In 1969 my brother-in-law who is an astrophysicist generously and patiently spent a long afternoon trying to explain black holes to me. After four hours I had a headache, but also a faint understanding of what these huge gravitational sinkholes might be.
I have long maintained that the excellent quality of Vermont’s public schools is a result of the Vietnam War. In the late 1960s and early 1970s idealism among young adults was rampant. Spurred on by what many believed was an ill-conceived war; people protested what was seen as the establishment’s unjust and immoral engagement in Vietnam.
Unlike most people, I’ve always enjoyed my visits to the Department of Motor Vehicles. Without a doubt, these excursions are not likely to be swift; an hour is pretty standard, but they can take longer.
Several years ago our daughter Jane, who is a violinist, needed a new bow. Finding the right one can take a long time; musicians take them out on trial and guard them with their lives.
Jane was testing a particularly wonderful bow when she was getting her Masters at a conservatory in Manhattan. Over Easter weekend there were few students at school so Jane spent long hours in a practice room, comparing her old bow with the new one and falling in love with the latter. Late Saturday night she packed up her case and walked home to her apartment.
The holiday season is so much about memory, remembering times past, good or bad, and creating memories for the future. I’ve asked people recently what their clearest memories are of holidays past and to a one they have recounted a particular event, a time when things went really well or really wrong. They haven’t talked about presents or decorations or even food, they’ve talked about people and relationships and often music. It’s worth remembering as we’re whipped into a frenzy of getting and spending: what we are apt to remember are small crystal moments of meaning.
Though we may put candles in our windows, adorn shrubs and Christmas trees with stands of lights, with the sun not rising until 7:15 and slipping behind the western hill shortly after 4pm, this remains a very dark time of year. We go to pretty extensive measures to mitigate the darkness and brighten our world.
In the Christian tradition this is Advent, a supposedly quiet time for contemplation and reflection. And with Hanukkah coming so early this year, Jews are in the midst of observing the Festival of Lights.
In the early 1980s in Middlesex, there was a Haunted House for the amusement of the local children. An old abandoned farmhouse in the center of town had been so neglected that, although it was very close to the road, it was barely visible since vines and trees encased its dark, weather beaten clapboards. Doors hung askew, the floors creaked, there was no electricity and it smelled musty from time and the resident rodents.
For several years I have watched a particular pair of Canada Geese build their nest and raise their young on an island in a small pond near our house. Having spent many cold spring mornings crouched down with my binoculars, I know it’s the same couple.
I wonder what farmers think when they wake up to yet another forecast of possible showers: mow the hay now gone to seed and risk it’s getting wet and the tractor getting mired in the mud or just look out at the yellow, stunted corn, chew nails and curse?