June 5, 2022

Long May She Wave...

 


 Souvenir Staffordshire pottery cup commemorating the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II on June 2, 1953.

Whether or not one is British, it's hard not to admire the long life and dedication of H.M. Queen Elizabeth II, who ascended the throne of the British Empire upon the death of her father, King George VI, on February 6, 1952. 

This is a role that neither she, nor he, expected to assume, but the abdication of his elder brother, King Edward VIII, in 1936 prompted the coronation of George, who was next in the line of succession. Edward abdicated rather than formally be crowned because, at the time, he was not permitted to marry a twice-divorced American woman and also serve as the sovereign.

George and his wife, Elizabeth (later the Queen Mother), had two daughters, Elizabeth and her younger sister, Margaret, so it fell to their elder daughter, who was 11 when her father became king, to prepare to become queen upon his demise. 

Sadly, it was only 15 years later that Elizabeth had to step irrevocably into that supreme role at the young age of 25. Even earlier, on her 21st birthday, she resolutely declared "before you all that my whole life whether it be long or short shall be devoted to your service and the service of our great imperial family to which we all belong." 

Seventy years later, on June 2, 2022, the anniversary of her formal coronation on June 2, 1953, Queen Elizabeth II, at 96, has proven to be as enduring and dedicated as she vowed she would be when she was 21. 

How many of us can attest to such commitment to a job, to a task or to a mere notion that the pursuit of an effort for the benefit of the "greater good" is a challenge worth undertaking for a lifetime? Precious few, I'd say.

Congratulations, Your Majesty.

____________________________________________

(The souvenir coronation cup from my personal collection was purchased at a thrift store in upstate New York in 2018 for $2.)


May 31, 2022

Each New Day...

 It has been a long time - long winter, finally Spring, and soon - hard to believe - summer. I've been disinclined to post here since December. There have been many reasons for that, but it was time to resume and move forward. 

The world has been a perilous place with many troubling events in lands far and all too near. We can't necessarily solve all of the world's problems, but we can focus our attention on them, do what one can in a small way and perhaps, collectively, move ourselves and others toward a better place.

A new day, a new week and a new month begin again. One foot in front of the other, one day at at time. I'll be focusing on doing what I can to make this world a better place for myself, those around me and those far beyond. 


December 13, 2021

Another Holiday Season...


 Winter Farm Scene, original painting by D. Knapp, American, 1961

 

It seems like we were just celebrating the arrival of autumn, Halloween and Thanksgiving, and, indeed, we were, but the first snows have flown (and melted, fortunately) more than once. They'll return in due course, but in the meantime, the frantic pace of the winter season is firmly upon us.As I've lamented here in the past, I staunchly resist the premature promotion of the December holiday season. To see autumn arrive in the stores in late July and Christmas nipping firmly at the former's heels by mid-September, if not August, is just more than I can bear. I love autumn and want to enjoy every single moment of it until it leaves us in another few days in late December. 

Still, there's no escaping the holiday season kicking in in earnest by Thanksgiving, when the "Christmas shopping season" goes into full swing. I'm fine with that, but I refuse to decorate for the holidays until December 1, that way I can enjoy the last vestiges of Thanksgiving before turning my attention to the inevitably overwhelming holiday decorating impulse.

I've become a proponent of enjoying all of the senses during the holiday season, particularly the visual, aural, smell and taste elements of holiday celebrations. I also prefer more "natural" decor - simple evergreens and berries, a few keepsake ornaments in a bowl if not on a tree (my larger faux tree will remain in storage this year, but my hearth is flanked with my two smaller pencil trees that are nicely lit with classic white mini-lights). It's enough.     

I actually have moderated my hoIiday decor in recent years. More is not more, it's usually way too much. I've seen some holiday decorating videos from some very creative folks who I otherwise enjoy seeing on YouTube, but I saw one home tour the other day that was beyond over-the-top. It was just way, way too much. Every surface or wall space and thing does not need to be embellished with some bit of holly, glitter or snowy fluff. Please, give it a rest. Take a step back, look at the volume and then just stop and take a break. Some are into minimal, and that's fine, and others can't have enough cluttering up their domestic worlds. There is a happy medium in there somewhere. Mine leans toward the former. I would rather have a few really lovely things to enjoy in my home than so much that I can't really "see" any of what I have. It's just gets to be too much. Eye candy it is not.

