December 17: A fish struggled at the very edge of the surf, marooned. I nudged him toward a baby wave. The wave left without him. Lifting him on a bed of sand, I tried to flip him into the next wave. He drifted back to me, still marooned but at least gulping air through his gills. Twice again I tossed him, along with a handful of sand, and twice he came back to me. I can’t recall ever holding a living fish before, and he was ten inches long at least. I took a deep breath, grabbed him around his middle, and threw him deep into a breaking wave. I didn’t kiss him on the nose before sending him off. I guess he was fine with that, because this time he didn’t return.
Bonus: See my November 11 post for a story about a someone who did kiss a fish.
December 18: A few days ago, I was disappointed to see the bare — but still beautiful — headstones climbing the wooded hills of Arlington National Cemetery. Today, I drove past again and saw the thousands of wreaths, aslant nearly every stone, that volunteers had placed this morning.
Four years ago, I joined a friend to lend my hand. Over and over, we carried a single wreath in each arm, standing in silence or whispering a prayer before laying the greenery on graves marked with a cross. (For graves not marked with a cross, we offered silence or prayers, but no Christian imagery.) One reverent motion at a time, volunteers at Arlington emptied trucks filled by volunteers in Maine and elsewhere, escorted by their local constabulary all the way to Virginia. My friend was honoring his husband who was serving in the Middle East at the time. I was honored just to be there.
December 19: I waited at the counter of my coffee shop for another hit of hot water. I like my tea mild, so a bag of fresh leaves can last a long time. As I waited for cup number two, I watched the barista apply a small squat whisk to a green solution in a shallow white bowl. I love watching a professional at work, so I asked him what he was doing. Making Macha, he explained. And then, responding to my evident interest, he detailed the ingredients, proportions and process. Under my gaze, he produced a frothy grass-green base. And then, to my regret, he obligingly poured hot water into my cup. Dare I go back for another refill, just to watch him work again?
Bonus: Seen on the side of a pew at Kevin’s church, which gently requires face masks and social distancing:
“Jesus said, ‘you did not choose me, but I chose you.’
Now you must choose another pew.”
December 20: I complimented my friend Jennifer on her Christmas decorations, including two festive Christmas stockings hanging by the fireplace, one even decorated with her initial. “Those stockings!” she said. “The other day I received a call from Hospice asking if they could drop off a little something for me. I agreed, and soon a man arrived carrying these two stockings. My jaw dropped. They were filled with puzzle books, note pads, a small bundt cake, two candy canes (one was a pen!), and so much more! So much kindness. My jaw is still like this,” she said, closing her dramatically gaping mouth. Then she showed me two sticky pads with Santa faces on them. “I’m going to stick them up all over the house, to remind me of the very nice people who did this very big thing.”
December 21: Standing amid flour, sugar, butter and nearly half of the 20-dozen Christmas cookies I make (and give away) each year, I wagged my new spatula in front of Kevin. “It’s marked with a C,” I said, “for Mrs. Claus!” Kevin chuckled.
Each year as I trim the tree, array our Christmas village and — yes — bake, he serenades me with Nat King Cole’s “Mrs. Santa Claus.” Apparently, I’ve taken this tribute very much to heart. Last week when the Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington saluted Mrs. Claus in their own song, I sat a little straighter. And once I heard “Mrs. Santa Claus” on the grocery store speakers while I frantically grabbed a forgotten item. Full of my own overwhelm, I stood still and listened. Then I started to cry. Finally, I put up my chin and carried on, exactly as Mrs. Santa Claus would do.
December 22: So, yes, I bake cookies. And the occasional cake. My friend Madison, though, bakes pure whimsy. For an office party proud of its air pollution control work, she crafted an automobile tire complete with treads, hubcap and air tube. Roll that baby off the plate and let’s go. Equally remarkable — and stunningly beautiful — is a truffle glade, missing only the snuffling pigs. Madison, with infinite skill and patience, supplied meringue, chocolate shavings and everything else. Today, looking at the photo, I supplied awe.
December 23: My friend Jennifer joined me for a trip to our local Asian market. I needed fresh vegetables, and she needed a warm place for a bit of exercise. A reluctant cook, I gladly celebrate the creativity of others. As we pushed our cart up and down the produce aisle, Jennifer and I gaped at spiky fruit casings, burlap-wrapped sugarcane, coconuts of all colors full of milk, and enormous wedges of a sweet-smelling something in a cool-water bath. For every fruit or vegetable I recognized, the store offered two I didn’t. My regular grocery store is impoverished by comparison. Jennifer and I came away rich indeed.
Bonus: FriendBlogger Ju-Lyn recently chuckled over the right-sized sticks carried a few weeks ago by three neighborhood dogs. She wisely observed, “There is something we can learn from this — taking only what we need & can carry?” For me, I need to fall over my own feet to grasp this truth. My very first blog post is a “postcard” from Scotland teaching me this very lesson.
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