Monthly Archives: December 2013




Joseph Brodsky


For a miracle, take one shepherd’s sheepskin, throw

In a pinch of now, a grain of long ago,

And a handful of tomorrow. Add by eye

A little bit of ground, a piece of sky,


And it will happen. For miracles, gravitating

To earth, know just where people will be waiting,

And eagerly will find the right address

And tenant, even in a wilderness.


Or, if you’re leaving home, switch on a new

Four-pointed star in Heaven as you do,

To light a vacant world with steady blaze

And follow you forever with its gaze.

 (Translated, from the Russian, by Richard Wilbur) 1999




Handmade Nativity

They are stuffed with cotton, sewed out of scraps. The kings have colorful stamp-size pieces of fabric tied about their heads and flowing five-inch capes. The shepherds are made of brown felt. One carries a crook made from a twig snapped from a birch tree in our yard more than 30 years ago. There is the sheep, the most forlorn of this homemade tableau, tattered cotton balls pasted to its wobbly white felt body.

I made the camel and the donkey out of brown felt, and gave them tails of brown yarn. The two are still standing as proud as the day I used a crochet needle to tightly pack their half-inch legs. The angel is of course all white with white felt wings and golden yarn hair. She has a red sparkly pipe cleaner for a halo.

The stable has a quilted corduroy roof and fat fabric walls stuffed with cotton with dried beans at the bottom for ballast. (Spoiler Alert: do not store bean-bottom crafts in damp places. They sprout!)

Under the cozy roof is the holy trio. Mary, in light blue brushed fabric left over from doll pajamas I made so long ago. Her halo is a white felt wafer glued to her head. Joseph is subdued but for his handsome brown beard and his flying dreadlocks made of brown yarn. At the couple’s feet is a round-faced Baby, lying in a cloth manger with rays of straw-color yarn flying from the sides.

I made this Nativity when little eyes and little hands explored every inch of our house, especially at Christmas, when there were secrets to keep and wonderful stories to tell. This handmade set sat under our Christmas tree, and still does, touchable and unbreakable.

Steel tableau tells a winter tale

These steely connected characters stand sentinel at the entrance to West Bend’s Regner Park. The life-size silhouettes were based on real local folks from all walks of life and flame cut from two-inch plate steel by the artist, the late David Genzler. This “Tableau in Steel” was the first in a collection of civic sculptures and was erected in 1992.
Changing seasons, shade and sunlight give the rust-color still life dimension and movement. When you walk around it, the people flatten and meld into each other, then, as you move, light suddenly pours through the spaces and the people seem to separate, the dog pulling away from its master, the farmer striding out to his field, the man with a briefcase breaking out of form.
Even the winter snow can’t freeze this metal band of citizens. At their feet, shadowy gray ribbons stream out across the snow, rushing to Main Street to tell everyone, “Here we are!”