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Posts Tagged ‘seasons’

purple tulips

Last month, I posted a list of fun ideas to get me through the winter. We’ve had plenty of snow (so much snow) and frigid temps, but I’ve been working on the list anyway. Here’s an update:

  • Fill up the journal I started in early January.* Working on it (though my handwriting is truly atrocious these days).
  • Spend some time at the Harvard Art Museums. I’m going over there once a week, and exploring a new gallery each time.
  • Start hunting for a new pair of red ballet flats.
  • Invite friends over for dinner. We’ve hosted three sets of friends for spinach enchiladas and spicy chicken soup.
  • Spend a long weekend in Nashville with my college roommate and our husbands. We had a fabulous time, though bad weather delayed our flight home.
  • Knit myself something cozy. (I finished that cabled wrap.)
  • Watch some good stories. J and I finished Veronica Mars and are loving Grantchester, and I’m still watching Downton solo. (Also Castle, but I have to admit I am not loving this season.)
  • Read a couple of books for the Modern Mrs Darcy Reading Challenge. I’ve crossed off four categories already: a book I’ve been meaning to read (Beauty: The Invisible Embrace), a book published this year (the newest Flavia de Luce mystery), a book from my childhood (The Long Winter), and a book by a favorite author (Wearing God by Lauren Winner).
  • Drink lots and lots of tea. No sweat. I am on a serious Earl Grey kick.

Things that were not on my list but are happening anyway: lots of snow shoveling; many batches of Molly’s scones; several snow days; all the tulips; and fervent prayers for spring.

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harvard yard snow blue sky

The air bit her cheeks and scorched the inside of her nose with cold. The sky was coldly blue and the whole world was white. Every blade of grass was furry with frost, the path was frosted, the boards of the well were streaked with thick frost, and frost had crept up the walls of the shanty, along the narrow battens that held the black tar-paper on.

Then the sun peeped over the edge of the prairie and the whole world glittered. Every tiniest thing glowed rosy toward the sun and pale blue toward the sky, and all along every blade of grass ran rainbow sparkles.

Laura loved the beautiful world.

—The Long Winter, Laura Ingalls Wilder

I reread this book every winter, when the snow comes and we settle in for the long, hard slog before spring. I love Laura’s stick-to-it pioneer spirit and Pa’s fiddle music, and the depictions of that terrible winter in De Smet remind me that it could always be worse. (Though after three feet of snow in the past week, I am dying for a getaway to somewhere warm – an option the Ingalls family certainly didn’t have.)

This scene comes before the hard winter begins, when Laura goes to draw water from the well on the morning of the first frost. Even though the frost has killed the garden, and Laura knows that prairie winters are long and dark, she can’t help but catch her breath at its beauty.

As I fight my way through the ice and slush over here, I’m taking every glimpse of beauty I can get – including the glint of sunlight on snow. Even though it’s frigid today, scraps of blue sky like the ones above (spotted in Harvard Yard last week) are saving my life.

Like Laura, I love the beautiful world. (Though I’m ready for it to be a little warmer.)

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katie green coat black ink

A couple of years ago, I read Barbara Brown Taylor’s gorgeous book An Altar in the World and was particularly struck by a question in the introduction: What is saving your life now? Since then, I have asked it of myself over and over again, as a kind of reset button for my life and also as a way of giving thanks.

Winter is always a tough season for me, especially in New England where the frigid temps and biting winds make it hard to get through the day sometimes. But this winter, I’ve been employing a few coping mechanisms that are saving my life. (At least until the next blizzard hits.)

yellow tulips desk

I bought myself two bunches of tulips this week: one for the kitchen table, one for my desk at work (above). They make me smile, and they’re having the same effect on my colleagues.

I finally went back to Monday night yoga, after an absence of several months. My favorite instructor’s face lit up when she saw me, and the familiar poses – cat/cow, pigeon, downward facing dog – felt like coming home.

While on the mat, I had a chance to enjoy the bright pink pedicure I got last Saturday. Catching up at the nail salon and then over brunch with my friend Kristin was a real treat – even if it was 16 degrees outside. (Hence another of my little lifesavers: fleece-lined tights.)

