A meditation for winter

Pyrrha in the snow.

I despise the cold, but I’m finding some joy in the winter this year. This attitude has been helped along by daily walks, with the aid of competent warm-weather gear and my good German shepherd, the perfect walking companion; more time to read, and read by the fire; and the quietness of the landscape. This winter, more than others, feels like this restful season of anticipation. Spring brings new life (literally for our household this year), and I am enjoying thinking of winter as a time for appropriate dormancy.

A poem along those lines:

“The Cold”
Wendell Berry

How exactly good it is
to know myself
in the solitude of winter,

my body containing its own
warmth, divided from all
by the cold; and to go

separate and sure
among the trees cleanly
divided, thinking of you

perfect too in your solitude,
your life withdrawn into
your own keeping

to be clear, poised
in perfect self-suspension
toward you, as though frozen.

And having known fully the
goodness of that, it will be
good also to melt.

. . .

Snow day

Snow day
Backyard at 6:30 a.m.

As one who was raised in North Carolina, I don’t think I’ve ever seen this much snow before.

Snow day
Front yard.

We both got the day off, which was spent doing all of the lovely, lazy things we don’t do on typical weekdays — walk the dog in the middle of the day, paint one’s nails (me; I keep offering to paint Guion’s and he keeps declining), read several books, make real oatmeal, host Chelsea and her pups (Annie and Nell) over for a midday play-date.

We were also among the lucky ones in that we never lost power. I think we’re still on the hospital power grid or something, which surely helps.

Snow day

The big decision we made this week is that we are going to become a foster home for dogs from Pyrrha’s rescue, Southeast German Shepherd Rescue. We may have our first foster this weekend, and I am very excited and nervous about it. I have wanted to foster for a long time now, and thanks to Guion’s support and our wonderful landlords’ approval, I think now is a great time to accomplish that item on the Life List. (If you care even mildly about following this fostering adventure, you can rest assured that I will be blogging about it at Doggerel.) Antsy with post-cabin fever energy, I set up the second crate in the “dog room” tonight and started getting really excited about this challenge.

For now, though, I am thankful to have had an extra day to just spend with my husband and my dog. I do love them so.

To the attentive eye

(c) Erin Boyle.

“To the attentive eye, each moment of the year has its own beauty, and in the same field, it beholds, every hour, a picture which was never seen before, and which shall never be seen again.”

— Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Nature”

Coming and going

We were lucky enough to have Angela in town with us this past weekend. She’s our most faithful and fun house guest and we had a peaceful weekend together. We lounged around on the couch, drinking tea; made dinners together; went on a doggy play date; visited our new house; and generally didn’t want her to leave ever. How nice it is to be with old friends!

Click on a thumbnail to enlarge it:

Oh, and it snowed, of course. The first glimpse of actual winter we’ve had all year. It was pretty and thick, but now it is all gone. I’m OK with that. Bring on the spring! More photos from the weekend here.

My Presidents’ Day was spent freaking out about taxes, as I am wont to do. Doing taxes when one of you is a graduate student = Zero fun times. I think I panic about it because a.) I don’t understand half of it, even with TurboTax, and b.) I get the constant feeling that we’re doing something terribly wrong and we’re going to get audited. Angela and I briefly discussed that all universities should require students take a Personal Finances 101 class before graduating. I totally agree–and I work for a finance non-profit! I should know this stuff! But I don’t. A sad and occasionally dangerous gap in higher education…

Next knowledge obsession: Plants and how to grow them. I am still going to be primarily obsessed with dogs, of course, but my next venture is reading everything I can about gardening. I’m reading Barbara Kingsolver’s farming memoir, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, and enjoying the practical John Seymour’s The New Self-Sufficient Gardener. As I’ve mentioned, we’re inheriting a pretty serious garden from our future landlord and I want to take really good care of it. And just learn some basics about how to keep plants alive. Any advice is very welcome.

Monday Snax

No photos = jam-packed, fun weekend. We had three holiday parties on Friday night; ran lots of errands + had a generally peaceful day on Saturday, and then hosted a soup party + birthday party for Mary Boyce on Sunday after Lessons and Carols at church. Whew! And then we’re jetting off to North Carolina on Thursday night! I’m so excited.

Yuletide Snax:

Stereotyping You By Your Favorite Book of 2011. Any of these apply to you? The one for Blue Nights made me laugh: “The same people who think it’s healthy to see Greek tragedies in the winter.” (Flavorwire)

Gift Ideas for the Book Lover Who Has Read Everything. Want those Frankenstein bookends. Actually, I’d take just about anything from this gift guide. (Flavorwire)

New York in the Snow, 1892-1920. Makes you really grateful for cars and for traffic lanes. The carriage pile-up in that last photo looks so stressful. (Retronaut)

Are We the Nation of Sushi Abomination? Ah, excellent. Someone else rants about the state of American sushi so I don’t have to. (Tofugu)

Congressional Wives, 1947. The dresses are dowdy, yes, but these ladies look pretty awesome. I bet they’d be a lot of fun at a cocktail party. (Retronaut)

Weak, I know. What? It’s been a busy week.

