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Christmas Letter 2009

December 12, 2009

Merry Christmas from Marion Station, a town halfway between Norfolk and Annapolis that was once famous for strawberries and is now known as the hometown of Miss Maryland 2009. Who knew?

All is well here at our house, though this was hard year for Dan. He was injured on that job in Kansas last December. He’s been recuperating and receiving treatment for the last year. He will likely be having back surgery very soon. So Dan has been home every day. Some women would complain, but not me. With Dan home, I never get lonely. He takes great care of the animals. He can always make me laugh no matter how dismal the day. And remarkably, he still acts interested in what I’m saying… even when I babble –chattering like a talking doll with ADHD - on steroids. It’s been a hard year for Dan Burgoyne, coping with physical pain and the inability to do what he wants to do. But he stays cheerful. Hopefully next year, I’ll be writing that he’s feeling better, back at work doing a job he enjoys.

Our children continue to live fast paced lives, managing to struggle through these tough economic times. Harry and Becky are doing well, though Becky has had some health challenges this year. Dan bought Benjamin an inflatable kayak for his 13TH birthday which he seemed to be excited about. Connor is the sweetest young man, very kind, very thoughtful. We reconnected with Kelley this year and met our delightful, newest grandchild – Hannah, who looks remarkably like her mother and her grandpa. Dominic got a new job at a restaurant where he prepares the meal at the table for customers. We can’t wait to see him in action. He’s living in Columbia and still doing some graphic artist work independently. Albert, Ruth and little Bailea live in Georgia where Al is stationed. Bailea loves music, and we love seeing her little angel face in the pictures Al and Ruthie send. Danny and Amber are happy in their mountaintop home – Danny working hard in construction and Amber balancing work, kids and school. Little Daniel (already in first grade) and twins Grace and Mia (who turned 4 this year) continue to enchant us with their magical personalities. Our youngest, Lara will graduate from the University of Maryland next week with a degree in Economics. She and David bought their first home this year in Eldersburg (Carroll County).

All of our family pictures are on my Facebook page, so if you’re not my friend yet, please “friend” me.

The biggest change agent in our 2009 was undoubtedly Facebook… that funny little “social media tool” that reconnects long lost friends and faraway family. It’s the quintessential communication platform for people like me that love to talk. On Facebook I can talk (type) into cyberspace leaving my words to dangle until friends and family log on and snag them, and occasionally comment back. And I never know if they’re bored… which is a good thing. Dan (who does NOT have a Facebook page) calls it “Two-Faced Book” because he says I’m a different person when I’m on there.

On Facebook, information can go viral, spreading from friend to friend to friend. That’s what happened for me this year when my book Haunted Eastern Shore: Ghostly Tales from East of the Chesapeake was released in October. I talked about the book on Facebook and soon had over 1000 people following what I was saying. I kept talking and that number increased to 2000 by the end of the books first month in print. One week later the first printing –expected to last a year - was sold out. Who knew I could generate huge success just through talking? Sister Eileen Patrice (bless her cold little heart) would be shocked! I’ll never forget that comment she wrote on my fifth grade report card hoping to get me to stop talking …. “Her concentration diminishes while her garrulity increases. “ Hmmm, where are you now, Sister? …hopefully in a very quiet part of the heavenly kingdom. Wait ‘til I get there. :) 

In June, I went to Paris and Germany with Dorchester County folks. By the way, anyone who thinks the Parisians are rude to Americans hasn’t been there recently. The tough economic times have brought out the best in everyone – traveler, merchant, and citizen. The Europeans were so hospitable and gracious to us in both countries. My favorite sites on this trip were the Cathedral of Notre Dame and the Köln (Cologne) Cathedral. One could sit for days in and around these two architectural masterpieces and not be able to see everything. The art, surviving the ravages of war … depicting the faith of a people … lingering centuries after the artists and the faithful had departed, was overwhelming. In July, Dan and I took the camper and went to Hartford CT, Maine, and Prince Edward Island. In Hartford, we visited the Mark Twain house, the home where the author lived longest, raised his family and wrote his best works.

