Catching My Breath – Christmastime, Dante, and Beyond…

After patiently saving vacation days, today I can at last disconnect from work emails and other stressors.  I really want to slow down even more over my almost two-week holiday, beginning with these last few days of Advent.

One of my favorite family traditions is putting up a tree with my brother and sister.  My grandparents gave it to me years ago, and over time the three of us have gathered a collection of mostly red and gold ornaments for it.  Some are old pieces from our family, and others we purchased ourselves, many from Hobby Lobby.  The tree topper is new this year and being from Dollar Tree was incredibly affordable!

I have a little white tree I decorate as well (not quite so elaborately).  This is probably its last year, as it is turning yellow.

As you might imagine, it’s this time of year I like to get a lot of reading and studying in, as well as planning for next year’s reading.

I’m still perusing the archives of The Word on Fire Show, the Catholic podcast I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, and today I listened to an excellent episode about Dante’s Divine Comedy.  I’ve been “unreading” this book for a year or two, finding it difficult to get past the first cantos.  Bp. Barron gives an intriguing overview of the entire story and symbolism, and now I’m itching to give it another try. 

I have the Longfellow translation, with illustrations by Gustave Doré.  Doré’s style can well be summed up as “dramatic,” which is one of the reasons I chose this edition.  And, you know how I LOVE those woodcarvings

I’m debating whether to participate in any reading challenges next year.  These are the ones which entice me:

  • Moby-Dick 2019Fanda mentioned that 2019 is the 200th anniversary of Melville’s birth, and that Brona of Brona’s Books is hosting a read-along!  I dearly want to re-read Moby-Dick, and it would be so much fun to do it with other bloggers.  This will likely start in February or March, so I have time to decide…
  • Mount TBR 2019 – This is about reading unread books you already own.  I’ve done this before and found it very satisfying, even when I didn’t complete it.  Plus, it counts books you start during Christmas break as long as you have 50% or more remaining in January.  *cough* Dante *cough* 
  • The Classics Club – Committing to 50+ classics in at most 5 years. For someone who is terrible at challenges, the idea of an “epic” challenge oddly appeals to me. 
  • Back to the Classics 2019I attempted this in 2014 and failed miserably.  Still like the idea, though! 
  • Complete Sherlock Holmes re-read – Yeah, another personal failure.  This one I attempted to host in the past couple of years, and embarrassingly I didn’t stick to it myself.  It probably makes more sense to restructure it as a marathon, rather than spread it out over a year… Still want to do it at some point.

The other thing I’m trying to figure out is whether I’ll have the time and energy to podcast next year.  It remains to be decided…

Nature Walk + Thoughts for the Week

Well, it’s finally come – the end of a long, much needed, and memorable weekend.

Today my family and I went for a walk at a local bird reserve.  We’ve been going here for over a decade; it’s like visiting an old friend now.  Autumn is the best time to see it, though already a lot of the maples have lost their leaves.

After a short detour through the woods, the trail opens up to the tidal flats, home to plenty of sea gulls, mallards, and Canadian geese.  I’ve always thought this looks like something out of Middle Earth.

Though a cold day, it was a great way to unwind and mentally “reset” before the coming week.

Speaking of which, work has been pretty exhausting, and I’m trying very hard to stay positive.  Rapid changes and new responsibilities are the challenges right now.  I hope things will get easier by January.

To offset the stress, I’ve been alternating between several books:

  • The Concept of Anxiety – Kierkegaard, aforementioned
  • Open Letters – Václav Havel
  • Manalive – G. K. Chesterton.  (So far disappointing, to be honest.)

If you’ve never read Havel, I suggest dropping everything (as soon as is convenient) and reading “The Power of the Powerless” which you can find online.  Though a political piece, it can be read apolitically as well.  It is a call to “live within the truth” – as profound as it is simple, and as terrifying as it is essential.  I have started reading some of his other work in Open Letters and finding it just as excellent, so far.

Kierkegaard I shall soon finish; only about 26 pages to go.  It is tough to read, because in The Concept of Anxiety he is replying to a myriad of other philosophers (e.g. Hegel) and I am lost most of the time.  It seems like a book I’ll want to reread in the future.

I have found one quote I like very much.  It’s reminiscent of Myshkin’s “even in prison” quote from The Idiot, although a little less fanciful:

But life is rich enough if one only knows how to see.  There is no need to travel to Paris and London – and it does not help if one cannot see.

It’s something I believe in wholeheartedly.