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A Northwest New Year’s Eve


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Here in the Northwest we like to welcome the new year with a visual shout out from the top of our signature logo…the Space Needle.

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A great many people who live in the neighborhood are treated to pyrotechnics galore, accompanied by blaring music and cheering revelers.

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It really is quite an amazing sight as well as an amazing site.

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Afterwards, the celebration continues into the small hours of the newborn 2015. So, apologies to those who live nearby, a captive audience to the annual madness, noise and disturbance, but…

Happy New Year!

And twelve months from now, we’ll have recovered enough to do it again…

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The Magic of the Night…

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Christmas Day is lovely.
Can’t argue with that.

But the night before is what steals my breath and makes me believe in magic. When you’ve outgrown Santa, when you’ve made the conscious decision to relegate to the rear mad shopping, stress and the frantic pace, what is left is the sheer beauty of the season.

For me nothing showcases that unique splendor like a fine, clear, cold night. Dark. Deserted. Lit with splendor.

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I wander unfamiliar neighborhoods and find elaborate displays. Extravagant creations glittering in the night….

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Sparkling abundance paying silent homage….

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But I linger longest before the simple presentations.

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Their elegant purity touches the heart. They do not shout. They whisper.

This is the night before the Day. This is the anticipation of the celebration of something extraordinary.

Merry Christmas…

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Alternative Rites of Christmas

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Every family celebrates the holidays with a touch of individuality.

Those little quirks acquired along the way eventually transform into tradition.

The earliest remembrance I have of mine was around the age of four.

We’d been decorating the Christmas tree, that huge pine-scented presence that brought magic and happy expectation into our home. Someone of my tender years wasn’t allowed to do much. While the others adjusted lights, draped tinsel, and placed strategic puffs of angel’s hair, my primary task was to put hooks on the ornaments. Sitting cross-legged on the floor, I pulled each delicate, blown-glass piece from its nest of tissue paper, attached the wire hook and placed the finished product to one side for someone else to have the honor of hanging.

Low to the ground, I saw things the others didn’t. Like the way the tree’s water supply was already littered with pine needles. Like the way the cottony-white skirt sprinkled with glitter caught the light, shimmering like an echo of the magnificence towering above it.

Like the family dog, Tio, having his way with a light bulb.

All our decorations were handed down from grandparents I’d never known. The lights were antiquated: large, heavy things, tapering from a broad end with the screw cap to a rounded tip. Tio had managed to engulf the whole ensemble, leaving only the tip poking between his lips like a glossy, green bubble.

Neither Tio nor I recognized the danger of the situation. He wagged his tail in contentment, sucking on his new toy. But my laughter at the ridiculous picture he presented alerted my mother. Scolding, she pulled the bulb from Tio’s mouth, then replaced it with a green-tinted biscuit.

Dogs are smart. They remember.

Every year thereafter, Tio demanded a biscuit in return for refraining from mouthing light bulbs.

At some point, we began leaving the biscuit on a low-lying branch of the tree. Tio would snatch it up and consider his ransom demand met.

But that made the cats jealous.

Food wouldn’t placate Buffy and Phoebe. Oh, no. They wanted the crash and dazzle of breakage. They wanted an interactive batting practice. And so began the tradition that still continues today.

The Rite of the Sacrificial Ornament.

It must be large. It must be shiny. It must hang low.

Its demise must be met with a humble, human willingness to clean up the mess.

If these conditions are not met at the outset, then woe to the entire tree. It will not survive. However, make the sacrifice and nothing else is required.

It astonishes me that this bargain has passed from generation to generation of pets as well as people. At least that’s how I see it. I put up my first tree on my own, in my own apartment only to have it decimated by Boots, a cat who had never been party to previous Rites of Sacrifice. It was with an almost occult shiver of skepticism that I righted the tree, cleaned up the damage, and then, with disbelieving fingers, hung a sacrificial ornament.

Boots accepted it. The rest of the tree was left inviolate. And so it continued.

This rite persists. It is weird in its reliable performance.

But I suppose the same could be said of my family.

We are the practitioners of the Rite of the Sacrificial Ornament.

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The Vapor Dancers

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Leonardo Da Vinci was fascinated by the changes night could bring.

He walked the streets at dusk, marveling at the beauty of the human face when bathed in twilight’s special grace. There was a muted loveliness denied the harsh illumination of the day.

It has always been so.

Things change at night. Stranger sights and seeming secrets feel freer to move among us. It’s one reason I follow Leonardo’s example, wandering after sunset, hoping to stumble upon lesser-known magic as it goes about its nightly routine.

But I never expected the Vapor Dancers.

I don’t know if this is a subculture or a single occurrence. I don’t know if they are called by another name, but to me…Vapor Dancers.

You’ll find them when the hour is late and the street deserted.

You’ll find them where plumes and columns of steam rise from manhole covers and vents.

The first one emerged from shadow, making a soundless way to the center of the street. Diaphanous fabric floated from her waist, pale and grey as fog. To the music of distant sirens, she approached the pillar of vapor where it escaped the city’s substructure, drifting upward as the breeze sculpted it into pleats and folds. Her arms rose in graceful imitation.

And then began what I can only call a dance.

Moving in silent harmony with the steam, she made it her partner. Then another, and another, and one more appeared, echoing the first’s performance.

But no city street is deserted for long. The dance lasted until a cab turned the corner, the sharp beams of its headlights interrupting, scattering, dispersing both dancers and steam.

I left, too. It was late, and this wasn’t my world. I was just a visitor who’d been treated to something strange and hauntingly beautiful.

Leonardo would have loved it.

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