I'm nearly done with my holiday decorating, as it's fairly modest again this year. I have plenty of stuff I could trot out, but I opted for just my two slim, illuminated faux pencil trees (sans ornaments) to flank my hearth and give enough of a celebratory glow to the season, along with some whole cloves and cinnamon sticks bubbling in a copper pot on the stove. I'll put a few keepsake ornaments in a simple clear glass bowl rather than put up and hang them on my nice, 4-foot faux tree. I like it, but it's just more than I want to deal with this year. Perhaps it's the lingering effects of COVID pervading our lives. (A mask mandate has just been implemented in NYS for any space that does not already have a vaccination policy in effect, in an effort to try to keep the virus and its variants in check. I'm fine with that, but I won't be entertaining in my home again this year, so I'm just decorating for myself.) It's not about lots of stuff again this year (or any year, really) as much as it's about being safe and just having a few very simple enjoyments for the senses this holiday season. 

It's a good reminder that the holiday season should never be about "things," or who has the most or the latest hot items, but rather the intangibles that really matter. We should celebrate every day and not take for granted family and friends, counting our blessings and staying as healthy as we can for ourselves and those around us. 

Just keep it that simple and this holiday season should provide everything you really need in your life and around you.

(For those wondering, my current header image, which I do change periodically so I've also added it to the message here, is an original oil painting of a farm scene that I purchased many years ago at an antiques auction in New York's Hudson Valley. It is signed D. Knapp '61, but I have no idea where the scene was painted or anything more about the artist, but I have always liked it and particularly enjoy seeing it hanging in my home during the holiday and winter season.)

 


November 9, 2021

Mid-Autumn Reflection


 As if my last post already wasn't long-delayed, unfortunately, this one is even longer delayed. Life has been busy - that's really it. It's worth noting that autumn's arrival, or at least the changing leaves, have been long-delayed here in eastern New York, as well. We normally would see the hints of changing colors of the maples and oaks start to appear by mid-September, but there literally was no sign of that at all this year. If one can believe the local meteorologists, the heavy rainfall in summer (much more than average in July) and the warmer than usual temperatures (global warming, one would guess) tricked the trees into thinking summer was going strong in September and into early October. We would have had frost in October for sure, but we barely had any whisper of that all month. It was just this week - November! - before we had evidence of actual frost on the ground, but we hit 60F yesterday and we'll be up there, and maybe even a bit warmer, again today. I'll take it.

Don't get me wrong. I love autumn. It is my favorite season. It's not hot, it's not freezing (until later in November), and the snow, if we're lucky will remain at bay until December. That isn't always the case, but more often than not it is. The changing, now mostly changed, colors are simply spectacular here even when they're not as brilliant as other years. Some have characterized this year's colors as "meh"...and maybe that's so, but I simply look for the screaming, flaming brilliant reds and oranges that make their host trees to be all aflame. That's what I crave most from the fall colors and I found enough evidence of those burning bright colors to declare this autumn's colors as more than respectable. To be honest, we're lucky to have them. So many other areas of the country don't have our glorious hardwoods that put on such a colorful show every year. I could never live anywhere else in autumn. Not ever. 

The image above is a watercolorized version of the view outside my front window. No complaints for me about autumn this year. No, indeed.

 

 

          

March 1, 2021

March: In Like a Lion...


Yet another new header image with the impending change of season
, based on a spring landscape that I came across that makes me happy with its pinks, greens and flowering trees.

With the usual apologies for no posts in February, it was a short but busy month, so it was better if I focused on the immediate priorities and came back when things calmed down a bit. The turn of the new month is a good time to catch up here after a somewhat wild couple of months. 

One of the unusual events in February was the jam-packed stacking of Valentine's Day, followed by President's Day, followed by Mardi Gras - all within a three-day span. I don't recall ever seeing that happen since Washington's and Lincoln's birthdays were combined into an official President's Day. I grew up with those two birthdays being separate holidays, but this year (2021) is the 50th anniversary of that change, which occurred in 1971 via the federal Uniform Monday Holiday Act. As a result, Memorial Day, Columbus Day and Veterans Day all were changed to specific Mondays on the calendar. Memorial Day was fixed on the last Monday of May and Columbus Day, traditionally October 12, was fixed on the second Monday in October. Veterans Day however, which was celebrated for nine years as the second Monday in October, later was restored to its original November 11 date in 1980, regardless of when the holiday fell (though governmental offices observed the holiday on a Friday if the holiday fell on Saturday, or on a Monday if the 11th fell on Sunday). That celebration remains on November 11.

