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Summerfall Winterspring

There is nothing quite so refreshing as a change of season.  The changing temperature marks the passage of time, but not in a dismal birthday candle way.  We gaze upon the first snowfall, or turning leaf with renewed wonder and thoughts of a world larger than our own daily reality.  Those fortunate to live in a four-season clime, experience the joy that comes from a transitioning season.  For just as you basked in the “first day of spring” or the first whiff of burning leaves, after three months, you’re quite tired of it all.

Adults don’t experience newness on a regular basis.  We don’t have a new teacher every year, or learn a new subject every quarter.  Unless we work in a very volatile field there is some sense of familiarity in what we do, day in and day out.  We don’t exactly become gerbils on wheels (unless we choose to of course.)  Our lives are rich and we pursue new ideas, adventures and activities.  But our very existence is not dictated by growth and change.  We are not given new responsibilities and allowed to do new and exiting things with each passing year (ex. crossing the street alone, going to the mall with friends, etc.)  We (hopefully) don’t grow out of our wardrobe every year and get the chance to reinvent our look.  Never again will we (organically) change from being a boy/girl to a man/woman.  We are what we are.

For some this stasis is more unsettling than for others.  No doubt you’ve witnessed men and women who seem to grab new personae and experiences with a certain franticness.  (This tends to occur during the time we refer to as middle-age.)  At some point they usually grow tired and accept that life might not be best approached with a checklist.  Lifetime lists might make for good bestseller fodder (or films starring men of a certain age) but they are no more of template for life than being an Avenger or a Grumpy Old Man.

Everyone finds his or her own path to meaning and beauty.  For some it is the path itself that guides their life.  For others it is the appreciation of beauty (natural and/or person-made) that is the meaning of life.  There are many that have neither luxury of course, and life for them is something to endure.  But for all of us, no matter our personal quest, we share this world.  There is something so utterly satisfying about a shared quiet smile with a stranger when the first robin is spotted.  Some of the best conversations between strangers happen in a rainstorm.  We grouse, we drip, we force ourselves to be happy for the flowers and water tables, if we’re lucky someone in the huddled cluster makes a Gene Kelly reference, and we all go on our way.  To the lives for which we construct meaning.

Along will come the sun and dry out all the rain, and we will be off to beaches, mountains, lakes, and dreadful blockbuster movies played in mercifully freezing theaters.  We will experience the indescribable joy of a shower after a day of sand and sticky seawater.  We will dine or drink out of doors and declare; “we should do this more often.”  The smell of suntan lotion or the sound of the ice cream truck will remind us of earlier times.  Perhaps happier, perhaps not.  But we will be reminded and that is good.  Thinking, if only for a moment, of the past, makes us more present.  We acknowledge that we’re still here and the game is still on.  That is what the seasons do as well.  That crocus forcing its fragile little head out of the frosty ground is in essence saying “I’m still here.”  Isn’t that everything?

 
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Posted by on June 4, 2012 in Cultural Critique, Well-Being

 

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Why This Season Is Different From All Others

The tulips are up and open in our fair metropolis.  Their brief explosion of color the final reminder that the seasons they are changin’.  Spring, by far the most hopeful time of year, brings new beginnings and religious traditions.  Unlike the winter holidays; Easter and Passover are of equal importance to their respective observers.  Like their winter sister holidays; Easter is the more public holiday and Passover the more private.

Homes are not decorated (visible) for Passover, they are cleaned (invisible.)  While Easter’s children scurry about (in exquisitely gorgeous outfits) to seek hidden gifts and prizes, Passover’s children search inside their relative’s home for the matzo which will be traded for fabulous gifts and prizes.  Outside the White House, the lawn will be festooned with egg gathering children, and probably one of those frightening six-foot bunnies, while inside (this) president will be observing a Passover seder.

