Per Heliconia's Request: Pretty Red Branches

No snowy Christmas for Seattle, alas. Just gray drippy skies. But winter isn’t all dull and drab. Yes, most of the trees are gray skeletons, but there’s plenty of evergreenery, and then there are the bushes whose branches blaze in the thin, cold light.

Pretty Red Branches
Pretty Red Branches

Just like Heliconia requested!

All right, so the leaves never really got with the fall color program: Continue reading “Per Heliconia's Request: Pretty Red Branches”

Per Heliconia's Request: Pretty Red Branches

A Christmas Sermon by Robert Ingersoll

Something tells me that Robert Ingersoll and Bill O’Reilly wouldn’t have gotten along. I like that.

I hope you’re currently surrounded by food, friends, and family (whether by birth or family you chose). For those of you stuck at work, I wish you an easy shift, and thank you! Did everyone get their gift from Karen? Isn’t it lovely?

I’ll see you all tomorrow, unless the cat makes a fool of herself begging dessert from a person she normally shuns, in which case I’ll see you later today. Love to you and yours, my darlings, now and always!

Winter sun on snow. Image courtesy Nomadic Lass on Flickr.
Winter sun on snow. Image courtesy Nomadic Lass on Flickr.

A CHRISTMAS SERMON

by Robert G. Ingersoll

 

THE good part of Christmas is not always Christian—it is generally Pagan; that is to say, human, natural.

Christianity did not come with tidings of great joy, but with a message of eternal grief. It came with the threat of everlasting torture on its lips. It meant war on earth and perdition hereafter.

It taught some good things—the beauty of love and kindness in man. But as a torch-bearer, as a bringer of joy, it has been a failure. It has given infinite consequences to the acts of finite beings, crushing the soul with a responsibility too great for mortals to bear. It has filled the future with fear and flame, and made God the keeper of an eternal penitentiary, destined to be the home of nearly all the sons of men. Not satisfied with that, it has deprived God of the pardoning power.

And yet it may have done some good by borrowing from the Pagan world the old festival called Christmas.

Long before Christ was born the Sun-God triumphed over the powers of Darkness. About the time that we call Christmas the days begin perceptibly to lengthen. Our barbarian ancestors were worshipers of the sun, and they celebrated his victory over the hosts of night. Such a festival was natural and beautiful. The most natural of all religions is the worship of the sun. Christianity adopted this festival. It borrowed from the Pagans the best it has.

I believe in Christmas and in every day that has been set apart for joy. We in America have too much work and not enough play. We are too much like the English.

I think it was Heinrich Heine who said that he thought a blaspheming Frenchman was a more pleasing object to God than a praying Englishman. We take our joys too sadly. I am in favor of all the good free days—the more the better.

Christmas is a good day to forgive and forget—a good day to throw away prejudices and hatreds—a good day to fill your heart and your house, and the hearts and houses of others, with sunshine.

A Christmas Sermon by Robert Ingersoll

Holiday Gifts For You

When I decided to go back to school to study geology, I really had to start at the beginning with the upper-division undergraduate courses, since my previous education had been in computer and software engineering.  The first class I took was Earth Materials, where I learned to recognize various rock types and incidentally fell in love with petrology.  We studied a lot of hand samples, and during finals week I took some photos of my favorites.  I really wanted to use them as computer wallpapers, but I hate tiled wallpapers that repeat awkwardly.  So I fired up a photo-editing tool called The Gimp, and made smoothly-repeating tiles that wrap both horizontally and vertically.

Continue reading “Holiday Gifts For You”

Holiday Gifts For You

Christmas Eve Sarajevo, Two Versions

So this is a beautiful song, one of my favorite pieces. It’s up to you which version you choose. There’s the Trans-Siberian Orchestra version, which is a little more fantasy and wonder and has kittens and a very sweet little girl.

And then there’s the Savatage version, used on their Dead Winter Dead album, and it has war and a love story.

That’s the album that started me toward becoming a peacekeeper. I won’t say pacifist – I think there are times, unfortunately, when a species of war is necessary. But it’s very different from the kind of war we’ve been fighting. It’s the kind of war that helps stop ethnic cleansing and unthinkable violence and allows people to put shattered lives back together, as best as they can, and go on.

I think of this story every Christmas Eve: that there was a war, and a cellist, and a Christmas Eve when the cello stopped, and two people walked away from a war.

And there was a cellist of Sarajevo. He played in the ruins as the war raged round him. He inspired the story of Dead Winter Dead. But his was a happier ending, and hasn’t ended yet.

Vedran Smajlović, in Sarajevo, 1992. Image and caption courtesy Wikipedia.
Vedran Smajlović, in Sarajevo, 1992. Image and caption courtesy Wikipedia.

I think of those who try, in the midst of ruins, to make this world a little better, a little more beautiful, when to those in the midst of those ruins it must seem there’s nothing good or beautiful left in it, and I’m grateful for them, this Christmas Eve.

Little kids and kittens are nice, too. And fantasy, and wonder, and beauty in the dark night, as the music plays, and stories unfold.

