Wednesday, January 30, 2013

"I can't help it: it's in my story!"


One of Jonathan's favourite things to watch on DVD is the TV show "Super Why."  It's an excellent children's program that is interactive and educational.

In each episode, Whyatt or one of his friends (Pig, Princess Pea, or Red Riding Hood) faces a problem like "My house is too noisy" or "I'm afraid to go down the big slide."  To solve the problem, they turn into the Super Readers (Super Why, Alpha Pig, Princess Presto, and Wonder Red) and fly into a storybook (usually a fairy tale) to find out how a character solved a similar problem.  Along the way they collect "Super Letters" which they put together to make the "Super Story Answer" to the problem.  They also spell and rhyme words along the way.  So it's a good way for kids to learn about letters and words.  It also includes numerous references to the word "super," in case you hadn't noticed.

At one point in each episode, the Super Readers encounter something in the storybook tale which may prevent them from reaching their goal.  For instance, one of the friends is reluctant to play a game she's never played before, so they go into the Sleeping Beauty story and find Beauty sleeping and refusing to do anything else.  They encourage her not to spend all her time sleeping, but she replies, "I can't help it:  it's in my story."  And there at the bottom of the screen is a sentence:  "SLEEPING BEAUTY LOVES TO SLEEP."  But does this deter the Super Readers?  No!  Super Why announces that he can change the story and save the day.  He zaps the word "sleep" out of the sentence, then brings up three new words like "nap," "play soccer," and "yawn," and asks the viewer to choose a word that might help Sleeping Beauty try new things.  When the viewer chooses "play soccer," Super Why zaps it into the sentence, and Sleeping Beauty jumps up and starts to play soccer enthusiastically.

I enjoy watching this show with Jonathan because it has nice animation, it's amusing, and it teaches kids good literary concepts.  But I also think it's kind of like life!  Often we limit ourselves because we assume that we can't change our situation or that who we are totally determines what we do or become:  we think, "I'm an introvert; I can't lead a group!  I failed; I can't possibly make up for that."  Or we keep on doing things the same old way without admitting they're not working for us, or we blame other people, or fate, or circumstances, for how our lives have turned out.  In other words:  "I can't help it:  it's in my story."

But I don't think that's really true.  I love movies in which people undergo a radical transformation -- like Seven Years in Tibet, in which the main character is forced to admit that the things he's relied on (good looks, independence, achievements) have zero value in the community where he now lives.  Or About a Boy, where the main character, a wealthy single guy for whom "shallow" is a way of life, meets a needy young boy and realizes his own life lacks meaning.  And of course (though this isn't a movie as far as I know) there's Paul in the Bible, who is going about what he thinks is important religious work; Jesus knocks him to the ground, zaps "religious fanatic" out of his story, and zaps "Jesus-follower" in its place. Talk about a Super Story Answer! 

Not all changes are that dramatic, and I know these are all cases in which a person didn't even acknowledge that he needed to change until the reality hit him in the face.  But even simple things like a kids' TV show can prompt us to think about what we wish was different about our lives.  That doesn't have to mean discouragement or resignation, though:  we can ask ourselves if there's something we need to do to make that change, and we can recognize what's beyond our power (though not God's) to do and ask for His help.

Monday, January 28, 2013

"My PAL owned a GNU" -- word-y fun continues


To continue with the Literacy theme of my last post:  the other fun thing we do with words in our house is to play a game that Allison and I invented when she was little.  It's called "The Three-Letter Game."

This game is best played with two or three people.  We use the Scrabble Junior tiles, which have no point values on them.  The first person picks three letters.  If your letters can make a word, and you want to make that word, then you make it and set it aside.  Then the next person picks three letters, and you just continue doing that in turn.  Your words must be three letters long or more.  Names are only allowed if they are also words, like SUE or ROD.  Once you have made a word, you can't rearrange its letters, though you can add to it:  e.g. you could make PAN into SPAN or PANG.  In a two-person game you will probably end up with 12-15 words; in a three-person game, 8-10. 

