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Joy today: Enduring winter

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Photo taken by Christa Avampato of Honschar’s street art on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. Please include this attribution when using.

Dear ones, on freeeeezing days like today (windchill in NYC was 4 degrees this morning!) I make some hot beverages, hunker down at home, and engage in creative work as I dream of spring. How do you endure? (H/t Honschar for his inspiring street art.)

 

A Year of Yes: Why the Winter Solstice is my favorite day of the year

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Central Park, Christa Avampato

See the little blue light in this photo? That’s hope. That’s the magic of the light returning to us today, the Winter Solstice. I didn’t see it when I first took the photo, only once I reflected on it.

The essay “Winter” by Nina Zolotow always reminds me what a gift winter is – a time we have to pause, reflect, and dream. I’ve re-read it dozens of times and it’s so powerful that I tear up every single time. I hope it gives you the same peace and relaxation it gives me in this long, cold, dark, and restful season of winter. Rest, my beautiful friends, and treasure the break from busy-ness that winter provides.

“In their garden there was always a wild profusion of tomatoes ripening on the vine, and leafy basil, arugula, and lettuce, and glossy purple eggplants, and red and yellow peppers, and zucchini with its long, bright blossoms, and there was always lunch at the wooden table on hot summer afternoons, with plates of pasta and bread and olives and salads with herbs, and many bottles of red wine that made you feel warm and drowsy, while bees hummed and the sprawling marjoram, thyme, and rosemary gave off their pungent fragrances, and at the end of the meal, always, inexplicably, there were fresh black figs that they picked themselves from the tree at the garden’s center, an eighteen-foot fig tree, for how was it possible – this was not Tuscany but Ithaca – Ithaca, New York, a rough-hewn landscape of deep rocky gorges and bitter icy winters, and I finally had to ask him – my neighbor – how did that beautiful tree live through the year, how did it endure the harshness of a New York winter and not only survive until spring but continue producing the miraculous fruit, year after year, and he told me that it was quite simple, really, that every fall, after the tree lost all its leaves, he would sever the tree’s roots on one side only and, on the tree’s other side, he would dig a trench, and then he would just lay down that flexible trunk and limbs, lay them down in the earth and gently cover them with soil, and there the fig tree would rest, warm and protected, until spring came, when he could remove its protective covering and stand the tree up once again to greet the sun; and now in this long gray season of darkness and cold and grief (do I have to tell you over what? for isn’t it always the same – the loss of a lover, the death of a child, or the incomprehensible cruelty of one human being to another?), as I gaze out of my window at the empty space where the fig tree will stand again next spring, I think, yes, lay me down like that, lay me down like the fig tree that sleeps in the earth, and let my body rest easily on the ground – my roots connecting me to some warm immutable center – luxuriating in the heart of winter.” ~Nina Zolotow, “Winter”

A Year of Yes: I’m talking about the Winter Solstice on Saturday at Caveat

I’m very excited to be chatting about the ancient history of Winter Solstice celebrations this Saturday at Caveat with several other fantastic storytellers. If you’re in town in NYC and looking for a good nerdy holiday time, come on down and hang out with us. Doors at 6:30, show at 7. Grab your tickets on Eventbrite by clicking here.

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A Year of Yes: The gift of the cold gave me the view of Emerson Page

I got a gift from the frigid cold in New York City. It gave me the chance to physically walk in Emerson Page’s footsteps.

Walking down Fifth Avenue, the air was so cold that my lungs hurt. I couldn’t wait to get to the warmth of the Met a few blocks away. I tried to distract myself by looking at Central Park. Around 75th Street, I stopped short. People were walking on ice, but there wasn’t a rink there. I couldn’t believe it. It had been so cold for so long in New York that the boat pond was frozen. Not ones to be deterred by signs of danger and warning of any kind, New Yorkers were walking on the pond. I smiled and kept walking.

A few blocks away, I stopped. I turned around. In my novel, Emerson Page and Where the Light Enters, Emerson goes out into the middle of the boat pond when she’s most fragile, turns to face the Alice in Wonderland statue, and descends how into the Lake of Possibility where her life changes forever. This was my chance to see that view in real life the way I imagined it in my mind.

Was I really going to stand out in the freezing cold just to look at the view of the world from Emerson’s perspective? Yes. Hell yes. I ran back to the Children’s Gate entrance of the park and down to the boat pond. Like Emerson, I was a little timid in those first steps on the pond, and then glided my way to the middle of it. I took in that view of Alice and couldn’t stop smiling. My eyes got a little bit teary. It was just like I imagined it would be.

