Christmas with Der Belsnickel

151212_PA Landis Valley Christmas_3361acsTwas the week before Christmas and down on the farm

Three simple wreaths hung on the side of a barn.

151212_PA Landis Valley Christmas_3353acs

More hung on the doors, made of cedar and pine

Amongst which dried flowers and seeds did entwine.

151212_PA Landis Valley Christmas_3537acsNo fake plastic baubles, shiny tinsel or such

Would be found in the land of the Pennsylvania Dutch.

The fanciest touch these ornaments showed

Was the colorful plaid of a ribbon or bow.

 

151212_PA Landis Valley Christmas_3722aGreens covered the table, and apples – and lookie!

151212_PA Landis Valley Christmas_3651acs

A window was hung with freshly baked cookies!

151212_PA Landis Valley Christmas_3610acs

All natural décor was the theme of the day

Folks flocked from all over to see the display.

 

151212_PA Landis Valley Animals_3300acsThe bull in his pasture, the hen in her coop,

151212_PA Landis Valley Animals_3373acsWeren’t bothered by crowds that wandered the loop.

151212_PA Landis Valley Animals_3415acsTwo horses were lonely, away from the mob

151212_PA Landis Valley Animals_3325acsBut one was soon “Best Friends Forever” with Robb.

 

151212_PA Landis Valley Christmas Belsnickel_3429Then what to my wondering eye should appear

Than a raggedy man stalking ever more near.

He was dressed all in fur, his face tarnished ash black

He carried some switches, a whip and a sack.

151212_PA Landis Valley Christmas Belsnickel_3434acsHis presence caused fear, my skin started to prickle

The German legends were true!

Here came Der Belsnickel!

 

 

He comes before Christmas, Santa’s disciplinarian,

To chastise young children who act too contrarian.

 

151212_PA Landis Valley dfn_5466a2 copy“A photo, but quick! I’m much in demand

I have a young child I must reprimand.”

The children were wary, they peered round the bend

At the sight of the Belsnickel there with my friend.

 

151212_PA Landis Valley Christmas Belsnickel_3661acs“I know what you did”, he started to scold

But in fact this strange man had a true heart of gold.

The children soon smiled, and started to giggle

At the humorous tales told by the Belsnickel.

 

With other children to greet, it was time to move on

But he had one last caution before he was gone.

Der Belsnickel exclaimed as he strode out of sight

“Merry Christmas to all, and behave well tonight!”

151212_PA Landis Valley Christmas Belsnickel_3449acs

“Pennsylvania Dutch” is a misnomer. The people that settled in Lancaster and surrounding counties are not Dutch from the Netherlands but German. The term “Dutch” comes from a corruption of Deutsch which means German.

The legend of Der Belsnickel takes many forms. In Pennsylvania German regions it goes back to at least the early 1800s. The Belsnickel – in one version of the tale – was a grouchy-looking man dressed in ragged, dirty clothes and furs (“St. Nicholas in fur” is one translation of Belsnickel.) He wore ashes on his face or a mask, and carried a switch and a sack of treats. The Belsnickel appeared in houses in the weeks leading up to Christmas as a reminder to children to behave. He often asked the children to recite for him or sing a song. Then he would throw candy, fruit and nuts on the floor. A child who jumped forward too eagerly might get the wrong end of the switch. The good children would end up with a fistful of treats.

Watery New Horizons: Part II

141030_Lake OswegoLaunch_124522acsOh, the places we’ll go!

No longer tied to the land, limited in our vision to the edge of the shore. Now the whole watery world opens up before us, and we are free to explore each cove, each inlet, each river bend. Wildlife, once skittish, will meet our gaze with fearlessness and dance for our pleasure. Oh, the places we’ll go!

141009_New Kayak _132554aYup, I finally got my own kayak. Here she is still in the store. She’s officially a “Pungo” model, but I have dubbed her Calypso, in honor of explorer and conservationist Jacques Cousteau.

141011_New Kayak_9248aReady to go home. The first thing everyone says is “It’s the same color as your car!” As if I would get anything other than blue. Blue, the color of the clear sky, azure butterflies, bluebells, and blueberries. Blue, the color of water…

Oh, the places we’ll go!

Like Lake Oswego in the Pine Barrens, for Calypso’s maiden voyage on a cool but bright October day.

141030_Lake Oswego Kayak Launch_2080aUnlike friends Don and Robb, I chose a hard-shell kayak over an inflatable model. No PUMPA-PUMPA-PUMPA for me. I just have to lift a 50 pound boat onto and off my car. That turned out to be easy. Reaching the tie-down straps, however, is another story. Nice to have a handy-dandy stepladder available.

141030_Lake Oswego Kayak Launch_2094acsA journey of a thousand miles begins with a single paddle stroke.

141030_Lake Oswego Kayak Launch_2096acsI had the lake to myself. Unfortunately, finding a warm calm day on a weekend to get the three of us together had proven impossible. On Launch Day, Robb was at work. Though Don accompanied me to the lake, he declined to paddle.  Something about a new book. No worries. I enjoyed the peace and solitude and the chance to get to know my new craft.