But now comes the really fun part of the game:  you have to tell a story with your words.  So that can affect what words you choose to make:  for instance, ONE is a lot easier to use in a story than EON.  Here's a brief sample of what someone might come up with:

"ROD and EVE left their cul-de-SAC and went to the KEG on ELM Street.  They ordered ginger ALE and scrambled OVA.  But the waiter, who had a ZIT on his chin, ERRed and brought them corn on the COB instead.  Eve began to CRY-- and Rod, who had an enormous EGO, was filled with IRE.  He got in a fight with the waiter, but the waiter had rock-hard ABS and won the fight.  Rod made a VOW he would never go to the Keg again.  The END."

Sounds pretty simple, right?   But when you're reaching the end of a story about an Olympic figure-skater, and the only words you have left are COG and ARK, that's where the creativity -- and the gales of laughter -- really kick in.

Only six people in the world have ever played this game.  Allison is shy about sharing it with others because she worries that they won't like it.  But the people who try it do like it!

What's your favourite word game?

Saturday, January 26, 2013

"I ate those brussels sprouts against my will" - and other word-y f un





Next week being Literacy Week, I thought I'd share what I think is the most fun thing we do with words in our house.

You know how some words are also names?

Well, it all started when one of us made some innocent comment like, "Isn't this a nice book mark?"

And another person said, "It's Richard, actually."  [In other words, not Mark.]

Or "We'll have to fix that curtain rod."

"It's Jeannie, actually."  [Not Rod.  You get the idea.]

Richard, Allison, and I now do this several times a day -- though usually not between bedtime and dawn.

Just see how many times you find yourself using a word at the end of a sentence that could also be a name.

"My pants are tight:  I think I should eat less."
"I'm sorry:  your argument doesn't convince."
"Do you know the Muffin Man who lives on Drury Lane?"
"Let's go on a picnic." 
"I can't wait for the next season of Downton Abbey."
"The movie is now out on Blu-Ray."
"That plane is headed for a crash landin'."
and so on ....

Feel free to add one of your own -- just don't repeat.  And of course, stop anytime when you've had your fill.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

I see your true colours ...



They say that everyone needs to find their passion -- to "follow their bliss."

Well, Jonathan's passion is "Yellow-Blue-Red." He discovered this amazing apparatus (which I think is more accurately called a "drop shot" or a "three-point unit") at the local schoolyard about four years ago; and now it is one of the great joys of his life.  I think Jonathan truly would do Yellow-Blue-Red all day, every day if he could.  In fact, a couple of years ago when Google Earth photographed his school, there was Jonathan in the background of the picture!

So in an era when the word "sport" conjures up images of Lance Armstrong looking up "cheat" in the dictionary ("lookin' for loopholes," to quote W.C. Fields?), I thought it would be fun to share a few photos of Jonathan engaging in his favourite sport:  one in which there is no cheating and no winning or losing, just lots of fresh air, exercise, turn-taking, and smiles.


(Christmas Day 2012)



(with "Mr. O," his educational assistant)


(with friend Ray:  hey, purple will do in a pinch)

(with Susie and Allison -- because everything's better with friends and family, right?)

(serious fun)


Monday, January 21, 2013

"For you I have prepared this"

Last night we had our New Wineskins group meeting:  that 's our little worship group that gets together once a month to explore a theme by sharing songs, readings from the Bible and elsewhere, personal experiences -- whatever we like.  Our theme last night was "gift," and we had a great evening.  As usual, there was a wide variety of offerings:  readings from Matthew and James, passages from the Narnia chronicles and Lord of the Rings, music from Josh Garrels and the Canadian Tenors, and more.  We had such a rich evening and the topic seemed to yield so many different angles, we've decided to revisit the same theme in February when we meet again.



