Advent calendar #5: Kittens

I mean, like one really needs an excuse to post about cats. Maugre Avenue Q, that’s what the internet is for, right?

I have no idea who these folks are or how they acquired these opinionated kittens, but if I want a dose of cute and/or to make my cat sniff urgently at my computer, this is what I’ve been going to.

Happy Thursday, everyone!

Advent calendar #4

Inevitably, any Advent calendar of mine is going to contain a number of my favorite choir pieces. Here is my favorite Palestrina introit, “I Look From Afar.”

It’s part of the nature of Advent, too, that looking from afar is both looking at the past as from the far future, and looking at the future from an always-incipient present. Like gestalt arrows, it’s both at once: that on-the-cusp feeling belongs so completely to no other time.

A friend once observed of me that I want to “save the world,” and they weren’t wrong. Something in me is a perpetual paladin, and whenever I do something that matters to me, it matters because of that. Advent taps into and intensifies a feeling I have year-round, that there are lots of reasons not to act, not to do a thing — but if you’re going to do it, then do it.

I don’t mean do it perfectly, though. Long ago, a (different) friend was lamenting their depression and how it was causing them to “half-ass” their last semester of school. I said: “Sometimes half an ass is all you have,” and the other person in the chatroom suggested putting that on a cross-stitch sampler. But that’s exactly what I mean. If half an ass is what you have to give to a thing you want to do, then give half an ass.

I try to remind myself of this antidote periodically, because I too fall prey to the feeling that Advent (and Lent, too, often) got started before I was ready and I’m in a futile scramble to catch up. It’s not Fear Of Missing Out, it’s Fear Of Missing In, fear that I will have “had the experience but missed the meaning.”

But Advent is its own antidote. The answer to FOMI is to plant your feet, and your ass — whole or half — and look from afar.

The gestalt has got you.

Advent calendar #3

Good morning!

On today’s little Advent window, I give you a noise generator that I built on the MyNoise site. One of the perks of donating to Dr. Stephane’s site is that you can harvest stems from any of the sound profiles (and there are many!) in the lists, and collate them in a generator of your own. I’ve played with creating themed generators, or particular sounds, or effective white noise for the office, with varying degrees of success. My latest effort was created to evoke the feeling of stirring hands and feet in the bathing warmth of a hot spring: certainly a welcome feeling at this time of year!

So here you go: enjoy Chaleur.

Advent calendar #1, 2

To celebrate this website’s second year, I’m going to do a little Advent calendar of things that give me pleasure and gratitude.

A year ago I started building this website in preparation for launching my first novel in what I hoped and planned to be a series; a year later, I have launched the book, finished an interstitial novella and put it into edits, and started on the second full-length novel which I hope to finish over the course of the next year.

It’s been an intense and busy year on all fronts: but this, I hope, will be a relaxing exercise for me, as sometimes I get hung up on trying to remember what Significant Thing I had planned to blog about some time but didn’t write down. These little Advent windows are not going to be significant of anything in particular. I suppose that’s a measure of what the theme of this year has turned out to be: that even launching a book, significant as that is in my own life, is a granulation of little acts, little pleasures and struggles. And one might as well take note of them and do them justice.

Today is a two-fer, since I didn’t have this idea until last night and did not post anything on December 1. First, for those of you who like this sort of thing: Check out The Advent Project, an annual compendium put together by the staff at Biola University. Every morning there’s a Bible reading, a poem, a piece of art, a piece of music, a collect, and a meditation. Because these things are gathered from all over, many perspectives are represented, which frankly relaxes me because I know I don’t have to like it all. I signed up for this last year, and enjoyed it and the group’s Lent Project enough that I stayed subscribed this year. It adds dimension to my morning ritual of tea on the couch — especially when the mornings are so dark.

For the second — how about something completely different! I’ve already inflicted this vid on my Facebook friends and anybody else I can get to stand still, but it just makes me happy, so on the slate it goes: Pomplamoose doing a mashup cover of the Eurhythmics and the White Stripes.

(If I were going to make an out-verse playlist for my characters, this would totally be one of the songs I picked for Speir.)

You should totally check out the weekly cover vids that Pomplamoose is doing, because this one is not the only awesome one, it’s just my favorite.

And there you have it. Happy new year*!

*Liturgically speaking.

People look east

Stars, keep the watch. When night is dim
One more light the bowl shall brim,
Shining beyond the frosty weather,
Bright as sun and moon together.
People, look east and sing today:
Love, the star, is on the way.

Even though I’ve been blogging on various platforms on and off for close to twenty years, it’s been a while since I made a regular practice of it. After all, it’s not one of those things one has to do. And twenty years ago I had a lot of youthful assumptions about the significance of my chronicles of daily life that I don’t have now. Now, of course, people upload pictures of their meals to Facebook — including me, sometimes — and microblogging is now a thing. Long-form blogging has sort of taken on a sepia tinge.

But now that I have my own space for it, I’m taking it up again. Because it’s not so much the chronicle as the gestalt that seems significant to me now, and the less pixellated the better.

Today is the second Sunday of Advent, a season I have loved since I first came to know it, in part because it speaks to our true condition at this time of year. Advent doesn’t pressure us to be merry. It doesn’t center itself on consumer connectedness, and if it plucks at the elbows of our priorities at all, it is to draw our attention to what’s outside the stream rather than plunge us more deeply in it. For those of us in the northern hemisphere, it gives full weight and acknowledgment to the narrowing range of sunlight as winter solstice approaches. It’s the cool, crisp shadow to the frenetic joy of the holiday season.

Every people who experiences this contraction of daylight has a tradition like Advent, that braids together a thrumming sense of anticipation with the recognition of darkness. And my characters, I reasoned, would be no different. So I fashioned for them the solstice holiday of Lightfall, complete with chant and bonfire and the Midnight Reel. And a bawdy songbook. And a cadenza in the darkness, sung in each community by a chosen voice:

This was the hour, she sang, when darkness seemed to have mastered all. When all that had been home was a country of forgetting. When the air was a burden and the ground an uneasy resting place. An hour when even the balefires were dimmed to ashes, swallowed in the wake of the poisonous inferno.

The bad times had made it so that the only possible worship was to make a virtue of loss: in the long generations since, every people had crept their way out of darkness little by little, but no one ever forgot that the love of wisdom was found in making offering. And there was always something one could give over. To make an offering, even of defeat and loss, was to kindle a light. All darkness apprehends its own ending.

From that moment of offering in the darkness, the light opens out again, little by little: both literally, in the reel of the earth’s axis, and figuratively, as we find our way and recover our lives, our breath, our joy. In Ryswyck, events drive on and the light contracts to its deepest dark; and from that moment hope and possibility widen out again, invisible at first but gathering its strength.¬†

It’s the days after winter solstice that I find my creative resurgence, after the losses of the fall. And this is the sort of image I steel myself with when reading the news headlines, when workday business closes after sunset, when I contemplate the uncertainties of my own life and the lives of my communities and the fruits of my daily efforts.

All darkness apprehends its own ending.