Christmas Eve Sarajevo, Two Versions

What Pass for Winter Scenes In Seattle – With Basalt, Baby Sloths, and Sea Otters

It’s not going to be a white Christmas here. More like a gray wet one. That’s how Seattle goes. Still, when the sun peeks out for ten seconds, and the new basalt column fountain’s going, it’s quite pretty even without the frozen white stuff mucking up the roads.

Basalt column fountain in winter.
Basalt column fountain in winter.

So, it’s Christmas Eve here in the United States. Another War on Christmas season is almost over, and I’m thinking for the next one, we should design some less tacky displays to plant in the public square next to all of those gawd-awful nativity scenes. There was only one nativity scene I ever came close to liking, and that was the live one we had once. Only the camel ended up wanting no part of it, and I have no idea where the sheep had wandered off to, and it ended up just as lame as the plastic ones. Still. I got a glimpse of a live camel, which when you’re young and from a smallish American town is pretty damned awesome. We should invent some sort of nativity for the FSM, if there isn’t one already, involving exotic animals. Preferably ones that won’t get bored, like sloths. We’d have children clamoring to see the atheist displays if they included baby sloths, and I’ll bet the adults wouldn’t put up as much of a fight as they might have done otherwise. Continue reading “What Pass for Winter Scenes In Seattle – With Basalt, Baby Sloths, and Sea Otters”

What Pass for Winter Scenes In Seattle – With Basalt, Baby Sloths, and Sea Otters

Sunday Song: Autumn’s Last Gasp

Really. This is getting seriously ridiculous. Autumn refuses to leave. But I think it’s on its last legs now, so this may honestly and actually be the last of it.

These lovelies are from my breaking-in-shoes walk a couple of Saturdays ago. For the most part, we’re down to a few bedecked branches, and some solitary leaves that have fallen artistically into the evergreenery. Continue reading “Sunday Song: Autumn’s Last Gasp”

Sunday Song: Autumn’s Last Gasp

Sunday Song: Autumn's Last Gasp

Really. This is getting seriously ridiculous. Autumn refuses to leave. But I think it’s on its last legs now, so this may honestly and actually be the last of it.

These lovelies are from my breaking-in-shoes walk a couple of Saturdays ago. For the most part, we’re down to a few bedecked branches, and some solitary leaves that have fallen artistically into the evergreenery. Continue reading “Sunday Song: Autumn's Last Gasp”

Sunday Song: Autumn's Last Gasp

Silly Rhododendron. Don’t You Know It’s Winter?

Yay, we survived the current apocalypse! Woo! I am just astounded beyond words, reely. In celebration, I’m being completely lazy and refuse to turn on the computer. Good thing I had some winter-themed rhodies in drafts, then right?

I took a walk two Saturdays ago to break in my nifty new shoes. I took a picture of them so we can all remember them when: this is the pair that will be maimed, mangled, muddied, and otherwise modified during the summer adventuring season.

Mah new adventuring shoes
Mah new adventuring shoes

I know some of you will yell at me for not getting proper hiking boots. I can’t bloody walk in hiking boots. Also, some of the trails round here encourage you not to wear hiking boots anyway, because they’re apparently more destructive than sneakers. Don’t worry about my ankles. I’d turn them worse in hiking boots – I’ve done it before. Also, I’d break my nose: when my ankles are confined, I get unstable on my pins. Don’t ask me why, because I don’t know. It’s not an issue for city walking, but when I’m trying to scramble over rocks, it’s bad.

Anyway, my feet aren’t important. They’re just what forced me out of the house. I went bouncing down the road (the tread on these makes me feel like I’m all springy) and stomped around North Creek for a bit getting used to them. Columbia, it turns out, makes good shoes. They’re brand-new, yet didn’t give me ferocious blisters. They didn’t even rub much. And they stop on a dime. I know this because I stopped dead when I noticed a rhodie blooming.

A Rhodie in Winter
A Rhodie in Winter

I’ve never ever seen a rhodie blooming this late. Then again, I don’t typically go traipsing round Seattle in the winter. I’m a complete wuss. I also have ten trillion tons of research to accomplish before summer so that I can continue to pump out blog posts whilst adventuring. But you know, cabin fever and new shoes, and the sun came out for thirty seconds, and I was all like, “Yay let’s go outside!!!!!”

And this rhodie’s all, “Yay let’s bloom even though it’s a ridiculous time of the year for it!”

Beautiful blooms
Beautiful blooms

You may notice they’re covered in water. That’s because it’s been raining. All. The. Time. Also, it’s definitely colder than a sled dog’s arsehole, although we haven’t definitively established that temperature. It was cold enough to make my ears ache and my thighs go numb. I’m a bloody wuss, people, I admit it. And standing round photographing a rather ambitious rhodie didn’t help matters.

But gotta love the results.

Sweetest Bud
Sweetest Bud

How lovely is that? Here’s the full version, because I can’t decide which I like best.