I read a passage from The Fellowship of the Ring in which all of the members of the Fellowship are given gifts by Queen Galadriel before they leave Lothlorien to continue their difficult journey.  At last she comes to Frodo, who has volunteered to take the Ring to Mount Doom in spite of his fear of what lies ahead:

"And you, Ring-bearer," she said, turning to Frodo.  "I come to  you last who are not last in my thoughts.  For you I have prepared this."  She held up a small crystal phial:  it glittered as she moved it, and rays of white light sprang from her hand. "In this phial," she said, "is caught the light of Earendil's star, set amid the waters of my fountain.  it will shine still brighter when night is about you.  May it be a light to you in dark places, when all other lights go out."

This passage made me think of when I went to the Maritime Writers' Workshop in July of 2010.  The second of the three sessions I attended was "Life Writing," and we spent a fascinating day doing various exercises, alone and with others, to explore how we might write about and from our own lives.  Toward the end of the day the leader, Eve, led us on a guided imagery journey.  These kinds of exercises can sometimes be hokey or even manipulative, but it wasn't that way this time.  She just put on some music and invited us to close our eyes and imagine being taken by magic carpet to a cave on a mountain.  There we would be met by a guide (my imagination obviously has its limits because my guide looked just like Gandalf!) who would present us with a gift.  

In my imaginary journey, the gift I was given was a voice.  It was in the form of a white dove; when I opened my mouth to sing it flew out, and when I wrote it flew out of my pen.  This was and is very meaningful to me for a couple of reasons.  One is that I've always known that God gave me my singing voice both to please Him and to bring joy to myself and others.  The other is that it reinforced for me the importance of my writing (whether it be "just" blog entries, or my stories and poetry, or even my comments on students' essays and replies to their emails) as a way of glorifying God.



As I thought more about this experience and about the Tolkien passage above, I also concluded that God had given me the gift of faith.  To me it's like the light in Galadriel's vial -- strong and sure even in the darkest moments -- and my task, as with all gifts I've been given, is to accept it, enjoy it, and use it.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

nut-free grapes????


Something brought this subject to my mind recently, so I just thought I'd share a few of the amusing things the kids said when they were little.  The funniest conversations with children always make you feel like you're in some kind of parallel universe -- it's a glimpse into a totally different way of seeing the world!

****
I was preparing a snack for Allison (she was about 3) and said to her, "You'll like these grapes because they don't have any seeds."

Her response: "Do they have any nuts or raisins?"

****

Jonathan was an infant, so Allison must have been 4:  Richard was carrying Jonathan around while I was getting supper ready, and he went over and pretended to place Jonathan on Allison's plate.  Allison said, "I don't eat my brother -- or anything else that's fat."

****
I was driving home from picking Jonathan up at nursery school, and I asked him, "What did you have for snack?"

"Apple juice."

"OK, but what did you have to eat?"

"Water."

****

"Stroller" was one of many words Jonathan had trouble pronouncing; he called it "ga-ga" for the longest time.  One day Allison pointed to the stroller and said, "Jonathan, what's that?"

"Black."

"I know it's black, but what is it?"

"White."

****
I was walking Allison to school one cold winter day when she was 5 or 6, and I commented that we could see our breath. She said, "It's so cold the words come out of my mouth twice!" (i.e. first the words then the vapour)

****



Tuesday, January 15, 2013

What's in a name?

My name is Jean.  I was named after my Aunt Jean (Dad's sister) and my Great-Aunt Jean (Grandpa MacEachern's sister).
I usually go by Jeannie.
Jean is actually my second name, so doctors' offices and banks often address me as Helen.
One of my brothers calls me Pig.  (You know who you are, Dog.)
Some close friends call me Beaneroo.  (You know who you are, too.)
When I was little, one of my nicknames was "Janie Daley."  (I don't know why:  Mom, help me here!)
I am now often called Mom, Mommy, or Mom.Mom.Mom.Mom.Mom.....

But yesterday Jonathan gave me a new name I'm quite proud of.  I was helping him get ready to go out and he said, "Mom-a-mazing."

I like it!  I think it might stick.

