It was a good year

Ocean moon in May

Looking back on my life in 2012 (because, through the miracle of blogging, I can)…

Jan. 2: Eldest daughter levels up

Feb. 9: “Key deer are small, and tame, and cute…” “…they’re really best when served en croute.”

Mar. 11: Riding in a ring, a 50th birthday dream

Apr. 11: A walk through an old quarry

May 6: Super moon! and May 10: The coop is a playhouse and chickens are your (smelly, funny, noisy) dolls. The fresh eggs are your excuse to be playing with dolls… at your age.

June 3: Fun with sparks and June 20: It’s a boy

July 5: Air. Show. and July 23: July by the numbers (including 25th wedding anniversary)

Aug. 11: It’s a tragic fact of life that summer doesn’t last forever and Aug 21: I drink wine and write about it

Sept. 16: The blue ocean beyond the blue door is a volcanic caldera.

Oct. 22: The Daily Egg and Oct. 31: Sandy

Nov. 14: Chickens’ first snow and Dog walk into Hampton marsh

Dec. 14: I’m sad about a dead chicken. Dec. 18: The sunrise has friends.

Chickens on white snow


Chickens in the snow, this morning.

Links I like…

Colossal snowshoe art

“Now emerging in the land of Cotton Mather and Robert Frost are religious cultures marked by immigrant experiences and creative worship, with emphasis on good works and personal holiness. It’s not entirely what stolid New Englanders are used to, but maybe that’s its appeal.” – Who’s filling America’s church pews?

Photos of the world’s oldest living things

“I don’t know (the secret to old age)… Maybe it’s all thanks to the sun above me. I am always looking up towards the sky. That is how I am.” – Japanese man Jiroemon Kimura to become oldest living man ever on record

Snowflakes on black velvet

Hallelujah chorus at Macy’s

Kittens fly in slow motion

We are merry


Christmas card’.

A Christmas Carol
by George Wither

So now is come our joyful feast,
Let every man be jolly;
Each room with ivy leaves is dressed,
And every post with holly.
Though some churls at our mirth repine,
Round your foreheads garlands twine,
Drown sorrow in a cup of wine,
And let us all be merry.

Now all our neighbors’ chimnies smoke,
And Christmas blocks are burning;
Their ovens they with baked meats choke,
And all their spits are turning.
Without the door let sorrow lie,
And if for cold it hap to die,
We’ll bury it in a Christmas pie,
And evermore be merry.

Now every lad is wondrous trim,
And no man minds his labor;
Our lasses have provided them
A bagpipe and a tabor.
Young men and maids, and girls and boys,
Give life to one another’s joys;
And you anon shall by their noise
Perceive that they are merry.

Rank misers now do sparing shun,
Their hall of music soundeth;
And dogs thence with whole shoulders run,
So all things aboundeth.
The country-folk themselves advance,
For crowdy-mutton’s come out of France;
And Jack shall pipe and Jill shall dance,
And all the town be merry.

Ned Swatch hath fetched his bands from pawn,
And all his best apparel;
Brisk Nell hath bought a ruff of lawn
With droppings of the barrel.
And those that hardly all the year
Had bread to eat or rags to wear,
Will have both clothes and dainty fare,
And all the day be merry.

Now poor men to the justices
With capons make their errands;
And if they hap to fail of these,
They plague them with their warrants.
But now they feed them with good cheer,
And what they want they take in beer,
For Christmas comes but once a year,
And then they shall be merry.

Good farmers in the country nurse
The poor, that else were undone;
Some landlords spend their money worse,
On lust and pride at London.
There the roisters they do play,
Drab and dice their land away,
Which may be ours another day;
And therefore let’s be merry.

The client now his suit forbears,
The prisoner’s heart is eased;
The debtor drinks away his cares,
And for the time is pleased.
Though others’ purses be more fat,
Why should we pine or grieve at that;
Hang sorrow, care will kill a cat,
And therefore let’s be merry.