Although it's still a few weeks away, I'm starting to get ready for the arrival of Spring. I've had enough of winter, bitter cold and snow, so, while we'll likely see a bit more snow, the winds of March are literally blowing in full force to herald the arrival of this new, long-awaited season. It's trite, I know, but it truly is a time of re-awakening that always makes me very happy. We've survived the bitter frosts and snows of winter and things are gradually beginning to show the tell-take signs of rebirth. Not before time, for sure. 

I've been feeding the birds and squirrels all winter. The ones that have been stopping by each morning to get their provisions for another day probably are living nearby in the wooded area behind my house. I'm happy to see them, though I don't spend hours watching them. I'll be winding the feeding down soon, as the temperatures are starting slowly to creep higher. The snows are melting gradually, so I'm hoping they all will be gone by the time the first day of spring arrives. I've noticed that the critters are not consuming quite as much of the seeds and nuts I've been providing as they did in the past few months. While we will are still well snow-covered, things are beginning to re-emerge, so I expect they're likely starting to find enough to meet their needs and won't be needing my contributions to augment their larders. Fine with me. I've done my duty for the neighborhood wildlife once again. They'll be on their own again soon and I'll be off the hook.

As for my health and well being, I'll be glad to see warmer temperatures and milder weather. We have been experiencing weather in Spring in recent years that has leaned toward short on the mild and long on the intensely cold, snowy, and rainy, then suddenly, warmer-than-usual weather arrives in May and feels like July rather than mid-Spring. I'm hoping we have a long, mild season this Spring so we can defrost gradually and enjoy the arrival of crocus and forsythia, apple blossoms and gentle breezes. I'm not a fan of the "light switch" change in the season's weather. Slow and steady is my preference. I'm eager to get outside and moving without the challenges of ice and snow impeding my progress. The end of cabin fever is in sight! Here's hoping that's what we'll enjoy... 

 

   

 

 

January 15, 2021

Winter Thoughts...

 


New seasonal image is "A Quiet Stream", an oil painting by Walter Launt Palmer, circa 1890* 

 I skipped posting in December, not by design, but purely because I had other things keeping me busier than I expected, then, suddenly, it was January. It happens sometimes. In some ways, I certainly concurred with sentiments of those eager to exit 2020 as quickly as possible in December, but it's not something I wanted to dwell on at the time. 

Like so many people, my holiday season spirit was kept contained and relatively low-key. I didn't search for new decorative items and relied on things I already had. I only pulled out a few things, preferring to keep things minimal and simple - a small dish, a single bunch of faux greens on the mantel with a pair of simple candles, a wreath on the door and my faux trees flanking the hearth and one just outside the front door. To be honest, I didn't take photos of any of it. I just didn't want to bother. Sure, I made a few special dishes to enjoy for each holiday, but I didn't go crazy as the celebrations just didn't seem to be the thing to do during in this COVID era. 

I haven't been depressed about the low-key holidays, but after a mid-December storm that hit the week before winter officially started, dumping three feet of powdery snow on the ground outside my doors just as my trusty snowblower decided it didn't want to start, I knew that Christmas and New Year's were not holidays that I wanted to make a big fuss about. (The snowblower has since been repaired and stands ready for any further challenges Mother Nature might have in store for the rest of this winter.)     

I was dealing primarily with shipping parcels to their recipients during December, and tracking them like a hawk to follow their progress to their ultimate destinations. While I knew the delivery systems across the country were bogged down with extraordinarily heavy volume during a typically very busy period for shipping annually, I had little choice but to ship my parcels when I did. A few of them took an inordinate amount of time to get where they were going during the holiday rush and its massive delays, but all of them eventually made it. Some didn't make it in time for the holiday, but all of the recipients were understanding and, for some, it didn't matter. December provided the final and frustrating major logistical challenge for what was an already very challenging year on so many levels. 

In the grand scheme of things, my worries about a few packages being delivered in a timely manner was an insignificant concern compared to the difficult, and sometimes tragic, situations so many people faced in the course of this overwhelmingly aberrational year. 