Oh, the places we’ll go!

130615_Pine Barrens Marthas Furnace_3371 aAnd where might we three voyagers go? Why, there’s a world of possibilities! We might explore the Oswego River downstream from the lake that shares its name.

131026_Pine Barrens_9849aThe tea-colored water of the Mullica River in the Pine Barrens looks inviting…

130615_Pine Barrens Batsto_3230 aAs do Batsto Lake and River.

Oh, the places we’ll go!

130927_OC 51st Street_5847 aThe Jersey Shore is a treasure trove of bays, marshes and tidal creeks to explore, like this creek near Ocean City.

140422_HNWR Ducky_9986 acsOf course I want to explore Heinz Refuge on Darby Creek. The guys had already ventured out in their itty-bitty blow-up tub toys. On the canoe launch, their mascot awaited their safe return.

140511_Nockamixon Fishing Pier_8239 acsLake Nockamixon beckons, with Haycock Mountain looming on the watery horizon.

With the approach of winter, it’s likely that this would be my only trip with Calypso this year. But come next spring, I will be ready for adventure at the first hint of warmth.

For now, I have dreams, dreams of paddling…

Around the bend and out of sight, with a whole watery world shining on the horizon.

141030 Lake Oswego Kayak Launch_2097 acsOh, the places we’ll go!

Watery New Horizons

The first river you paddle runs through the rest of your life. It bubbles up in pools and eddies to remind you who you are. –Lynn Noel

1-197807xx_Delaware Campsite 2acsMy first river was the Upper Delaware, in the Pocono Mountains in 1976. I was a teenager at Girl Scout camp and I fell in love with paddling right away. Memories of the river come floating back – blue skies, dark green hills, drifting quietly down the calm sections. The fun of running the rapids – Mongaup, the Eel Trap, Skinner’s Falls – and the frustration when we hit a rock or got stuck. Grey misty afternoons, and the one bright morning when the early sun bedazzled us with a myriad of sparkling diamonds on the river’s surface. I lived in canoes for four wonderful summers and paddling has coursed through my veins ever since. (The photo above was taken at an overnight campsite along the Delaware in 1978 with a Kodak Instamatic camera. Gotta love that ‘70s film look!)

Ghostbusters!Don started paddling in the 90s, on Darby Creek in a folding kayak. “I think that first time out in my folding kayak was a lot of fun and a big relief once I realized that my watercraft floated! Pine Barrens river trips came later… and I might have thought how peaceful and quiet it was and how isolated the spot was though it was all so near a major metropolitan area.”

140906_HNWR Kayak_9128acsRobb just started paddling recently, and his first kayak trip, to a rain-swollen Batsto River, left him cold. Being separated from your boat and stuck in a tree can do that. “[My first river] was Batsto and I remember being in a tree because of Don’s advice.” Later trips have gone more smoothly than that first experience, and Don and I are crossing our fingers that Robb comes to enjoy the sport as much as we do.

Don’s the only one with a kayak (an inflatable one, no less) so he coaxed Robb into the purchase of his own small inflatable boat called the Firefly. The Firefly took her maiden voyage on a cloudy and cool day at Marsh Creek Lake; she and her captain were a sight to behold. Once the boat was ready, that is.

140830_Marsh Creek Kayak_8446acsPumpa-pumpa-pumpa!

140830_Marsh Creek Kayak_8461acsPuffa-Puffa-Puffa!

140830_Marsh Creek Kayak_8498acsNapoleon at Waterloo, in his snazzy new vest.

140830_Marsh Creek Kayak_8524acsAre you sure this thing will float?

140830_Marsh Creek Kayak_8554acs_CaptionA journey of a thousand miles begins with a single paddle stroke.

140830_Marsh Creek Kayak_8592acsThe boat goes faster if you stick out your tongue.

140830_Marsh Creek Kayak_8632acsBoys and their bitty blow-up tub toys. For some reason Don wears a rain hat when he paddles, no matter what the weather.

One week later, the sun was out and the heat nigh unbearable. Nonetheless, the guys were back at it on Darby Creek in Heinz National Wildlife Refuge.

140906_HNWR Kayak_8888aDarby Creek is tidal, and the water level varies greatly. This is the boat launch near high tide. At low tide it’s all mud flats.

140906_HNWR Kayak_8998aDon tells Robb where to go. As always.

140906_HNWR Kayak_9059aTrash is a constant problem along Darby Creek, and it all washes downstream to Heinz NWR. Every April there’s a watershed-wide cleanup, but by September, that’s just a distant memory. Please, folks, put your trash in trash cans. Better yet, recycle it!

Don & Robb Kayak CollageThe synchronicity of the paddle strokes is frightening. Click on the image to get a closer look.

140906_HNWR Kayak_9100acsOh, the power in the stroke. The concentration on the face. The wake behind the boat. No question, Captain Robb is a stud.