Friday, January 11, 2013

school roller-coaster

There's no school today ... no wait, this just in ....

After the Ontario government created Bill 115, which would allow the government to take away (among other things) teachers' right to strike, local elementary teachers staged a one-day walkout on December 20.

Over the holidays, the government imposed contracts on all teachers' unions -- then said, in effect, "Once we've used Bill 115 the way we want to, we'll repeal it."  Seems pretty cynical.  The elementary teachers' federation planned another one-day protest for today, so as of Wednesday there was to be no school for elementary kids today.  But the government went to the Ontario Labour Board yesterday and was able to get a ruling that the protest would be an illegal strike -- so the union withdrew its plan to strike and instructed its members to show up for work today.

All that to say ... first Jonathan was supposed to have school today, then he wasn't ... now school is on.  I'm glad he has school today.  The structure is good for him, and after a long holiday of loose ends, going to school today is the best thing for him.  Yet I feel very frustrated with how this has all been handled.  Back in 1997 when the Conservative government was at loggerheads with teachers, now-Premier McGuinty said he was on the teachers' side -- that even if the strike they were planning was an illegal one, he supported them.  Now ... I guess he feels differently.

Politics is a discouraging game, and it's awfully easy to become cynical about it.  But education is important and I certainly have not become cynical about that yet.  When I think about the support, encouragement, and partnership we've experienced with both our kids, in the public school in particular, I'm very thankful.  From the moment I walked into Rideau in 2007 to discuss Jonathan's registration and talk about his special needs, we've received nothing but positive, helpful responses.  And Allison currently has 3 encouraging high-school teachers, a special-ed teacher who looks out for and communicates with her, and an autism support teacher who meets with her weekly to help her build social and communication skills. 

So in this teacher-government conflict I have to support the teachers of Ontario.  They have a very important and challenging job, and the ones we've encountered do it really well.

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

my Top Five Books ... ever




I've read quite a few "best-of" lists this past week or so:  someone's best books of 2012, top goals for 2013, etc.  A conversation with an online friend led me to think about what would be my top five books (i.e. novels) of all time.  It was interesting to determine what criteria a book would need to fulfill to make this very short list.  For me those criteria would be (1) re-readability and the sense of discovering something new each time the book is read, (2) emotional impact, and (3) just an excellent story and characters.  

Here follows my list.  (The book I list as #1 is my top book of all time, but the others I've just listed in random order because I couldn't quite rank them as easily.)

1.  Little Women (Louisa May Alcott).  I got this book for my birthday when I was ten, and I still have that same purple hard-covered edition (mine is much more battered than the one in the picture above!).  I pull it out every few years to re-read it.  For me, Little Women is timeless.  When I was ten, I loved reading about the March sisters' various escapades and foibles, though I didn't really understand some of the more mature parts (such as Amy writing her will and Meg being chagrined by attending a ball).  Later as a teen I enjoyed the romantic aspects, and had a lot of trouble accepting that Laurie and Jo wouldn't get together!  

Now as an adult I really appreciate the spiritual foundation of the book.  Each sister has to face her personal flaw or temptation and deal with it, and the mentoring and prayers of the March parents are instrumental in helping the girls grow and mature.  I remember watching the movie version with Susan Sarandon as Marmee:  the movie's feminist emphasis on personal independence just didn't seem to square with Alcott's vision of life as a Pilgrim's-Progress-like journey in which faith and prayer are essential ingredients.  This very aspect probably makes the book very dated to many modern readers, but for me it's a big part of why I find it so re-readable and why I'm always touched by it when I read it.

2. The House of Mirth (Edith Wharton).  This novel tells the heartbreaking story of Lily Bart, who wants to marry a wealthy man and live a life of luxury -- but because of a combination of circumstances and her own actions, she watches these dreams slip away.  I think I like this book so much because Lily is such a fascinating character.  She is beautiful.  She is naive and worldly, selfish and kind, all at the same time.  She deludes herself many times, yet clear self-knowledge is what prevents her from doing things that might bring her closer to her goals but that she knows in her heart are wrong.  As a reader I can't help but sympathize with Lily even as I wish she would find a way to break free from the social web she is tangled in.  Wharton is such a wonderful writer.  She won the Pulitzer for Age of Innocence, but I think Lily's life of loneliness and yearning is much more interesting than the romance of Newland and Ellen in A of I.

