Friday, December 22, 2006

Hair salon, southern style

The temptation is to say “Back home,” or “Up north” when starting a story. But this is where I live now so I will just start by saying: In Maine, I got my hair done every 8 weeks, no matter what. It’s my one concession to a personal indulgence, a cut and color, ever since my hair started going gray at age 34. I remember when day spas became popular and all the rage. Before I worked a lot, I had time to drive to Portland and have my hair done at a fancy spa. Hair salons went from a cut and run place to a place of potentially all day extravagance with aromatherapy and a boutique inside and overhuge mugs of green tea being offered and winged-haired stylists talking in hushed tones, not unlike a funeral home.

Then the day spa idea came to smaller towns like Gray and I started going to one there. It had sophisticated decorations like gilt mirrors and high end products and city-styled hairdressers in uncomfortable looking clothes.

For the second time since I’ve been here I got my hair done at a local beauty shop in town. I like the place. The hairdressers wear jeans and their hair looks normal. The vinyl on the chairs is cracked and the gals take cell phone calls from their husbands while spraying customers’ hair and they talk across the floor to each other and the customers chime in too. They complain about the country song that’s playing on the radio and they finish putting on their makeup after they get the chemicals on your hair and they are jovial and themselves.

It’s a homey place. And now, it’s home.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Luminous Birthday in photos

Meadow Baptist Church on the evening of their Christmas program. The church is next door to my apartment.

Jim the camel handler, a volunteer enacting his part in the Live Nativity scene Saturday night

Someone is happy Christmas is coming!

As they say here, "the reason for the season," Joseph, Mary, and baby Jesus, volunteers at the Live Nativity. The family has been doing it for 22 years but this year is the last, they are moving to the mountains. I'm glad I got to see it.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Luminous birthday

I turned 46 yesterday. I’m more than halfway through even if I live a generously long life. It’s OK, I’ve packed in 4 lifetimes into this one. And yesterday, I packed in more than a day’s worth of fun for my 46th.

I started as usual with my morning routine while listening to satellite radio's "Classic Christmas,” a station that plays renaissance and classical holiday music. I love satellite radio, no commercials.

A friend had invited me to dinner but early in the day we rescheduled for Monday night because of that cold going around. Our changed plans left me free to tour through the famous Luminaries and Live Manger after dark.

My father had sent me an expensive Barnes and Noble gift certificate so I felt released from my budgetary restrictions and I spent 2 hours shopping for books without worrying about the total. I love bookstores, and the exhilaration of tossing new books into my basket without looking at the price was pretty great.

The reviews were good for "The Pursuit of Happyness" and I agree, it’s a good movie. If I ever think I am in a bad spot then just remember Chris Gardner, who went through the Dean Witter unpaid internship program as a single dad caring for his son while homeless. What an inspirational story.

After the matinee, dark had fallen so I went to see the luminaries and Live Manger. I was so excited I stopped every few feet to take pictures with my newly found "nighttime setting” on my camera. The driveways are really, really long so the candles’ yellow glow sweeps over the knolls, disappearing into the dark under the bright stars overhead. At one small development, every driveway had glowing candles and even the cul de sac was lined. A young boy was dancing inside the circle, arms outstretched, chin to sky and singing.

The Live Manger is a real manger with real people enacting the Holy Night. Sheep and dogs and goats wander around the strewn hay bales and inside the manger are Joseph, Mary, a baby, and three Wise Men in period dress. Angels sit atop and shepherds with crooked staffs care for the camels nearby. Piped music floats over the scene, carols and hymns, “Away in a Manger” and “Silent Night.” The warm evening air made for a pleasant and relaxed visit. The scene attracts visitors from many nearby counties who pet the camel and take photos and sing with the music. I’ll post the pictures tomorrow.

Then I came home and watched the end of Much Ado About Nothing which was filmed in beautiful Chianti at a castle I’d visited once. So for my birthday I traveled from Athens to Bethlehem to Tuscany. See what I mean about packing it in? I have more plans with friends for Sunday and there’s the re-scheduled dinner on Monday. Nice birthday weekend. I wonder what the next 46 years will be like?

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Ephemera: Part 2. Simple Gifts

I have the same routine every day, and not a lot of money to do fancy things to break the sameness. Last week, rooting around the magazine recycle pile at the County Library, I found some old postcards mixed in. Some were from the 1950s, some were from the 80s, but some were from the turn of the last century, tinted and colored with spidery writing on the back.

The cards I like best are the ones with a message and a postmark. In 1910, a woman in Savannah received one from New York City. The scene was of Trinity Church and the message said: “Miss Floran, This place sure looks good to me. Having a nice time but am very tired.” No signature. What I think is cute is the address is written correctly but the message is sideways crooked. And he ran out of room, starting with a huge “Miss Floran” but ending the last tiny word crowded into the corner. Who hasn’t done that? I have, anyway, lots of times.

Miss Eva Mae Palmer of Augusta got two cards from North Carolina’s Ridgecrest Baptist Assembly in 1944, and they couldn’t be more different from each other. One is handwritten, the senders letting Miss Palmer know they are having a “grand time” and are “very happy.” The other is as stern as the first was warm. It’s typewritten, which tells you something. He typed the date, too, not leaving it up to the Post office's postmark. The message says:

“Dear Training Union Friends: Greetings to you as a Department and to each of you personally. Please keep striving to build up and hold up our Training Union work. Your Pastor.” The signature is initialed.

Ephemera is fun because it lets me imagine other times, other places. I like holding something in my hand that dates from a different era, imagining its source and the feelings around it. Was Miss Floran excited to get the postcard from her pastor? Inspired? Why was the other couple ‘so happy’ at Ridgecrest? Was it their first time there? It’s a peek into the past through the dying art of personal correspondence.