Things that scare me

I can't... even look at this photograph. It's too upsetting. WHY do people get these creatures?

Things that scare me for no good reason:

  • Varicose veins
  • Tea Partiers
  • People on MTV
  • Lightning
  • Going bald
  • Greeting cards that sing when you open them
  • Cockroaches
  • Hoarders
  • Becoming an old lady who collects kitsch
  • Getting gray hair
  • Leprosy
  • Most cats
  • State of English language proficiency on Craigslist

Things that scare me for good reason:

  • Stink bugs taking over the world
  • Never being able to write again
  • Bad posture
  • Sugar
  • Untrained Chihuahuas and Yorkshire terriers
  • Untrained children
  • Having to live in a nursing home
  • Being a mother
  • Distressing and backward paradigms that rule the U.S. public school system
  • Childhood obesity epidemic
  • Puppy mills
  • Childbirth
  • Worldwide tea shortage
  • The possibility of becoming schizophrenic
  • Snow
  • Teeth falling out

Litany of fear aside, I’m going to have a great weekend. Tonight, Cate is hosting a Royal Wedding party. Secretly, I’m going for the company and the tea and scones; I’m not deeply invested in the wedding of Wills and Kate, as adorable and royal as they might be. Saturday is a day of cleaning, reading, and running errands while Guion brews and then Win is coming to visit on Sunday. We are going to do our best to persuade him to live here. Any tips? What’s the best thing about living in Charlottesville?

Monday Snax

I am writing now, having recovered from something of a bummer weekend that was redeemed by girlfriends. It was a bummer because it SNOWED yesterday and because of the snow, my parents decided not to come visit us, as they had previously planned. I was really sad about this, but I was able to have a good weekend overall. I spent the whole of my Saturday with my friend Anna and then Guion and I ran errands together on Sunday and then Liz E. came over for tea. We all pretended like the disgusting and wrong snow wasn’t there and that certainly helped. It’s also supposed to snow on my birthday this week. SUPER. Really super, Virginia.

In other far more exciting news, Guion’s band Nettles is opening tonight for The Welcome Wagon at the Haven in downtown Charlottesville. We are so thrilled and it’s bound to be a really excellent show. If you’re remotely around town, please come! Doors are at 7 and tickets cost $10.

Snax with a cup of hearty black tea:

Behind the Scenes, Nepal Documentary. My little sister never fails to amaze me. I can’t believe she got to do this! The documentary sounds absolutely incredible, too. I can’t wait to see it! (Como Say What?)

Book Cover Archive. This is one of the main reasons why I find it hard to embrace Kindle or Nook or whatever e-reader people use these days. What is going to happen to all of these truly beautiful and amazing book covers when we don’t read paper anymore? This I ask you with furrowed brow, 21st Century. For the book- and design-minded among you, enjoy this excellent collection. (Book Cover Archive)

Sunscreen and Sunblock Are Not the Same Thing. Who knew? I certainly didn’t. (Broken Secrets)

Four Years After a Death, a Gift Continues to Inspire. A sweet and thoughtful reflection on the life of former UNC mascot Jason Ray, whose legacy endures in the minds and–literally–hearts of others. (New York Times)

Vintage Basketball. Awesome photographs of women’s basketball teams from the early 1900s. Love it. Love the Victorian coiffures mixed with the determined grin of these early female athletes. I feel proud of them and yet I don’t know a thing about them. (Wolf Eyebrows)

Rough Scans from My Recent Trip to Japan. Emily Shur is an incredible photographer and here she shares some recent photographs from Japan, prior to the earthquake and tsunami, I believe. Her photographs are so beautifully composed. To me, they speak carefully of the symmetry and silence that pervades so much of the Japanese landscape. (Emily Shur)

Manual laborer

I know I should be careful what I wish for, but today I really want a job that requires manual labor. OK, maybe not eight hours of manual labor, but at least SOMETHING more than the few minutes spent getting up from one’s desk to go to the bathroom and replenish one’s cup of tea. I was not prepared for how utterly lethargic a full-time desk job would make me feel. Some days I practice ballet moves that Catherine showed me when I move up and down the hallways, just so I won’t go crazy. I haven’t been caught yet.

These are the outdoorsy and/or active jobs I would not mind having in temperate seasons:

  • Orchid gardener
  • Dog trainer
  • Dog walker
  • Governess
  • Photojournalist
  • Old rich lady’s traveling companion to Europe and The Orient
  • Painter of large canvases
  • Stable-boy
  • Letterpress stationer (OK, not a ton of activity here, but more than I’m getting now)

What about you? Do you get to move around for your job? Do you hate it? Do you envy my slothful station?

