“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.”
“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.”
“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On the weekend after Thanksgiving, I tugged the Lifelike Christmas Tree (calling it “artificial” is so outdated) from it’s off-season squeeze-place in a closet where it barely fits, which forces me to knee the door shut every other month of the year.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?
“‘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.
“Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus. It would be as dreary as if there were no Virginias. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.
“Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies! You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas Eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if they did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove? Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that’s no proof that they are not there….
“Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.”
“A little before twilight one Christmas eve, Gabriel shouldered his spade, lighted his lantern, and betook himself towards the old churchyard…. As he wended his way, up the ancient street, he saw the cheerful light of the blazing fires gleam through the old casements, and heard the loud laugh and the cheerful shouts of those who were assembled around them….”
“That as they were assembled in the old Hall, by no other light than that of a great fire … the shadows once more stole out of their hiding-places, and danced about the room, showing the children marvelous shapes and faces on the walls, and gradually changing what was real and familiar there, to what was wild and magical.”
“The winter sun goes down over town and village; on the sea it makes a rosy path, as if the Sacred tread were fresh upon the water. A few more moments, and it sinks, and night comes on, and lights begin to sparkle in the prospect…. “Welcome, old aspirations, glittering creatures of an ardent fancy, to your shelter underneath the holly! We know you, and have not outlived you yet. Welcome, old projects and old loves, however fleeting, to your nooks among the steadier lights that burn around us.”