remembering where I had memories of them or simply imagining those who I’d never met. When I create a scene for artwork or writing I visualize it pretty completely and even sometimes I get so lost in these necessary alternate realities that I feel the cold or hot or wind, I have the conversation, I see the light in a person’s eyes. In that manner of visualizing, in that dusky time of day when I feel the veil of reality thin and the closeness of those who aren’t with me along with that magical moon and its light among the trees, my thoughts for those brief seconds became real, and I saw them as I wanted them to be, or perhaps as they really were without the worries and weariness of everyday life, happy to be together, happy to be alive. I will never know which it was, but I would be comforted to know this was how they would all spend eternity.


Christmas Night

house with christmas lights in the woods
house with christmas lights in the woods

Christmas Night

I was on the trail for my annual Christmas walk, and coming home in near darkness I saw this house off in the woods, a blocky old farmhouse joyfully festooned with lights and banners and little figures, though only the lights are seen in the dark. If we’d had a little more snow it would have been even more perfect.

. . . . . . .

For a print of any photo, visit “purchasing” for availability and terms. For photos of lots of black cats and other cats—and even some birds as I first published this post there—visit The Creative Cat.