White Christmas

Originally published on December 25, 2010 by SimpleLifePrattle.com

Christmas snowfall treeThe house is still quiet, only the gentle crackling of the fire in the fireplace, revived from the embers of the blaze we enjoyed late into the evening as we watched Christmas movies together, and Dolly’ gentle snoring disturb the silence.  I gaze out the window at the equally still morning outside.

Small white flakes are falling gentle as goose down, swirling in the occasional soft gust.   The tops of things and roofs are just frosted with the accumulated snow flakes, not the ground, not yet.  A small thrill of excitement rises in my chest; we have not had a white Christmas since 1981, but it looks very promising this year.

We have in fact had 3 snowfalls this year, one of them pretty heavy – heavy for us; quite minor by the standards of some others – which is unusual.  We don’t normally get snowfall until mid January or February.  So the odds of enjoying a white Christmas where we are is slim.

To find snow on Christmas day, we must pile into our truck and head up into the higher mountains.  Chestnut and Round Mountains rarely disappoint.  But to get up and find snow falling outside our window on Christmas morning is a rare treat indeed.

Our mountain; Piney Mountain, does not have the elevation to reach up into the usual snow lines.  Elevation makes a marked difference in whether precipitation falls as rain or now.  During our last snowfall I took this photo which shows how suddenly this change can come about.  An extra 100 feet on this mountain slope changes the topography from wet with rain to snow-covered.  It is really quite amazing, and is just one of the reasons we love living here so much.

The single flakes have begun to pair up and twirl like dancers in the air, then the pairs begin to combine as the dancers become more numerous and clusters of flakes whirl and twirl; a nearly infinite barn dance in the air.

The snow begins to stick to the grass now… yes’sir, we are going to have ourselves a white Christmas for sure.

I hear stirrings of wakefulness in the other rooms now.  I lay another log on the fire and head into the kitchen to start breakfast.

Merry Christmas to you and yours!

My Dogography

Dog_Geek Greyhound

As a kid I was small and skinny. Too studious and too serious to be popular. So I devoted myself to learning all I could, to getting through school and getting on with life as soon as I could.


Dog_High Class

As a young man, I decided to get into business. I worked hard and applied myself so I’d move up the corporate ladder and be able to have all the things I wanted…  Continue reading “My Dogography”

Gone Mater Hunting

Mater HuntingBlondie n me got up early and went mater hunting this morning. We knowed of a spot where they hang out. We got where we figured they’d be and sure enough: a whole bunch of ‘em just baskin’ in the sun an bein’ lazy.

We crept into the place real quiet like. It was still cool enough they weren’t stirring yet. Maters can be mean, sos ya gotta sneak up on em from down-wind. We’d creep up and reach out slow and easy, then – SNATCH! We’d whip one away quick, break its neck and stuff it in the bag.

Most never knew what hit ‘em, a few though; they put up a tussle. An’ one: I thought that one had me, but Blondie grabbed hold of my pant leg and pulled me back safe.

When we got a bag full we totted ‘em on home. There I fixed up a big pot of boilin water to dunk ‘em in for a short spell: that loosens their hide ya know, so yas don’t waste so much meat gittin it off’n em. We dunked ‘em in the boilin’ water then into cold water, then we could skin ‘em out easy.

Then we cut out their heart: tain’t no good to no one anyhow. An’ split open their belly to scoop out their goopy guts. They ain’t no good neither.

That left us with a good carcass of meat that we chunked up an’ put on ice. We’ll cook all that up tomorrow. We’ll make some mater soup, then can up the rest to use fer soup or stew, or it can be cooked down and used in lots of different ways.

Yessir, mater meat is good eatin’  – an thar ain’t much more fun than a day mater hunting.

Evening Breeze

senset from the porchAs the orange orb of the sun slid down behind English mountain, splashing the sky with rose, vermillion and mauve, the day’s heat began to wane.  The air began to move; caressing their cheeks to further cool them as they sat in their rockers on the porch before it drifted off to play among the trees.  The rustling leaves were like music.

The breeze wafted first from the south, then paused, and resumed again from the northeast, paused and swung back again as though it were playing a game.  “I wonder what makes it change like that.” She sighed.

