Archive for the ‘January’ Category

Every single day, at 10:30 am, I find myself suddenly stricken with cold. My fingers against the keyboard become positively frigid. My whole body tenses up, and I start to shiver.

What’s causing this sudden temperature drop? Let’s review my morning ritual. At 8:35, I arrive at the office after a long commute and a wickedly cold trek from the train station to my office. (This morning: 15 degrees). I take off my coat and defrost over my e-mails, a hot cup of coffee, and a steaming bowl of oatmeal. The rising sun shines through the east-facing window, bathing me with passive-solar heat.

But by 10:30 am, the sun is no longer shining directly through the window. And my hot meal has become a digestive process which seems determined to suck all of the heat away from my body. In the past few weeks, I have come to the conclusion that eating doesn’t just make me tired. It also makes me cold.

I first recognized the phenomenon two weeks ago. It was 20 degrees outside and the sun was setting when I biked across Philadelphia to go to an obscure Indonesian restaurant. By the time we headed home several hours later, it had only dropped a few degrees. But as soon as I stepped outside, I started to shake uncontrollably. It took a few minutes of shivering before I was able to get onto my bike. (My date, on the other hand, said he felt warmer after the meal than before.)

Anna tells me that she experienced the same thing in Europe. Hours trekking through the icy streets in search of a good meal were fine, as long as she had her mind set on her goal (good food, asap). But trying to get home after that lovely, late-evening dinner? Horrendously cold.

The internet corroborates my digestive theory. Answers.com tells me that after you eat a meal, your body directs blood towards your internal organs as part of the digestive process. This means that you have less blood moving through your external body parts (hands, feet, skin), making you shiver. Once you’re done digesting, answers.com promises, you will feel even warmer than before because of all the nutritious food you ate.

On the other hand, answers.com also has an explanation for why some people feel warm after eating: it could be caused by rapid processing of sugars, or by heat generated through metabolic processes. My conclusion: answers.com doesn’t have a clue. And in this field, the internet is coming up cold.

So I’m sticking with anecdotal evidence, which everyone knows sounds convincing even when it’s not. Do you get cold after you eat?


19 degrees and sunny (but it feels like 11!)


Hannah: 5 out of 10 on the can’t get out of bed to jumping for joy scale. It’s almost time for lunch!

Anna: 4.5


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Three years ago this week I was in the Grand Canyon!

Actually, three years ago this week my life was flashing before my eyes as I tried to swallow my fear (and my pride) and slide across a frozen waterfall over a 15-foot drop at the Grand Canyon.

Yesterday was possibly the worst day ever. It was gray out and preparing to snow and it felt like one in a long line of gray days that extended not just since winter began, but across all Januaries past and future.

And then today, the sun is shining, and I’m thinking about the Grand Canyon. I went there at the end of a poorly planned trip across the country with my then-boyfriend. A few days before I left there was a snowstorm just like yesterday, and I wrote an e-mail to a friend: driving across the country is the worst idea I’ve ever had.

Then the snowstorm ended and the sun came out. I drove north to Maine between glistening piles of snow on freshly-plowed roads. I wrote an e-mail to the same friend: this is the most gorgeous place I’ve ever been. The next day I headed west. A week later, the sun was shining and I was in the Grand Canyon.

I’m not in Maine today, or in the Grand Canyon. But the sun is shining on fresh piles of snow and even though I’m sitting at the same desk as yesterday, I’m filled suddenly with a sense of adventure. Today, I’m thinking, anything could happen. I could leap over a melting waterfall above a 15-foot drop. I could write a really brilliant chapter for the book I’m working on. I could make bread.

I made bread.

I guess I can’t go on an adventure every time a storm ends and the sun comes out. But it’s nice to remember the things that are possible. And it’s nice, after a month of storms, to have a beautiful day.

When I lived in Maine I used to recite a Robert Frost poem to my students that begins like this:

Happiness Makes Up in Height for What It Lacks in Length

Oh, stormy stormy world,
The days you were not swirled
Around with mist and cloud,
Or wrapped as in a shroud,
And the sun’s brilliant ball
Was not in part or all
Obscured from mortal view—
Were days so very few
I can but wonder whence
I get the lasting sense
Of so much warmth and light.

32 degrees and sunny!

Hannah 7 out of 10 on the can’t get out of bed to jumping for joy scale.
Anna: 6 out of 10 and much better than yesterday, which was a 2! (our worst ever – sorry anna.)

