Accomplishing a life means investing real time. Sure, there's the turbulent helter-skelter, meetings upcoming and buses leaving, smartphones buzzing and Facebook flashing, activity pushed further and faster, load and unload, charge and discharge. But then comes Advent. We get a yearly reminder and opportunity to extract ourselves from the rush and to pull the non-algorithmic Penrose magic trick, spotting old Mara among the stress and desperation, naming the demons, and moving beyond them all. Because some speed limits are absolute, and only super-luminal time-travel nonsense would let us break them. No great achievement happens instantly, and our lives go into our life's work bit by bit, through time invested.
This fall our family has invested time getting to know our new place in Cambridge, Mass. We're enjoying our neighbors and colleagues, and we've visited a great many curiosities and attractions in the Boston area. Thanks go to all the visitors who gave us good reason to do it: Arnauds, Bush, Ellefsons, Geertzes, Kelleys, Langleys, Mitchell, Perrys, Taylors, and Wyrtzens, to name a few! Neely has served as head tour-guide and hostess, not to mention heading up daily family logistics. She also traveled to University of Rochester to see their business school; she's now applying to graduate accounting programs. Meanwhile she did some very impressive volunteer work for the Elizabeth Warren and Barack Obama campaigns this fall, and earlier in 2012, she led a team of PTA paratroopers working wonders for Davis Street School. Neely finished out another meaningful year teaching yoga and dearly misses her students from Amistad, Fresh Yoga, and North Haven Library. She also took third place in a relay triathlon with Emma and Randee. (Nice job, team!) We're getting to know Christ Church Cambridge, a neighborly parish doing substantial outreach. And our two favorite greyhound fosters, Blaze and Nina, are now with us to stay, excited to greet everyone who comes in the door, and passing convincingly as deer for Halloween.
We've invested time away from home, too. This fall, we took a family camping trip with the Olynkuskis—campfire and s'mores, check. Earlier in the year we enjoyed other travels, including a trip to Edisto to celebrate Miriam and Adam's wedding, a trip to Covington to celebrate Sarah and Andrew's wedding, and a grand Southern road trip that touched Shepherdstown, Hartwell, Montgomery, Birmingham, Greenville, and Silver Spring. Thanks for having us, everybody! The kids stayed with their grandparents for a few weeks while Neely and I wrapped up and packed up (with generous help from Guy and Rosie) and trucked it all from New Haven to Cambridge. Since then I've been settling into my new job developing liquid metal batteries at MIT; we think they could fundamentally change the way electricity is generated and used.
Jessie, now a first-grader, invests time in chapter books and writes copiously (though spelling will have to come later). She always has projects in progress, usually fabricating artwork, doll clothes, or greeting cards from found objects. She dashes around the room, eyes lit up, when she learns how to divide twelve cookies among four friends; occasionally she tells real jokes. Martha, a kindergartner this year, speaks direct as Matilda and sings annoying songs to ward off fourth-grade bullies. When alone, Martha tells long Playmobil stories, but at school or with Adela and Jesper from next door, she befriends everybody and butters them all up. Last month's broken arm slowed her down for only a couple of weeks. Both girls ride the “Purple Dragon” bus to the Portuguese immersion school, and they sing Portuguese songs together after dinner.
We don't know what we're saving for, don't know how and when—or even why—these investments of our irreplaceable time will mature. For the helter-skelter goes on, and though we may escape being its victim, our days are contingent upon its consequences nonetheless. Yet somehow we are sure our invested time will bear fruit, and Advent does give way again to Christmas. Wendell Berry writes, “I come into the peace of wild things who do not tax their lives with forethought of grief…. For a time I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.” Wilco sings, “So it all adds up, and you should be glad / Everlasting love is all you had.” As 2013 comes, our family sends you the hope and wish that your time will be invested wisely, that it all adds up, that we will all be free in peace and grace.