AU REVOIR NOËL

For many years now I have found Christmas to be anti-climactic. For weeks there is the buildup – – – the decorating, the holiday parties, the music, the final preparation of gifts, and the gathering of family and friends for Christmas dinner.  Then …  Then ?

So now it’s the day after and for me it’s a let-down.  Back to pedestrian reality.  Part of the therapy is to review all of the pleasant and fun events of the buildup.  One that came to mind was Medford’s Dickens Night.  We haven’t been able to go for six years because I was involved in an annual craft show the same day.  When we did get there it was a wonderful evening.

This year we went back but couldn’t see much of the traditional charm because the street was lined with food tents and crafters’ tents.  “You can’t go home again.”

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On Christmas Eve morning I was starting to feel some of the let-down so I decided that I needed to go to the city to see and photograph people and color and signs of Christmas.  Off I went on a sparsely occupied High Speed Line …. but pleased to find that my fellow riders included lots of children headed for some center-city excitement.

After arrival in the city I decided to go into Macy’s to find the schedule for their light show.  Instead, I found one in process.  Since it had already started, I wound up well in the back but that was OK as I’ve surely seen it off and on since the early 60’s.  Instead I concentrated on other views and enjoyed the process.  My view was blocked by an arch but it was decorated and so became a sample of everything.

The most exciting part of the show was, after its conclusion, to run into Bobby and Sigrid and grand-daughters Maddy and Gretchen.  We even concluded that we had come in on the same train.  They invited me along for their Christmas Eve wanderings but I demurred as I had photographing in mind.  Here was my final shot at Macy’s, taken after the crowd had dispersed.  That eagle has been coming there even longer than me.

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These two shots, however, reminded me of another pleasure several years ago when I captured the Philadelphia Boys Choir at a morning rehearsal before the light show was turned on.

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Outside of Macy’s the show windows were Christmasy and colorful.  Here’s one which included a replica of City Hall.

Nahhh.  That’s a reflection but I liked the combination.

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Then a walk through City Hall.  I had done the west area a couple of weeks ago so this time I exited towards north Broad Street.  This tree at the entrance was attractive.

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From there I walked a couple of blocks east to the Reading Terminal Market, always a favorite.  The market was busy, busy, busy.  I wondered around for a while and then settled in with a PHILADELPHIA Cheese Steak.  It can not be more authentic.  Everyone seemed in a good mood.  After lunch, more wandering including a favorite, the produce area.  A box of Driscoll’s strawberries was about 40% less than at ShopRite and my dazzling personality brought me another 10% off without my asking.  For that she got a “Merry Christmas” and I got an additional smile.  My last stop was at the Pennsylvania General Store for a box of Asher’s dark chocolate salted caramels.  See what I mean about reviewing pleasant events?

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CHANGE OF SUBJECT BUT STILL CHRISTMAS

This week an older image of mine resurfaced as shared on F/B.  It is some photoshoppery of a fisherman’s or hunter’s shack which marked the entrance to Long Beach Island for many years.  Even before its disappearance in Hurricane Sandy, it had become an icon.  It celebrated one’s arrival for vacation and added poignancy when leaving at the end of vacation.  One year I enhanced an image as more of a winter scene and added a Christmas Tree that lives in several of my images.  I subsequently sold many copies at craft shows and a couple of years ago I uploaded it to the Remember When Long Beach Island F/B page.

The original image was made in February, 2005, and the foreground snow was there.  In 2008 I replaced the sky with the gradient blue fill, and added the falling snow effect and the Christmas Tree.  I had captured the tree at the Pittsburgh Winter Garden in 2001.

Well, it has resurfaced and has accumulated over five hundred “Likes” along the way.  That makes for a warm feeling.

And, it helps one get past that anti-climactic feeling.

Merry Christmas for yesterday and for the future!

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P.S.  For more of my peripatetic Christmas Tree, click here.

