My Old Stuff — A Little Moldy, a Little Dusty, but Unlike Certain People It’s Still With Me

My grandmorther's pince-nez with gold chain, hairpin and laminated metal case from J.H. Chinnery, optometrist, Scottville, Michigan. Photo by Barbara Newhall

My grandmorther’s pince-nez with gold chain, hairpin and laminated metal case from J.H. Chinnery, optometrist, Scottville, Michigan. Photo by Barbara Newhall

I love my old stuff. I couldn’t get rid of it when I wrote this piece back in 1987, and I can’t get rid of it now. The ski boots and baby bottles are gone, but we still have the crutches.

By Barbara Falconer Newhall, The Oakland Tribune, Sept. 6, 1987

Things. They stay where you put them. They don’t talk back. They don’t upchuck on the Persian rug. Things don’t have to be fed, clothed or diapered. They don’t require thank-you notes or post cards from Tahoe. [Read more...]

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Advent: Witnessing to the Light – With Tinsel and a Plastic Santa

A box marked Advent overflows with Christmas decorations, including an angel, a Santa and shiney tinsel garlands. Photo by Barbara Newhall

Just one of many boxes in the basement labeled “Advent” or “Christmas.” Photo by Barbara Newhall

By Barbara Falconer Newhall

It’s Advent, the traditional time of (quiet) preparation for Christmas.  This Sunday in churches around the country, congregations will be reading the Magnificat — Mary’s song in praise of God and God’s generosity and justice. They’ll also be hearing that odd desert wanderer, John the Baptist, testify to the Light that was to come.

As for me, every year, as my Christmas tree twinkles its lights at my children, my husband, our next-door neighbors and the occasional UPS agent bringing packages – I like [Read more...]

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The Perfect Christmas Tree — I Finally Found It

Rows of perfectly shaped christmas tree on a tree farm. Creative commons photo

A Christmas tree farm. Photo: liljulier/flickr via Creative Commons

By Barbara Falconer Newhall, The Oakland Tribune, Dec. 24, 1989

Christmas trees. Some of my most intense childhood memories have to do with Christmas trees. When I say intense, I’m not talking magic – I don’t mean twinkling lights and “Joy to the World.”

I’m talking galoshes. Galoshes caked with mud and slush. Fingers and [Read more...]

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A Patch of Fireweed in the Northwest — What Color Are Those Blossoms? Do I Need to Know?

Fireweed blossom glowing pink in the San Juan Islands summer sun. Photo by Barbar Newhall

Fireweed blossom glowing magenta to pink in the full summer sun. Photo by Barbara Newhall

By Barbara Falconer Newhall

I couldn’t make up my mind about that tall stand of fireweed I saw growing on the edge of a woodlet in the Pacific Northwest last summer. Were those blossoms purple? Blue? Pink? Or what?

I was having a good time last Friday morning pondering those questions and poring over the photos I’d taken of the fireweed, and I was just about to google myself over to Wikipedia to see [Read more...]

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San Juan Islands Flora: Or, I Cling, Therefore I Am

The view from the bow of a ferry boat making its way through the San Juan Islands in summer. Photo by Barbara Newhall

To get to Washington’s San Juan Islands, you have to take a ferry boat. Photo by Barbara Newhall

By Barbara Falconer Newhall

The Buddhists have a name for it—clinging. Westerners call it greed, getting attached to the earthly at the expensive of things eternal and divine. Greedy clinging is not good for you, the wise folks say. It’ll make you suffer.

Some of us do it anyway. We cling. We cling to stuff. We cling to moments in time. Last summer while vacationing on one of the woodsy, marshy, rocky San Juan Islands, [Read more...]

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