Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Sorry, TS, You Got It Wrong

October is the cruelest month, not April. As I drove through rural Byfield, Massachusetts, en route to my job site, I drank in the sky and foliage like a tasty, refreshing draft of hemlock. Winter’s up next. How cruel.

That’s the entrance to The Governor’s Academy, oldest boarding school in New England, where I’m finishing up the 250-year history book. The foliage isn’t even at peak here, south of Newburyport on the Merrimack River, but the colors are already surreal, especially that sky today. I could swim in it.

Spend a morning walking around this campus among several hundred well-fed, finely tailored young people, and you will be ready for school again yourself, hopeful in the springtime of youth, your hormones popping as in a Sigrid Undset novel.

Only, I am now in the October of my life, and winter’s up next.

Baseball season will be over Wednesday or Thursday evening. If the rains of the past six months are any indication, we’re in for a whopper of a winter. Katie and I are already plotting a late-January escape to Florida, but two or even three weeks in Sarasota—what we can afford—cannot possibly take the chill out of my bones. I know now why old folks go to Florida from November through April. I am old folks, who can’t afford to retire.

Thanksgiving is just around the corner, and beyond Thanksgiving the great chasm—between Christmas the blessed season of our Lord’s Nativity and Christmas the accursed season of overtaxed credit cards, mall rage, and elevated blood pressure. Not to mention houses filled too long with over-eating, over-boozing guests. I am going to hang on tight to Advent this year, making the most of each day in this precious liturgical season, because usually I can’t stand what’s happening outside the doors of the church.

If I sound like Scrooge, so be it.

Still, there is hope in a New England autumn, which for me comes from looking through winter to what lies beyond, inevitably. Pitchers and catchers report to spring training the third week in February. The last snowfall will likely hit in March—although we did have the April Fool’s Day blizzard of 1997 with its, no foolin’, three feet of snow “in some places,” including my driveway. In April, with or without snow, the tulips will begin to pop alongside my driveway and outside my home office. Pretty soon it will be time to spread five yards of mulch around my garden beds, a sweaty work I annually love.

Easter too, of course, always comes with spring.

This is the Christian promise, that sure as day follows the sleep of night, sure as spring follows the snow and ice of winter, eternal life follows death. Each phase of life is like a smaller box inside a larger one, like nested Chinese dolls. Daylight—springtime—eternal life.

It stands to reason, doesn’t it?


  1. luckily for you daughter #2 doesnt want anything from the mall! unless they're giving out gobs of cash there. p.s. i hear Spain is nice in May

  2. You won't regret observing Advent with attention and intensity. In fact, you'll never do it otherwise.


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