 

 

THE RETURN OF THE WINTER SOLSTICE

Today at 11:28 AM marks the occurrence of the winter solstice. Its Latin roots are sol and stit or sun stopped. As a practical matter the sun appears to have moved as far south as it ever goes and will now start its journey back north. Tomorrow there will be two more seconds of daylight.  Phew! What a relief. However, even so, it’s going to take a few months to warm up again.

Cold or not it’s a beautiful time of the year but, come on, it can also be a little hectic. Sometimes it whirls by in a swirl of color and that helps make the short bleak cold days tolerable.

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The little figures above were as seen by my Lensbaby Composer Pro lens. Sometimes it gives the effect of too much partying but I like what it does. The little figures were in a stand at Philadelphia’s Christmas Market in Love Park near City Hall. It’s always fun to wander amongst the families enjoying the scene with its Weinachtsmarkt (Christmas Market) character.

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Elsewhere in the area, in Dilworth Park Garden just west of the City Hall building we found an enchanting America’s Garden Capital Maze. A half dozen of these big guys were watching over everything and I thought they were a great contrast with the downtown center-city buildings.

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Still in the Christmas Market area I came across this artist who created animals from heated colored glass rods. Seen again through the eye of my Lensbaby lens there is an aura of 10,000 B.C. to it all.

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We’ve been blessed with two decorative snow storms. They’re decorative in that traffic didn’t get snarled and they didn’t have much impact, and lingering warmth disposed of them pretty quickly. While they last the results are magical and fit our northern concept of Christmas. Here was my view of my friends’ nearby town house, that of Valerie and Dick C. They always enhance their place with decoration and lights, both inside and outside, and it adds to our life.

On a snowy night, perfect.

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After the snow my late wife Marty Lou’s crafty snowman looked good and felt at home. Marty and three of her buds would get together in December and make a Christmas Craft. They started here with a clear glass lamp chimney and painted it white. The get-outta-here felt hat is pinned up in front with a tiny sleigh bell. On the rim is a cardinal’s nest and miscellaneous grasses. There’s also some mistletoe berries and a tiny ceramic ginger bread man on the back of the rim. A plaid scarf protects against a sore throat, and the nose is a painted slash.

Sadly, of those four crafty ladies only one is still with us. I look forward to the annual reappearance of the little snow man. Christmas as a family event refreshes memories of family and friends who have left us. This year that includes Miss Pearl who I lost last December.  I miss her very much.

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HAS CHRISTMAS ARRIVED IN MY TOWN HOUSE?

You bet!  Too many traditions to ignore. First, my 86th Christmas Tree. I don’t remember the first three or four. Frankly, there are lots of others that I might not specifically remember, but I do remember the concepts and isolated memories of Christmases past. Notably, the $2.00 Charley Brown tree from our salad days in the early 70’s. This year’s tree is beautiful, loaded as always with ornaments from over the years including some from my grandparents’ trees. Age? I don’t know, but my parents married in 1918 and probably had their first tree that year.

Barb and I decorated mine last Saturday and we applied the tinsel one strand at a time as my childhood friend, Bimmie W. trained me to do.

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Elsewhere Christmas has cropped up in my living room. The Snow Village houses have appeared on the top of the china cabinet and on top of my wall unit. The houses and trains of my youth are on the shelves of the wall unit. One of the centerpieces which Sigrid made for our recent joint (Barbara and me) birthday party is on my coffee table. A basket of tree ornaments is on the little side table between the two chairs, and crystal and pressed glass pieces are on the dining table and on the coffee table. With the candles lit it is festive.

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A BEVELED GLASS PANEL

Finally, I tackled and completed another beveled glass panel this fall. It doesn’t say Christmas but it will be a long-requested gift. Details and construction are seen here (scroll to the bottom) on my Stained Glass page.  Tho not specifically a Christmas theme, it is a warm inviting window panel for the holidays.