You may be wondering why I have been left behind on dry land. It’s not all that uncommon. Actually, I have my eye on a hard-shell kayak, and hope to test paddle it sometime soon. Never let it be said that I rushed into any decision impulsively.

For now, I have dreams, dreams of paddling…

140906_HNWR Kayak_9248aAround the bend and out of sight, with a whole watery world shining on the horizon.

Everyone must believe in something. I believe I’ll go canoeing. – Henry David Thoreau

 

Light Up The Sky

MI Fireworks_2027acsThe Fourth of July celebration in Ludington, Michigan moves to the lake in the evening. Fireworks are a great excuse for one big beach party!

MI Fireworks Beach_1892acsComplete darkness doesn’t arrive here until 10:30, so there’s plenty of time for other entertainment. People gather in droves at the city park, and bonfires stud the shore of Lake Michigan. Fireworks start going off up and down the coast long before dark.

MI Fireworks Badger_1844acsLucky boat owners will anchor off the shore for a unique view. Others will sign on for a special tour by the S. S. Badger, Ludington’s beloved car ferry.

MI Fireworks Lantern_1926acsUnique lanterns drift through the air.

MI Fireworks Lantern_1916acs

As darkness falls, another lantern is prepared for flight.

MI Fireworks Badger_1957acsThe Badger, maneuvering into position to give her passengers the best view. Let the show begin!

MI Fireworks_2001aMI Fireworks_2002a

MI Fireworks_2007aMI Fireworks_2010MI Fireworks_2011aMI Fireworks_2033aMI Fireworks_2040aMI Fireworks_2046a

After the grand finale, Mother Nature lights up the sky over Club Mich with her own brand of pyrotechnics.MI Fireworks Stars_2065acs

Small Town Americana

MI Parade 2_1154acsNothing says the Fourth of July more than a small town parade. And nobody does it better than the small Western Michigan town of Ludington. Everybody turns out to celebrate the country’s birthday. One parade participant estimated the crowd at 30,000, quite a feat for a town of 8,000.

People start lining up chairs at dawn. When the show gets under way at 2 in the afternoon, spectators are packed three and four deep on the sidewalks for the entire one mile route.

MI Parade 1 Audience_1714aMax’s owners cheerfully waved me to an adjacent open spot on the curb when they saw my camera. Front row seat! Everybody’s genuinely friendly in Michigan.

MI Parade 2_1186aThe parade started with a bang, courtesy of the Civil War re-enactors and their cannon.

Youngsters  know to be prepared for the concussion when the cannon goes BOOM!

MI Parade 2_1260aAlso making noise was the Ludington High School Band.

MI Parade 2_1526acs copyThe Harvest Festival Queen, from neighboring Scottville, waves to the crowd.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MI Parade 1 Audience_1575acs4

Not every beauty was participating in the parade. A few were watching it, and hoping for candy.

MI Parade 1 Audience_1630a

Future Miss Ludington.

MI Parade 2_1542acsThere are certain requirements for any parade. Like floats…

MI Parade 2_1214aThe local contingent of fire engines…

MI Parade 2_1664aMI Parade 2_1633acsA long line of classic cars…

MI Parade 2_1703aAnd in farm country, tractors.

MI Parade 2_1712aAlso marching in the parade were gymnastics and dance groups, the Rotary Club’s Briefcase Brigade, Smokey Bear, a young fife and drum unit, and a string band that had me wondering at first how the Mummers got here from Philadelphia.

The 4-H Club and Mason County Sherriff’s Office each brought their equestrian units, with the obligatory clean-up crews, who got big cheers from the crowd.

This entire 2-hour spectacle was just the warm-up act for the main attraction…

MI Parade 9 Scottville Clown Band_1744acsThe World Famous Scottville Clown Band!

MI Parade 9 Scottville Clown Band_1757acsEveryone in Michigan knows the Scottville Clown Band. They’ve been around since 1903, after all.

For those who aren’t familiar with them, I have no idea how to describe them and do them justice.

Philadelphians might look at it this way: Take a really good brass band, throw them in a vat with the wenches and clowns of a Mummers Comic Club, stir it up, and what you’ve got is the Scottville Clown Band.

MI Parade 9 Scottville Clown Band_1755aRowdy, bawdy, and hilarious, these guys are also very talented musicians. They come from all over to perform many times over the course of a year. They also sponsor music and performing arts scholarships and fund a band shell in Scottville.

MI Parade 9 Scottville Clown Band_1816acsMostly they just make people happy.

MI Parade 9 Scottville Clown Band_1784aLike drum lines everywhere, Scottville’s drummers are mild-mannered and well-disciplined.

MI Parade 9 Scottville Clown Band_1813acs Oval 3Of course there has to be a tuba-player in a tutu.

MI Parade 2_1601acsTime to wave good-bye to this year’s Fourth of July parade.

Stroll down to the beach, maybe enjoy an adult beverage or two, and rest up. The party continues with fireworks tonight!MI Parade 2_1317a