Ephemera, it means momentary, fleeting. The postcards were simple gifts that in their unexpectedness helped jog me out of the mundane into the creatively imaginative. And all for free. How great is that?

Friday, December 08, 2006

Mt. Abbess

Why did I post a photo of crumbled up bedclothes? Well, it wasn't to show off my favorite Ecuadoran jaguar blanket. The hump you see is my kitty, Abby, also known as Abbess because she rules the roost, not me.

Now that I have an opportunity to be home most days (semi-retirement IS all it's cracked up to be) I can be part of my cat's routine. Apparently it does not vary and it's pretty durn relaxing. It goes a little something like this. Abby says:

5:30-6 a.m.: Rudely or gently, depending on capricious cat mood, awaken human. Continue to awaken by pouncing, crying, and pawing any exposed flesh, until human gets up by 6 a.m.

6:00: EAT!!!!!!!!

6:02 to 8:00: play with toy, gradually get human to play with toy while I watch. If I am successful, she will end up dragging around the string while I perch on the bed, yawn, and watch amusedly.

8:00 a.m.: begin to wind down. All this activity makes me tired! Climb under the covers and sleep until 5:30 p.m.

[Human allowed a comment: I do not know how Abby breathes for 10 hours under there! But if I look real close I can see the covers move infinitesimally up and down]

5:30 p.m.: Repeat morning routine. But keep it up later than 8 p.m., go at least until 9 or 10. And at night, sleeping is on human's legs above the covers, not under. Even cats don't like bed farts.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Georgia Christmas, in photos. And some narrative

Left, snow in Hotlanta? Fake snow, anyway, the tiny snow machine worked overtime to make a festive scene as Santa's float paraded down Main Street. SO...where else could you sample sweets at the Artists’ Open House, enjoy a terrific parade complete with Santa, and top it off with browsing at the Holiday Fair and then get awed at the Tree Lighting? OK, so maybe lots of American towns have such festive goings on at this time of year, and ours was no exception.

Friday night I enjoyed a wonderful time at the Artist Open House & Supper Club, where local artist Tina and her husband opened their second floor art gallery to one and all. Bring a covered dish, uncover another dish and help yourself, and enjoy the live music with a glass of wine and some great conversation. Tina's family is the original live-work artist family, she and her husband bought the historic anchor building in the center of town and renovated it over the last 5 years. They live and work on the second floor and rent the first to two other merchants. Their dedication has brought attention and other retailers to downtown, sparking a downtown revitalization with art as the central theme/industry.

At the party, I spoke with a former reporter for CNN and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. I laughed when she said that she feels a tremendous sense of liberation at now being able to state her opinion in a letter to the editor of the local paper, since as a reporter one must never insert one’s opinion into the article nor express it publicly. Yes, I know just what she means, and we had a healthy discussion about the growth this county is experiencing, our own opinions flying.

Saturday the Holiday Fair in the school gym revealed one thing I’d never seen done before, which I fell in love with right away. Remember the glass prisms in lobbies and breezeways of 1950s houses? Thick and clear, almost like square ice cubes? Well, you drill a small hole, stuff white Christmas lights inside, and wrap ribbon around and other decorative items atop it like gold pine cones or an angel and it makes for a beautiful lit up centerpiece.

Almost the whole county turns out for the annual parade!

Vintage cars were just one part of the long line of floats, animals, and municipal and private vehicles on Saturday. Notice the green lawns, the green leaves, & short sleeves.

And the ever popular testosterone truck...flags a-flyin' and representing our country, including a Confederate flag license plate. The town's fire truck had one too.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Christmas down south

In Maine, as early September’s warmth gives way to tart days and cool nights, weekend activities begin to include stacking firewood and Googling the lowest oil price. Or digging up the garden, which won’t be activated again until May. The wood stove crackles. One year, we had a necessary woodstove fire as early as September 5th. Columbus Day passes and the leaves drop, the birds disappear, and there’s only a bare branch skyline and nothing green to refresh the soul for the next 6 months.

The bone crunching cold begins in November, and you’ve taped clear plastic over the edges of your window sills. You use a hair dryer to shrink wrap the plastic tight so it becomes clear like glass with no wrinkles. Literally, you seal yourself in for the winter.

To block the cold from creeping in, stores sell items decorated to look like what they are not, which are draft stoppers. A smiling snake, a puppy with an extra long tail, you set them on the floor in front of the doorways. I just used a rolled up towel.

Laying in wood, oil price searches, car anti-freeze fill-ups, hearing the scrape of a plow blade, dusk at 3:59, after thirty years it gets pretty soul sapping. And there’s something else.

Clutching your scarf, you scurry from cold to warmth. Shivering, you might exchange a few words with your neighbor, but if you’re outside you’re cold or too busy scraping the windshield, if you’re inside your heavy coat heats you up uncomfortably. Even if you’re at a function, you leave early “to beat the storm.” Neighborly relaxation exists in limited quantities or not at all.

I know, many Mainers enjoy cross country skiing, or happily go to the winter carnivals all bundled up. Not me. And I know too, that it gets hot here in the summer. But not for as long. And it’s not as dark. That’s what gets you, the dark, bleak relentlessness of a far northern winter. No matter how this Yankee cajoled herself into enjoying frigid outside activities, I still looked through plastic for half the year.

At Saturday’s Christmas event in my new town in Georgia I could stroll, not scurry. I could sing carols without shivering. I didn’t have to rush home ‘to beat the storm’ but could savor the sights unconstrained. Living life hermetically unsealed means there are fewer barriers to connecting with each other. Now, community kinship is a carol I can sing with gusto.

Above, sunset at my house last night. Civil twilight 5:50 p.m. Length of day: 10 hours 55 minutes.