Raw, adjective: 9. disagreeably damp and chilly, as the weather or air: a raw, foggy day at the beach.
That would be me. Advent me.
Purple-bluesy, snapped-in-the-moment, sweaty-after-yoga me. I dig that pic. It feels true. November-true, at least; wintry. The days here in SF have been nippy of late, the nights even moreso; the ice skating rink's set up per usual down in the shadow of Saks in Union Square, and there's this heavy dark atmospheric quiet that makes me want to lose everything to cab franc and cowl-neck sweaters and red lipstick and books and words. Winter, fer sure.
Today's the first Sunday in Advent. Did you forget, too? I sat down at my desk this afternoon and looked at the calendar, realizing this, and suddenly it all made sense: why I've been swimming in Krishna blue of late, why I can't get enough deep violets and murky plums and periwinkles, why this season that feels like so much darkness and chill always comes to me so wrapped in deep lush lilac hues.
So it's Advent, that old familiar liturgical season that means the first of four Sundays anticipating the Main Event, the big shebang, that huge Christmas Eve service when the church lights up in and of its own accord, simply by the grace of the flickering candles throwing light on midnight-massed faces.
[Tears come on writing this, interesting, yes.]
As a kid, growing up a PK, this was a big deal. The long post-Pentecostal stretch was over, and the thrill of the holidays really began when we dug out the dusty Advent wreath with its four blue candles and unrolled my mother's quilted Advent calendar and hung it on the wall. It was inevitably cold and frozen there on the Great Plains; I can remember the blizzard winds howling around the corners of the house in South Dakota like a train, an angry, unpredictable, threatening meteorological force. The warmth of the candlelit liturgical season combined with the hope for the holiday to counter that barren month of cold, capped off by an unusually lazy Christmas Day itself, which was the rare day we actually got to skip church. Since Pops was a campus pastor and his students were always out of session over winter break, he got a sweet day off - which also meant that for one precious Christmas Eve service a year, all six of us got to sit together in the same pew. Pretty rad, even before you consider the Barbie convertibles and Little House on the Prairie boxsets to be found under the Christmas tree the next morning.
SO anyway - here we are again, Advent, shivering, lighting that first candle on the wreath, and I spent the morning at the yoga studio instead of in the back pew as I would've two decades ago, and that felt right, though perhaps I haven't strayed as far from the institutional church as I'd first thought: I unknowingly (subconsciously?) threw on monochromatic purple this morning on barrelling out of the house, late, highly-caffeinated, half-asleep: purple yoga skirt, purple tank, purple long-sleeved shirt. So the Advent colors were there, embodied, this first Sunday, without my even realizing it; and as we look toward Christmas and the unfurling month to come, the December that flies by so quickly as we grow older (do you remember how it used to creep when we were kids, waiting, hoping, anticipating that big Christmas morning under the tree?), I'm graced by the sense of quiet, the yin, the darkness, that's part and parcel of this liturgical season.
It's no coincidence, you know, that the purple-blue hues of Advent mirror the same violets of Lent. Both liturgical seasons are laden with urges toward reflection, mindfulness, stillness, peace. We celebrate peace now, as North and South Korea threaten one another; we cultivate stillness, in the heavy winter evenings that roll in earlier and earlier with each day, until the solstice finally curls us into that shortest day of the year; we sit in the quiet, in the yin, in the blue silent moments, and come back to the breath, and become aware of the suffering, and donate our coats or our canned goods or our time or our labor so that others' suffering might be eased even in the least; we reflect on the year that has been, the year that will so soon draw to a close, the creeping lines on our faces, the aching joints in our bodies; we remember where we were one Advent ago, and ten Advents ago, and twenty, and give thanks for the ongoing presence, for the fact that we can even celebrate one more; and we hope for warmth and nourishment and compassion and care there in the midst of that violet-colored December chill.
So roll around in your purple, get your monochromatic lilacs on, light your life with blues and periwinkles and lavenders and royals, and let that bluesy-ness draw you more deeply into reflection, stillness, presence, gratitude, peace. Whether it's the Krishna blue of Hinduism or the deep violet of Protestant Christianity, the color can be a much-needed muse for finding the kind of grace and peace promised in the mindfulness of the season.
It'll be over before you know it.
Take a deep breath, light a candle, and let your light so shine, preferably while getting your jam on to this chestnut of a Europop tune from the turn of the millennium. (This puppy flashes me straight back to a dark dance club in South Philly circa 2000, several Long Island iced teas in. We're well past the Long Island iced tea days now, but refill your red wine glass instead, and bust a move, please, there in your cowlneck and your thick socks. It's cold in here.)
The Christian Season of Advent
Eiffel 65 ~ Blue (Da Ba Dee) (YouTube)