"Pay attention to the world." -- Susan Sontag

Eight Days To Christmas: Tiny Baubles

From “Deck the Halls” in Just an Ordinary Day: Stories by Shirley Jackson:

“It was eight o’clock in the evening, Christmas Eve, and Mr. and Mrs. Williams were decorating their Christmas tree. It was the first Christmas tree they had had since they were married, but this year their little girl was two years old, and Mrs. Williams had thought that it was time they started making a real Christmas for her to remember when she grew up. Mrs. Williams had bought some ornaments at the five and ten, and a lot of little toys to hang on the tree, and Mr. Williams had brought out a kitchen chair and was standing on it, hanging things on the top branches. All of the baby’s relatives and friends had sent lovely things, which Mrs. Williams intended to pile lavishly under the tree, and Mr. and Mrs. Williams had bought an enormous teddy bear, taller by a head than the baby herself, which would be the first thing she would see in the morning.

When the tree was finished, with the packages and the teddy bear underneath, Mrs. Williams stood back and looked at it, holding her breath with pleasure. ‘Bob,’ she said, ‘it looks lovely. Like a dream of Christmas.'”

Nine Days To Christmas: Four Santas, Two Gnomes, One Jester, and Some Very Skinny Reindeer

From “The Elves” in The Original Folk and Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm: The Complete First Edition by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, translated and edited by Jack Zipes:

“A shoemaker had become so poor that he didn’t have enough leather left for a single pair of shoes. In the evening he cut out the shoes that he planned to work on the next morning. However, when he got up the next day and was about to sit down to do his work, he saw the two shoes already finished and beautifully made, standing on the table. Soon a customer paid so well that the shoemaker could purchase enough leather for two pairs of shoes, which he cut out that evening. The next morning when he once again wanted to sit down and work, they were already finished, just as the pair had been the other day. Now he was able to purchase enough leather for four pairs of shoes from the money he received from the two pairs. And so it went. Whatever he cut out in the evening was finished by morning, and soon he was a well-to-do man again.

“Now one evening right before Christmas after he had cut out many shoes and wanted to go to bed, he said to his wife: ‘We should stay up one time and see who does our work in the night.’

“So they lit a candle, hid themselves in the corner of the room behind the clothes that had been hung up there, and watched closely. At midnight two cute little naked men came and sat down at the workbench, took all the cutout pieces of the shoes, and worked so swiftly and nimbly that the shoemaker could not take his eyes off them. Indeed, they were incredibly fast, and he was amazed. They didn’t stop until they had finished the work on all the shoes….

Then they scampered away, and it wasn’t even day yet….

Ten Days To Christmas: Peace

From “What Christmas is, as we Grow Older” in A Christmas Carol and Other Christmas Writings by Charles Dickens:

“On the hill-side beyond the shapelessly-diffused town, and in the quiet keeping of the trees that gird the village-steeple, remembrances are cut in stone, planted in common flowers; growing in grass, entwined with lowly brambles around many a mound of earth. In town and village, there are doors and windows closed against the weather, there are flaming logs heaped high, there are joyful faces, there is healthy music of voices.

Be all ungentleness and harm excluded from the temples of the Household Gods, but be those remembrances admitted with tender encouragement! They are of the time and all its comforting and peaceful reassurances; and of the history that reunited even upon earth the living and the dead; and of the broad beneficence and goodness that too many men have tried to tear to narrow shreds.”

From “The Lady’s Walk: A Story of the Seen and Unseen” by Margaret Oliphant, in The Valancourt Book of Victorian Christmas Ghost Stories, edited by Tara Moore:

“It was a lovely evening, soft and warm, the western sky all ablaze with colour, the great branches of the beeches thrown out in dark maturity of greenness upon the flush of orange and crimson melting into celestial rosy red as it rose higher, and flinging itself in airy masses rose-tinted across the serene blue above….

“The air was of magical clearness, and earth and sky seemed stilled with an almost awe of their own loveliness, happiness, and peace.”

Christmas Is Coming! A Preview…

From “A Christmas Tree” in A Christmas Carol and Other Christmas Writings by Charles Dickens:

Being now at home again, and alone … my thoughts are drawn back, by a fascination which I do not care to resist, to my own childhood. I begin to consider, what do we all remember best upon the branches of the Christmas Tree of our own young Christmas days, by which we climbed to real life.

Straight, in the middle of the room, cramped in the freedom of its growth by no encircling walls or soon-reached ceiling, a shadowy tree arises; and, looking up into the dreamy brightness of its top — for I observe, in this tree, the singular property that it appears to grow downward towards the earth — I look into my youngest Christmas recollections!”


