Monday, January 03, 2011

Two Thousand and Ten: A November Year

As the weather turned us toward November, I felt as if I had spent twelve months in its company. Chelsea and I took a short trip to Millbrook Marsh on a warmer day and spent some time quietly watching the trees and the fish in the creeks from the walkways. Things we couldn't see in summer were clear: fish resting in shade, a beaver or muskrat on the edge of the creek, the shapes of trees, the sound of wind in the grasses making snapping music. It was all dead but it had a beauty we admired all the same.

But of course it wasn't dead. It was, and is, only waiting for the earth to change directions to start growing again.

New Years Eve, I sat with friends eating french fries, watching football games, and talking about the past and the coming year. Present year, as it would now be on January 3rd. We talked of highlights and of hopes, of things learned and the universal uneasiness that graduation in May brings whenever we mention it.

The Rocky Mountains at Dusk (by August Huckabee)
Staff Retreat in Denver, Colorado: It feels like it existed in a world and time of its own, disconnected from before and after. I was overwhelmed with the intense joy at seeing everyone. The final worship night gave me the hymns that I listened to over and over again as the November year grew colder.

Cara, Jessi, Greer, and I before skiing (by August Huckabee)

Encounter 10: My first time exploring New York on my own. First time riding the subway. First time among such artists and thinkers and movers and shakers. The most empowering and long influencing days of the year.

The fountains on Allen Street for Arts Fest
Arts Fest, July 7: It stands as the example of what the entirety of my summer in State College was, and it happened in memory of our friends Jessi and Eric. Good food. Good friends. A frisbee game. Sleeping outside. Playing in the fountains on Allen Street. Dancing to the blue grass in our wet clothes. A massage train. Late night conversation in the Plex. The clearest freedom and joy in being alive, in being together. I don't any pictures of the summer, sadly.
Jillian, my summer roommate. Cue Flight of the Concords song "Friends".

HOINA Honors College Trip: I learned what it was to leave the familiar and come back. That leaving can be clarifying, both pleasant and unpleasant; "wipes the fog off of the windshield" as Mark said.
Kabidi Kabidi

Patty's Place: It was as wonderful living with Maggie and Sarah as I thought it would be. Cooking and baking and music and poetry.

Words: This stands in for the writing I was able to do this year, much of it coming in the nights I thought I would be able to do anything in the world but write another word. Some awful short stories; ghastly essays; poems that weren't even close to poetry. And a few pages that I'm proud of and take pleasure in rereading. And books that guided and encouraged and got some read-aloud time with Maggie: "Jagged With Love" by Susannah Childress, "After" by Jane Hirschfield, "Snow" by Orhan Pamuk, "Say You're One of Them" by Uwem Akpan, "The Brothers Karamazov" by Dostoevsky. And professors and mentors that also taught and challenged and changed my writing: Julia Kasdorf, thesis adviser and poetry professor extraordinaire; Ruth Mendum, fellowships adviser; Charlotte Holmes, fiction professor; Elizabeth Kadetsky, fiction and (not sure what else she could be called) professor; peer readers Rebecca Ebstein, Chris Cascio, Mae Sevick, and Jesse Cramer who listened to me panic; and Erica Reitz, campus minister.

Two Noteworthies:
Barb Baldner, discipler, mentor with whom I met every week.
Barb teaches me her great baking skills, as well as her wisdom!

At the Navigators Barn Dance, Fall 2010
And Hannah Ray, coolest PSU sister in the world. I'm so lucky she chose to be a Nittany Lion too!

James and I at Big Apple Dance Competition
Ballroom: From day 1 of ballroom last January, I was hooked. I knew I would be. I'm now a hopeless addict. Many thanks to Jolene for not only putting her all into teaching us, but in opening up her life to us as well. And to James Christy for being a wonderful and delightful partner, who makes me far better than I am otherwise... and take longer strides!

  • Watch more movies.
  • Be a better music listener.
  • Get out of the country again.
  • Decide what to do "next".
  • See Soli Deo Gloria (S.D.G.) take off at Penn State with more Word Parties, Art Making Nights, Film Discussions, and real conversations about what matters most.


 There are many highlights from the year. When I said them New Years Eve, Evan Rothey noted that it must have been a really good year to have so many highlights. And it was, now that I look at it. But it was November. I learned that life without the color of growth and warmth can still be true life. I learned to take joy and sorrow in stride and at once. As the writer of Ecclesiastes noted, "In the day of prosperity be joyful, and in the day of adversity consider: God has made the one as well as the other, so that man may not find out anything that will be after him" (7:14, esv). Joy and sorrow were all wrapped up together, coming at once and in the same event, or hard on eachother's heals. Neither is, in this life, a permanent state. Neither have I known the greatest joys or the hardest sorrows.

 It is good to keep the knowledge and memory of both in every moment. That is contentment.

The year changed with us standing on Old Main steps. Some smoked cigars and we wished the passing policeman a Happy New Year and he to us. I danced a few rounds of waltz and tango across the patio. We looked out at the world from the steps of our Alma Mater, looking at a year where we will all graduate and find something else to do, somewhere else to live. I don't know if any of us really understood that until the New Year. Maybe we don't still. Maybe it will hit us later.

The earth is going to change directions soon, and the November year will give way to whatever is coming next.

1 comment:

Kenton Mast said...

Your writing is beautiful.