I said a silent thank you to the setting sun and to beautiful Central Park and to this amazing city that never stops inspiring me and my work. The cold gave me this magical moment to step into Emerson’s world, to be right in the center of it, and I was so grateful. Right now, I’m exactly where I need to be. Yes, this is home. Like Emerson, this is exactly where my life changed forever, too.

In the pause: The beauty of winter

“Let us love winter, for it is the spring of genius.” ~Pietro Aretino

All light is born from the darkness. What if we could think of the start of winter as the beginning of everything? A time of planting and incubation that leads to future growth. While the cold and wind may drive us inside, let’s see it as a time of rest and recuperation. The starkness of nature now has its own kind of beauty. We can see the bones of the trees and the shape of the land. Everything will be dressed up in green again before we know it. Let’s make the most of this time we have now to build a strong base that the rest of the year will make use of.

Wonder: The comfort of winter

I first read the essay “Winter” by Nina Zolotow in Rodney Yee’s book Yoga: The Poetry of the Body in 2002. Since then, it’s something I’ve re-read dozens of times. May it bring you the same peace and relaxation it gives me in this long, cold, dark, and restful season of winter. Rest, my loves, and be glad.

“In their garden there was always a wild profusion of tomatoes ripening on the vine, and leafy basil, arugula, and lettuce, and glossy purple eggplants, and red and yellow peppers, and zucchini with its long, bright blossoms, and there was always lunch at the wooden table on hot summer afternoons, with plates of pasta and bread and olives and salads with herbs, and many bottles of red wine that made you feel warm and drowsy, while bees hummed and the sprawling marjoram, thyme, and rosemary gave off their pungent fragrances, and at the end of the meal, always, inexplicably, there were fresh black figs that they picked themselves from the tree at the garden’s center, an eighteen-foot fig tree, for how was it possible – this was not Tuscany but Ithaca – Ithaca, New York, a rough-hewn landscape of deep rocky gorges and bitter icy winters, and I finally had to ask him – my neighbor – how did that beautiful tree live through the year, how did it endure the harshness of a New York winter and not only survive until spring but continue producing the miraculous fruit, year after year, and he told me that it was quite simple, really, that every fall, after the tree lost all its leaves, he would sever the tree’s roots on one side only and, on the tree’s other side, he would dig a trench, and then he would just lay down that flexible trunk and limbs, lay them down in the earth and gently cover them with soil, and there the fig tree would rest, warm and protected, until spring came, when he could remove its protective covering and stand the tree up once again to greet the sun; and now in this long gray season of darkness and cold and grief (do I have to tell you over what? for isn’t it always the same – the loss of a lover, the death of a child, or the incomprehensible cruelty of one human being to another?), as I gaze out of my window at the empty space where the fig tree will stand again next spring, I think, yes, lay me down like that, lay me down like the fig tree that sleeps in the earth, and let my body rest easily on the ground – my roots connecting me to some warm immutable center – luxuriating in the heart of winter.” ~Nina Zolotow, “Winter”

Wonder: Getting to work in Washington, D.C.

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Rock Creek Park, January 2016

My neighborhood is still buried in snow four days after the blizzard. The Federal government and school were closed on Tuesday, but my office was opened so off I went. The buses aren’t running and the metro had significant delays so I hoofed it. 2.5 miles over snowbanks and through the woods, across snow-packed streets, and through puddles of slush. It was fun, actually. The people I saw along the way (on the mostly deserted streets) smiled wide and said good morning. We stopped to let traffic go by and made bets about how long it would take for these snowbanks to melt. The view was worth it. I finally found a river I could skate away on, in Rock Creek Park. Joni Mitchell would be proud.

Wonder: Snowcrew.org

I’m happily snowed into my adorable, cozy apartment this weekend. Plenty of delicious food, lots of creative projects brewing, and, of course, my sweet dog, Phineas. I’m lucky and I know it. Many are not. If you have a desire to get some exercise and help a neighbor manage through the blizzard this weekend and once it’s all over, check out Snowcrew.org. You can volunteer to help dig out neighbors in your city and even right in your neighborhood. If you need help getting your sidewalk or steps shoveled, you can request help right on the site, too. Grab a shovel, lend a hand, and warm a heart. Let’s get through this together!

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Snowcrew.org

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