Speaking of envy, last night at the Newlyweds’ Small Group we talked about the difference coveting, envying, and being jealous and we discovered that there are perceptible differences between each word. It was very exciting.

It’s been a quiet day over here and the snow is falling intermittently. Yes, snow. Even though yesterday we enjoyed 65-degree temperatures. It’s enough to drive a woman mad. Just when you’ve tasted spring, it gets jerked away from you again.

This weekend I finally decided that I’m going to volunteer at the local ASPCA. I am very excited about this, but I also feel guilty about it, for reasons that I may or may not decide to enumerate here.

Monday Snax: Back to reality

Whew. What a lovely, busy holiday vacation we enjoyed in the great state of North Carolina. A brief photo recap:

We ate many lavish meals... (Here, the annual Christmas Eve dinner at the Pratt's.)
... got dressed up...
... received the most amazing gift of all time: The long-awaited pop art portrait of Tracy Morgan, by the one and only Grace Farson.

(More on Flickr!)

It’s hard to transition back into the real world, but we did have a magical holiday. Guion, however, is now sick again and I have probably the busiest week ever at work–which is why this post was written in advance.

Snax with leftover holiday honey-baked ham:

This Is Insane. Snow kind of makes me cranky when I have to travel, but I have to look on the bright side: At least we don’t live HERE, wherever this is. A time-lapse video of a blizzard. (Dooce)

Frost (24). Winter in France. (Flora Douville)

Satomi Kawakita. Such delicate, beautiful jewelry. If only I had $1,180 lying around for a ring… (All the Mountains)

Making Amends with the Guy Upstairs. The sweetest–and possibly most heart-breaking–prayer from a child. (FOUND Magazine)

The Year Kenny Loggins Ruined Christmas. It’s just… amazing. I have no other words. Childhood Christmas memories illustrated in MS Paint? It’s the greatest. (Hyperbole and a Half)

Hark, a Vagrant: 292. Hunks in the war and The Yellow Wallpaper! I am endlessly enthralled with Kate Beaton’s work. (Hark, a Vagrant!)

Pomeranian puppies. Don’t like little dogs, but these little fluff-balls are killing me. When they bark? Just sounds like a flock of chickadees. (Cute Overload)

Quote, a Waste of Eliza Dushku’s Talent. I love the Hylton family. (Mixed with Gold)

Holiday Slideshow. Slideshow of the annual door decorating contest at UNC Press, where I was an intern my senior year. I really miss these people. (UNC Press)

Natalie Portman in Vogue: Behind the Scenes. I think she is one of the most beautiful women alive and I love hearing her talk. I’m also looking forward to seeing and being thoroughly creeped out by “Black Swan.” Anyone want to go see it with me? (Faye Dinsmore)

Lars Wastfelt. Absolutely gorgeous and sweet family photographs from, of course, a Scandinavian photographer. I know, I have a type. (Miss Moss)

We’ll meet again soon, and I’ll start talking about my Top 10 Books of 2010. I know you’re thrilled.

The dentist

Nothing to do with teeth, but it's almost Christmas, and this is almost too much to handle. An extravagant light display in town.

When we were little, Mom would reward us for being cavity-free by a rare trip to Wendy’s to get a Frosty. I understand that this is like giving a pyromaniac child a box of matches as a reward for not setting the dog on fire, but still, it worked. It made going to the dentist a far less traumatic experience–and it kept us brushing our teeth, with the keen aim of winning another Frosty.

Guion and I went to the dentist yesterday. Both of us haven’t been in years, so I was pretty nervous about it. Even though I’ve had practically everything in the world done to my mouth (e.g., braces for four years, permanent retainers, teeth pulled, screws drilled into jaw to install new teeth, phrenectomy, and the list goes on), teeth pain still scares me a lot. More than just about any other pain–except childbirth.

The hygienist was fairly aggressive with her tools, but it didn’t take long and I didn’t have any cavities, which is what I was primarily concerned about. Guion had two, but he’s rather unconcerned about it, so that’s good. I think he’s going to get them filled after the holidays.

In other news, it’s snowing now and I’m home! The office closed today at 11 a.m., so I drove home–and have never been more terrified to be in a car in my life. I was sliding all over the place. The Jeep, which one would think would be a safe car to drive in the snow, is probably the worst. The 4-wheel drive makes the car totally shut down (which Guion and I learned last winter), so I was just sliding all over the place. I drove about 8 m.p.h. the whole way back. But now I’m checking work e-mail and sitting in our cozy living room with my husband, who is wearing his red onesie. He looks like a big Christmas baby. Loves it.