Finally, we've seen the back of Trump -- seems like it took forever -- but have we?
You may not find this terribly rewarding unless you're included here, so this is a good time for casual and random browsers to turn back before they get too caught up in the sweep and majesty of the proceedings and can't let go.
Events of Winter 2020-2021, in the covid season of extremely few events
We've just been informed that it's the Christmas season now, so out comes the traditional presepio or crèche.
A near-Christmas visit in any case: Our cat population has doubled for the next few days -- the Resident Felines, little Choupette and Melvin the Doge, are joined here in Staunton by Choupette's half-siblings presently from Nashville (TN), Wednesday and Pugsley.
It's not clear what they're hoping to accomplish here, but it's better than having them try to walk along the railing.
Pugsley and Wednesday, unsure about why they're here
Wednesday persists; Pugsley hasn't fallen off -- he's just tired of the game and wandered off for a snack.
Their appreciative audience observes from below, while preparing cat snacks.
Choupette is never one to just let her grievances go (wait, that must be Wednesday).
Melvin and Choupette are hanging out downstairs, feigning disinterest.
Augusta Springs Wetlands in the cold
Emily, the visiting cats' 'owner', if that's the right word, is with us for a few days over the holiday.
We know every step of the Augusta Springs Wetlands walk, but perhaps Emily will find it as interesting as we did 150 walks ago.
Out over the marsh, deep in conversation
The pond in the middle of the walk
Frozen over in some parts, no surprises there
In the early-mid 19th century, the springs here were the attraction for a serious spa sort of thing, for health improvements and casual entertainments, frequented by a well-heeled clientele from all over, including Europe, served by a twice weekly stagecoach out from the rail stop in Staunton.
[We've described all that several times before, with a few period photos, and will refrain from repeating all that this time round.]
In any case, that's the main health-bestowing spring.
More cat hijinks
Pugsley preparing to defend the study from the barbarian hordes
Their eyes are gleaming in the dark like just outside your safari tent in the Congo.
Someone overheard squeaks from one of the closets. Oh, it's Choupette.
Melvin remains above it all, and retreats to his favorite refuge.
Much of our party is moving on to northern Virginia for a few days, and preparations are underway.
No cat wants to be left behind, and precautions are also underway.
Pugsley is watchful, but confident.
Now things are becoming serious.
No one has bothered yet to tell them where they're going, because they don't really speak English well, to be honest.
But Melvin thoughfully comes along to wish them bonne route (Melvin is French). He'll be holding the fort for some days with his doting 'owner' and the little Canon PowerShot.
Some closer views of the crèche
Kristin has been collecting these things for quite a few years, first during ten years in Rome and thereafter during many visits.
They're all painted terra cotta figures made by hand in Naples (except for a few crèchy things from elsewhere), and acquired more or less one by one over the years.
The dinosaur on the windowsill's far left is adventitious.
That Peruvian set in the background is not really part of the Neapolitan presepio stuff.
They are amazing little pieces, but it seems to be a dying art, or at least the market for it is.
We visited the Christmas market in Siracusa or Syracuse not many years ago, and the gentlemen who'd traveled over from Naples told us that they'd been selling very few pieces in recent years.
But Kristin did what she could to help them out for that year, anyway.
Pretty astonishing pieces. It's the fear that it's a dying art that moves one to put so many photos up here now. [The best presepio we've seen, probably, is a roomful set up by an obsessive artist, free of charge, in Erice, Sicily, during the same trip.]
But there are birds to be considered, too, especially on the collection of postcards by the worldwide Birds in Art participants in Wausau, Wisconsin, each year.
Another non-Italian crèche display, and a tin of furniture polish
Christmas displays at Staunton's Gypsy Hill Park
Every Christmas in Staunton, local organizations, businesses, churches, and sometimes families put up heartfelt seasonal wishes, frequently along with unsubtle advertisements, beside the 2km ring road round the duck pond, kiddy rail track, and some of the playing fields.
But this is Mr Trump's covid winter and the displays are rather thin upon the ground this year. But we work with what we've got. Here's a quick selection of the sights along the way.
First, obviously, the famous Duck Pond, with ducks
And a plywood lake-serpent, and in fact several geese who seem to have lost their way southward (not shown)
If that thing freezes over, they may be in trouble.
The ducks are freezing, but the mermaid, obviously not.
Maybe they can crowd into those little huts, two or three families into each of them. Poor little things.
This is the little railway for the kids, and 'to honor our military, past ... present ... future' into the bargain. Some of those future military heroes might even be riding on this little train later this year -- not now, though, the awful flood of last summer washed out the foundations of much of the track, as well as all of the little footbridges across the creek through the park.
This is the 'Field of Deer'.
Safely protected from the inevitable vandals within the town's swimming pool security zone.
Residents can if they wish place a decorative deer, some with lights on, in commemoration of departed family members.
A great idea, like so many in this town
Our new friend is nearly imperceptible in this photo (lower right) . . .
. . . but here he (she) is.
Very true, that's 2020 in a single memorable phrase.
The Veggie Tales Nativity
We're wished seasonal JOY by members of the Anglican Church of the Valley (which meets Sundays in the Temple House of Israel). We're schooled -- we thought that American Anglicans were called Episcopalians, but a little research has revealed that the worldwide Anglican community 'excommunicated' the US Epicopalians in 2016 [re: same-sex marriage]. But Anglicans are thriving in West Africa, we've discovered.
A pleasant and welcome invitation -- but with masks on. Socially distanced.
The creek through the Park, which joins the famously flood-prone Lewis Creek underneath the Wharf District carpark in downtown Staunton. Actually, this cute fella destroyed several small businesses on his way downtown in last August's floods.
Wave to Santa, but remain in your vehicles. Like in an African Safari Zoo, with ravenous lions, mischievous macaques, and irritable rhinos.
Another little friend, clearly anxious to make our acquaintance. But we have promises to keep, and about a mile to go before we sleep.
That was fun. Back to our very attractive new (used) Volvo for the 40-second drive home. [Correction: that's our very attractive old (used) Volvo V60. Our new (used) S90 upgrade joined the family two weeks later.]
A few close-ups of the Neapolitan nativity scenes before they're packed away for the next year
A shepherd who's come to adore the Christ child
A final face-off before our feline guests go back to Tennessee
Choupette is clearly the troublemaker here . . .
. . . and the aggressor.
But Choupette has been the first to flee the field.
-- So what's it to you?!
Next up: The Johnson Confederate Breastworks and a walk out the Shenandoah Mountain Trail