In the mornings, before work, I’m flipping on my light box – I’ve started carrying it into the bathroom so I can switch it on the moment I step out of the shower. I move it around the apartment as needed, so I can get as much extra light as possible. That extra hit of light, and my Vitamin D pills, make a real difference on gray days.

I am (it’s no secret) a dedicated tea drinker, and I always go on an Earl Grey kick in the winter. This month, I’m drinking the Earl Grey I bought in Montreal last year, out of my favorite cobalt blue mug, every morning.

I’m wearing cozy cardigans and dresses with my favorite green coat (pictured above), including a few new-to-me pieces culled from my sister’s closet over Christmas. Having a trendy – and generous – sister is such a bonus. (We’ve also been having long conversations via text message about Downton Abbey – she’s been catching up in preparation for the new season.)

Winter can be so isolating, but this year I am making a real effort to schedule coffee dates or excursions like the above brunch-and-pedicure date with Kristin. (It’s also on my winter list to invite people over for dinner – bowls of soup or spicy Mexican food.)

IMG_1521

During the workday, I’m making a real effort to slip away for some chai and writing when things get crazy. Even 20 minutes of scribbling can clear my head and make a real difference in my day.

I’m reading and watching all the good stories I can: Downton, Castle, the brand-new series Grantchester, the newest Flavia de Luce mystery, Lauren Winner’s latest book (out in March).

blue sky bare branches

Finally and always: I am soaking up every bit of blue sky, whenever I can get it – and rejoicing that it’s not quite dark when I leave work now.

What is saving your life this winter?

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stripes tea bare feet red scarf

I love a good list, as you know if you’ve been reading this blog for a while. I’m also battling the winter blues over here (already), so here’s a list of fun ideas to help me get through my least favorite season.

  • Fill up the journal I started earlier this month. (Related: keep writing by hand.)
  • Spend some time at the Harvard Art Museums. They’re finally open again after a multi-year renovation, and my Harvard staff ID means I get in for free.
  • Start hunting for a new pair of red ballet flats. Mine are falling apart, and I know I’ll want some new ones come spring.
  • Invite some friends over for dinner.
  • Spend a long weekend in Nashville with my sweet college roommate and our husbands.
  • Knit myself something cozy. (I’m working on a cabled wrap.)
  • Watch some good stories. (Currently watching new episodes of Downton Abbey and Castle, and season 3 of Veronica Mars.)
  • Read a couple of books for the Modern Mrs Darcy Reading Challenge. (Join us?)
  • Drink lots and lots of tea. (Obviously.)

What’s on your list for this winter?

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katie memorial church green coat harvard yard

My soul magnifies the Lord
My spirit rejoices in God my Savior
My soul magnifies the Lord
My spirit rejoices in God

It is the week before Christmas, that strange in-between time where real life continues even as we hurtle toward festivity. For those of us who travel long distances to celebrate, the holiday is a clear separation from routine, a break made more definite by two thousand miles on an airplane, suitcases stuffed with clothes and presents, then three hundred miles of long, gray Texas highway.

As the calendar ticks closer to our departure date, I’m living two parallel lives: one largely normal week of work and home and daily routine, one week of lists and preparations and giddy anticipation of seeing loved ones I haven’t seen for months, or a year.

Glory be to God the Father
And glory be to God the Son
Glory be to God the Spirit
Glory be to God

This week, I still hit the snooze button in the mornings, throw on my green coat and ride the subway to Harvard Square. I answer emails, wrap up work projects, then walk down to Darwin’s for some chai and breathing space. On Monday afternoon, I sat on the steps of Memorial Church, my back resting against one of its wide wooden columns, letting my brain spin out while I gazed at the deep blue sky.

This week, I am still making soup, eating leftovers, sitting in front of the Christmas tree with a mug of tea in my hands. I’m clinging to my routine, with its built-in space for solitude, because it’s about to be disrupted for two whole weeks. I’m looking forward to the disruption – I’m aching to see my parents and sister, meet my brand-new nephew and hug my friends – but I also know it will be exhausting.

He has been mindful of his servant
He has been mindful of me
I will be blessed forever, forever
I will be blessed by the Lord

The celebrations are rushing by: the office holiday lunch with its Secret Santa exchange, a few last lunches and coffee dates, the church Christmas party. I am making Texas plans: dinner with family friends in Dallas, the Christmas Eve service at my parents’ church, some much-needed time with friends in Abilene. Nephew cuddles, quiet days with our families, and lots and lots of Mexican food.

