- a coming into being (Webster’s)
- a coming or arrival of someone or something that is worthy of note (American Heritage)
- the four weeks between Christmas and Thanksgiving when approximately 60-80 hours preparation work is added atop daily living for a holiday that lasts about 48 hours (Me).
It’s funny, what Advent has become in my life, compared to how it began. Not funny—ha ha– either. What’s also funny (strange) is how the physical time of Advent: the same four weeks with its same 28 days, 672 hours, 40,320 minutes (give or take), has morphed from what felt like an eternity as a child to what now seems to happen in the amount of time it takes me to make Christmas cookies. And while this may feel like a long time while I’m rolling my umpteenth spice ball dough in sugar, I assure you, it is not.
Each year, time speeds up a notch. I was pulling out boxes of Christmas decorations over Thanksgiving weekend and it truly felt like it was just last month I had taken those blessed decorations down and put them away (just in case this needs noting, I did NOT leave my Christmas décor up for 10 months).
I hate this phenomenon of time accelerating. I try not to “hate” too many things. But, this thing I hate. Every year the season rushes upon me, blows through me, and then continues on its merry way with all the hope and peace and joy and love sucked right out of me. This “most wonderful time of the year,” blah, blah, blah.
So. What to do? Succumb? Blame our hyper-materialistic, swimming in selfies and excess culture? Wash my hands of it all—just like Pilate did—and go back to my shopping list, holiday menu, outfit selections for this-and-that holiday function…all my own personal excesses.
Hmm. Tempting. It is too big for me to tackle, after all.
I recently read in a book called Space and Place by geographer, Yi-Fu Tuan, that ten years in childhood are not the same as ten years in adulthood (can I get an Amen?!):
“The child knows the world more sensuously than does the adult…to a young child, time does not “flow;” he stands as it were outside it, remaining the same tender age seemingly forever. To the grown person time rushes on, propelling him forward willy-nilly.”
Tuan goes on to express this idea using the description of a famous playwright reflecting on his time as a child. The playwright talks about everything being “joy and presentness.” Time was a rhythm in space. Seasons didn’t mark the passage of time, rather spread out before him in an expanse of space.
I think of my own childhood time not as a line of progression on which I traveled—not even when my mother was marking days off the calendar until family vacation or Christmas Eve. Time swirled around me in an outward ever-widening expanse. Rolls of multi-colored fabric. A melting sun across the prairie sky until it was completely transformed to starry night. The dome of blue sky above me as I lay on an old patchwork quilt during summer afternoons, straining my eyes to see the curve of the atmosphere. It was light and shadow, undulating in and out of continual renewal. Forever possibility.
I want time like that again. I know I can never have it. But neither as a child could I reflect on my own experience of living in that expansive place of timelessness.
Now, I can.
And if ever there be a time worth reflecting over—a season for slowing down, even just an iota—it is Advent.
As Tuan says, we are more than what the “thin present” defines. We are more than shopping lists, decorating, holiday cards, parties, Santa snapshots, hustle, bustle, and the like. We are more than time’s marionettes being jostled along its straight-and-narrow, with no hope of being set free and turned to fully human.
We are, I tell you. I just don’t know how to prove it.
I only know how to hold up the artifacts of my own past–of advents gone by. Turn them around in my hands, observe their muted colors, smell the memories under dust layers, maybe gently shake them and listen for sounds of tinkling bells.
Maybe this is something we might reflect over together?
I would love that.
To Advent. And the coming artifacts of a spacious past.
P.S. If you’d like to follow along this special series of Artifacts of Advent, join the thousands of subscribers–just kidding…about the ‘thousands’ part. But seriously, sign up (the button’s on the side. Look hard, it’s tiny!) to receive new posts delivered straight to your inbox.
Copyright 2018, Shari L. Dragovich