Hark how the wags abroad do call
Each other forth to rambling;
Anon you’ll see them in the hall,
For nuts and apples scrambling;
Hark how the roofs with laughters sound,
Anon they’ll think the house goes round;
For they the cellar’s depths have found,
And there they will be merry.

The wenches with their wassail-bowls
About the streets are singing;
The boys are come to catch the owls,
The wild mare in is bringing.
Our kitchen boy hath broke his box,
And to the dealing of the ox
Our honest neighbors come by flocks,
And here they will be merry.

Now kings and queens poor sheep-cotes have,
And mate with everybody;
The honest now may play the knave,
And wise men play at noddy.
Some youths will now a mumming go,
Some others play at rowland-hoe,
And twenty other gameboys moe;
Because they will be merry.

Then wherefore in these merry days
Should we, I pray, be duller?
No, let us sing some roundelays
To make our mirth the fuller.
And whilst we thus inspired sing,
Let all the streets with echoes ring;
Woods, and hills, and everything
Bear witness we are merry.


tree angel

by Anne Porter

When snow is shaken
From the balsam trees
And they’re cut down
And brought into our houses

When clustered sparks
Of many-colored fire
Appear at night
In ordinary windows

We hear and sing
The customary carols

They bring us ragged miracles
And hay and candles
And flowering weeds of poetry
That are loved all the more
Because they are so common

But there are carols
That carry phrases
Of the haunting music
Of the other world
A music wild and dangerous
As a prophet’s message

Or the fresh truth of children
Who though they come to us
From our own bodies
Are altogether new
With their small limbs
And birdlike voices

They look at us
With their clear eyes
And ask the piercing questions
God alone can answer.

east sky

There was a rainbow this afternoon after a rough storm, but 20 minutes later this was even better. It was moving just like it looks in this photo, from the east – from the ocean – west over us.

Let’s have some music…

Noel (also spelled Nowell or Noël) (nəʊˈɛl) is an alternative word for Christmas. It first entered the English language in the 14th century. The word comes from Middle English noel, which derives from the Old French word noël and its more common form naël. The English spelling “Noël” is taken directly from modern French, which also derives from the Old French. The ultimate Latin origin is the phrase nātālis (diēs), “(day) of birth”.

Let’s have another…

Seacoast sunrise shared by friends

berman october graham birmbas berman graham february Nick Birmbas

Hampton Union: Friends share sunrise photos in Hampton
by Amy Kane

HAMPTON — It’s early morning in a cozy coffee shop across the street from the beach when the man working behind the counter grabs his iPhone and heads for the front door. “Sorry. I’ll just be a minute,” he tells a customer.

But the customer is a regular and knows what this is about. Besides, he can see it too, through the floor-to-ceiling windows facing out on the Atlantic Ocean. It’s the sunrise.

Moments later, thanks to Nick Birmbas, owner of Jumpin’ Jacks Java at Hampton Beach, that sunrise — a flaming orange ball emerging from a silvery ocean, with rays rocketing through a bank of purple clouds — is on Facebook. People are following the sunrise. People like the sunrise. The sunrise has friends.

“Amazing,” types Birmbas, captioning the photo that captured a common but special moment. “Wish you were here.”

Birmbas created the page to promote his business. But after he opened the second Jumpin’ Jacks at the beach (the original is a drive-thru on Route 1), he witnessed the daily beauty of the sunrise while baking muffins and brewing coffee and he began taking pictures. For a couple of years, the social media site meant to sell lattes and breakfast sandwiches has been filling up instead with the dawn. And people love it.

“I just thought, wow, this is beautiful. I want to share it,” says Birmbas. “And now if I don’t post, people say, ‘Hey, where are our pictures?'”

Birmbas has pleased customers and made friends, like fellow sunrise watchers and hobby photographers Lisa Berman and Jacqui Graham.

Lisa Berman is an intensive care coordinator working with at-risk children. Two years ago she was working two jobs 60 hours a week while being a mom to three school-age children when she began to seek solace in solo trips to watch the sun rise over the ocean on Saturday mornings. Self care, and “me” time, is what she called it. But one thing that kept her going was the gratitude she received when she shared her photos freely with others. It wasn’t a New Year’s Resolution, but it became something she pursued with resolve.