His mind filled with images of weather charts and thermal differential flows; warm air rising, pulling cooler air in from all around, mobile low pressure cells.  He turned to her to deliver the dialogue that was forming.  She sat there, eyes closed, head against the tall chair back, as she lolled gently to and fro.  His nose wrinkled in thought, then he leaned back in his chair and resumed a slow rocking.  “Oh, it’s just playful I reckon.”

The sky deepened through the shades of purple into black as the Chuck-will’s Widow added his melody to the concert of nature.

* * * * *

The Bed By the Window

hospital bedTwo men, both seriously ill, occupied the same hospital room.   One man was allowed to sit up in his bed for an hour each afternoon to help drain the fluid from his lungs.   His bed was next to the room’s only window.   The other man had to spend all his time flat on his back.

The men talked for hours on end.   They spoke of their wives and families, their homes, their jobs, their involvement in the military service, where they had been on vacation.

Every afternoon, when the man in the bed by the window could sit up, he would pass the time by describing to his roommate all the things he could see outside the window.   The man in the other bed began to live for those one hour periods where his world would be broadened and enlivened by all the descriptions of the activity and color of the world outside.  Continue reading “The Bed By the Window”

Concerto of Pain


trumpet of pain
Via Oberlin College

A single, high, prolonged trumpet blast shatters my blissful bubble of sleep.  Was that Gabriel?  Is it time?

Alas, no.  As consciousness replaces confusion I find that the blast was not sound but pain – which can be similar – and the trumpeting is emanating from my right shoulder.  Now that I am more aware, my neck and upper back begin playing harmony to the lead trumpet in a horn concerto of pain.

I attempt to mute the performance by shifting position.  But that only boosts the volume.

I am cold. It was hot when I fell asleep and I covered only with the sheet.  Now it’s cooler and the muscles in my back and neck are tense from the chill.  I pull up the quilt and wrap it around me.  In a few moments the harmonies diminish, but the lead horn continues blasting its lilting tone.

I reach for my watch: 3:30 a.m.  A groan offers bass counterpoint to the tenor lead horn, which continues to strip away the grogginess of slumber.  Twenty minutes pass and other instruments are joining the melody of madness.  Hips, lower back, an elbow chime in.  A tooth throbs in low accompaniment.

Sleep is defeated, sent scurrying away by this reveille.  I roll out of bed, test my balance and head for the Tylenol bottle and coffee maker.

It’s Monday morning.  I pulled a stump Saturday afternoon.  As is generally the case,  (Read more: )


Calvin S. Metcalf     When the Christmas activity is over, what then?  When the carols have faded away, the gift wrapping paper has been burned, and families have returned, what then?  When the star of Bethlehem has faded into the starless heavens of human activity, what then?  Is there a letdown in your life when the most exciting season of the year has ended?  Do you search diligently for something to replace the emotional high of Christmas festivities?  Yes, it happens to all of us to some degree. but it should not be that way.
     Depression after Christmas may indicate that we missed the real meaning of His birth.  Christmas is not an end.  It is a beginning.  It is not the only joyous time of the year, but a symbol of the joy we may have every day in Christ.  To be sad after Christmas may be a natural response to the absence of loved ones and family activities.  However, there can be a lingering joy of memories and meaningful times of worship. 
     From a spiritual perspective Christmas should be a revival of our zest for living.  It should renew our capacity to trust God and one another for a happiness that is not seasonal.  It should revitalize our perception of the gift of forgiveness, love and grace, which is really what that manger birth was all about. 
     To be sad after Christmas is to forget that God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself.  The new year comes to remind us that old things have passed away and that in Christ we find a place to begin again.  Every day is brighter because of that Christmas star.  Every song is sweeter because the angels sang.  Here is where a merry Christmas gives rise to a happy New Year.
May it be so for you.


