Constance Ore is a retired Teacher, Choir Director, and Organist. And a formidable cook.

December 26, 2007

Filed under: — Constance at 6:04 pm on Wednesday, December 26, 2007

On Christmas Day in the morning, the dawn sky was more beautiful than any I have seen. The first gathering of clouds toward the east were in lavenders and pinks, and then, with a turquoise sky between, the clouds nearer to the horizon turned gold. The snow around me had a pink and gold tinge, and I have not experienced such an effect before. If one were asking for portents for the present and future, this morning would have cried out that miracles abound. Alphie, earthbound, sniffed his way along the path as usual, taking an inventory about which creatures had passed by through the night, and which ones might be resting in the clumps of grass that stand next to the path, pushing through the snow cover.
We had several children’s services on Christmas Eve day, and the big and glorious Lessons and Carols at nine in the evening; on the 25th, there were no formal worship services at First Church, so after breakfast, Charles, John-paul and I read the Christmas story out of the King James’ Bible, because the words in that translation were those that Charles and I had memorized as children, and their cadences have become shaped and rich through many repetitions in a lifetime of birthday celebrations. We sang favorite carols and exchanged gifts, and later feasted with dear friends at their home. It was a day that will remain forever framed in memory as a singularly lovely time.

Today I had my blood readings taken. . . this is done every two weeks in order to keep track of what is happening within even though there are no therapies available at this time to change the course of the disease. The very good news is that the blood counts are holding – so we are beginning to live out the miracle of that. This morning Charles and I talked about the future and decided to make plans that carry us well into 2008, because we agreed that if we think ourselves always on the edge of life’s change and end, the task of living becomes too difficult. Today, the sun is setting on another light-filled winter’s day, and it is good to contemplate the prosaic matters of a walk for Alphie and what to make for supper.

December 20, 2007

Filed under: — Constance at 9:16 pm on Thursday, December 20, 2007

ChristmasCookies.jpgChristmas now, in just five days! The past weeks have centered on cookies, cards and gifts, and those have taken up all energy and time. In the “olden” days, there were also parties, Christmas music preparations and endless Children’s program rehearsals, and my present self views that in awe. Charles says very matter-of-factly, “That was then, this is now”. We have had snow and glittering trees for days, actually living in the Christmas card settings that often arrive in the form of Christmas card illustrations. Fortunately, we do not have to harness horses and travel by sleigh as frequently depicted, though my mother’s stories of going to Hanover church in a horse drawn cutter, wrapped in fur robes and through the snow covered land on a moonlit night still fills the heart with nostalgia. She would tell of the bells on the horses sounding from every direction as families came to the church.

My childhood memories of the Christmas eve event are centered on the same landscape and in the same church in the country. Perhaps the brightest picture is one in which I solo for the second verse of “O Little Town of Bethlehem”. . . “For Christ is born of Mary, and gathered all above. . . etc.” I was in the second grade, and stood in the middle of the front of the church, and I was wearing a dress with a red velveteen top and a satin plaid skirt. As I sang, I still see the faces looking at me with ever growing smiles upon them. I was very pleased because I assumed it was delight in my singing; unfortunately, it apparently was that I was twisting my skirt in my hand, which was getting shorter and shorter, and the smiles were about whether my modesty would be compromised before the end of the verse. Never sure of the outcome, this may well have been the end of a budding operatic career.

angelSinging.jpgIn earlier times, my persona would be described as “delicate” or perhaps even “frail”, though my physical appearance is neither. My immunities are edgy, aches seem to compound, and my energy feels as though it is receding somewhat. This is not yet worth complaining about since all is better than what might have been. Charles’ father would always reply to concerns about his health as “Not bad, and it’s better than the alternative” so that phrase has been added to the commentary in the family. My blood readings indicated that they held their own, with just a small drop in the red counts. The next reading takes place the day after Christmas. So I delight and savor these days – as I lie awake in the early morning hours, there are Christmas celebrations from past years playing through my mind and carols and songs sing on and on in my head. Upon occasion this means that my first words of the morning to Charles might be, “How does the third verse of ‘Joy to the World’ begin?” There will be grand music in the next days, and the wonderful and familiar story of Jesus’ birth will be told in word and song. We will view the sky over Sanctuary and think of angels singing and hope once more for peace on earth and good will everywhere.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Filed under: — Constance at 12:38 am on Tuesday, December 11, 2007

