Posts Tagged With: rituals


DSC07172 (Copy)We turn into children a bit if we have little grand kids to play with. But even adults enjoy taking a drive through a particularly colorful neighborhood where  lights and lawn decorations beckon. We decorated lavishly when our kids were little but now I settle for getting cards out every couple of years or so.

DSC07168 (Copy)With my signal down for two days, I put my mind to Christmas cards and toward the end of my list, I got weary  and decided to phone old friends I hadn’t seen, nor heard from. Numbers change and I regret not keeping up with old friends. In a changing world, we have social media, email and facebook. I can find a couple of them I’m sure.

DSC07169 (Copy)A less known ritual among stamp collectors  is to mail away to a Christmas town.  Each year I would pick a couple of towns that suggest Christmas and send a self-addressed return envelope, to collect the post mark.

DSC07171 (Copy)It would surprise you to know how many Christmasy places we have in the U.S. I have a list of 89 cities. Some are repeats, like Berry, IL., and Berry, KY. I’ve written for: Santa, ID. Bethlehem, N.H.,Chestnut, IL, Christmas, MI.,Evergreen, NC.,Garland, TX., Mistletoe, KY, Rudolph, WI, Harmony, MN.   There are many, like Ivy, Pine, Noel, Hope, Bountiful, St. Marys, Winters, North Pole… and so it goes. I forgot to mention local Angels Camp is on the list.

DSC07177 (Copy)And, once you begin looking at post marks, you find other interesting anomalies like these opposites:

Disco, Wisconsin —– Waltz, Michigan.  Carefree, Arizona—–Panic, Pennyslvania.  Normal, Illinois—–Peculiar, Missouri. Sunrise, Wyoming—–Sunset, Louisiana.  Lively, Virginia—–Drab, Pennsylvania. Why, Arizona—–Whynot, Mississippi.

Then you begin to wonder, why was a particular town named Truth Or Consequences, New Mexico, Hell, California, or Triumph, Louisiana?  All town names are a glance at history in a unique way.  Major postal centers digitally sort mail and in many areas you can no longer get post marks of the city on an envelope.

You will not see kids lying on the floor, pouring over pictures in a catalog either. I know the future is here, and an I-phone can play your favorite Christmas Carols and allow you to shop while waiting at the doctor’s office. Even waiting at the doctor’s office is destined to change. I am not longing for the “good old days” so much as relishing memories and comparisons, a kind of privilege of age. Who would have thought we’d see driverless cars, and voices that give you directions while driving?   I love the technology giving us wonderful things in the future. But, I believe the guy who invented voice mail should be shot. (Well, you know, not really. Only when I’m hanging on-line for an hour or so.)


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I’ve heard people say, “I hate funerals,” I’ve said it myself. We don’t like to face the sadness of a life ending.

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Eleanor Darby, (left) lost her best friend and husband Dan,  November 9th, and, a good friend Betty Fitzgerald, November 7th. Eleanor is as beautiful inside as she is on the outside. I took this picture as she stood outside the church yesterday, with her niece, Pam. She and Dan were married 56 years, they lived in Angels Camp their entire lives;  they were married in St. Patricks Catholic Church where the funeral mass was performed. Those necessary rites and rituals have meaning for all of us.

I can identify with the feelings losing a spouse can bring. I lost my husband of 40 years in 2000 and was numb for a year. I couldn’t recall later what I had done for Thanksgiving, or Christmas. I couldn’t remember some people who attended his service or much of what went on, though I seemed to be in control. With distance, we recognize that death is a part of life. An ending, but much more.

This morning and yesterday, I thought much about Eleanor and Dan, their boys, Mike and Robbie, who shared such wonderful and humorous remembrances of their Dad, from learning to say I Love You, his  dreams, and careers, and his famous chili beans that were cooked for the reception.  Dan’s brothers that I knew, Earl and Elda, Jack and Ida, Lloyd and Ruth.  (Eleanor and Elda are sisters who married brothers.) His nephew Rod and Kristi, his grandniece, Nicole and Larry. Friends, Don and Betty Fitzgerald, and so many more from every walk of life.

Relationships have so many patterns and pathways. I met his grandniece, Nicole, first, when she was about three years old and in the same dance class as my daughter, Virginia. We both lived in Fremont at the time, It was 1972 or 3. Her mother Kristi Darby divulged to me that our planned retirement in Murphys was very near where she had liived in Vallecito. Her mother had been the Postmaster there and she and Rod had a house they rented there. Not long after we built our house in Murphys, she ended up my next door neighbor,  two parcels over.

