Little Doors (Advent for the Skeptical and Weary, Part 4)


I’ve been using this Advent series to mull over some of my struggles with the season, which has made for some serious posts. Here, I talk about my petulant Christmas cards. Here, I talk about seasonal depression. Here, I question how we’re supposed to hope when we can’t even figure out what to hope for. So for a little levity, at this point I will insert a ridiculous intermission: Advent calendars.

I am not a Catholic, but the Catechism of the Catholic Church seems as good a place as any to learn the origins of the liturgical season of Advent. All right, Catholics—hit it.

“When the Church celebrates the liturgy of Advent each year, she makes present this ancient expectancy of the Messiah, for by sharing in the long preparation for the Savior’s first coming, the faithful renew their ardent desire for his second coming.”

Catechism of the Catholic Church

Okay, good basic definition. So—just curious—as a parent, how am I supposed to impart a proper eschatological yearning to my children?

Well, duh. The Beano.



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Santa Baby (Song Series #13)


Yeah… we just went ahead and did it. “Santa Baby.” Because, Eartha Kitt.

Pair this song with the lights display above, and you have a Very Long Island Christmas.

But it’s so much fun to sing.

Santa Baby

Guitar: Rob Hinst

Vocals: Jen Hinst-White

Written by Joan Javits and Philip Springer

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the sow began remembering

It’s throwback Tuesday with this little recording. Two years ago at Christmastime, my soul-brother-the-poet Elijah Burrell and I recorded “Gabriel’s Message,” and I still like how it came out.

Gabriel’s Message

Vocals: Elijah Burrell, Jen Hinst-White

(from a Basque folk carol)

67B813B2-34C4-4088-A861-1C7125E65408This song is a moment between a terrifying divine postman with fire-eyes and a budding woman unaware she is anything much. She is hidden even to herself. He tells her she’s going to conceive and create, in her body, a child who will be a breathing, heart-beating God-with-us. In the original text, she responds: “Let it be to me according to your word.”

I think the angel does something that we artists also can do, in our way, if we care to: With attention to a person, a thing, a moment or place, “reteach a thing its loveliness.” That’s a line from Galway Kinnell’s poem “Saint Francis and the Sow.” I know some may have a theological quibble with the idea that Mary is being re-taught her loveliness, or visited so that she might “flower, from within, of self-blessing,” but I don’t know; doesn’t every blessing come from the same Source, and when Gabriel says in the song, “Thou lowly maiden Mary, most highly favored Lady,” might he not be coupling what she thought she was and what in truth she is?

Anyway, here’s the Kinnell poem, for your pleasure.

Saint Francis and the Sow

By Galway Kinnell

The bud
stands for all things,
even for those things that don’t flower,
for everything flowers, from within, of self-blessing;
though sometimes it is necessary
to reteach a thing its loveliness,
to put a hand on its brow
of the flower
and retell it in words and in touch
it is lovely
until it flowers again from within, of self-blessing;
as Saint Francis
put his hand on the creased forehead
of the sow, and told her in words and in touch
blessings of earth on the sow, and the sow
began remembering all down her thick length,
from the earthen snout all the way
through the fodder and slops to the spiritual curl of the tail,
from the hard spininess spiked out from the spine
down through the great broken heart
to the sheer blue milken dreaminess spurting and shuddering
from the fourteen teats into the fourteen mouths sucking and blowing beneath them:
the long, perfect loveliness of sow.
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The Light Box, Continued (Advent for the Skeptical and Weary, Part 3)

 {…continued from The Light Box (Advent for the Skeptical and Weary, Part 2)}

The light arrived, and it looked like this:


I opened up the directions.


Oh, shut up, I thought.

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The Light Box (Advent for the Skeptical and Weary, Part 2)

Here in New York, it’s normal for grown-ups to grouse about winter. Much complaining about the ice-crusted driveways and shoveling and and the dark days and the flu. That thirteenth snowfall is so magical, says no New Yorker ever.

(By the way, this is part 2 of a series of little musings called Advent for the Skeptical and Weary. Because Advent is a season about hope, and joyous expectation, and the discipline of waiting… but this year, I’m kind of skeptical and weary.)

Sound Beach under ice and snow.

Sound Beach under ice and snow.

This churlish anti-weather platform is not my position on winter. I like snow. Even the thirteenth time. Even shoveling it.

I don’t hate winter; I just dread what it does to me. 

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