Wednesday, December 22, 2010

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Christmas Season Notes

1. A drizzly San Francisco rain had starting to fall just as we entered the great cathedral. It was Dec. 21 the night of Winter Solstice and the upper reaches of the central hall had already grown dark.

Grace Cathedral in early nightfall

We found our seats and soon every seat was filled, even folding chairs set up around the outer margin of the cathedral. The lights dimmed, the hum of conversations stilled and the great swell of brass instruments and organ filled the space. Some music is so “large” that it requires a great space with high pillars, broad walls, and high vaulted ceilings to fill and reverberate.

Cathedral Organ Pipes - Grace Cathedral

All the details came together to make this a wonderful Christmas season moment... rainy nighttime – the lights and color inside the cathedral– the mixed people of San Francisco – the classic beauty of the cathedral, and especially the familiar and powerful music... all contributed to create a feeling of "time apart". The music was just the answer to the hectic scurrying of our recent days. I wanted to hold on to each moment. Of added interest to the program was a number that featured two Swiss Alpen Horns. They are about 12 ft. long and made of tapered hard wood, ending in a large open "horn" It was amazed to hear the range of tones that could be produced with no keys and no holes to cover!

2. Hearing old familiar Christmas carols returns me to when I first learned the melodies and words. In my mind I see images of my sister playing at the piano in our family home, and of my family and neighbors singing together in our little country church. It is amazing how memories can be triggered by a song! These carols are part of me. The language, symbols and images of the lyrics, come to us from times so long ago - well before my time. Never mind if my beliefs don't exactly match up with all of the ancient words - I still resonate with all that the songs do to connect me with who I am.

Mary and Baby Jesus - Russian Icon

3. Earlier in the evening we had taken the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) into the city. I am still like a little kid to be carried by esculator out of the ground and be suddenly deposited on Powell and Market in the midst of the Christmas season… colored lights – street musicians – cable car bells - shoppers looking like the proverbial Dagwood loaded with bags and boxes, office workers on their way home, panhandlers asking for money… it is a sea of motion, sound, and light.

Christmas Tree - Union Square

We walked up Powell past up-scale shops, past Union Square bright with decorations, past skillful street singers and musicians hoping for a donation, walking for 20 minutes up the hill (which got steeper and steeper with each block) until we reached California St. – then a few blocks more to Grace Cathedral.

4. It was been a good Christmas season – Once more this season, Judy has been up to her ears busy! She has been the sole buyer for a project to provide gifts to 28 people identified by the Human Services branch of the Fremont City Offices. The local Rotary club picks up all the bills – but Judy first had to interview all the families to see what they needed – then she has to buy what she can, attempting to stretch the money as best she can.

These are families that are desperately poor and truly in need. A big help has been the local “e mail group-send” in our community – Judy has put the word out – “Help I need a bed!” …Or "a winter coat for an 8 year old", …or "a rocking chair for an expectant mother"…! And the response has been terrific. All the purchases and donations have made our house look like a warehouse.

A pleased young mother

One of the children on seeing her gift...

But Judy has not missed a beat and has packaged up each persons gifts in time for the Rotary Santa/Pizza party last week… The delight in the eyes of the children and older family members on receiving just what they needed is wonderfully heart warming. The follow up with others will continue until Christmas day. ( Judy is also preparing "stockings" for the kids to discover Christmas morning. Like Santa, Judy will need to sit by the fire and have a nice glass or cold milk and cookies when this is all over!!

Judy and a good friend

5. Our rainy season is full upon us- La Nina years are unpredictable – they can be wet or dry – so far this one is giving us good rain and snow in the mountains. This morning as I walked the dogs I saw a “mating dance” between two grebes on the lake… it is beautiful to behold –after preliminary head bobbing, they swim side by side flapping their wings they rise up out of the water and “walk on the water” beside each other … then more head bobbing and they do it over again.

This front yard decoration wins the cake - but I'm not sure what category it wins

6. In case you have one last minute problem gift to buy - Here is the solution: