Saturday, January 1, 2011

the peculiar year

Snow has been abundant, a welcome change. The neighborhood, draped in God’s dropcloth. When the kids got off school one week earlier than most others, we made plans to build a snowman.

As we walked various places in the neighborhood, the boy kept a sharp eye out for fallen tree twigs, hoping to spot the perfect pair to serve as arms for Frosty. When the day came to make the snowman, we completed the ensemble: two door stops to serve as eyes, a garden hose nozzle to serve as a nose and some twisted wire--bent to form a smile--to serve as a mouth. I wrapped the smiling wire in red ribbon to make it brighter and grabbed four large metal washers to serve as buttons for our snowman’s coat.

We placed our items in a bag and put on our boots, coats, gloves and hats. I grabbed the camera and out the door we went, ready to make our snowman.

I bent over to make the first large snow ball but the snow was too powdery. There would be no snowman-making today.

The boy said, “That’s okay, Dad. We can make one another day.”


December 30 brought warm temperatures and December 31 brought rain, of all things. All the snow is gone now. On the ground we are left with mud, unraked leaves, litter and cigarette butts by the dozens.

The boy surmised that snow-season was gone for good this year. He contented himself to wait 11 months till next year. We explained to him that the snow would be back sooner than he thought. He took some comfort in that, but it was clear he was still disappointed.

Still, as wonderland disappeared mid-season, we would find reason to celebrate right here, right now: some good friends invited us over to their family’s New Year’s Eve party. Afterwards, we would go see a movie based on one of C.S. Lewis’ well-loved Narnia stories.


We looked for a mailbox on the way to the party; we needed to make sure the check for this month’s rent got delivered in time.

Heather pulled the car to the curb; I quickly popped out and put the envelope in the box. As I closed the lid, I noticed: we had missed the twelve o’clock deadline by almost an hour. No worries, the check would get to our landlord by the fifth anyway.

Continuing to the party, we encountered a traffic jam in the least likely of places. We shifted lanes and saw what was causing the jam: a store, of all things. It seems everyone was making one last dash to shore up reserves for New Year’s Day.

No matter, we were beyond the jam--when we came upon a funeral procession. Most of the cars in the procession had the word “FUNERAL” stuck to their windows. The sticker was printed in all black capitals on a bright orange background.

Each car had its hazards on.

"Not a good way to ring in the new year," I thought. "Must be hard for them right now."

As we drove beside the procession, the song on our car radio asked, “If our God is for us, what could stand against us?”

We passed (what seemed to be) the front car in the procession and wondered where the hearse was. This funeral had no leader. Instead, the front car featured one lone man in a red sedan.

Was he carrying ashes alone? There should still be a hearse. Grieving needs a compassionate leader.


We missed our turn but arrived at the party in due course.

More people were gathered than we had expected. They met, in part, to honor and celebrate some Japanese traditions. They were making mochi, a type of rice cake. Shortly after arriving, we were handed a newspaper article that had just been printed two days prior, explaining facets of Japanese New Year celebrations.

The article said that mochi symbolizes happiness.

We left the party and passed more than one cemetery. I was struck by the number of memorial wreaths dotting the landscape.


2010 has been a year of starts and stops for me. It has been peculiar, like aborted snowmen, unseasonal mud, and disconnected funerals. At times, it has felt like dissonance; beautiful music, but a chord awaiting resolution nonetheless. Maybe that's why I spent 10 dollars on iTunes the other day to purchase some obscure choral music.

2010 did not turn out as I had imagined so 2011 feels like an inevitable improvisation to me.

I have no hypothesis. I just wonder how the year will turn out. I wonder if I have what it takes to face the future with strength and good cheer.

Later, at the film, I could identify with Reepicheep; I long for Aslan’s country. Victory in this life is not enough.

As I think about the disappointments of 2010 and the uncertainty of 2011, that is a good reminder. Win, lose or draw: God is my home.

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