February 14, 2012

Happy Valentine's Day...and Farewell to a Great Diva

I think I posted a similar image last year, but I find it coincidental that my latest amaryllis - one I bought on sale after the holidays last year - decided to bloom not in December but just now, in time for Valentine's Day.

I have always loved Valentine's Day for the ruby rouge blast it supplies, usually in the middle of a snowy white winter...just long enough after Christmas and New Year's, just soon enough before the emerald greens of St. Patrick's Day, of spring and the pastels of Easter. This year, while we don't have the blanket of snow that is so typical of this season, the landscape is still bleak, leafless and lifeless, so the contrast to the vermilions and crimsons of Valentine's Day still remains strong.

It seems a bit incongruous, though, that on this bright and cheerful Valentine's Day, so many are still in shock and reeling from the sad news of the sudden death of singer Whitney Houston just a few days ago in California. I have written occasionally here of my affection for "great girl singers" and it is very sad that the last time I wrote of a very fine songstress here, it was to note the passing of one of the last of the great women singers of the mid-20th century, the legendary Lena Horne. How ironic, then, that Miss Horne was, as it turned out, Whitney Houston's singing idol. It is not surprising when one considers how alike they were - stunningly gorgeous women, phenomenal singers, grand personas of their respective eras.

It is lamentable, though, that unlike Miss Horne, who lived on into her 90s, Whitney left us much too soon at 48 - barely more than half Lena's age - with so many songs left unsung, depriving us of any chance of seeing her real redemption, and perhaps a full recovery from her demons, and many more years to enjoy her undeniable talent. Surely, she was not at her best in recent years, and her tribulations, unfortunately, were very public ones, but regardless of her more recent challenges, she leaves us with her legacy of remarkably beautiful, stirring and powerful vocals that will stand as a lasting testament to her great gift: one of the most glorious voices of our time.

Whitney Houston truly was one of a kind, a rare and unearthly talent, and whatever else one might say or think about her, her life and how she lived, or how she died, that simple fact is utterly without question.

For Whitney, I offer a Valentine's Day prayer that she knew, if nothing else, that she was greatly loved and will remain so by millions of people for many, many years to come.

February 8, 2012

A Morning Visitor...A Look Back

I know it's not the norm here on CC, but just had to snap this quick photo of a visitor just outside the window in the frosty morning sun to share it here on the blog. Look very closely in the center of the photo, just to the right of the fencing, to see my morning guest.

There's nothing more cheerful than a tiny bright red cardinal to punctuate the brown February shrubs in the tree line!

I just realized that today is my late Irish maternal grandmother's birthday. Maybe this red cardinal came by to make me stop and think about her, and the eternal cycle of life - winter to spring to summer to fall and back around again - the slow emergence from the frost and cold of winter into the warmth and sunshine and renewal of spring - as the cycle begins again.

I'd have to look at some old documents to determine which birthday this would be, but I think it was at least 115 since my grandmother came here, to the U.S., at about age 18 and I think the year was 1912 that she arrived on the USS California from Northern Ireland. She was one of those who passed through Ellis Island and headed north up the Hudson River to Troy, where she met and married my grandfather. I never met him, and she was well into her 50s, I think, when I was born. She was the only grandparent I knew, and, sadly, she died of illness when I was just 9. Hers was the first close family loss I had experienced, and I remember it seemed so strange to me at the time. I'm not sure I knew what to make of it, except that I knew my mother, her youngest child, was so sad. My mom was barely 40 when my grandmother died, and I can't imagine how that loss felt for her, but she had my dad and her siblings nearby to help cushion the blow. Still, it makes me so glad I had my mom with me until her early 80s. It was a great gift for which I was grateful for every day that we could spend together. She loved deep rosy reds, too, so perhaps the cardinal's arrival this morning was another reminder to enjoy the beautiful yet fleeting things in nature and in life since, alas, nothing is forever...

February 5, 2012

On to February...or is it really early April?

I seem to be on a monthly posting plan here at CC, so I'm going with it.

Unlike the snow-laden image in last month's post, this winter has continued to confound the weather prognosticators - and utterly delight folks like me who don't warmly embrace most of winter's frosty cold and snowy characteristics.

I could not be more pleased that since the aberrational late October snowstorm, we have had barely any of that nice-then-nasty white stuff this season at all, save the occasional dusting, maybe an inch or two from time to time. Just when I fear we might not see the ground for weeks, if not months, Mother Nature does a fast and wonderful 180 and quickly melts it all away. Bliss! Heaven! Joy!

As I sat in front of the trusty laptop, tapping out the latest updates here, I was momentarily distracted by some unexpected motion in the yard just outside my window. Usually, when I catch something in my peripheral vision while typing, it's one of the kitties, doing their usual "perimeter patrol," following the tree and fence lines that define the property, but not so this time. No, it was a small herd of deer - actually a small herd of relatively small deer - eight of them! - strolling across the lawn, nibbling along the way.

I grabbed the camera that sits next to my work table for just such occasions, and managed to snap a couple of shots. Alas, only one was worthy of posting - and just barely that - but at least it captured the whole gang...or is it gaggle? Either way, I was cheered to see them, late on this Super Bowl Sunday afternoon, and glad the snows of this weird weather winter remained at bay so they could easily find some fine February snacks and chow down like the rest of us on this annual football-and-food festival day.

Oh, and by the way, I'm not taking sides on this one. While I live in upstate New York, I'm quite near the border with Massachusetts, so, as it happens, home is essentially equidistant from the home stadiums of both the Giants and Patriots. That makes it a bit risky to lean one way or the other around these parts, so I won't be cheering more loudly for either. In fact, I'm reminded of lyrics to that fun song by the Scottish folk/rock band Stealers Wheel (no reference to the Pittsburgh football team) that hit the charts way back in 1973, "Stuck in the Middle with You". Forgive the artistic license, but I feel like singing (instead of "clowns" and "jokers" in the original lyrics) "Giants to the left of me, Patriots to the right..." If you're of a certain age, you surely get the drift and will start hearing the tune in your head, I'm sure. Anyway, enjoy the game if you care about it all. May the best team win and I hope no one gets hurt.

For my part, I'll be among those intently watching the magnificent new PBS series, Downton Abbey...that's Downton, not touchdown!