3.  Rebecca (Daphne du Maurier).  I read this book every couple of years and I'm always amazed at how great it is.  The youthful unnamed narrator, who marries a mysterious older widower and goes to live with him at his estate, is obsessed with the belief that her new husband still loves and misses his beautiful first wife.  The young wife's insecurity and anxiety are painful to observe, but when the truth about her husband's first marriage comes to light, she is forced to grow up and confront the realities before her.  The last quarter of the book is brilliant:  so slow and suspenseful that it's as if you're inside the narrator's head, experiencing her dread and fear right along with her.  And the ending -- just when you think everything's been solved -- is stunning.  Most mysteries lose their impact after one read; after all, you've figured everything out, so why would you read it again?  But du Maurier's depiction of the narrator's inner life -- which, I suppose, is what makes it so much more than "just" a mystery -- is so fascinating and moving that this book is, to me, worth many revisits.

4.  Lord of the Rings trilogy (J.R.R. Tolkien).  I think I could read this book a dozen times and still not begin to understand all of it.  Tolkien creates the world of Middle-Earth, with its many different races and their histories, in such minute detail that it becomes a complete world unto itself.  But for me it's primarily the story line that puts this book in my top five:  the quest that Frodo, accompanied by his faithful friend Sam, undertakes in order to bring the Ring to Mount Doom and destroy it.  The interplay between the individual story of Frodo and the other hobbits, and the big story of the battle between good and evil forces, is so compelling.  Ultimately this book suggests that what happens on the individual level not only affects the bigger picture, but actually IS the main story.  This book also contains one of my life quotations:  "Such is oft the course of deeds that move the wheels of the world: small hands do them because they must, while the eyes of the great are elsewhere.”

5.  Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (J.K. Rowling).  This seventh and final book in the Harry Potter series is exceptional.  Not only does it masterfully tie together dozens (hundreds?) of plot loose-ends, it makes some powerful statements about evil vs. good, life vs. death, friendship, and sacrifice.  It also contains many beautiful, touching passages, like this one when Harry goes to his parents' grave and reads "The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death" on their gravestone:

But they were not living, thought Harry; they were gone.  The empty words could not disguise the fact that his parents' mouldering remains lay beneath snow and stone, indifferent, unknowing.  And tears came before he could stop them, boiling but then instantly freezing on his face, and what was the point in wiping them off, or pretending?  He let them fall, his lips pressed hard together, looking down at the thick snow hiding from his eyes the place where the last of Lily and James lay, bones now, surely, or dust, not knowing or caring that their living son stood so near, his heart still beating, alive because of their sacrifice and close to wishing, at this moment, that he was sleeping under the snow with them.

I also think the scene with Harry and Dumbledore in King's Cross Station, before Harry decides to go back to Hogwarts and defeat Voldemort, is one of the most powerful I've ever read.  Dumbledore tells Harry,

"You are the true master of death, because the true master does not seek to run away from Death.  He accepts that he must die, and understands that there are far, far worse things in the living world than dying."..... "Do not pity the dead, Harry.  Pity the living, and, above all, those who live without love."

***

Well, those are my top five books.  Some others that I considered are:

- The Remains of the Day (Kazuo Ishiguro)
- A Wizard of Earthsea (Ursula LeGuin)
- Sophie's Choice (William Styron)
- Jane Eyre (Charlotte Bronte)
- Emma (Jane Austen)
- The Chronicles of Narnia (C.S. Lewis)
- Gone With the Wind (Margaret Mitchell)
- A Prayer for Owen Meany (John Irving)

All great books, but when I ask what five books would I keep if I were only allowed that many, these five stand up to the test.