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According to WBUR and a slew of other news articles, today is the coldest day Massachusetts has experienced in the past six years. Last night, meteorologists predicted wind chill temperatures of -15 to -25 degrees Fahrenheit in Boston.

Thanks to numerous weather warnings from my mother, WBZ, and strangers in the street, I piled on so many layers last night and this morning that I was actually sweating after a 15-minute walk outside. In case you’re curious about how many layers it takes to overheat in below-freezing temperatures, let me enlighten you:

  • Knit shirt
  • Wool sweater
  • Thermal leggings
  • Wool knee socks
  • Leg warmers
  • Pants
  • Snow boots
  • Wool shawl
  • Silk glove liners
  • Elbow-length knit gloves
  • Winter hat, originally bought for my January trip to Prague and Vienna
  • Knee-length down jacket (a.k.a., the sleeping bag with arms)

I may or may not resemble Randy from “A Christmas Story.”

But I’d rather look comical than become a human icicle.

Weather: 12 degrees in Boston, but it feels like -3, so layer up and stay warm!


Anna – 6 out of 10 on the “so miserable I can’t get out of bed” to “jumping for joy” scale. Lots to do.

Hannah – She’s traveling, so no rating today.

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Julia is a  colleague who is home from her first semester in college. She shared her thoughts about bad weather everywhere with us.

“This Is Nothing.”

That’s what I’ve been saying to my mom since I’ve been home from college. Trust me, Massachusetts’s blustery winds have nothing on Ohio’s howling gales.

Oberlin College (which is also Hannah’s alma mater, by the way) is situated smack dab in the middle of “The Snowbelt,” which stretches from upstate New York to Wisconsin. In terms of extreme weather — blizzards, floods and tornadoes — Ohio has seen it all.  From November to April it’s as if the Arctic Tundra has been temporarily relocated to the Midwest.

Since September, I experienced a host of tempestuous conditions — sudden heat spells, torrential downpours and harsh snowfall — all of them usually occurring within a short period of time. On top of all my schoolwork, this unpredictable weather has been a lot for me to handle.  After one particularly violent wintry day, I exasperatedly asked my hall-mate, an Ohio native, “Is it ALWAYS like this?!”

Being at home has been a nice break from unpredictable weather — up until last weekend, when a surprise cold snap rolled in and ruined my mood. It was too cold to go out and do anything, like explore the city. On top of that, I had a terrible cold that zapped me of energy.

This week, I’m still sick and growing ever more frustrated by this frosty weather. Sure, snow is pretty when it’s softly falling on cedars, but during blizzard conditions I can’t stand it. I have no desire to sit by my window and stare contemplatively into the wintry white abyss.  All I can do is curl up into a ball and wish it were spring.

If I’m trying to get somewhere in the snow, like to work so I can write this blog post, I hate the snow even more. I don’t know how to drive so I rely on public transit to get me everywhere. But in inclement weather, trains and buses are almost always hopelessly delayed and I am left in the cold, aggravated and waiting for them to arrive.

This severe weather will only worsen when I return to school in two weeks. I’m excited to start new classes and see my friends, but now more than ever part of me is wishing I went to school in California. At least there I wouldn’t be freezing from November to April.

Overcast with lots of slush on the ground.

Julia: 5/10. Could be better, could be worse… still wishing it were Spring.

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I was born in 1986, almost 20 years after Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated and the civil rights movement died down. That’s why this holiday is so important: it makes new generations stop and think about the history of civil rights in America, and about the future we hope to see. So here are some of the memories that Martin Luther King, Jr. Day evokes for me:

I remember: the first time I heard King’s I Have A Dream speech, which remains, in my opinion, one of the most inspiring political moments in American history.

I remember: the first time I, a Massachusetts native, learned about forced integration in the Boston City Schools in the 70s and 80s. Massachusetts still uses “desegregation buses” to this day. If you saw the New York Times’ amazing census graphic you know that our cities are still divided by race and ethnicity. What does that segregation mean today?

I remember: for several years in a row, the only African American student in my high school was obligated to give a speech on Martin Luther King day. I remember that he didn’t want to speak. I remember that he was the only African American student in my high school.

I remember: the first time I witnessed prejudice in action. I didn’t say anything. Today I renew my pledge never to let that happen again.

