This holiday that’s coming? It’s been sneaking up on us. The main event in our lives day to day–work, and it seems to start before dawn and continue until bedtime. Even then, it’s not finished, but just suspended until the bell rings at the other end of a short sleep.
So today, I pulled out Christmas lights to start hanging them. I have been partial to those strings that have the strands that hang down from the gutters–icicle lights, I guess they’re called. Putting them up requires a trip up to the roof, after I untangle everything I thought I put away so carefully last year. Then I have to scoot and crawl along the edge of the eaves, hooking plastic clips onto the gutters and flashing and stringing the lights through clips.
Today’s light-hanging extravaganza took place a little while after a heavy but brief rain shower. Looking east after I climbed onto the roof, the sunlight was refracted in a curtain of rain blowing up into the hills. We didn’t get a rainbow, exactly–just the righthand leg of one bending up into the clouds, with a faint double. I grabbed my camera, snapped a few frames, and the lightshow faded in just a few minutes. Then I went back and hung the lights. They were on tonight when the next heavy burst of rain moved in.
As mentioned many times in the past, we here at Infospigot Information Industries are fond of reading the Area Forecast Discussion (AFD) published online by National Weather Service offices around the country. The AFD gives a broad-brush explanation for the upcoming forecast; they discuss the latest trends in the output from the numerous weather models they follow and give the rationale for why they believe it will be windy and cold but dry tomorrow and the next day instead of warm and rainy. It would not seem to be the kind of writing that has a lot of character to it. Most of the time it isn't. Every once in a while, though, some personality leaks through. In this morning's discussion of upcoming weather from the Chicago office, a forecaster mentions that the weather models show that storms next week will be warmer than expected. Thus the region can expect rain instead of snow. But what about white Christmas? Here's the forecaster's summary (with some of the arcane AFD abbreviations spelled out and the all-caps style left intact):
HEADING INTO EXTENDED RANGE…GUIDANCE HAS MADE A MAJOR SHIFT IN SCENARIO WITH MID WEEK WEATHER SYSTEM. GFS [GLOBAL FORECAST SYSTEM MODEL] NOW BRINGS DEEPENING LOW NORTHWARD ACROSS ILLINOIS WEDNESDAY NIGHT-THURSDAY SUGGESTING MAINLY A RAIN EVENT FOR MOST OF FORECAST AREA. 00Z [6 P.M. CST THURSDAY] EUROPEAN [MODEL] HAS COME IN FOLLOWING SUIT. THIS LOOKS LIKE A VERY SIMILAR SITUATION AS WHAT WE HAD THE FIRST WEEK OF THIS MONTH. THEREFORE…RATHER THAN RIDE COLDER SNOWY FORECAST INTO THE GROUND…HAVE BEGUN TO TREND AS WARM WITH THIS SYSTEM AS GRID TOLERANCE WILL ALLOW. HOPE NO ONE GOT THEIR KIDS SLEDS FOR CHRISTMAS UNLESS THEY CAN BE ADAPTED FOR USE IN MUD."
As I said, these folks can be a riot. (Picture above: the current GFS Model Forecast from Unisys Weather.)
We’re just getting into that part of January where you start looking at the Christmas tree and thinking that it’s overstayed its welcome. No–that you’ve let it overstay its welcome. While all the more efficient and tidy households have long since bundled their trees out to the curb for recycling–I don’t think anyone has a municipal Xmas tree bonfire anymore like our Chicago suburb did–there’s our Noble fir, still lighting up our post-holiday nights. And our tree waits to see if we’ll challenge the Brekke family record for Christmas tree longevity, which was well into February as I recall.
Well, this one will come down, the way they all have. It’ll lie out there by the curb and get tossed in the back of a compactor truck and driven away to be ground up with all the other discarded trees. I’m starting to get teary.
Auf wiedersehen, o tannenbaum!
The closing lines of “A Child’s Christmas in Wales.” My favorite part of one of my favorite poems. Merry Christmas, wherever you are on this Christmas night.
“… Always on Christmas night there was music.
An uncle played the fiddle, a cousin sang
‘Cherry Ripe,’ and another uncle sang ‘Drake’s Drum.’
It was very warm in the little house.
Auntie Hannah, who had got on to the parsnip
wine, sang a song about Bleeding Hearts and Death,
and then another in which she said her heart
was like a Bird’s Nest; and then everybody
laughed again; and then I went to bed.
“Looking out my bedroom window, out into
the moonlight and the unending smoke-colored snow,
I could see the lights in the windows
of all the other houses on our hill and hear
the music rising from them up the long, steadily
falling night. I turned the gas down, I got
into bed. I said some words to the close and
holy darkness, and then I slept.”
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My dad called last night to wish us "happy liten julaften"–approximately "happy little Christmas Eve" in Norwegian, or at least in his mother's Norwegian. When he was eight or nine years old, his mother placated his mounting impatience to open something, anything, among the gifts accumulating under the Christmas tree in their home on the South Side of Chicago. His mom came up with "liten julaften" on the 23rd (note, the Norway Norwegian actually do observe a "lille julaften" then, too; traditionally, I read on the Internet, that's the occasion for decorating the tree). Anyway, in my dad's Chicago Norwegian household, he was allowed to open one present on the 23rd.
Happy liten julaften to you, too, Pop.
And in other news: Had another piece on the radio this morning. This time it was a short, featury piece on holiday lights. Before I jump to the critique (some other day), here's the lead paragraph for the story as it aired on KQED this morning, and the audio, too:
Host intro: Nothing this time of year is as fun as a holiday light display. But like everything else in a world concerned with climate change, the lights we love come with a cost–and a possible solution. KQED's Dan Brekke reports.