Passover, like Hanukkah is celebrated for eight days (in this country) but unlike Hanukkah it has stayed rather true to its roots and intentions.  Shopping malls are dotted with gargantuan bunnies (see above) and plastic eggs hang from limbs across America.  For years the winter version of these kinds of displays “egged” people to erect menorahs in town squares.  Why are there no giant seder plates or dangling matzo balls?  Could it be that preparing for Passover is just too exhausting to be bothered?  Or could it be that Passover is so steeped with significance and beautiful ritual that it needn’t try to compete with anything?

Whatever the reason, how wonderful that once a year so many in this country celebrate such meaningful holidays without competition or euphemisms.  There has yet (to my knowledge) to be a card created, covered in tulips which gently implores; “Happy Holiday.”  So before you bite off the ears of the chocolate bunny, or scrape the bottom of the coconut macaroon can, let me be the first to wish you a Happy Easter or a Good Passover.

 
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Posted by on April 4, 2012 in Holiday

 

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Spring Is In The Air

The first signs of spring can make the heart soar.  Spotting a crocus or blue jay for the first time, feels in fact, like the first time.  The air is rich with the scent of new growth and we envy the dogs their unselfconscious sniffing.  People walk with their heads up, faces tilted towards the sun, no longer hunched to gird against the wind.  The world feels hopeful, forgiving, on the cusp of new beginnings.

But (cue crashing car and shattering glass sound) like dirty snow on a daffodil, there is the debacle of dress.  Fluctuating temperature, clothes in storage, and winter weight gain, leave people floundering like newborn colts.  Granted, it is the only seasonal change that involves such radical rethinking.  We seem to ease into fall, and winter can often only be discerned by the calendar.  Once it’s cold, it’s cold.  The weight of a sweater is not nearly as daunting as the peeling off of layers.

If you find yourself a bit flummoxed, I offer these friendly little pointers:

  • Buy a thermometer, get a weather app, turn on the radio/tv.  We don’t live in a science fiction movie, we actually know what the weather will be during the day.  If it’s going to reach 70 degrees, leave the parka at home.  The same for the wool hat.  Wearing a wool hat on a nice day screams; “outpatient.”
  • Unless you have neuropathy (and my condolences if you do) you do not need to wear snow boots when there is no snow.  The same is true for fleece lined clogs (which have no business being a “thing” anyway, what is that? the front of your foot gets cold but your heel is made of steel?)
  • Dig out the ballet flats and keds, they’ve missed you and have been pining for this reunion.
  • Hemisphere dressing (in which the top half of your body seems to be from an opposite climate as the lower half) says to the world; “do not make eye contact” “the airline lost my luggage” “ask me about my cult.”
  • Have at least one pair of pants on hand that, well let’s just say is more generous than the others.  Presumably this is not your first time transitioning from winter to spring.  It can’t be a total surprise that those extra glasses of champagne or (boxes of) truffles actually took up residence somewhere on you.  It’s not the end of the world, it’s just a reminder to start moving, and moving away from the table.
  • A fabulous lightweight jacket (cotton, light leather, etc.) is key.  Slip a cardigan underneath in the morning, and a silk or cotton scarf.  By afternoon you can strip down a bit.
  • Do not underestimate the power of a lightweight sweater or jacket in disguising a bit of temporary bulge.
  • When it gets warm enough, and it will, reintroduce your legs to the light of day.  Do not slather them with orange self-tanner for that is a sin (which can be seen from space.)  Pale legs do not look odd in spring, fake tanned ones do.  If you do nothing else for humankind, I implore you to stay away from the self-tanning aisle.  If you are over 3 feet tall and do not have green hair, it is not a good look

Once you’re dressed, get outside.  Spend every moment you can just taking it in.  Soon enough it will be summer and the flowers will become a backdrop instead of the wonder they are at this very moment.  Taking a meal outside will become the norm versus the novelty it is today.  As adults we don’t often get to experience overwhelming feelings of newness.  This is one of those times.

 
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Posted by on March 10, 2012 in Style

 

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