I'm so sad for those who lost their battles with COVID-19 and for the families and friends they have left behind. I'm sad for the health care workers and first responders and all who surround them for the unspeakably difficult challenges they have faced and are still facing as the virus cases spike around the country. I wish we had been able to make more progress in keeping this rabid disease in check and get the vaccines out to everyone more swiftly once approved. I know these things take time, but we're the greatest country in the world - or we were - and we should be able to get this done faster. We'll get there eventually, but until we do, we'll all be trying to dodge that bullet until it's no longer a threat to our very lives.

No sooner did we tick over into 2021 and the events of January 6 were a startling reminder that the calendar might have changed but all still is not well for everyone in the USA. I won't get into a political discussion here, but it certainly was a troubling turn of events on top of a very troubling and disruptive prior year. It certainly makes one appreciate when things were more "normal."

I continue to spend this time lying low and, except for those close to me, avoiding other people as much as possible. Fortunately, I have a very high tolerance for spending time relying on my own devices, doing the things I enjoy within the confines of the four walls in which I live or just outside them. I don't need to go very far and, fortunately, don't have to as the essential amenities I need are nearby. I consider myself very fortunate in that regard. 

I have always been a creative type and I now have the time to indulge my creative passions. Fortunately, it's the way I can make the best of a situation that is, for the most part, out of any of our individual hands. 

Let's hope that we can all move forward in this new year of 2021 deliberately and with greater freedom, health, and success than we have experienced in 2020.

 

* American painter Walter Launt Palmer (1854-1932) was a native of my hometown of Albany, NY, and was known particularly his portrayals of the eastern New York region's landscape, particularly in winter. He was tutored early in his life by renowned Hudson River School artist Frederic Church and traveled to Europe to study the great masters before returning to settle at his Albany home.  


 


November 5, 2020

November Belongs to Autumn

 

I've been on this rant in the past, but in this exceptional COVID-19 pandemic year, I'm reiterating it even more vociferously - it's November and the entire month is blanketed by the autumn season. It is NOT winter, it is NOT the Christmas season. I firmly resist any attempt by the retail industrial complex to convince us that it's time to leap squarely into Christmas decor and celebration (and, of course, product acquisition) before giving the appropriate time and attention to which the harvest season and Thanksgiving are entitled. 

Here in the United States of America, we cannot and should not leap directly from Halloween to Christmas and give short shrift to the season and singular holiday that prompts us to reflect on our blessings, the gifts of Mother Nature, and give thanks for them. I LOVE autumn in the Northeast, where I was born, raised and still live. (I also happen to have been born smack in the middle of the autumn season, so that might be part of my personal affection for this time of year...who knows.) There simply is nothing like the stunning colors of autumn and you won't find them in many parts of the country that don't have the array of trees that change from greens to stunning reds, oranges and yellows at this extraordinary time of year. And while, yes, it signals the end of the growing season, what a way to go with a spectacular display of colors!


While I'm not so enthusiastic about the leaf-raking that follows this astounding display, it's a small price to pay (and good exercise). 

In this year, in particular, it seems that the retail industrial complex did not gear up for autumn as much as it was in a mad rush to push Christmas upon us in September. Granted, they were pushing autumn in August (when many of us were enjoying sand, sea and warm temperatures). I remember being dismayed back when I was in high school that retailers were foisting woolens, plaids and tweeds in clothing fashions upon us while we were in sleeveless cottons and shorts. I understood the season was coming, but it was at least a month or more away and I didn't need to prepare for it that far in advance. Maybe it was needed by the students who were heading off to college, so they'd have the items they'd need to be warm, but the rest of us could easily have waited. I just never liked being rushed and I still don't, but I like even less having the season that I love the most practically ignored and rushed on and off the store shelves in a blink of an eye. Why? 

Why can't we enjoy autumn for as long as it's with us? I love autumn, and my favorite holiday of the year, let alone the autumn season, is Thanksgiving. It's not about religion, it's simply about being thankful and enjoying the season's bounty - cooking, food, and dining with family and friends, or just being on one's own and celebrating quietly. Any way one does it is fine, but because we're not being pushed to exchange gifts by buying stuff, the retailers don't shove it in our faces with the zeal that they dedicate to Christmas. It annoys me no end, and even more when the autumn harvest season is almost ignored. 

So I'm just here to remind all that autumn matters, Thanksgiving matters, and to stop and think about what it means to you and what you have to be thankful for. It's not about buying stuff. It doesn't cost anything. Celebrate that.