Last year I put together a “days to Christmas” series of photography posts, and I’ve decided to do something similar this year, starting again with “Ten Days to Christmas” … which means I need to publish the first post in two — eeeks! only two! — days. I have zero ( zero! ) images ready at the moment, so I’ve got some work to do. Gonna need to crank up the shutter speeds!

On the weekend after Thanksgiving, I tugged the Lifelike Christmas Tree (calling it “artificial” is so outdated) from it’s off-season squeeze-place in a closet where it barely fits, which forces me to knee the door shut every other month of the year. I generally try to just avoid that particular closet. As I mentioned in a previous post, my tree has gone political this year — it’s now covered in blue lights to acknowledge Georgia flipping blue (again and again and again) in the presidential election.

Here’s the tree fresh out of the closet, after about three hours of twisting and shaping to get it de-scrunched. I’ve had this one for about five years, and while it does take a while to make shapely, it was a step up in convenience from its predecessor: an eight-foot, all-silk monster with branches that needed to be inserted individually into the trunk by color-code, then carefully shaped so the “needles” didn’t fall off. It usually took me a full day to finish it and then vacuum up all the silk bits that fell to the floor no matter how careful I was, so I feel like I gain five or six life-hours back every time I assemble this newer one.

Here we have the first attempt at topper attachment, with the angel a bit tipsy (too much egg nog?). Ladders and climbing were needed to correct the problem.

Here’s the angel righted and lit, with most of the tree lights installed. Actually they were all installed just before this; then me and the dog took a little break — and we came back to find some of the lights had leaped off the tree and engaged in a good bit of abusive self-entangling. What is it with Christmas lights anyway? They seem to have minds of their own, and no good comes from leaving them unattended.

And then we came to the end of day one. Here we have almost all of the lights installed, the point at which I often plop on the couch and wonder if maybe, just maybe, I should skip the rest of the tree decorations and leave it like this — just like you might see it in your favorite hardware store where they’re trying to get you to buy a pre-lit tree. I decided not to do that, of course; but the rest of the decorating took place over the next couple of days and will be part of the “days of Christmas series” coming up. I should also add that I managed to find room for three hundred more lights even after this, so the tree itself is now visible as a triangular blue glow, from space.

Below is a little preview of some of the photography work I’ll be doing for the upcoming series. I turned the foyer in my house into a MacGuyver-style photo-studio, hung this ornament from the center of a tripod, then positioned some lighting from below (three flashlights!). The walls in my foyer are green, so I developed this homegrown “green screen” technique to photograph ornaments that have open interior spaces like this one — so that I could remove all the green from the photo with Adobe Lightroom and make the ornament look like it was suspended on a black background.

I have managed to find a few colorful fall subjects, though autumn color has really just appeared in this unusually warm season over the past couple of weeks. Fall came so late I may need to create my own season — Christmaswinterfall — to have a good reason to include some of the fall photos with the Christmas ornament photos. I mean it’s true — isn’t it? — that richly-colored autumn leaves, in decent sunshine, are not that much different than Christmas lights, right?

Thanks for reading and taking a look!

Merry Christmas!

From “A Christmas Carol” in A Christmas Carol and Other Christmas Writings by Charles Dickens:

“‘It’s Christmas Day!’ said Scrooge to himself. ‘I haven’t missed it. The Spirits have done it all in one night…. I am as light as a feather, I am as happy as an angel, I am as merry as a school-boy. I am as giddy as a drunken man. A merry Christmas to everybody! A happy New Year to all the world!…’

“He became as good a friend, as good a master, and as good a man, as the good old city knew, or any other good old city, town, or borough, in the good old world. Some people laughed to see the alteration in him, but he let them laugh, and little heeded them; for he was wise enough to know that nothing ever happened on this globe, for good, at which some people did not have their fill of laughter in the outset; and knowing that such as these would be blind anyway, he thought it quite as well that they should wrinkle up their eyes in grins, as have the malady in less attractive forms. His own heart laughed: and that was quite enough for him….

“He had no further intercourse with Spirits … and it was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge. May that be truly said of us, and all of us! And so, as Tiny Tim observed, God bless us, every one!”

Below I’ve accumulated all the holiday photo galleries from the past ten days … a seasonal spectacle of color and light! Click the links atop each gallery if you would like to see the original posts and the quotations I selected to go with them.

Thanks for reading, and taking a look … and:

Merry Christmas to all!

Ten Days To Christmas: Peace

Nine Days To Christmas: Two Santas and Three Snowmen

Eight Days To Christmas: Tiny Baubles

Seven Days To Christmas: Red and Green

Six Days To Christmas: Silver and Gold

Five Days To Christmas: The Bright Lights Are Coming From Inside The House!!

Four Days To Christmas: Winter Solstice

Three Days To Christmas: Angels, as the Dog Watches Over Them

Two Days To Christmas: Light the World

One Day To Christmas: Happy Christmas Eve!

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