Saturday, November 16, 2019

Keeping Time With The Earth: Anticipating Advent

"The days are long, but the years are short" 

- Gretchin Rubin

I recently came across a lovely book, The Dance of Time, which explains the history and customs that have shaped and formed our modern day calendar and the way we view time. In my quest to find my slow and reacquaint myself with the beautiful rhythm of the Year of the Lord, I have found many of the passages from this book both meaningful and inspiring.

This passage, which describes the seeming ease and flow which once marked our days, has left me with a sense of longing to return to such a life. And while I realize that living in 21st century America, that's probably impossible (even I fall prey to the lure of on demand technology), reading this stirred something in me that has me wondering if there is a way to recapture at least some small portion of it.

In that spirit. I'm going to take some time over the next week to formulate a plan for observing the beautiful season of Advent, which begins on Sunday, December 1. It's just like me to burn the oil at the eleventh hour, but that does seem to be my nature. I'm a Rodger's and Hammerstein's production on a Dollar Tree budget, and historically I produce some of my best work under pressure. But deep down, that's not the way I want it to be.

I envision our days in this season flowing with beauty and ease, like a hushed breath on the air that lingers. A golden thread, that weaves the stories and symbols together as we journey toward that all important day , . . Christmas. Living in a world such is described in this passage, I can more easily see where that might be possible, but in today's world, at least in my house, work schedules conflict, our priorities are often not in sync, and pretty soon, with no one to share it all with, I typically sigh a breath of consolation and ditch the whole idea. But this year, I'm determined to make it different.

Ultimately, with no littles in my life to guide anymore, I'm doing this for me, and that ease and flow I mentioned? That comes with laying down my desires and expectations and allowing the people I love to join me when and if they can. I'll prepare the feast and set the table and allow any who wish to partake to join me, and you're invited, too! I'll begin posting my plans with links to ideas and resource next week. My guess is it will most likely be a collection of posts by the time all is said and done, because, remember, . . . Rodgers and Hammerstein! I hope you'll join me, and share your own traditions of the season! And until then, I'll leave you with these words.  Keep time with the earth, my friends!

"In ancient days, the world itself served as a vast clock. People closely watched the seasons change. Winter thawed into spring, which warmed into summer, summer surrendered to cool autumn, until the first freeze of winter descended and the cycle began again.

The heavens kept time with the earth, the sun dependably marked off the day's hours as it journeyed westward across the sky: one circuit of the sun from dawn to dawn is in fact, the very definition of a day. The sun also acted like any sensible person, retreating from winter's cold and returning with the warming days of spring.

After sunset, in any season, the lambent moon rose to guide travelers through the night. The moon also mysteriously, but conveniently, changed its shape, growing from thin crescent to full orb and shrinking back to crescent again in a cycle that took about twenty-nine days. The inconstant moon proved a reliable measure for longer stretches of time, from new moon to new moon. The ancient Germans called this period of about thirty days a monath, and but for a sliding vowel, so do we still.

From the ancient times, people recognized that the earthly and celestial turning points of the year were linked. The sun's travel delineated the seasons. The solstices, when the sun reached it farthest northern and southern position in the sky, inaugurated summer and winter, the equinoxes; when the sun and moon stood midway between the solstices and and the length of day and night were equal, marked the advent of spring and autumn.

The gauzy nigh sky held other signposts. Certain stars appeared annually, like heralds announcing the seasons. Throughout the Western world, the great hourglass shaped constellation of Orion warned of impending winter, while Leo the lion's right triangle marked a sure sign of spring. The Pleiades, so diaphanously lovely that to really see them one had to look the other way, led summer into fall.

All nature obeyed the dictates of cyclical time, not least human beings. Just as the sun waned from blazing summer strength to a feeble spark on the far horizon, so too, did the young eventually grow old. Just as the trees in the forests and the crops in the fields withered with the onset of fall, so did human beings age, sicken, and die. Nature yearly reiterated the life cycle of humankind, and each individuals fate reflected the dance of the cosmos.

Although life was shorter, time was longer, moving with the steady but unhurried sun from one season to the next, changing in increments with the moon, wheeling with the great circle of the stars.

Then around 1350, carefully stowed beneath the decks of trading ships, keeping company with gunpowder and the astrolabe, the first mechanical clocks arrived in Europe. Modern time made its debut, and forever changed its creators."

- Michael Judge

The Dance of Time

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