What are your top books?

Monday, January 07, 2013

a visit to Narnia with "Classical Quest"

Today I'm very honoured to appear as a guest blogger at Classical Quest, the blog of my new online friend Adriana.  (We "met" at Tim Fall's blog where we both read and comment regularly.)  Adriana has taken my poem "The Choice," which I posted here on my own blog this past Friday, and interspersed it with her own beautiful photographs of a walk through a Narnia-like winter landscape.

Adriana's Classical Quest blog has many fascinating posts on her reading of, and thoughts about, the classics of literature, religion, philosophy, etc., as well as many more great photos.  I hope you'll linger there and check them out.  (Studies show that just reading her blog makes a person 5% smarter; I'm living pruf.)  Now go visit "Classical Quest" here!




Sunday, January 06, 2013

Epiphany

This is one Christmas song I didn't include in my Advent carol series -- but when I got together with my friend Lori before Christmas for our annual caroling "date," we commented on how beautiful and prayerful the words of this song are.  So, since today is Epiphany, in which Western Christianity traditionally celebrates the Magi's visit to see the young Christ Child, I thought I'd share it here. 



As with gladness men of old did the guiding star behold,

As with joy they hailed its light, leading onward, beaming bright,

So, most gracious Lord, may we evermore be led to Thee.



As with joyful steps they sped to that lowly manger bed,

There to bend the knee before Him Whom Heaven and earth adore,

So may we with willing feet ever seek Thy mercy seat.



As they offered gifts most rare at that manger rude and bare,

So may we, with holy joy, pure and free from sin’s alloy,

All our costliest treasures bring, Christ, to Thee, our heavenly King.



I think there are more verses than these, but I like these the best because they compare us to the Wise Men:  just as the Magi followed the star, bowed before Jesus, and offered Him their gifts, so should we follow Jesus, worship Him, and give Him all we have to give.

Friday, January 04, 2013

Is there a Procrastinator of the Year Award? No, but I might get around to inventing one someday ...

Disclaimer:  this post contains nothing profound or inspirational, unless you find "Don't be like me!" profound and inspirational.


Today I set up my wireless printer.  I got it aligned, installed it on my laptop and Allison's laptop, and tested it out; it works great.  It really wasn't that hard.  I'm so proud of myself.

... Except ... I bought this printer in (gulp) APRIL!!!!  Why did I procrastinate so long in setting it up???  Well, it was probably some irrational reason like these (see rational response in parentheses).

- The box looks large and intimidating.  ("The box IS large.  It takes up a lot of space on the dining room floor.  Get the printer set up, and you can get rid of the box!")

- I have to set aside a couple of hours to do it ; what if I'm interrupted in the middle of the process?  ("Well ... the printer probably won't think, 'Harrumph, stood up again -- I'm outa here!' Chances are it will still be there when you come back.")

- Maybe I'll do it wrong.  ("If you follow the step-by-step instructions you probably won't, and if you do, you can probably find a solution online.")

- Aw, for now I'll just use the old printer -- that only means I have to send myself an email with an attachment and open the email and attachment on the desktop computer, which is way slower than my laptop.  ("As Avril Lavigne just sang on the radio, Why'd ya have to go and make things so complic8ed?")

I guess it doesn't matter what my reason was.  The point is, it's set up now, and I feel this overwhelming desire to print a document!

Nah, maybe later.

Thursday, January 03, 2013

The Choice

A comment made on yesterday's post by my new blogosphere friend Adriana (check out her blog here:  Classical Quest) , regarding a winter scene reminding her of Narnia, got me thinking about a poem I wrote a couple of years ago.   I talked to a professional poetry editor about this poem and she was not enthusiastic.  But I enjoyed writing it, and I still enjoy reading it.  So while this poem may not be publishable elsewhere, it seems to fit in here, and now. 

Contrary to what you might assume, this poem was NOT inspired by Robert Frost.  It was inspired by a photo that the local TV station showed in their "weather wallpaper" segment (in which viewers send in photos they've taken).  This isn't the picture, but it gives the idea.




