December 2012

Our angel boy

It’s becoming something of a tradition that J and I take a walk at Mount Auburn Cemetery on Christmas Day. Last year, we saw a very tame wild turkey hunkered on a decorated grave, and this year, in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook school shootings, I couldn’t help but notice the sad stones marking the graves of lost children.

Lost children

Many of the stones at Mount Auburn Cemetery are old; consecrated in 1831, the cemetery is America’s first garden cemetery, with its graves situated in a lushly landscaped park-like setting. But among the old stones are newer ones that loved ones faithfully adorn with flowers, wreaths, candles, and other decorations to brighten an otherwise lonely resting spot.

Nativity scene and candle

Perhaps because of memorials like these, I don’t find cemeteries to be depressing, just bittersweet: a reminder of mortality that makes me more (not less) grateful to be alive. The one thing we all share, after all, is mortality, and taking a quiet walk on an otherwise festive day is a great way to keep things in perspective.

Our little angel

Some folks are lucky to reach an advanced age before they die, and others exit this world far too soon. Is the richness of your life measured by length or by depth, by the number of your days or by the way you spend those days?

Praying angel

Click here for more pictures from this year’s Christmas Day walk at Mount Auburn Cemetery.

Keep Calm and Drink Up

This afternoon I submitted another batch of fall semester grades: four classes down, two to go. My next and final grade deadline is Thursday afternoon, which means I technically could spend Christmas day grading papers, but even my Inner Ebenezer isn’t that much of a Scrooge. I’ll be keeping my laptop OFF over Christmas, so here’s hoping you have a happy one. I’ll see you (and my remaining paper piles) when I’m back online on the 26th.


Today’s Photo Friday theme is “Best of 2012,” which gives me an excuse to review the photos I took in 2012. This past year wasn’t a particularly photo-rich year for me: for the first few months of 2012, Reggie was so frail, we didn’t go far on our daily dog walks, which meant I didn’t take many pictures…and after Reggie died in April, I walked even less, which again meant I didn’t take many pictures.


My favorite photo from 2012 comes from an August trip to the Columbus Zoo, which points to how few interesting photos I took close to home last year. Taking photos at a zoo is a bit like shooting fish in a barrel: you have a captive subject, so it becomes a matter of choosing which angle on which flamingo is your favorite. The Columbus Zoo has large, grassy enclosure where flamingos wander freely around an artificial pond, and the flamingos were vigorously flapping, squawking, and fussing when J and I saw them: captive subjects that were nevertheless moving and active.


Given how many and how active these birds were, it a bit of a challenge to choose the three flamingo pictures I included in that day’s photo set. When you are blessed with abundance, you can afford to be picky, and the photos I ultimately picked showed solitary flamingos at rest: not the entire flock, but a quiet moment experienced within the flock. Apparently I like my flamingos calm and elegant, not fussing and squawking.

One of my resolutions for 2013 is to walk more, which also means take more pictures. Only time will tell how the “Best of 2013” compares with the “Best of 2012.”

This is my contribution for today’s Photo Friday theme, “Best of 2012.” I originally blogged that first flamingo photo at the beginning of this post. Here are links to past “Best of” posts: 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006, 2005, and 2004.

Dharma room

Last night I pulled myself away from my paper-piles to go to the Cambridge Zen Center. It’s been too long since I’ve been to Tuesday evening practice at the Zen Center, as the demands of a busier-than-usual semester have interfered with my best intentions. Although I’m still buried in end-term grading, last night I wanted to take a break from grading a seemingly endless supply of student papers (words piled atop more words) in order to share silence with old friends. It was a break I sorely needed.


In the aftermath of last week’s school shootings in Connecticut, there has been a lot of talk online, in the news, and elsewhere about important things: talk about grief and healing, talk about guns and violence, talk about mental illness and bullying. All of these are worthwhile topics that deserve thoughtful and ongoing conversation, but after a certain point, even these issues can become words piled atop more words.


As I was driving to the Zen Center last night, I felt overfull with words and ready simply to sit with sadness: my sadness, the city of Newtown’s sadness, and the sadness of the whole suffering, sentient world. There’s nothing words can do to explain or erase sadness: sometimes all you can do with your own or someone else’s heartache is sit and share silence with it, giving it a warm lap to curl up on, quiet, while it lulls itself to sleep.

Gratuitous cuteness...

December is already more than a week old, and I’ve barely taken any photos this month, spending most of my time buried under various paper-piles. The next few weeks present one grading deadline after another, so I won’t be blogging much. But in the meantime, Bunny the cat posed for a moment of gratuitous cuteness the other day, so I’ll leave her to entertain you while I’m otherwise occupied.