Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Winter Lights

by Michael Hofferber. Copyright © 2003. All rights reserved.

Drive away from the city at night, a couple dozen miles or so, and turn up an empty rural road. Continue until the glow of civilization recedes and the nearest farmstead or outbuilding security beacon fades from view. Then stop the truck. Turn off the lights. And step out into the darkness.

If the skies are clear, the great swath of the Milky Way will unfold overhead. And if there's a moon, a shadowy landscape may appear. But mostly there will be blackness, a void where our vision will not penetrate, and an immense loneliness.

Some folks never meet the night; they spend their lives beneath streetlights or behind headlights and well within the city limits. To them, night must seem like a shadowy time between dusk and the morning alarm. But out here in the country there is true darkness. If you've gone camping in the wilderness or spent a night midwifing a cow on a remote pasture or had your rig break down miles from town, perhaps you have seen it and felt its chill.

Continued at... Winter Lights

Michael Hofferber
Rural Delivery
Artwork: A Cold Winter's Night

Sunday, December 18, 2011

A Winter's Sleep

by Michael Hofferber. Copyright © 1995. All rights reserved.

These are the longest nights. From now until mid-January the sun will set before most of us are done with the day's work. We'll be coming home in darkness and leaving the house again before dawn. Some folks never see their home in daylight this time of year except on weekends.
This is a time of torpor, when many mammals take to their burrows for hibernation. Colder weather and shorter days signal biological changes in the Earth's creatures, including man. Holidays alone are not the reason we do more shopping, put on more weight and feel more tired than usual.

Each of us comes with a built-in biological clock that affects virtually every function of our bodies, including sleep. Blood pressure rises and falls, pulse quickens and slows, and glands secrete proteins according to daily -- or Circadian -- rhythms established by this inner timepiece.

Continued at... A Winter's Sleep

Michael Hofferber
Rural Delivery
Out of the Past
Out There

Friday, December 16, 2011

The Mystery of Mistletoe

by Michael Hofferber. Copyright © 1993. All rights reserved.

Christmas trees are decorated with lights that ward off the darkness of winter. Wreathes hanging on doors symbolize the circle of the seasons. Reminders of the Christian holiday (stars, manger scenes, candles) and the spirit of giving (Santa Claus mugs, stockings, presents)are everywhere this time of year.

But why hang sprigs of mistletoe from ceilings? And why kiss people unexpectedly as they pass beneath some waxy green leaves and white berries?

Continued at... The Mystery of Mistletoe

Thursday, December 15, 2011

A Right Jolly Old Elf

by Michael Hofferber. Copyright © 2003. All rights reserved.

"He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself"
-- C. Clement Moore

This Santa Claus is certainly a magical fellow. He flies through the sky, is rarely seen outside of shopping malls, possesses an uncanny intelligence about who has been naughty or nice, and has a seemingly inexhaustible supply of toys.

Some say he is descended -- or evolved -- from Kris Kringle, a legendary figure from Norse folk tales. Or perhaps he's related to Odin, the Lord of the Winds who rode through the stormy nights on an eight-legged flying horse.

Continued at... A Right Jolly Old Elf

Sunday, December 11, 2011

A Carol's Tale

by Michael Hofferber. Copyright © 2007. All rights reserved.

Most songs don't keep. People sing them for a few years, then lose interest. New tunes replace the old in a continuous cycle and yesterday's lyrics are soon forgotten.

Even Christmas carols, the most traditional sounds in American music, have fairly shallow roots. The most popular Christmas song to date, "White Christmas," was composed by Irving Berlin in 1942. "Do You Hear What I Hear?" only dates back to 1962 and "Away in a Manger" is just over a century old.

Hardly anyone sings old Christmas classics like "La Bonna Novella" and "Nowell" any more. Both were big European hits in the 16th and 17th centuries. So was the German carol "Es ist ein Ros' entsprungen" ("Lo, How a Rose E'er Blooming.")

Like a well-worn pair of boots left on the back porch, old songs lie forgotten until they lose their usefulness. Then they don't seem to fit any occasion.

Continued at... A Carol's Tale

Michael Hofferber
Rural Delivery
Out of the Past
Artwork: Church Choir of Boys and Girls Singing Joyfully

Friday, December 9, 2011


by Michael Hofferber. Copyright © 2003. All rights reserved.

If you listen carefully enough, you may hear the precise, spontaneous trill of a far-off warbler, or the whisper of clouds passing between earth and heaven.

If you keep at it long enough, you may begin to hear the steady pulse of your own heart and, even, the quiet drumming of the soul.

It's hard to keep quiet, though, with so much to be said and thought about and worried over. And it's even harder to quiet the noise around us, from the caw-caw-caw of ravens to the obnoxious rumble of a diesel engine.

The living world is often a wondrous cacophony of sounds that compete for attention like a swarm of little children around the only available adult. It keeps you occupied so that you are unable, quite literally, to hear yourself think.

Continued at... Listen