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MERRY CHRISTMAS OR A HAPPY HOLIDAY

TO ALL OF MY FAMILY AND FRIENDS

AND A HAPPY, PROSPEROUS AND HEALTHY 2018

 

IT’S THE MOST WONDERFUL TIME OF THE YEAR

Yes, but a mixed blessing at times, what with all the activities and preparation.  There’s the gift buying and wrapping; the Christmas cards to design and get produced; the updating of the mailing list, and the necessary trip to the post office.  There’s the tree to purchase and install and decorate; there’s all of the Christmas decorations from the past to get out and place.   There’s the Christmas formal including getting the traditional corsage for Barbara; numerous other parties to go to and make nice (isn’t it nice to have them, though).  Putting up some outdoor lights.  Placing and lighting the Snow Village ceramic houses, about all that’s left from the old basement trains.  Ah, but there’s a concession: there’s the three by six snow-covered Christmas village I built last year, with its old world lighted houses, its trees, and its single loop of HO track for a mountain passenger train.  That just got up on the 23rd.  Here’s part of it.

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I made a point, however, of also taking in much of what Philadelphia has to offer during the holiday weekends.  On one Saturday we toured the annual Christmas Market outside City Hall.  This year the village was much bigger and was spread around Love Park.  The booths ranged from pure seasonal to home improvement but the Christmas items were inviting.

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The decorated park provided an interesting perspective for Ben Franklin.  (Later:  my friend, Roz, just nicely corrected me; that’s William Penn, not Ben Franklin.  Oh, well.)

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We enjoyed the wurst although it wasn’t Nuremberg wurst, but the gluehwein was not memorable.  We were reminded of our previous visits to Bavaria and the Christmas Markets.   Here’s the Nuremberg market a few years ago, by the 14th C. Schöner Brunnen or beautiful fountain.

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Here we enjoyed the totally memorable Nuremberg Wurst.  The small sign in the background announces beer or wine at €2.  Not bad.

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Another weekend we made our way to the always lively and colorful Reading Terminal Market to see their annual train display.  It was nice but the market, itself, was fun.  Lots of people, seemingly in a good mood, enjoying live entertainment, eating,  and stocking up from a wide variety of choices.

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My favorite area is always the produce section where the colors seductively say, “Take me home.”  Another great addition to my placemat series.

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 From there we hiked over to Wanamaker’s or Strawbridge’s (it was, briefly) or, I guess, Macy’s for the annual light show, along with probably only a few thousand others.  Don’t go on a weekend.

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Yeah, only a few memories, having seen my first light show (with dancing fountains) with Marty Lou and my daughters in 1962.  It’s still a powerful show, made more so by the years of memories.  In later years we left the show to go upstairs to see Santa and to pick out an ornament for the tree.  Many of those still appear on the tree.

Because of the crowd I couldn’t see the show directly (the usher chased me from the vantage point above).  So, I noticed some of the other beautiful seasonal decorations.

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Although it’s raining today (Christmas Eve), and Barbara has slipped north to spend Christmas with her Dedham family, I have many nice things to reflect on from the month’s activities.  With the tree up and decorated and the train running I can enjoy my morning coffee amidst memories in the sun room.  The tree was bigger than I should have bought and I had to have help getting it into the house and in place.  It was worth it.  The fragrance, alone, on entering the room is wonderful.

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There are ornaments on the tree that were on my parents’ first tree in 1918; there are ornaments from my grandparents’ tree; there are ornaments that we purchased for our first tree; and there are the ornaments that the kids purchased over the years.  It provides me with a great, comforting sense of continuity.

Yes, it’s the most wonderful time of the year but it’s also a bittersweet time, sometimes even lip-quivering, remembering family and friends who have gone.

I am profoundly comforted by those that remain…..personal friends here on campus and nearby, some even from childhood….my shore-life friends….my immediate family which is my support system, Sigrid, Bob, Madeline, Gretchen and Kirsten….my friends and colleagues that I have met and learned from and enjoyed through my photography passion….and my cousins, nephews and nieces with whom I’ve reconnected through social media.