Sweetest Bud II
Sweetest Bud II

So there were all these flowers, nestled among the greenery, and if my ears hadn’t been ready to fall off and my thigh muscles MIA, I could’ve believed it was an overcast but lovely spring day. It’s nice of these late-bloomers to give us this spring reprise.

Pretend it's spring. Hope it doesn't snow.
Pretend it’s spring. Hope it doesn’t snow.

I found you some fantastic fungi, too, and you shall have it in the not-too-distant future. This is why I love the Pacific Northwest. I’m always finding lovely things, and although I’m a wuss, I can survive no matter the season. Then I can come back and share lovely things with you. That, my darlings, is part of what makes life so delightful.

Silly Rhododendron. Don’t You Know It’s Winter?

Silly Rhododendron. Don't You Know It's Winter?

Yay, we survived the current apocalypse! Woo! I am just astounded beyond words, reely. In celebration, I’m being completely lazy and refuse to turn on the computer. Good thing I had some winter-themed rhodies in drafts, then right?

I took a walk two Saturdays ago to break in my nifty new shoes. I took a picture of them so we can all remember them when: this is the pair that will be maimed, mangled, muddied, and otherwise modified during the summer adventuring season.

Mah new adventuring shoes
Mah new adventuring shoes

I know some of you will yell at me for not getting proper hiking boots. I can’t bloody walk in hiking boots. Also, some of the trails round here encourage you not to wear hiking boots anyway, because they’re apparently more destructive than sneakers. Don’t worry about my ankles. I’d turn them worse in hiking boots – I’ve done it before. Also, I’d break my nose: when my ankles are confined, I get unstable on my pins. Don’t ask me why, because I don’t know. It’s not an issue for city walking, but when I’m trying to scramble over rocks, it’s bad.

Anyway, my feet aren’t important. They’re just what forced me out of the house. I went bouncing down the road (the tread on these makes me feel like I’m all springy) and stomped around North Creek for a bit getting used to them. Columbia, it turns out, makes good shoes. They’re brand-new, yet didn’t give me ferocious blisters. They didn’t even rub much. And they stop on a dime. I know this because I stopped dead when I noticed a rhodie blooming.

A Rhodie in Winter
A Rhodie in Winter

I’ve never ever seen a rhodie blooming this late. Then again, I don’t typically go traipsing round Seattle in the winter. I’m a complete wuss. I also have ten trillion tons of research to accomplish before summer so that I can continue to pump out blog posts whilst adventuring. But you know, cabin fever and new shoes, and the sun came out for thirty seconds, and I was all like, “Yay let’s go outside!!!!!”

And this rhodie’s all, “Yay let’s bloom even though it’s a ridiculous time of the year for it!”

Beautiful blooms
Beautiful blooms

You may notice they’re covered in water. That’s because it’s been raining. All. The. Time. Also, it’s definitely colder than a sled dog’s arsehole, although we haven’t definitively established that temperature. It was cold enough to make my ears ache and my thighs go numb. I’m a bloody wuss, people, I admit it. And standing round photographing a rather ambitious rhodie didn’t help matters.

But gotta love the results.

Sweetest Bud
Sweetest Bud

How lovely is that? Here’s the full version, because I can’t decide which I like best.

Sweetest Bud II
Sweetest Bud II

So there were all these flowers, nestled among the greenery, and if my ears hadn’t been ready to fall off and my thigh muscles MIA, I could’ve believed it was an overcast but lovely spring day. It’s nice of these late-bloomers to give us this spring reprise.

Pretend it's spring. Hope it doesn't snow.
Pretend it’s spring. Hope it doesn’t snow.

I found you some fantastic fungi, too, and you shall have it in the not-too-distant future. This is why I love the Pacific Northwest. I’m always finding lovely things, and although I’m a wuss, I can survive no matter the season. Then I can come back and share lovely things with you. That, my darlings, is part of what makes life so delightful.

Silly Rhododendron. Don't You Know It's Winter?

One Week

Flag at half-mast. Illinois State University campus during winter storm Draco, on 20 Dec 2012. Image courtesy George Wiman.
Flag at half-mast. Illinois State University campus during winter storm Draco, on 20 Dec 2012. Image courtesy George Wiman.

The flag at the Seattle Times building is at half mast, too – I see it when I pass by on the way to work, and remember. I hope this time we don’t forget.

 

Charlotte Bacon, 6

Daniel Barden, 7

Rachel Davino, 29

Olivia Engel, 6

Josephine Gay, 7

Ana M Marquez-Greene, 6

Dylan Hockley, 6

Dawn Hochsprung, 47

Madeline F. Hsu, 6

Catherine V. Hubbard, 6

Chase Kowalski, 7

Jesse Lewis, 6

James Mattioli, 6

Grace McDonnell, 7

Anne Marie Murphy, 52

Emilie Parker, 6

Jack Pinto, 6

Noah Pozner, 6

Caroline Previdi, 6

Jessica Rekos, 6

Avielle Richman, 6

Lauren Rousseau, 30

Mary Sherlach, 56

Victoria Soto, 27

Benjamin Wheeler, 6

Allison N Wyatt, 6

One Week