Monday, January 4, 2016

January 4: The Most Beautiful Day, Snow, Jean Shepherd, Book Club

It's the most beautiful day of the year.  At four o'clock the eastern sky is a dead stratus black flecked with low white clouds.  The sun in the west illuminates the ground, the mountains, and especially the bare branches of trees, so that everywhere silver trees cut into the black sky like a photographer's negative of a landscape.  The air and the ground are dry; the mountains are going off like neon signs.  Clouds slide east as if pulled from the horizon, like a tablecloth whipped off a table.  The hemlocks by the barbed wire fence are flinging themselves east as though their backs would break.  Purple shadows are racing east; the wind makes me face east, and again I feel the dizzying, drawn sensation I felt when the creek bank reeled.

Annie Dillard sees beauty everywhere.  On this day, the beauty comes from clouds and wind and sunlight.  It doesn't matter that a rainstorm is rolling in.  That the world is flickering like a 1920s black-and-white newsreel.  With the right gaze, any day can be the most beautiful day of the year.

I woke this morning to the sound of my neighbor's snowblower running.  I got out of bed, went to my front porch, and looked outside.

Overnight, the world had been transformed into a Christmas card scene.  All mounds of white and drifting snow.  It was beautiful.  And then I saw the foot of snow the city plows had thrown into my driveway.  My aesthetic admiration for the scene quickly faded.

I spent about an hour-and-a-half shoveling.  If it weren't for a kind neighbor snowblowing half my front yard, I would have probably spent the entire morning being intimate with my snow scoop.  Thank the Lord for generous neighbors. 

The rest of the day I spent in preparation for my book club's Christmas gathering.  We read Jean Shepherd's In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash, which was the basis for the film A Christmas Story.  I'd read the book before, a loooooong time ago, when I was teaching downstate.  It was great to revisit Jean Shepherd's written work.

And the book club party was lovely.  Lots of good food and gifts.  Laughter.  Christmas music playing.  I got a Book Lover's Calendar for 2016 from my Secret Santa.  We picked out some books for the upcoming months.  Some John Irving and The Girl on a Train.  We talked about life and loss, Christmases present and past.  It was a thoroughly enjoyable night.

Saint Marty is ready for a long winter's nap, with lots of beauty in the day to come. 

Repeat after me:  "You'll shoot your eye out!"

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