Posted by: carolyn / through a widow's eyes | December 4, 2011

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas

Well, on the mantle, anyway. Time for a new meditation on gratitude, surely. Here are a few symbols of things for which I am grateful, touchstones from this Sunday morning mantlepiece still life:

•Fragrant greens cut from our own yard, from the evergreens Jeff planted as bare root sticks. The trees now tower over my head. He is gone; they are still here – one of the hard realities of this season. You’d think I’d be used to it by now, but…No.

•Sprigs of aromatic lavender, purple heuchera from AB’s gift of plants, redtwig dogwood, crabapple branches, grapevine married w/ apple tree: each is bestowed with its own private reason for inclusion in my mantra of gratitude.

•The advent garland I slipped into Anna’s suitcase last year as she left for Mexico. Each numbered mitten contained a tiny silly gift, and that was her only Christmas from home. I am grateful for her adventure and exploration, and I am grateful to have her home.

•Flanagan family Audubon bird prints. Also a bird watercolor that my parents gave my grandfather JUS soon after my birth which came to me upon his death. Still has has spidery handwriting on the back bequeathing it to me. Miss you, Grampy. Thanks for everything.

•Years of Christmas card crow prints from our dear friend RP, who has his own reasons to be grateful to be here. We love you, man. Always.

•Silver pheasant salt & pepper shakers, more Flanagan treasure.

•An abundance of candles, to light the December darkness. Some are set into nests of dried beans, which seems almost wasteful but again shows how rich we are, that we can use food as decoration.

•The corn husk angel who sits atop our Christmas tree every year. I bought her when Anna was little. Replaces the tinfoil-wrapped star reminiscent of our childhoods.

•Ostrich egg that Jeff’s college roommate BD brought home from Australia for his favorite little girl, who is bigger than him now.

•A collection of birds: mechanical cardinal from FAO Schwartz, haven of eternal childhood. Anna N.B.F.’s cardinal that clips wherever you choose to set him. Clay bird holding a balsam scented candle. Delicate porcelain robin that sat on Granny’s desk as long as I can remember.

•Peppermint stripe candles that have never been lit: more signs of abundance.

•Sparkly pine cone lights that for me symbolize bringing the beauty of the natural world inside. For me – widow, northerner, S.A.D. -afflicted, survivor – the importance of Light at winter solstice cannot be over-emphasized, even allegorical light.

•The photo tile of Jeff from the memorial wall at Camp Widow Summer 2011. The text I chose: his name, along with “Way Past Til Death Do Us Part”. Little did I know at the time that Camp Widow, life changing event, would come to be a symbol of so many supportive, strong, and beautiful friends united by grief, and a symbol somehow also of this new life and love  for which I am so very grateful. You know who you are, darlin’.

•And underneath it all, our foundation, the family room that Jeff built for us: the pine tongue & groove paneling he installed, the brick hearth he constructed, the starfish accent tiles we chose together after many careful hours, the fluted columns he routed, the thick 8/4 ancient pine board from his lumber supply he  hand-planed for the mantle. All this he left with us.

It’s a sad and beautiful world.

What fills YOU with grace?

I bid you peace.



  1. Lovely. Just lovely.


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