The first three days of February bring Candlemas, Groundhog Day, and Setsubun: you will be kept busy making candles for 2013, following groundhog activities, and expelling your household demons with a handful of beans.
A painting for this season, along with a poem of which my daughter is very fond—perhaps because it concerns a beloved winter treat.
Animal crackers and cocoa to drink,
That is the finest of suppers I think;
When I’m grown up and can have what I please
I think I shall always insist upon these.
What do YOU choose when you’re offered a treat?
When Mother says, “What would you like best to eat?”
Is it waffles and syrup, or cinnamon toast?
It’s cocoa and animals that I love most!
The kitchen’s the cosiest place that I know;
The kettle is singing, the stove is aglow,
And there in the twilight, how jolly to see
The cocoa and animals waiting for me.
Daddy and Mother dine later in state,
With Mary to cook for them, Susan to wait;
But they don’t have nearly as much fun as I
Who eat in the kitchen with Nurse standing by;
And Daddy once said, he would like to be me
Having cocoa and animals once more for tea.
Each day of this increasingly warm weather brings something else into bloom and new subjects to paint. Hard to believe that it’s officially still winter for nearly another week.
To accompany this painting, a poem by Christina Rossetti (1830-1894).
And today is the birthday of literary patron and Shakespeare and Company founder Sylvia Beach. For a sketch and a mini-bio, please see Paris Memory.
Gone were but the Winter,
Come were but the Spring,
I would go to a covert
Where the birds sing;
Where in the whitethorn
Singeth a thrush,
And a robin sings
In the holly-bush.
Full of fresh scents
Are the budding boughs
Arching high over
A cool green house:
Full of sweet scents,
And whispering air
Which sayeth softly:
“We spread no snare;
“Here dwell in safety,
Here dwell alone,
With a clear stream
And a mossy stone.
“Here the sun shineth
Here is heard an echo
Of the far sea,
Though far off it be.”
—Christina Rossetti (1830-1894)
Today is the birthday of one of my childhood heroines, Laura Ingalls Wilder (1867-1957), and for a comic (created during the Snowmageddon of 2010) and a mini-bio, please see A Long Winter.
I’m afraid this is where our family will be found tonight—snuggled up in our cozy burrow observing what has come to be an annual tradition.
For another picture of the groundhog at home, please see GroundhogCandlemas.
In late December or January, I usually take my daughter once or twice for a day of ice-skating at Washington DC’s Sculpture Garden rink, followed by hot cocoa and a cozy stroll through the National Gallery of Art or Museum of Natural History. As an urban skating experience, it’s hard to beat gliding round on a sunny winter day under an icy blue sky among sculptural masterpieces, with distant views of museum facades, the U.S. Capitol, and the Washington Monument.
However, since I fell and fractured my patella just before New Year’s Eve (no drinking was involved, I assure you!), our skating excursions have been put on hold… only temporarily, I hope. But DC’s “winter” weather has been so oddly and disconcertingly balmy this year that it feels more like roller-skating season. Fingers are crossed here for a snowy February.
This illustration is not from DC’s rink, but is my imagined depiction of the rink that existed on the World Trade Center plaza before September 11th, 2001. It was created for the book The Survivor Tree, about which I posted on the ten-year anniversary on September 11th, 2011.
And today is the birthday of Alexander Robey “Boss” Shepherd (1835–1902), whom Washington DC has to thank for much of its 19th-century infrastructure, however unconventionally (some might say illegally) it was obtained. For a mini-bio, please see “Boss” Shepherd.
The day after Epiphany is traditionally the occasion for packing up all the ornaments and toting the Christmas tree off for recycling (in honor of which I post this painting, and a poem by Jane Kenyon). That is, unless you live in a household in which the offspring are eager to extend the season as long as possible. One year we actually left ours up past Valentines Day. We did remove the ornaments, however, replacing them with red and white hearts. Very pretty, if rather unseasonal.
The painting is one of a new series begun in the fall. More on that soon.
“Give me some light!” cries Hamlet’s
uncle midway through the murder
of Gonzago. “Light! Light!” cry scattering
courtesans. Here, as in Denmark,
it’s dark at four, and even the moon
shines with only half a heart.
The ornaments go down into the box:
the silver spaniel, My Darling
on its collar, from Mother’s childhood
in Illinois; the balsa jumping jack
my brother and I fought over,
pulling limb from limb. Mother
drew it together again with thread
while I watched, feeling depraved
at the age of ten.
With something more than caution
I handle them, and the lights, with their
tin star-shaped reflectors, brought along
from house to house, their pasteboard
toy suitcases increasingly flimsy.
Tick, tick, the desiccated needles drop.
By suppertime all that remains is the scent
of balsam fir. If it’s darkness
we’re having, let it be extravagant.
For the First Day of Christmas, a detail of a larger painting (part of a long-ongoing series, on which more later), and an excerpt from a letter written by a 16th century monk to a friend.
I wish you all a heavenly, peaceful, and joyful Christmas season.
I salute you.
There is nothing I can give you which you have not,
but there is much that while I cannot give, you can take.
No heaven can come to us unless our hearts find rest in it today.
No peace lies in the future which is not hidden in this present instant.
The gloom of the world is but a shadow. Behind it, yet within our reach, is joy.
And so at this Christmastime, I greet you, with the prayer that for you, now and forever, the day breaks, and the shadows flee away.
—Fra Giovanni, 1513
On this shortest day and longest night of the year in the Northern Hemisphere, I post a light-in-darkness painting (one of a series currently in progress based on Washington National Cathedral) and a poem by Patrick Kavanaugh. In celebration of the solstice, look for shooting stars tonight and tomorrow in the constellation Ursa Minor.
Last year, the solstice fell, for the first time since 1638, on the day of a lunar eclipse. For a sketch in honor of this event, please see Winter Solstice/Lunar Eclipse.
Beauty was that
Far vanished flame,
Call it a star
Wanting better name.
And gaze and gaze
Nothing is left
Save a grey ghost-hill.
Here wait I
On the world’s rim
Stretching out hands