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Kristi with son-in-law, Larry, daughter Nicole, grandchildren, Shannon and Garrett. Nicole and Virginia then attended High School together. At the reception, we got to catch up on each other’s lives.

I met Eleanor and Dan, and Betty and Don Fitgerald through the high school sports programs, and Quarterback Club. Their kids attended High School with ours.

Dan’s father, “Chub” Darby, was a Murphys fixture, and all around character in his nineties, when we met. He participated in the Homecoming Parades, and his cabins are now part of a vacation rental. Darbys hale from gold rush days, two roads are named after them. I remember Chub whenever I cook his watercress potato salad. If I buy the cress in the store it never tastes as good as picking it in a local creek.

Our friendship was strengthened when all of us became a part of AFS, American Field Service, A student exchange program, along with Dutton  and Ben Smith, Carol and Clark Burton…Walli…so many memories and faces, if dis-remembered names.

Nicole went on an exchange to Austrailia. Virginia went to France. Eleanor and Betty took in multiple exchange students over the years.  Betty ran the program with the help of many others, as Kristi and I did in later years.

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Linda Djamaludin from Indonesia was our exchange student in 1986. They always say you get more from the program than you give, and it is so true. The support at AFS meetings was wonderful. Our girls went in different years.  At each meeting we would read Virginia’s and Nicole’s letters from their temporarily adopted country.

Eleanor, and Kristi, and I, with all the county exchange students, loaded into our Motor Home and traveled to Pasadena for a special opportunity to work on the floats for the Rose Bowl Parade.  We did it two years in a row with kids representing probably twelve different countries.

Eleanor and Dan visited students they had hosted in Italy, France, Switzerland and Sweden. They are really life changing events.

At the reception, we didn’t talk about death and loss. We were witnessing the continuation of life around us. Children, grandchildren, aunts and uncles, nieces and nephews with the DNA and blood of their special inheritance of life everlasting.  And, then there is always Dan’s beans, Chub’s salad…Mike’s paintings…


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There is more to see in Wuhan City, but we leave late in the day for the airport. Our luggage is already overweight. Vicki bribes the officials but warns us that on one of the seven flights we take, she will not be able to bribe the officials. It is only a short flight to Jiliang, pronounced lee-John. My suit case arrived crushed. They didn’t want to fill out the papers for insurance because it was already packed deep in the bus and they couldn’t see it. She bullied them a bit. Then they had no blank on their form  for the color beige or plaid. It was taking forever and the whole group was waiting. Finally, I told her it was too much  hassle,  forget it. She told me the two clerks are afraid they will lose their jobs if they make a mistake. Our plane was late and Vicki called ahead to the hotel and asked that they  hold the buffet open so we could have dinner.  At ten p.m. we are eating roast pork and black sweet rice at the Grand Hotel.

It was all so delicious but the hotel sits  next to a moat,  and from across the moat come sounds of revelry, singing, talking and laughter. Lights reflect in the water, from torches and candles on the tables. People are having such a good time we want to be there. (The picture above, across from our hotel,  was taken in the morning when all the revelers are gone.)  The windows in our hotel have no glass in them. The room walls are so thin you can hear people talking in a normal tone of voice. The beds are thinly padded and quite hard with fluffy woolen blankets. The stars are out, the fresh mountain air wafts through the room and we quickly give over to sleep.

In the morning, Michal and I (and everybody else on the tour) want to explore this unique city, but we are hustled off to the Naxi (nah-shee) Dongba Tribe Museum. Our expert in this area is Wu. He has funny American expressions, like  “shake the leg”,  “let’s get rollin”). It sounds so out of place and we laugh when he says stuff. Jiliang, we learn is 250 miles from the Tibetan border, where we can see the beautiful Eastern side of the Himalayan Mountains.

The museum is particularly interesting because the Naxi people only had a pictographic language. Their tribe in two areas only numbers about 60,000 people. As young people grew up and learned the official dialect, their language was dying out.

The museum had much of their colorful textiles and calligraphy which they are noted for.

In the Museum store, this Naxi Calligrapher draws an expression for Michal which she had framed and it now hangs on her wall.  The Naxi people are said to be able to place their hands into fire and boiling oil without injury. We did not see a demonstration of this but expect it is similar to the fire walkers we all know about. The Naxi raise goats and llamas and their beautiful weavings are unique.