The Choice

I stood before the path into the woods.
Its Narnian whiteness beckoned to me, yet
being loath to spoil the smooth expanse of snow
and knowing night was falling dark and fast,
I turned and said, “Another day will do.”

A small decision, hardly thought of till
an early thaw comes, and the snowy trails
turn muddy brown – and I, with wistfulness,
recall that hushed midwinter moment when
I stood before the path into the woods.

I see it still: the long inverted V
of that straight road into the forest deep,
the fenceposts frosted thick with powdered snow.
Bewitching promise of an unwalked trail!
Its Narnian whiteness beckons to me yet.

In retrospect my reasons seem so slight:
excuses not to dare.  Had evening come,
my footprints would have easily led me back
(assuming I had wanted to return).
Being loath to spoil the smooth expanse of snow?

That now seems an especially foolish thought.
Surely the fresh and untouched path desired
that some exploring foot, some questing heart,
would break the surface, plunging forth with joy.
Now, knowing night is falling dark and fast,

I vow to take the path.  So what if that
was this year’s final snowfall?  Then I’ll wait
till winter comes again and draws me in
to that charmed world.  I’ll go, brave-souled and glad,
not turn and say, “Another day will do.”

c Jeannie Prinsen 2011
please do not share or reproduce without author permission

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

into the winter world



After Advent and Christmas I thought it was time to change my blog background.  I loved that dark red with the candle, but it didn't seem well suited to the post-Christmas period, so I settled on this snow background, which is perfect given all the snow we've had since last week.

I know this is a cliche (one that those people who flock to Florida for any/all of the winter probably just laugh at) -- but it really is nice to live in a place that has four distinct seasons.  I love the promise of spring, the long days of summer, the colourful beauty of fall, and the crispness of winter.  But lately winter has been the wimpiest of the seasons:  last year we had very little snow (although, when we say "Basically we had no winter last year," Allison reminds us that there were three days that the school buses didn't run, which is a good point).

But this winter, before December was even over, we had a huge dumping of the White Stuff.  It's so beautiful!  Today Allison and I took a walk to Tim's.  Although in some places the sidewalk plowing was hit-or-miss (which doesn't bother me as much as it used to when I pushed a stroller), the cold wind and bright sunshine were bracing and exhilarating.  Like another cliche says:  there's no bad weather, only inappropriate clothing.

I know winter can be a season of dread for some people.  It can be confining for those who have trouble getting around, depressing for those who need more light and warmth, and stressful for those who have to do a lot of driving in less-than-ideal conditions.  But it's a beautiful season too.  In his book Let Your Life Speak, Parker Palmer has a chapter on the seasons as metaphor for life's changes, and he writes this about winter:

"In the Upper Midwest, newcomers often receive a classic piece of wintertime advice:  'The winters will drive you crazy until you learn to get out into them.'  Here people spend good money on warm clothing so that they can get outdoors and avoid the 'cabin fever' that comes from huddling fearfully by the fire during the hard-frozen months.  If you live here long, you learn that a daily walk into the winter world will fortify the spirit by taking you boldly to the very heart of the season you fear.

Our inward winters take many forms -- failure, betrayal, depression, death.  But every one of them, in my experience, yields to the same advice:  'The winters will drive you crazy until you learn to get out into them.'  Until we enter boldly into the fears we most want to avoid, those fears will dominate our lives.  But when we walk directly into them -- protected from frostbite by the warm garb of friendship or inner discipline or spiritual guidance -- we can learn what they have to teach us.  Then we discover once again that the cycle of the seasons is trustworthy and life-giving, even in the most dismaying season of all."


Tuesday, January 01, 2013

the gate of the year


I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year: “Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.”

And he replied:  “Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the Hand of God. That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way.”



So I went forth, and finding the Hand of God, trod gladly into the night. And He led me towards the hills and the breaking of day in the lone East.