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Love and Light

The season so far has been bittersweet. Joy and sorrow hand in hand as Christmas approaches. A good friend loses her husband. Another friend dies tragically in a senseless accident. And I decorate my house.

My next-door son got me started when he arrived home from the ranch with two very tall branches from the property’s endless Manzanita trees.

I purchased a giant light blue pot years ago in Rosarito, Baja when The San Diego Museum of Art docents visited art galleries (best stop Hugo Crosthwaite’s studio!) there. The burgundy-colored branches went into the vessel in the corner of my living room, and I lit it up and decorated it with sparkly ornaments. Gold and silver.

It's so very cool at night, my Christmas tree, but extra special during the day when the sun shines in the southern windows and casts dancing circles of light on the walls, the ceiling, and the wood floors. An unexpected bonus!

I wanted to shine a light on my Manzanita Christmas tree, which cheered (and comforted) me as what seems like a stream of sad news flows through my holiday. I planned to write about it after the upcoming dinner party of my Drawing Salon. I expected our gathering to have a sober cast as we observed the one-year anniversary of our fifth member’s passing last year. My twinkle-lit Manzanita Christmas tree would enliven our spirits.

After everything was ready for our gathering—Christmas music playlist, happy hour goodies, scented candle lit, table set, packages wrapped—I took my phone to the living room to take a photo of the Manzanita. As I stood in my living room, my Christmas tree did glisten illuminating the entire space. However, so did other light sources.

Out the East window, the rising full Cold Moon of December.

In the fireplace, flickering flames.

Candles everywhere.

Through the arched window, the setting sun.

And a reflection in the mirror.

The doorbell rang not long after and my friends arrived. We toasted Kathee and told stories over and over about her beautiful life and time with us in our small group, now four.

And amidst my Christmastime Light Show, we talked about the ongoing losses in and around our lives, acknowledging that “we’re in that age group…” And then we laughed. And paused the Christmas music to listen to Blake Shelton's new song - "No Body" (so good for dancing - you're welcome!) and ate Christmas cookies.

As I cleaned the kitchen when they had gone, W. H. Auden’s lyricism came to mind:

“About suffering they were never wrong, The Old Masters; how well, they understood Its human position; how it takes place While someone else is eating or opening a window or just walking dully along…

I hope your holiday season is full of love. And light.

“Here's to celebrating light where we find it.

And making light where we don't.”

John Green


*** Be sure to click on Hugo Crosthwaite's link above to read about his recent honor...

Portrait of a Nation: 2022 Honorees

featuring A Portrait of Dr. Anthony Fauci a stop motion video by Hugo Crosthwaite

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Thank you for sharing your beautiful Manzanita Christmas tree with us, and all the sparkle and shine and light.


Everything about this lovely piece resonated with me, Marilyn. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and feelings. Your twinkling lights look beautiful!! I really like your quote from John Green - it is short enough for me to be able to remember it!

Have a very Merry Christmas and all the very best of 2023 to you and your family.


Dec 10, 2022


Your eloquent words brought light to me as I read them. Life is indeed a roller coaster and we must grab onto it while we have the energy and wherewithal. I felt the warmth in your room, the twinkling lights, and swayed to the music. It is always good to hang onto memories, because the bring us warmth even though sometimes there are tears.

Have a great holiday season.

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