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A Merry Christmas To All!!

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CHRISTMAS SCENES AT BergiesPlace

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The Christmas decorations are up.  The process always brings back memories from lots of past Christmases.  The picture below is of houses and toys from the Christmas Garden or train platform I grew up with beginning in earliest memory.  They were on the platform for my brother before me so, presuming he got them by age five, they’re around 87 years old now.  The items are a little chipped here and there, one of the cars has lost a wheel, and one of the houses is leaning a little.  I’m kind of in the same shape.

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I have more of the items including the Lionel freight train set from the 20’s but they’re stored away in the basement.

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Here is a city comprised of models based on buildings found in Germany, Austria and Switzerland, particularly with the emphasis on half-timbered construction.  I’ve built these models over the past thirteen years from kits made by Faller, a German company.   The prototype for the six buildings together on the right is in Frankfurt and I’ve visited there.  Known as the Römer, the square was heavily damaged by Allied bombing but since rebuilt.  The model city being arranged on my coffee table, I think of it as Stadt Kaffeetisch.

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Here is a closeup of the building fronts showing the great detail in these kits.

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Below is a more contemporary, classic small town winter/Christmas scene.  Grandma Moses and Norman Rockwell are in there somewhere.  It includes two of the ceramic houses from the Snow Village line of Department 56.  These are a pretty good scale size next to O-gauge trains so I began to buy these in ’87. 

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I soon had some 44 buildings plus accessories on my old 200+ square feet, O-gauge, three rail, three mainlines layout seen here.  My daughter, Sigrid, used to say that she’d like to live in the village.  It seems like a world where there is peace, no stress, no poverty, no disease, and everyone’s nice all the time.   As a part of my move, however, the residents were evicted by right of eminent domain: the layout was disassembled and the houses packed away but I pulled out eight of them for the living room this year.

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In the years before I plunged back into photography I did a lot of stained glass work.  Here’s an original design that has just been hung again for the holidays.  The creche set next below was from a 70’s pattern book and I still see them from time to time.  I made a number of them over the years but lavished special care on the last three sets, one each for my daughters and one for me.   I visited Sigrid this week and was pleased to see her set out amongst the greens.  (For more of my stained glass work you can click on that title at the top of the screen.)

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Finally, I still struggle with a real tree.  (N.B.  It’s not a holiday tree; it’s a Christmas tree.)  It’s a chore getting it home and into the house and into its holder and stringing the old fashioned lights with the foil reflectors I found on ebay.  Then my friend, Barbara, helped me hang the ornaments.   A few carry tags as from my grandparents’ or my parents’ trees;  others were accumulated by us over the years, typically from the Wanamaker Christmas Shop after seeing Santa.  Of course there’s the late Vince Guaraldi’s “Charley Brown Christmas” or Julie Andrews’ “Christmas Treasure” albums playing while we do the trimming.  The tree is then dressed with glass icicles and tinsel from my dwindling supply that I hide from the EPA.  (I think I still have a lifetime supply.)

What a joy it is to see it done, glowing softly and filling the house with its fragrance.

I understand the ecumenism and inclusivity that has led to “Happy Holidays” and I certainly wish them to all.

But, I also have to say (borrowing from Clement Moore) … Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night.

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OF WINTER, AND CHRISTMAS, PAST AND PRESENT

I know it doesn’t start officially until Tuesday but….winter’s here.  With night times in the low 20’s and some days only in the high 20’s let’s not be fussy about dates.  A dusting of snow doesn’t bring thoughts of spring, either.

The 1828 Barclay Farmhouse.

I confess: the snow around the farmhouse is last January’s, not this week’s but you get the idea.  The land for the original farm is where Bob Scarborough built the Barclay Farm development in the 50’s.  Pet Peeve Note:  It’s Barclay Farm, not Barclay Farms which the shopping center sign says.