Wu takes us to the Naxi village of Yunshangping, where  the Himalayas hang over this magical little  town. People here cook on grills outside. We are here  to see the museum of a colorful anthropologist/botanist by the name of Joe Rock, but Wu says we will see it after we explore the town.

Just about every woman wears the same blue garb, which is traditional to their society. Vicki tells us they have become used to getting their picture taken-for money. So we should attempt to take our pictures indirectly.

A fresh mountain stream flows through the town. The water in our hotel was delicious and comes from the same stream. We were warned early in the trip to never drink the water, always use bottled water. But, I forgot the very first day in China and so I just continued to drink the water and never had a problem. I also ate the lettuce and vegetables they tell you to avoid that are rinsed in the water. If we didn’t have first class hotels, I might  not have taken the chance.

Naxi villagers are great horsemen.

This gent is leading a bunch of tourists through town to head up the mountain for a trail ride.

Cute kids everywhere.



This older woman stuck her hand out for money when I took her picture, but I was quite a distance from her.

Then I caught her later in the day taking care of a group of kids, watching the horses go by.

For the most part, they seemed to ignore the invasion of tourists in their town.

Wu tells us the Naxi love their horses and pets.

They are very social with each other and do most of their chores outside, like this woman washing her clothes. But, back to Joe Rock. Wu first takes us to a house that is similar to Joe Rock’s house. It shows the way those with means lived in the town.

The average house here is volcanic rock and wood.

A typical Naxi house looks like this.  It  has three buildings, a living quarters, where people are standing, to the right, a storage building in the center, where corn is hung to dry and food stuff is prepared for keeping.  Food for animals is also kept in the middle building.

And the third building holds the livestock.  Naxi people were not friendly to outsiders before Joe Rock came. He spoke Chinese and gave them medicine,  and over time, gained their trust. He was very fat and hired Chinese men to carry him on a special chair like some royal Egyptian out of a Hollywood Movie. He had a battery operated Victrola so he could listen to opera, and his own canvas bath tub.   Rock came here in the 1920’s and lived here until the Communists took over.

The Naxi have eagles and owls as their  protective roof decorations.

We finally arrive at Joe Rock’s house where the living quarters holds the museum, which contains some pictures of Rock’s work.  Wu tells us, the people here are the museum. Joe Rock’s 400 year old house is owned by a dandy who is so obnoxious he doesn’t like to come.  Just to look into the court yard, we are required to take his picture and pay him before entering this very small exhibit.

He is all dressed up in his leather shoes and white coat. The reason to come at all is because Joe Rock was such an important figure. He wrote several books about the Naxi while he photographed and studied their pictographic language, translated it into a written language and therefore preserved the culture of the old-timers before they died and the language became lost. He photographed their rituals and studied their culture extensively.  Rock supposedly said, after the big depression, “Depressions are for industrialized nations, we don’t have depressions, here.”

There are some interesting stories about Rock at the above website and many facts in the wikipedia link about him.

We said goodbye to this lovely village, me wishing I could have taken a horse back rid into the mountains.

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Marge and Gary Rowe celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary with friends and family Saturday night. Gary’s older sister celebrated her 50th a couple years back and his youngest sister will celebrate her 50th next year. Not only admirable but quite unique for a single family where every sibling is still with their original spouse.
Reminds me of a story when my oldest son was dating. He brought a girl home to meet we parents and Ken explained that she was quite nervous about meeting us because among her friends and acquaintances, (this was high school age) she didn’t know anyone whose parents were still married to each other.

At the celebration, I also took a five generations photo. My cousin, stands next to his 94 year old mother, his son to his left, and his grand-daughter and her new baby complete the five generations. What a wonderful message of stalwart peoples, who have learned to take on life and play the hand they are dealt without caving in along the way.

Another sign of the test of time is Marge with her oldest friend-from kindergarten.

The DJ changed the music from hits of the fifties to more current tunes and the young people taught us some new, wild and crazy dance steps, kind of like line dancing.

With some serious moves on the dance floor, it was time to remove the spikes and get into it.

Like an Italian wedding, even the baby got a chance to dance, with Mom’s help Sisters, and nieces…

Son-in-laws and brothers..

First cousins and second cousins..

and sons and daugthers,  all gather to honor their relative or friend in common, but also to share fond memories, and re-aquaint. and catch up with each other’s families.

These rituals of life are an important element of family and thank goodness we had such a wonderful occasion to bring us all together.  Congratulations Marge and Gary.

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