“New day, new hope,” she says. “I can’t imagine not doing this now.” Photos from Lisa Berman’s weekly trips are available on her public Facebook page called “Saturday’s Sunrise.” She has photographed as far north as Odiorne Point but generally visits familiar spots like North Beach, Hampton Beach and Plaice Cove. Her husband joins her now; they stop for coffee afterwards.

Last year, Lisa Berman gave Nick Birmbas a calendar of her photos. He displayed it all year in the shop and customers paged through it while they waited for their bagels to toast. For 2013, Birmbas asked her to make more calendars to sell in the coffee shop and she did.

Jacqui Graham, whose sunrise photos are now on display and available for purchase at Jumpin’ Jacks, has not missed a single dawn at the beach in two and a half years. Some days are better than others, but on rainy or gray days she still takes photos… of moody skies, salt-misted rocks, a gull silhouetted against the surf or a single flip flop in the sand.

Each morning, she shares a series of photos with friends on Facebook.

“It has become a commitment, one that I enjoy. It’s a way of connecting with people, and it sets the tone of the day,” says Graham.

“I see Jacqui’s sunrise shots each morning, and they always remind me that we live in a beautiful place, with beauty everywhere,” says Christine Singleton, of Hampton. “She is amazingly upbeat and not only a great photographer, but an inspiring person as well.”

Each day, Jacqui Graham chooses one photo to feature with a quote or reflection. In recent weeks, many have touched on themes of Advent — of waiting, hope, struggle and discovery. Graham has a background in youth and campus ministry. She completed a master’s degree in religious education at Boston College in 2011. “I like starting the day with a sense of gratitude. You look at the sunrise and how can you not think how fortunate we are to have this new day?” says Graham.

Graham and Berman emphasize that their photos are unedited, straightforward shots, and the colors are real — “what you see is what you get.” They say winter mornings can be especially pretty, with snow on the rocks, or ice crystals glinting in the sand. Vivid colors at dawn can make the photo look tropical, even when it’s 18 degrees out.

In winter, they don’t have to wake up as early. There is more than a two-hour difference from the extremes of one season to the other.

“This time of year I have to wait patiently for sunrise. The day doesn’t begin until I get that sunrise,” says Graham.

“Soon it’s going to turn and the days will start getting longer,” says Berman. “I find that hopeful.”

Peace is what Nick Birmbas has found in his daily moment with the rising sun. He sold the original Jumpin’ Jacks to a friend and business partner, and he recently remarried.

Winter is much quieter at the beach, but even in the crowded season there are calm moments. When Birmbas opens the coffee shop in summer sometimes he sees people across the street sitting in the sand, waiting for the sunrise. “I see them and think: They get it.”

“The best part is, it’s free. God gives it to us,” Birmbas says. “But sometimes we’re too busy to realize.”

Jumpin’ Jacks Java Express Café is at 333 Ocean Blvd., Hampton Beach, and open Wednesday through Sunday 6:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. from Nov. 2 to March 31, and daily in summer from 6:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Want to watch the sun rise?

The ocean is the perfect unobstructed horizon. Rise and set times are available in the Moon & Astronomy section of the Old Farmer’s Almanac Web site at

Dec. 21 is the winter solstice and shortest day of the year, but our “day” (from sunrise to sunset) in the New Hampshire Seacoast is 9 hours and 2 minutes long each day from Dec. 18 to 24. On Dec. 25, the day will be 9 hours and 3 minutes long, with sunrise at 7:12 a.m. and sunset at 4:15 p.m.

Though the days will officially begin to lengthen, the sun will keep rising a bit later in the morning for a time (while the sun begins to set later too) — the latest sunrise at Hampton Beach will be at 7:14 a.m. from Dec. 29 through Jan. 7. At the summer solstice on June 21, 2013 the sun will rise over the ocean at 5:04 a.m. and our day will be 15 hours and 22 minutes long.