God alone is mighty, mighty
Our God alone has done great things
God alone is worthy, worthy
Holy is his name

Here, late in Advent, I am humming the Magnificat, a simple four-part a cappella song based on Mary’s hymn of praise in the first chapter of Luke. We’ve been singing it at church lately, the soprano and tenor, bass and alto parts weaving around and over and through one another.

I have heard and sung many choral versions of the Magnificat over the years, but this one is my favorite. My friend Frankie loves it too, and I think of her every time we sing it, her warm alto voice matching mine.

advent scripture wreath church

We are still waiting for Christmas, waiting for Christ to come, amid frightening headlines and soul-weariness and constantly growing to-do lists. But during my long, frenetic workdays, the Magnificat plays steadily in the back of my mind, like a heartbeat. A quiet reminder that, behind everything else, there is this: wonder, humility and praise.

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red door wreath cambridge christmas

I love so many things about this festive season: the traditional decorations and music, the fun of buying gifts for friends and family, the Christmas cards that show up in my mailbox,  the reverent preparation of Advent.

I know Christmas is beset by commercialism these days (the sale emails are piling up in my inbox), but I confess I love a festive shop window (or outdoor display). And the streets of Harvard Square, where I work, are bursting with holiday spirit.

The Brattle Square Florist has piles of fresh-smelling greens, which spill out onto the sidewalk:

brattle square florist christmas reindeer

I love the little birch reindeer.

The barbershop down the street has Linus, Lucy, Frosty the Snowman and the whole gang from the Claymation version of Rudolph. (Yukon Cornelius! Hermey the elf!)

rudolph christmas barbershop cambridge

I spotted this deconstructed reindeer outside a landscaper’s office.

abstract reindeer cambridge christmas

The cupcake shop Sweet has gotten into the spirit:

pink christmas tree sweet cambridge

At Black Ink, the display is subtle but festive. (I could spend hundreds of dollars in here.)

christmas cards window black ink cambridge

And the Anthropologie windows, as always, are sheer magic.

anthropologie christmas window cambridge

What does this season look like in your neighborhood? Any fun window displays?

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brookline advent sunday

On Saturday morning, after Turkeypalooza, J and I went up to the church to decorate for Advent. Our friend Bob had made his annual nursery pilgrimage to pick up the wreaths, pine garland, poinsettias and cyclamen, but it turned out the nursery workers forgot the greenery. So we set out the flowers then, and put the greenery up the next morning, right before service started, as people drank coffee and greeted guests and chased their kids around the back of the church.

I wandered around with flowerpots and a roll of packing tape in my hands, dirt and pine sap on my fingers. We did not start remotely on time (though we never do, if we’re honest). And J was fighting a chest cold as he led singing. But the notes of “O Come O Come Emmanuel” soared through the building, as hopeful and aching as they are every year.

On Monday, I made it to Morning Prayers for the first time in months, slipping into a high-walled box pew in Memorial Church as the choir sang. I recited the Lord’s Prayer with the other congregants, and stumbled through an unfamiliar Advent hymn. As I walked through Harvard Yard on my way to the office, I hummed a different tune: Come, Thou long-expected Jesus, born to set Thy people free…

I’ve pulled out my Advent book, Watch for the Light, for what I think is the 14th year. It is a little battered by now, and I am not making myself read every single word this year. I am dipping in when it suits me, turning to favorite pieces by Henri Nouwen and Kathleen Norris and Gail Godwin, letting their words wake me up, letting them sink in and rest a while.

christmas tree

We’ve put up our tree (above), hung the stockings and mistletoe, bought our annual supply of mint M&Ms, even wrapped a few gifts. But even so, things still feel hopeful, expectant. We are easing into Advent, trying (always trying) to pay attention, to savor a bit of stillness in these days before the exaltation of Christmas.

I am turning to the words of Isaiah and the Gospels, clinging to their promises as to a solid rock in an unsteady world:

The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death, a light has dawned.

My soul magnifies the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.

For unto us a child is born; unto us a son is given. His name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.

For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.

I have heard those words all my life, and I know I still don’t understand their full meaning. But every Advent, I try to slow down a little, and listen.

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