After Hartford, we headed for Maine and visited the Burgoyne clan. Each Burgoyne family lives on some share of 200 acres in Carmel, Maine. Dan’s brothers David and Steven built their houses on that land, and the cluster of Burgoynes living there now includes three generations. They are a remarkable testimony to family, passionate about each other and about the charismatic beauty of their North Atlantic landscape. They are poetic, artistic, hard working, intensely funny and loving. A highlight of this visit was getting my “cards” read by young David’s wife, Amy. (Don’t panic, my conservative, Christian friends. Everything went okay and no demons claimed me).

Ten days of camping on Prince Edward Island was fabulous. The island is only about as big as the Delmarva Peninsula, but the difference in the landscape from east to west and north to south is remarkable. Everyone should see PEI before they die. The light houses, the beaches, the small fishing towns, the lobster suppers (lobstah suppahs), the art and crafts, the music, the céilidhs – and the mussels (80% of cultured blue mussels consumed in North America are grown on PEI) all make Prince Edward Island culturally rich and a great vacation destination… (Why do I sound like a travel writer?)

In September Dan and I spent six perfect days in Ireland celebrating our 10th wedding anniversary. We renewed our vows in front of the 13th century Romanesque arch at Clonfert Cathedral, the place where St. Brendan the Navigator started his most famous monastery. I have to admit; I’m still crazy about Dan Burgoyne, and love him 10 times more than I did when I married him in Glenwood Gardens under the oak trees in 1999. Later in the trip, we visited Wicklow where I finally met my Facebook friend Maya Hanley, in person – and where Maya introduced us to the well-known member of the Chieftains, Paddy Moloney whom I was able to interview for the book Thin Places (yes, I’m STILL writing this book and hope to finish before I turn 70). We spent the last days in Dingle and wondered why we don’t live there. I still feel like Dingle isn’t really in this world … we pass through some strange vortex to enter Dingle, and time stands still for the duration of the stay. Magical, mystical things happen to the traveler in Dingle.

Every year I choose a photo for our Christmas card from that year’s vacation photos. But this year Dan and I decided to choose a photo depicting the place most dear to us – home – Maryland … the Eastern Shore. Our climate here is temperate and we rarely get snow, but last March we had a snow storm, and I ran all over Somerset County snapping photos of the landscape. I shot the photo on the front of this year’s card a little after 4:00pm in Frenchtown just after the snow had subsided. The scene was beautiful … very much in character with an Eastern Shore winter. In the summer, the pace here is fast with the activities of the waterman, the seafood processors, the fisherman, the tourists, the boaters, and the festivals. But in the winter, the landscape sleeps, much of the activity quieted down, resting, waiting. It is in the winter landscape that details emerge and appear more prominent. The lone blue heron soaring across the marsh, the hum of the motor of a workboat in the distance, the stray feral cat, the elderly man sitting in the local store, even the sound of the tide lapping up onto the shore – all of these are more pronounced in the uncluttered winter landscape, as if the colors were brighter.

That’s kind of like Christmas … during this season everything seems magnified – love, loneliness, wealth, poverty, health, sickness, togetherness, separation ... everything weighs twice as much at Christmastime. Here’s hoping your burdens are light and your blessings abundant … but if you are feeling down, know that we are praying for you … and that we trust … no - we know, that strain of hardship will lessen for you soon. Love lies close at Christmas, nestled in invisible tabernacles filled by those gone before us, those that know us now, and those we’ve yet to meet. And from those tabernacles, we can draw strength. Even the love of a stranger can be found if we but look around us. And love heals the hurt, eases the suffering, fills the loneliness and can make any burden lighter.

Christmas is a time we remember everything we’ve ever loved, and we especially remember you. We recognize the greatest blessing is people that color our lives... family, friends, work colleagues, acquaintances in the community, people we serve and those that serve us. We wish you happiness and health this season and prosperity for the New Year.

May God bless you and those whom you love.
 

   

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