Posted by: christinelaennec | December 6, 2014

These days

Thanks again to everyone who entered my giveaway.  I always enjoy doing giveaways, but this one made me particularly happy.  It signified resuming life as it was before I got the news my Dad had died – picking up the threads.  I am still trying to come to terms with his not being on this earth any more.  I remember once reading that grief is like an underground river:  you never know when or where it will come up to the surface.  And that’s been true for me – the craziest things make me sad.  Also, I’ve been trying to deal with mundane legal things from a distance, and that has caused me quite a few sleepless nights.  I know I can’t expect myself to snap back to normal (if I ever was normal!); I have to be kind to myself in this time.

It’s an enormous help that we’re now into Advent.  I really love this time of year:  the season of waiting for the light in the darkness, of preparations, of familiar rituals, decorations and music.

So I have been focusing on what gives me comfort, and I wanted to share some of those things with you.  Roses in December are always especially precious.  I have some in my garden, and there are some beauties in the park as well:

The roses are still blooming in the park.  Glasgow, beginning of December 2014.

The roses are still blooming in the park, against a backdrop of holly trees. Glasgow, beginning of December 2014.

On the 1st of December, we got out the Christmas decorations, and had fun decorating Dad’s sculpture:

Christmas decorations on Dad's sculpture.

Christmas decorations on Dad’s sculpture.  Dafter and Our Son peeking out.

This may sound odd to some of you, but I have found my hand-knitted clothes of enormous comfort.  Here is my best attempt at capturing my Alice Starmore Rambling Roses cardigan, worn with Charlotte Walford’s Cleome shawl:

The comforts of home and knitting.

The comforts of home and knitting.

I love the process of knitting.  Even on the worst days, you can usually have something to show, some feeling of making progress towards a goal.  Oddly, during my 10 days travel to and from Oregon, I completely failed to achieve any knitting.  I took a small project with me, a pattern I had made before, but I kept making mistakes and having to rip it out.  It will be a project for a happier time.  In the meantime I’ve been enjoying keeping warm in wool.

Writing Christmas cards is something I always enjoy.  Best done (in my case) with a glass of Bailey’s and some country-and-western Christmas carols.  What, you don’t have “Santa Looked A Lot Like Daddy” playing at your house?  And why did I not clear away the multiplug needing a new fuse and the magazines?  Because that’s real life.

Writing Christmas cards.

Writing Christmas cards.

One of the very best things these days is that the Dafter has been doing so well.  Last week we had Parents’ Evening, the first one in three years.  She is doing very well, working towards her Higher Art.  We are so proud of her.  She has been managing her three mornings a week at school, and in the last two weeks, has been strong enough to stay a bit more than the usual three hours.  One day she also walked the mile home, but was so exhausted that she couldn’t eat her tea!  So she still is recovering.

Today she is at a city-wide Christian youth event.  Amazing!  We had planned to get the Christmas tree today, and asked her if we should postpone so she could come along.  No, she said, it’s not that important to me, you just go.  Wow!  She’s growing up!  I know it’s difficult for parents when teenagers strike out in their own direction, but after three years of having been tethered mostly to me, the Dafter is more than ready to have some time with others.  We are delighted for her – and also for us!  We had a very nice drive out into the countryside:

By the fire at Oakwood Garden Centre coffee shop.

By the fire at Oakwood Garden Centre coffee shop.

(More cosy knitting – the pullover is an Alice Starmore design, “Little Rivers,” which I finished knitting one cold Easter on the Isle of Harris, and the scarf was a present from a lovely friend).

Do you suppose the Dafter didn’t want to come because she is embarrassed by us?  In our silly hats?

Cringe Factor 30!

Cringe Factor 30!

We found a beautiful tree, and also a lovely wreath made on a willow base – no foam or wire frame to throw out in January, hooray!

O Tannenbaum:  our Christmas tree, from the Forestry Commission in Aberfoyle.

O Tannenbaum: our Christmas tree, from the Forestry Commission in Aberfoyle.

I have been wondering if the ivy outside the back door doesn’t perhaps need a bit of a trim, and could be used to decorate as well?

Hedera "Glacier" outside the back door.

Hedera “Glacier” outside the back door.

Recently, in the midst of Michael’s work trips away and me feeling exceedingly washed out, a long-awaited pond was installed in our garden!

A pond in our garden!

A pond in our garden!  Note the hellebore in the background has started to bloom.

Can you see the raindrops falling on the water? It has a little pipe that circulates the water and makes a lovely noise.  The garden designer is going to bring us some Canadian duckweed, and possibly frog spawn (exciting!!) in the spring.  We’ve never had a pond before, but are looking forwards to attracting more wildlife into the garden.  I had meant to research plants to place around the pond, before I was called away to Oregon.  Does anyone have any suggestions?

So there is a great, great deal to be thankful for and to appreciate.  Coming to terms with things has once more demonstrated that the ways of the heart are mysterious, and somewhat outside of time as well, I think.  In the words of the great philosopher Pascal:  “Le coeur a ses raisons, que la Raison ne connaît point”:  the heart has its own reasons, which Reason doesn’t understand in the least.  But the heart will always understand warmth, love, light and the familiar surroundings of home.  And Christmastime only intensifies all that.

I wish you all a peaceful and happy start to December.



  1. Some really wonderful knits, a lovely reflection on past crafting. I love this time of year decorating in preparation for Christmas and catching up with friends and family. Such good news the Dafter is getting stronger and doing so well at school.