The farmhouse was saved by a group of volunteers beginning in 1974 (including my late wife who was dedicated to it for 25 years).  By 1978 it was on the National Historic Register.  Over the years the Friends of Barclay Farmhouse have overseen its period  restoration and furnishing and a useful role in teaching school kids about early 19th century Quaker farm life.  It was eventually acquired by Cherry Hill Township from the late Helen Barclay, the last surviving family member.  Helen actually lived at the farm as a child, and her restored bedroom with its massive Victorian furniture can be seen on house tours.  The farmhouse has an active life in the community, including a festive Holiday House program in December.

Another sign of winter is that my household humidity is condensing on the cold window panes.  When I raise the blind by the breakfast table in the morning there’s an attractive arch of moisture beads which makes the bare trees more mysterious.  Do you feel a picture coming on?

My trees through the moisture on my window.

But, the dark winter solstice (sun standing still) comes with celebrations of life as we rejoice in friends and family.  We remember many Christmases past, and those who were a part of it, some of whom have left us.   My father believed in the principle that nothing appeared in the house until Christmas Morning, and he and mother pulled it off Christmas Eve, retrieving everything from the attic after I had pinned my stocking to an armchair (no fireplace) and drifted off.  Invariably he had to call my Uncle Jesse to resolve some mysterious problem with the wiring of the trains but it was all there the next morning, bright and dazzling to a five year old excitedly rubbing sleep from his eyes.   I remember that I couldn’t run the trains on Tuesday mornings when Ruby, our ironing lady came.  It was the 1930’s; we had an ironing lady but only one extension cord.  Go figure.

My childhood Christmas garden.

Some of the houses in the village and the Lionel freight set were purchased for my brother’s youth, circa 1925.  I still have them.  The Christmas garden tradition continued in my family but one year, in our salad days, the best bargain I could find was this tree for two dollars.

My $2 tree.

I didn’t think it was so bad but my family has never forgiven me for “Dad’s weird tree.”  I prefer to think of it as an upscale version of Charley Brown’s tree.

Anyway, I’ve had a great December, highlighted by two splendid concerts.  The first was the Philadelphia Orchestra playing Smetana, Prokofiev and two lush Respighi works…The Fountains, and a roof-raising Roman Festivals.   This past week we went to the Philadelphia  Holiday Pops program which included a very full Pops orchestra, the Philadelphia Boys Choir, 1oo voices of the Pops Festival Chorus, some fifty voices of the African Episcopal Church gospel choir, vocalist Rachael York, and Peter Richard Conte (of Wanamaker’s Organ) at the Kimmel Center organ.  I felt as though I had been to a great party.  When all of those voices and instruments lifted up the Hallelujah Chorus, folks were waving their arms from one end of Broad Street to the other.

I’ve watched Scrooge and Miracle on 34th Street (please, the 1938 and 1947 originals, respectively).  I’ve checked out the Christmas Village on Dilworth Plaza, the amazing show at Comcast Center, and the traditional light show at Macy’s (i.e. Wanamaker’s).

Seen at the Christmas Village

My house is decorated, thanks to daughter Sigrid; my tree (real) is up and decorated thanks to my family; the tree lights are the old C7’s with colored aluminum reflectors that I found on ebay; and the tinsel is real, from my dwindling hoard that the EPA has designated hazardous.   I’ve had three festive dinner gatherings with friends, some of whom have been there for almost fifty years; others have left but we remember them.   The Christmas cards arrive, some with not good news about the decline of still other and older friends, and even an obituary notice of one whom I had hoped to see again.  But, life goes on and it can still be a wonderful life if one works at it.  Say, that might be a good movie title, “A Wonderful Life.”

I’ll close this post with my annual Christmas Greeting card.  The scene is my home after the December 2009 snowstorm.  To my non-Christmas friends, God Bless, Be Well, and have a Happy New Year.   To others, add

Merry Christmas.

The cards are in the mail but if yours gets lost, here it is.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year