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Sunday, December 18, 2016


1. be open: We never know what we may find upon arriving at our coastal destination. Here’s my short list: tree down on roof; no power; leaks and puddles; brown drinking water; squirrel in cabin; bird in cabin; mice in cabin; small tsunami. Learning to be open means we are ready for anything. 

2. things change: Especially the weather. Sunny one moment, rainstorm the next. Life, at times, may be as changeable as the weather. 

3. stay warm: West coastal climate is cold and damp. If we get chilled, it’s hard to warm up again. As in all situations, taking care of ourselves comes first or we are no good to others.

4. bring cats: Cats are warm. Place cats on cold parts for added warmth, especially at night. Cats may also purr in sync with the ocean. Life is better with cats (or dogs for the dog folks).

5. breathe: We probably think we’re breathing right now, but there is something about the sea air that makes us realize that all breaths taken elsewhere are somehow lacking. 

6. watch fires: Per number 3, fires are a great way to stay warm. Fire is a force to be respected however. We should never underestimate the dangerous aspects of things that can kill us outright.

7. take a nap: Some say there is something about beach air that makes one sleepy; others think it’s just the chance to be lazy that sends us down for an afternoon nap once we hit the coast. Who cares why? Rest while we can because tomorrow may call for action. 

8. listen: There is no sound as soothing as a cat’s purr, except for possibly the ocean. The rhythmic pounding of waves upon shore can clear the mind, stimulate dreams, and heal the human body.  

9. slow down: Ocean time is different from city time. Some who come to the coast stay fixedly on city time. These are the folks seen cruising the tourist shops, racing from viewpoint to viewpoint, filling every moment with a latticework of plans. If we don’t take time to stop and reflect, we only skim the surface of a deeper experience. 

10. the world is made of patterns: From tiny quarks to the expanse of space, nature is woven in patterns. Without these patterns, there would be no life. See the patterns - the fronds of a fern; the lace of December trees; the rolling waves - and plum the secrets of the universe. The beach is the perfect place to ponder the miracle that is us.

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Happy reading!

Friday, December 16, 2016

Christmas Lights Around the World

One of my favorite Christmas activities as a child was to look at Christmas lights as our family drove around our favorite decorated neighborhoods. Today I thought to help get us all in the Christmas spirit by sharing Christmas lights from around the world.

Hurst, Germany - Courtesy of Achim Raschka 

Montbeliard, France - Courtesy of Thomas Bresson

Helsinki, Finland - Courtesy of Timo Newton-Syms

Home in Germany - Courtesy of Daniel Schwen

Sloan Square, London, England

Haughton, Staffordshire, England - Courtesy of Laura Ganderton

Montbeliard, France - Courtesy of Thomas Bresson

Friends Road, U.K. - Courtesy of Katy Walters

Warsaw, Poland - Courtesy of Pudelek

Maracaibo, Venezuela

Saint Helyi, Jersey

Vienna, Austria - Courtesy of Anna 

Zina Abbott is the pen name used by Robyn Echols. Her novel, Family Secrets, was published by Fire Star Press.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

The Sounds of the Season

This month I'm taking a break from writing about, well, writing, to talk about one of my favorite parts of the holiday season. 

As a very aural person, I love music, especially Christmas music. Now, I do have my limits. There are a couple of local radio stations that I no longer listen to because they begin playing Christmas music 24/7 on November 1st. I’m sorry, but there are only so many times one can hear Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer and I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas and remain sane; these stations hit that limit within a week.

I usually haul my Christmas CDs out the day after Thanksgiving. (Yes, I'm old school. I still have - and play - CDs.) The music of the season is what really puts me in the Christmas mood and helps me relax when the stress would otherwise get the best of me. Even though I have a sixty CD case that is pretty much full, there are three CDs that I play over and over.

Phillips, Craig and Dean: Repeat the Sounding Joy

I’ll be the first to admit that for the most part, I prefer male singers over female; I tend to like deeper voices. I also love harmony, which is one of the things that drew me to this trio from the beginning. This album has non-traditional arrangements of traditional music and their rendition of O Come, O Come Emmanuel is breath-taking; this song is what I imagine the choirs of heaven sound like.

NewSong: The Christmas Shoes

Yes, those Christmas Shoes; the song that had us all weeping into our eggnog the year it released. (I’m including you here guys. Don’t try to deny it. I’m sure plenty of you snuck off for a good sniffle when it played.) This album has my favorite renditions of Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree and You’re A Mean One Mr. Grinch. Like Phillips, Craig and Dean, NewSong harmonizes beautifully. Also, different group members perform the lead vocals on different tracks. However, there is one vocalist whose voice makes me weak in the knees; his rendition of O Holy Night has the ability to reduce me to tears – in a good way.

 John Denver and the Muppets: A Christmas Together

Yes, you read that right. One of my all-time favorite Christmas albums includes the Muppets. I’ve always like John Denver; he always made singing seem so effortless. This album is filled with a mixture of traditional and non-traditional songs; there isn’t a bad one in the bunch. This CD is such a tradition in our home that when my sons moved out, they received their own copies to continue the tradition in their homes.
To each and every one of you, I wish you the merriest of holiday seasons. And to those of you who, like me, will have an empty chair at the table and an empty place in your heart... hugs. 

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