  2. It was so lovely and calming reading your post and seeing the beautiful photos.I’m so happy for you that your daughter is doing well. I’m sorry for the loss of your dear father. I hope you have a blessed Christmas holiday.

  3. Lovely to see the Christmas decorations up. I thought of your household when putting up the Play Mobil crib.

    We had the local Scottish fire service to our house to conduct a free safety check last year. Just to let you know that they noticed our multiplugs and urged us to replace them all. Apparently they overheat (and we were using them safely). The long extension leads with multiple plug sockets are the way to go said they. One firefighter even said that multiplugs should no longer be sold. I was very surprised.

    • Thank you for the warning about the multi-plugs. (How funny that I should have written about it!) I think this one is the only one in our house, but we will have a look around, and hopefully find another solutionn for where it usually lives.
      Strangely, the Dafter has been uninterested in assembling the Playmobil nativity set this year! I may put it up myself. 🙂

  4. Thanks for sharing your beautiful roses in your Fall garden, your wonderfully made warming woolies to wear, Dafter’s growing good health and independence, and celebrating Advent, intertwined with your feelings of loss and the challenges of sorting the practical details around your father’s death in this season of your life, Christine. Embracing a new normal in life is a process that still surprises me in my life…joy and sorrow and unexpected need of multiplug replacements all jumbled together. As I type to you it is the end of St. Nicholas Day and I hope your day was a good one. xx
    PS Our ponds are surrounded willy nilly with weeds, wildflowers, and blackberry brambles, but I especially admire the Foxglove, Wild Iris and yellow Water Lilies that show themselves although I can’t take credit for choosing them. 🙂

  5. Lovely post Christine. Your decorations are lovely. And the pond! One thing we havent got.

  6. This is an especially beautiful post, Christine. I am so happy for all your good fortune, especially the Dafter’s improving health. I’m feeling particularly Scroogey this year for various reasons (the Heart has its reason, and Reason has no quarter!), so I enjoyed this poignant piece. Merci, mon amie. xo

  7. Lots of interesting issues and perspectives raised in this post, thanks Christine. Never having lived in a cold climate, I don’t know about these things….how does the garden (I’m thinking especially of roses) cope with the very cold weather – in particular snow? I hear there have already been a few flakes falling. That must tell the roses to immediately go into hibernation mode and terminate their December flowering! At least roses do have a hibernation mode, do other plants all cope with sub-zero conditions or will a prolonged layer of snow actually kill them?

  8. Dear Christine,
    wonderful are your Christmas decorations and your Christmas tree is looking wonderful!
    Have a lovely and blessed 3.rd adventweek,
    Love and hugs

  9. A lovely post, Christine – so nice to see your preparations for the holidays and read your poignant thoughts. Your knitting is lovely on you, and so nice to hear that the Dafter is making wonderful progress and becoming much more independent. I know a bit about grief after the loss of a parent and I do love your analogy of an underground river – so very true. Seeing your roses in December is wonderful and your garden pond is very charming. I have the same ivy growing everywhere….. Have a lovely week. xo Karen

  10. So delighted that you’ve had a parents’ evening to enjoy.
    I’m not a pond gardener, but tadpoles are great fun. My mother used to have an edict of ‘no tadpoles’ when she was a primary teacher, because she would be presented with jam jars of frogspawn by eager children in her class who hoped to raise them in the classroom. I used to go fishing in the burn for ‘tadders’ with my friends. Any tadpoles I brought home were firmly returned to the burn.

  11. Dear All,
    Thank you so much for your lovely comments. It’s great to read them, and I love having other perspectives on things in my own life. Thank you for sharing the joy of the Dafter’s continuing improvement, and little things like a parents’ night.

    Gracie, thanks for the suggestion of iris near the pond. I think siberian iris, which are like the native iris that grow in ditches here, might be happy. The pond is only about two feet across, so too small for growing a water lily inside. And it’s comforting to know that even a very wise and experienced woman like yourself still finds change a bit of a surprise!

    oldblack, roses are hardier than their reputation might suggest. They can bloom in near-freezing weather, but wind and rain spoil the flowers. Sometimes you see a rose with frost on it, which is a beautiful sight. They seem to begin their winter rest in late December / early January, and don’t blossom again until June or July (July in Aberdeen, June in Glasgow!). Their roots can withstand below-freezing temperatures, though perhaps not the deep killing freezes of places like North Dakota. But in Aberdeen my roses survived just fine in winters where the ground was frozen solid for two months. Other plants are hard to predict. For example we have a fuschia that survived the very cold winter of 2010, whereas I’m told its sister, planted just a few miles from here, didn’t. And snow can actually have an insulating effect on some plants. One thing that can kill plants is the wind, which can rock plants loose, and then air and water get into their roots, which can dehydrate and/or freeze them.

    Karen, how appropriate that you have “Glacier” ivy, seeing as you live not so far from actual glaciers!

    Linda, that is funny about your mother banning tadpoles. I’ve been told that frogs can migrate through urban areas on their way to the nearest river or burn, finding ponds and places to lay their eggs on their way. Wild animals are amazingly resourceful! Something I’m away to write about next –

  12. Having been away I’m only just catching up on things. So sorry to hear about your father. I think what you said about an underground river is so true, thoughts and memories about them surface at the most unexpected times. Happy about your dear girl, moving in the right direction and changes of letting them go is so what you want for them, but so hard to come to a letting go of and moving on into the next part of life.
    Take care, Christy

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