There’s a shiny new year ahead.

 

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Here it comes, New Year’s Eve.  Really, is there a more happy-go-larky holiday than that?   (Well, maybe. St Patrick’s Day, amirite?)

My New Year’s resolution for 2016? I will be less laz.

— Jim Gaffigan

Setting New Year’s resolutions is believed to go as far back as Babylonian times. It’s said that Julius Caesar started the tradition of making resolutions on January 1st as a way to honor the Roman mythical god Janus, whose two faces allowed him to look back into the past year and forward to the new one.

Hmm, think back to your resolutions from last January. Did you follow through? Do you even remember what they were?  Right.  Neither do I.

So, why make more resolutions this year?

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The ‘I will be more organized’ resolution. Look familiar?

Resolutions, so not for me.  (Ben Huberman, you really get it.) enormoussmallness2

I’m throwing out the rule book this year. I’m setting a goal to set no goals. I’m going to welcome 2016 with a positive mindset about how great it’s going to be. Zero pressure to do anything other than to be present, open-minded to positive change, kind and compassionate to others.

I see no point in setting the same resolutions I’ve been setting for years on end. Remember what Albert Einstein said ~

Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

Why perpetuate feelings of failure and inadequacy, that’s so totally negative.

Instead, if it feeds your soul, do it. If it makes you want to get out of bed in the morning with a smile, carry on.  Make some rememberlutions!

Look ahead, there are good things planned for us.

And be grateful for the victories.  Celebrate them, great and small.

Happy New Year, everyone.

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Toni 12/31/15

That guitar is okay but you’ll never make a living with it. * Hey, the Beatles joined the streaming music world and I can’t get Penny Lane out of my head.

The melody is strong and complex.

This is pop song writing at its best.

The highlight?

A piccolo trumpet.

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David Mason was principal trumpet at Covent Garden and the Royal Philharmonic and Philharmonia Orchestras but he’s best known as the piccolo trumpet soloist on the Beatles’ 1967 hit Penny Lane.

Penny Lane is in my ears and in my eyes
There beneath the blue suburban skies

Today I walked a narrow dirt road, just barely a mile long, forgotten by most, humming, you know it, Penny Lane.  (Yep, earworm.)

 

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When it was first established in the 1700s, Pussy (close enough to put that Penny flea in my ear) Lane was one of three major roads serving my little village of New Hartford. The town still maintains the road, but there are no houses along its sides, and few cars use the connector from Town Hill to Stub Hollow.

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As I walk, I take a few liberties and set my own words to Paul’s melody.

 

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It’s like stepping back in time.

 

There’s an English Barn, or a 30 x 40,  a simple building with a rectangular plan, pitched gable roof, and attached horse barn.  The name 30 by 40 comes from its size (in feet). It was large enough for one family and could service about 100 acres with its three bays ~ a middle bay for threshing, flanking bays for animals and hay storage.

It’s called Esperanza (Spanish for ‘hope’) and is on the National Register of Historic Places. The barn is a post and beam structure supported on stone pillars, surrounded by trees and a pond.

Here and there along Pussy Lane, on the way to the barn, are these whimsically playful cairns.

 

A Scottish word, cairn means a pile of stones. I first saw cairns on a hiking trail above the tree line on a mountain summit.  In Scotland, it is a time-honored tradition to carry a stone from the bottom of the hill to place on a cairn at the top. As more people climb the hill, the cairn grows, rewarding hikers who see it and offering an opportunity to add their two cents, er, rocks.

Cuiridh mi clach air do charn

I love cairns. They mark our journey. When we see a cairn on the trail, it points the way. And don’t we all need something or someone to point the way for us now and then?

When we add to the cairn, we make the marker more significant, to point the way more clearly for others. When we look behind us, the cairns show where we have been.

Penny Lane is a musical cairn for me.  It takes me back to the teenage girl who screamed and swooned, back to handlebar mustaches, flowing black coats, wire-rimmed glasses, and the upending of a banquet table.

 

Piccolo trumpets, English barns, Scottish cairns ~ journey markers along the trail of my life.

 

Toni 12/29/15

*Header quote: John Lennon’s Aunt Mimi

More about earworms here.

If you don’t stop that, I’ll snickersneeze* you.

 

 It is darkest before the dawn.

After December 21, the light begins its inevitable return, and the days grow longer. The mid-December solstice marks the beginning of winter in the Northern Hemisphere and brings the shortest day ~ and the longest night ~ of the year. For those of us on Eastern Standard Time, the solstice occurs at 11:48 PM on December 21 (though officially it happens the day following). And regardless of where you live, the solstice happens at the same moment for everyone on the planet.Unknown-2

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Such precision we have about the solstice these days. No one is really sure how long ago humans recognized the winter solstice as a turning point, the day that marks the return of the sun.

 

 

One delightful little book written in 1948, 4,000 Years of Christmas, puts its theory right up in the title.Unknown-3

The Mesopotamians were first, it claims, with a 12-day festival of renewal, designed to help the god Marduk tame the monsters of chaos for one more year. (If only we could.)

 

Shall we liken Christmas to the web in a loom? There are many weavers, who work into the pattern the experience of their lives. When one generation goes, another comes to take up the weft where it has been dropped. The pattern changes as the mind changes, yet never begins quite anew. At first, we are not sure that we discern the pattern, but at last we see that, unknown to the weavers themselves, something has taken shape before our eyes, and that they have made something very beautiful, something which compels our understanding.

-Earl W. Count, 4,000 Years of Christmas

Other than the few facts above, and the annual reminders about the winter solstice, I must admit I know little else. That’s why I read the NYT science section and listen to the NPR Science Friday podcast. And head to MentalFloss (everything you want to know about the solstice in bullets with photos). The journalists and guests demystify why apples fall and how echolocation works.  And what’s with those brain waves, anyway? They assume the reader/listener knows nothing. (A fine assumption, in my case. I am not offended.) Great minds explain a concept in clear language. And they could fit it on the back of a cocktail napkin. Triplicity of excellence.

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But you most likely won’t hear about Krampus from Ira Flatow or James Gorman. Sometimes you just need Jimmy Fallon.  Krampus is another December curiosity I know little about. Mythical, but intriguing. (No, it’s not another presidential candidate joining the fray.)

 

 

In some communities in Bavaria and Austria, the hideous Krampus is long believed to represent the dark side of St. Nick. This is no elf on the shelf, people.

 

 

Traditionally, the Krampus is shown with reddened deep-set malicious eyes, large goat horns, a furry body, long pointed tongue and teeth, cloven hooves and a tail, carrying rusty chains and birch switches he uses to swat evil-doers.

This mythical monster was thought to accompany St. Nick, who is obliged to hand over particularly incorrigible children to Krampus.

Some towns have a “Krampuslauf” during which costumed, torch-bearing revel-devils run through the streets, scaring children and adults alike.  Lately, Krampus is beginning to appear in Christmas festivities in France and Finland, and even in the US.   Krampus has received a little more attention than usual with the release of the holiday horror-comedy film “Krampus.” (Spoiler alert: It’s downright terrifying.)

 

Unknown-4I wonder if the god Marduk had to deal with the likes of Krampus.

Oh, hey. Like that word *snickersneeze? It’s demystified here.

 

 

 

 

Toni 12/22/15