Category Archives: winter

Advent. Compassion. Or, and they will call him Immanuel.

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The day the clocks spring forward and the days begin to grow longer, I rejoice.  My ankle length down coat can be packed away and I am free to revel in the spring, summer and fall.  Falling back, however, is not as easy.  I watch the sun sink behind Brooklyn at 4:30.  I have to wear coats and layers and put away my flip flops.  Curses.  I realized that when daylight savings ends, I begin to wait.  For five long, cold, bundled months.  I am not good at it.

Then I remembered today is the first Sunday of Advent, the season of waiting.   One of the best books I read this year that I did not post about was Compassion by Henri Nouwen.  Since I was thinking about it yesterday, I thought I would pick it back up and see what I underlined and it completely changed how I want to be spending the next four weeks of this season:

The virgin shall conceive and give birth to a son and they will call him Immanuel, which means God-is-with-us. Matthew 1:23  “By calling God Immanuel, we recognize God’s commitment to live in solidarity with us, to share our joys and pains, to defend and protect us, and to suffer all of life with us.”  Nouwen goes on to describe what the definition of compassion means to him: “It is not a bending toward the underprivileged from a privileged position; it is not a reaching out from on high to those who are less fortunate below; it is not a gesture of sympathy or pity for those who fail to make it in the upward pull.  On the contrary, compassion means going directly to those people and places where suffering is most acute and building a home there.”

Now I’m trying to figure out how all of these threads fit together, other than the word and thought association led me from one to the next.  I think it is this: I struggle so much with all that is a mess in the world.  I am constantly waiting to see things change.  But, I do not have to despair.  For this liturgical season of waiting, I want to be filled with this kind of compassion.  I want to remember that it is often in the waiting that we are most changed; that in the waiting is when our cup just might overflow.

Hope is a good thing. Maybe the best of things: a friendly reminder about daylight savings time.

I’ve been planning this post in my head for weeks. Today is one of my favorite days of the year, shared by two of my favorite Springboro alums and two of the maybe five readers of this blog, Kendra and Emily. Today is the day we can legitimately begin to hope.

Winter in general can be depressing: I should know as my college roommate and I diagnosed myself online with Seasonal Affective Disorder back in 2002 (that link is to The Mayo Clinic...see I am not just neurotic. It’s real!) . Winter in New York can be even more depressing: no hill in my non-existent front yard to sled down, walking to work is not only painful (head bowed against the wind, face being whipped, etc.) but it is time consuming (buttoning all of the snaps on my ankle length down coat, putting on and the removing of layers of sweaters, fleeces, scarves, hats, gloves) and generally unattractive (see previous parenthesis). My coat takes up an entire seat wherever I go out and I have to shamefully excuse it as if it were an unruly child or socially awkward friend. Beyond the apparel aspect, the shortening of days that begins when all of the finery of autumn is gone from the trees is heartbreaking. The fact that we gain an hour of sleep when we “fall back” is crap! I’m a teacher and it is still practically dark when *I* leave from school in the dead of winter. But enough of this talk.

Today we may lose one hour of sleep, but what we gain is incomparable! Daylight savings means that we really can say that spring is around the corner and mean it, not the way my mom and I try to say it in the middle of January to make ourselves feel better. Spring! Is! Around! The! Corner! Starting today we can look forward to the fact that THREE GLORIOUS SEASONS IN A ROW are within our reach and that the hopelessness that begins on or around January first is at its farthest for a whole year!!!

It really feels like a figurative new day today: the high is 60. I am planning on going for a run (though let it be known that I have been running in the cold for 2 weeks now). I have the motivation to go to the Farmer’s Market at Prospect Park. I actually would rather go do things with my morning rather than sit around reading news online in my pajamas until 1 pm, followed by sitting around watching quality programming (see last post) until I finally decide I should shower and talk to people. There is fast paced music on in my apartment (Paul Simon! Phil Collins for my brother! ha.) not the melancholy, I-hate-the-winter kind of reflective music I often default to and wallow in. Who cares that on Monday I had my first snow day in 5 years! It’s daylight savings!!

So. Feel free to hope today. Now that the days are getting longer, you can feel justified in your incessant talk of the impending marvelous season. Feel justified in your hope for flip flops and parks. Hope for smiling when you step outside. Hope for sitting outside and enjoying a beverage. Hope for Uncle Louie G’s next door to finally open again for the season and sell me a delicious $2 vanilla chip Italian Ice (or The K, or whoever your local ice cream provider may be.) I can’t contain myself. I may have to add an addendum to this post later today after I let it all sink in that this day has actually arrived. Sigh.

Somehow.

I have turned in my 2nd quarter grade early. Somehow I have all my lesson plans ready through the day before our week-long break. Somehow my “in” tray for papers to grade is empty. Miraculous. So I am writing at 11:22 on a Wednesday.

This post is mostly to share other writers’ words. I am wrapping up a poetry unit with my students and there is something about all of the possibility that lies in poetry and the beauty of revision and experimentation that makes me feel like it’s not winter outside. Or, makes me embrace winter a little better?

The extra credit assignment for kids who want a challenge or are done with their collections early is to write an Ars Poetica, a term coined by Horace in 18 BC. Its hard to name the excitement that runs through me knowing that these conversations have been going on throughout the existence of the written word. The term officially means “the art of poetry” and has come to describe a poem that is about poetry (think metacognition, but for a genre of literature). Here is one that just breaks my heart in the best of ways:

Ars Poetica by Claribel Alegria,
trans. by D. Flakoll

poet by trade,
condemned so many times
to be a crow,
would never change places
with the Venus de Milo:
while she reigns in the Louvre
and dies of boredom
and collects dust
I discover the sun
each morning
and amid valleys
volcanoes
and debris of war
I catch sight of the promised land.

I love the idea of poetry being a means of hope and of capturing and renaming the world and its corners. I keep thinking that if we paid more attention to the corners overlooked and the hands untouched that we could give them life. And their life can bring life to those who live out a cheapened version.