Dear Friends & Family,

Once again it’s time for my annual year in retrospective or the “all about me” letter. I do live alone after all…except for my cat, Morris and all the wildlife that come to visit. If you’re reading this online, you will find clickable links (underlined) to photos (lots of them) and a few videos. If not online, you won’t see the photos or videos and, consequently, will miss the best part! Best get thee to a computer (or iPad or iPhone) and visit my web site at http://saxchick.net. Just click on the Holiday Newsletter graphic. It will remain online until next December, when it will be replaced with a new holiday letter.

This has been quite a year for us all due to the COVID19 pandemic, compounded by nationwide protests and rioting! I know many people struggled with the “stay at home” orders and social isolation but it was not a big stretch for me. It was a rather convenient excuse to justify my being reclusive and working on projects at home. It seems this letter will be as much an accounting of things missed this year as much as things accomplished and experienced!

I completed a record 14 carpet murals this year while confined to my lair!  I usually complete one or two in a year, if any.  Here’s the list from January through December: “Octavian’s Realm” (a boyfriend for Octavia, last year’s carpet octopus), “Forbidden Fruit”, a series of the four seasons (“Harbingers of Spring”, “Anatomy of a Garden”, “Autumn Splendor”, and “Winter in Wisconsin”),”Blue Note” (for a music store in Platteville), “Wild Hills Winery” (for a local winery), two saxophone murals and two clarinet murals, “Lean on Me” (a commissioned piece for a fine tubist and his flutist wife), and the grand finale - “The Chase is On!” (a coronavirus commemorative). I actually have #15 ready to begin...but I am resisting because I need to tend to all the househld tasks I’ve been ignoring while making carpet murals!

In February I coordinated efforts to enter our community in the HGTV Hometown Takeover contest, The selected towns will receive a makeover and be featured in a new TV series. About 300 community members gathered downtown (on what, to our good fortune, was a beautiful sunny day) for a photo shoot to begin our video submission. It included interviews with residents and highlights of Richland Center’s rich architectural history along with some areas in need of TLC. We didn’t win but we did generate some great community spirit and participation! I’m not sure what happened to the Hometown Takeover series. I suspect HGTV’s plans were delayed by the pandemic.

On March 12 a small group of “old broads” (apologies to the younger ones) from RC attended the “Wicked” musical at the Overture Center in Madison. I am so glad I did; It was fantastic in every way! Performers both on stage and in the pit orchestra were top-notch! These days you never know if you’ll even hear a live pit orchestra. This one was enhanced by principal wind players from the Madison Symphony Orchestra and they really shone! The next day all Overture Center events were cancelled for the next month as a precautionary measure to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus. As time went on all events were cancelled until further notice.

The entire 2020 season of plays at American Players Theatre was cancelled due to the COVID19 pandemic so I missed my usual summer and fall of cultural entertainment. The remainder of the Madison Symphony Orchestra 2019-2020 season was cancelled, along with the remaining operas. I was left to my own devices to create music and art! Of course, I also missed my dear friends who would have attended those events with me.

All Wisconsin schools were ordered closed mid-March. All further music festivals were cancelled. Our campus/community musical was cancelled. Greedy hoarders bought all the toilet paper at Walmart! You all know the story.

Private lessons came to an abrupt halt with the “stay-at-home” order. I have continued lessons via Facebook Messenger with a few dedicated students. It has actually worked quite well but I do miss the face-to-face contact. Students and teachers everywhere, of course, have had to make major adjustments to accommodate this virus!  We are making the best of it.

Our saxophone quartet, Burlap Sax, has had a long hiatus this year due to pandemic restrictions and precautions.  We have not met since February, when we recorded background music for the Hometown video. I have missed our sessions greatly, along with all other live rehearsals and performances that have been cancelled.  I have been participating in a local college campus project to “assemble” Milhaud’s “Suite Francaise” for wind band. Each of us records our individual parts and sends them to the music director to be combined into the final performance. It is been somewhat of a technological challenge for me, but satisfying once completed successfully.

Many beautiful birds stopped by the feeders this year: lots of Baltimore orioles. red-bellied woodpeckers, rose-breasted grosbeaks, goldfinches, chickadees, nuthatches, tufted titmice, cardinals, blue jays, a few yellow-bellied sapsuckers, and one each of a scarlet tanager and an indigo bunting (no photos to prove that last one). I always enjoy seeing them - mostly through my kitchen window, though, for all the seed and suet they consume, they are not very willing to pose for me!

I did plant a garden in May...even though I saw deer in it even before I planted anything! Of course, I couldn’t wait until after all the forecasted frosts so I planted it too early, and then had to cover everything for several nights to keep from losing what I planted. My garden looked like a carnival for a few days! I had to be vigilant all summer long to protect its bounty from invaders. I had already constructed a lot of wire cages to deter the rabbits but had to add netting over the beans to keep the deer from ravaging them. Despite my clay soil and less than attentive gardening efforts, I have a freezer full of produce harvested from my little weed patch.

My many fruit trees were productive this year, especially the apples. I gave most of the bounty to friends – human and deer. It’s a lot of work to process apples, peaches, and plums…and I have become kind of lazy about that. I do eat a lot of fruit fresh off the trees. There are many beautiful trees here: fruit, ornamental, hardwood, and pines. I feel at home surrounded by them…and the beautiful Southwestern Wisconsin skies and landscapes.

It wouldn’t be winter in Wisconsin without some spectacular snowfalls…so here are a few highlights of the big snow and a recent light snowfall. I felt sorry for the deer on the coldest of days…so I provided a few treats for them. They repaid me by coming to get them so I could enjoy their visits (and take their pictures). In warmer weather I was treated with the sight of newborn fawns!

As always, I wish each of you a holiday season filled with people who appreciate and adore you, music that stirs your soul, pets that love you unconditionally, food that’s worth the calories, health good enough to enjoy it all…and a hefty dose of holiday humor!


Carol Kramer & Morris