birdSeedBird.jpgWith temperatures in the teens, snow on the ground and on every evergreen tree branch, winter speaks loudly at Sanctuary. The yard is very animated with many birds active around each of the feeding stations because in this cold weather, they must eat nearly their weight in seeds to keep warm. In the mornings, the snowbirds, sparrows, nuthatches, and cardinals are very cautious because the hawk will be coming through right above the ground looking for its breakfast. By noon, the birds are everywhere, cheerfully chattering and moving between the feeders and across the ground, not unlike a busy marketplace, and I know it is because the hawk has selected its meal from among the company, caught it, ate it, and is resting replete on some favorite branch.

santaBellPlayers.jpgCharles purchased a set of bell playing figures at an antique store, and they all strike one of two bells with little wands. . .the whole thing plays thirty five Christmas carols, and the set is charming and delightful – the only difficulty is that we have yet to be able to listen to all thirty five songs; the bells sound amazingly good for their size and shape, but I personally have lasted through just sixteen, and I believe that is about ten more than Charles has been able to tolerate. He usually comes past and shuts the mechanism off saying, “There. Now we’ve got the idea, and I’m sure the grandchildren will love it.” Since there is not a complete listing of the pieces, it may well be that the last ten or so are so beautiful it will bring tears to the eyes, but to date, we may have to let them be discovered by others.

rearView.jpgThe past days have been a new thing in my life; doing nothing to fight, or even argue, with the cancer in the blood. It would be very nice to pretend that it isn’t there, however, this is not possible because of how I feel. If I have an activity, I will spend the next day in exhaustion and pain. Generally, I find that I am doing less as the days go by, and I do not expect a morning when I will awaken and rise up feeling full of energy and wellness. This is not an easy thing and I have to beat back the darkness. Ultimately, hope is always there and Charles is always strong and positive – so we go forward with the prayer, “Lord God, you have called your servants to ventures of which we cannot see the ending, by paths as yet untrodden, through perils unknown. Give us faith to go out with good courage, not knowing where we go, but only that your hand is leading us and your love supporting us; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”

December 5, 2007

Filed under: — Constance at 11:21 pm on Wednesday, December 5, 2007

NebraskaDawnWinter.jpgWith the longest night fast approaching, Alphie and I are out walking as the day awakens; we move through a very quiet Sanctuary with just the red-tailed hawk starting up out of the cedars in the forest as we come past. Then, down by the big cottonwood, the owl usually leaves its perch with reluctance, and perhaps we might see a cottontail rabbit or two, but that is it. We get back to the house before the sun lifts past the horizon so we are out during that time when the night creatures have gone back into hiding and the day creatures are still asleep.

Later in the morning, the front yard becomes the center of activity as birds, rabbits and squirrels vie for food. I have many feeding stations so everyone will get a chance to eat. Unfortunately, the squirrels have read this as a signal to proliferate and take over; this AM there were nine of them. There are many funny stories about people who take up arms against the squirrels and attempt to keep them from bird feeders – and even knowing better, I have now purchased several devices guaranteed to outwit these voracious eaters. The latest is a pan with a grid over it which supposedly invites beaks only – I sat at breakfast bemoaning the sight of an overweight interloper scooping up the seeds as it sat in the middle of the feeder with a half dozen cardinals perched in the branches around it hopefully awaiting their turn. Charles said that I could always get a BB gun and shoot at the squirrels out of the window. (He knows that I would never resort to such tactics, but also that my dear departed father would be sitting there gleefully blasting away with not only a BB gun, but likely a rifle or a shotgun, blowing everything to kingdom come, including the feeders. Admittedly, there is a just a bit of my genetic tracking that does find that attractive.)


“Cold December flies away. . . ” says the hymn, and it is true, perhaps because there is an implied sense of urgency given by the merchants that one must hurry, hurry to acquire all things necessary to properly celebrate Christmas. So far, I have done little more than watch Charles bring in poinsettias and orchids and place them in their holiday configurations. I have gotten some catalogue shopping completed, and my mind has completed the Christmas letter, hosted some grand parties, and baked and decorated good things to eat while my body sits comfortably in the sun. The songs and words of Advent fill the spaces where cards, cookies, soirees, and children’s program preparations used to frantically vie for ascendency. I feel reasonably well and contemplate the coming of Christ and other miracles. . . past, present, and those yet to come.