Calvin S. Metcalf     The most compelling task of our Christian commitment is that we do unto others as we would have them do unto us.  In no way can we escape the Biblical mandate to treat others with respect.  We are not offered the option of retaliation, even when we are mistreated.  We are admonished to turn the other cheek and go the second mile.  In so doing, we leave the impression that love and not hate is the dominant force in our lives.
     It’s not easy being kind and considerate in a world which equates meekness with weakness.  It’s not profitable to let ethics and morality control our aggressive ambitions.  Of course, Jesus is our model example of self-giving love but who wants to be a martyr?  We are not conditioned for the kinds of sacrifices which our Lord demands.
     We love our neighbor not as we love ourselves.  We love our neighbor only in ways which are convenient and non-demanding.  We are prone to fulfill the obligation of our own needs before we make any serious commitment to others.  The selfish satisfaction of conquering the competition inhibits our willingness to let anyone get ahead of us.
     Somehow, the key that unlocks our desire to help others is discovered in the context of our needs.  The kindness and love we require is the kindness and love we must give.  Within the framework of our own personal needs is the best clue as to how we can reach out helpfully to others.We do not need a course in compassion nearly as much as we need to learn to treat others in the way we would like to be treated.
     The best commentary on how we are doing is a sense of joy which comes from our helpfulness.  We are created for kindness and not contention.  Our needs are best met as we proceed to meet the needs of others.  To know ourselves is to know our neighbor.  To know our neighbor is to express love in ways we wished to be loved.  We are never nearer God than when we love those whom He loves.  By giving us the power to bless others, God has equipped us to be neighborly.

Wallenius and the Star Cow

science fiction, scifi, sci-fi, space ship, space creatures, star cow
The above picture is by Oscar Cafaro. This and many more examples of his work can be found on the Concept Ships web site (just click the picture). Seeing this picture sparked the following brain spill.

Those who know me, know that I normally spurn fanciful, impractical space ship designs in my work.  However, when I saw the picture above, it made me laugh: Wallenius, Greenpeace, a ship in space… and sent me off on a flight of fancy that spawned this brain spill, which has since morphed into a full short story.  That story will be included in a collection of stories I’m working on.  I may not be able to use this piece of art work in that book, but it should be OK here.

The Wallenius arrived on-site 4 days after she received a deep space radiogram relayed to her by Greenpeace central.  The radiogram had been sent by a private yacht that had noticed a star cow had gotten tangled in a deep space communications array and could not extricate herself.

As the ship approached the array, Steve Preston worked the paddles that controlled the twin searchlights mounted in the ship’s bow, playing their beams along the massive array.  It took several minutes to locate the creature.

“There she is.  Five points up and 12 starboard.”

The helmsman adjusted course and the Wallenius slowly vectored in as they drew nearer to the array.

Janus stood beside Steve as they watched out the forward ports.  Captain Andersen sat in the big chair in the center of the bridge, watching everything but saying nothing for the moment.  The crew was trained to do this work, he trusted them to do their jobs.

Janus had chosen to wear her usual outfit of sandals, denim shorts and a too-tight tank top with a scoop neckline.  Steve was having trouble keeping his eyes on his work with her standing so close.  Her figure was a perfect blend of athletic and curvaceous.  Topped with the face of an angel, framed in an ebony mane, he found her quite irresistible.  Always had.  Which is what led to their becoming lovers – and what led to their breakup when his jealous side flared.

“So, that’s a star cow.” Janus breathed  Continue reading “Wallenius and the Star Cow”

The Scavenger Hunt

labyrinth, scavenger hunt
Credit: Alice-In-Wonderland.net

He wanders the labyrinth with list in hand, gazing at the thousands of calls to action; some printed on card stock or plastic, some in the form of small video panels.  Some say, “choose me for a life of ease and comfort!” some, “choose me for eternal health.” others, “I am your best value on something you need desperately.”  He checks his scavenger hunt list often as he wanders, gazing at the multicolored panels, peering into bins, occasionally opening a semi-transparent door to see inside better.  So many temptations, but where are the items he seeks?

Occasionally something new tries to seduce him, “pick me,” it purrs, “and I’ll give you infinite pleasure.”  He checks the list, “No, you’re not on the list.”  He twists free of its grasp.  “I must return with everything on the list and nothing that is not on the list.”  The List is sacrosanct.  The List must be obeyed.

He encounters a few others wandering the labyrinth, mostly women.  Some seem quite confident of navigating the maze and winning their prize.  Occasionally he stands gazing about, clutching his list his eyes pleading for advice – rules say it is forbidden to ask for help, but help may be accepted if offered freely.  Most ignore him, a few smirk knowingly, no one offers.   He plods on.

The things he seeks seem to elude him, things he must not choose sing their sultry songs to him. His head spins with the enormity of the task: “Why oh why did my wife sent ME to the grocery store?” Continue reading “The Scavenger Hunt”