I remember: we have an African American president. When I first saw Obama on television in 2004, I thought, America will never elect a black man. It didn’t even occur to me that thoughts like that are racist themselves. Politics aside, I am so glad that I was wrong.

I just learned that today is the National Day of Service. I don’t know why I didn’t know that. Today I’m working – but next year, I plan to participate. What do you remember today? What future are you hoping for?

Weather: Cold but so sunny.


Hannah: 5 out of 10. Thoughtful and a little cold.

Anna: in transit. Hopefully not suffering too much at the hands of the airlines.

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Yesterday, at about 7 o’clock am, Somerville caught on fire.

I was walking to the gym, pushing my way through sidewalks heaped high with snow (and leaping over the occasional puddle or slick of ice) when the sun suddenly slipped over the horizon and Wednesday’s snowstorm turned brilliant in the reflected light. The trees, already frosted with snow, turned pink. I looked east down the major avenue by my house and the Boston skyline spread out before me. It was beautiful.

As a kid, sunrises were the sign of a special event. On family vacations we would all get up in the pitch black, blearily dress and pile our luggage into the car and drive off to our destination, hoping to evade the rush-hour traffic. I remember waking up in the back seat, wrapped in a blanket, and watching the sun rise over the highway. I remember feeling its warmth on my face and realizing that I was on my way to an adventure.

As an adult, I have become a sunrise chaser. I’ve caught sunrises at the Galilee in Israel and over the pampas in Argentina; I’ve driven recklessly down one-way streets in search of an eastern horizon on St. Croix, USVI. One all-time favorite memory involves climbing a mountain in the dark and the rain with a fellow sunrise chaser. Our purpose was to catch the sunrise over San Martin de Los Lagos, in the foothills of the Andes Mountains. We sat down on a rock overlooking the lake and pulled out a thermos of hot tea that we had lugged up for the occasion – only to realize that it was raining. There was no visible sunrise at all.

But yesterday’s sunrise was special because I didn’t have to chase it at all. It caught me unaware and, beautiful in itself, reminded me of so many beautiful sunrises past.

It also alerted me to the fact that the days are getting longer. Morning is a half-hour earlier than it was in December. I know January feels long and cold but at least I know that things are getting brighter from here.

Weather: 20 degrees and so gray you can’t tell the snow from the sky.

Hannah: 6 out of 10 on the “can’t get out of bed” to “jumping for joy” scale. Looking forward to a sleepy weekend indoors.
Anna: Is in Athens. it’s 55 degrees and sunny and she is most likely sitting in front of the parthenon and drinking a glass of wine before dining on olives, lamb, stuffed grape leaves, and other delicious things.

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A favorite poem

The Snowman

One must have a mind of winter
To regard the frost and the boughs
Of the pine-trees crusted with snow;

And have been cold a long time
To behold the junipers shagged with ice,
The spruces rough in the distant glitter

Of the January sun; and not to think
Of any misery in the sound of the wind,
In the sound of a few leaves,

Which is the sound of the land
Full of the same wind
That is blowing in the same bare place

For the listener, who listens in the snow,
And, nothing himself, beholds
Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is.

– Wallace Stevens

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Hello, blogosphere: how are you feeling today?

– “I’m feeling so guilty,” says someone from the eastern shore of Maryland

– “I’m working so hard to deal with the anger I’m feeling,” says someone in the UK.

– “I feel like I’m not doing a good enough job at anything,” says someone in Massachusetts.

– “I feel the real me within myself again,” says someone in Singapore.

– “I am allowing myself to feel and deal with what is in my heart and mind,” says someone in Kansas.

I recently received a link to the fascinating website wefeelfine.org. The site harvests “feelings” from an enormous number of blogs to create an emotional database, which it then makes manifest in a chaotic visual representation. The person who sent me the link described it as “a funky little web applet Java thingie which is remarkably profound when you realize that the little balls floating around are people’s souls laid bare yet at once coyly hidden behind the anonymity of online media forms.”

We Feel Fine is neat because you can filter by age, by city, by gender, and by weather! The top three feelings when it’s snowy? Able, lucky, and new.

The top three feelings when it’s sunny? Lazy, lucky, and ready.

Seems like for the most part, regardless of everything, people feel pretty good. Or at least that’s how they’re describing themselves on the internet. Which I find remarkable because I always thought of blogs as a dumping ground for self-pity. It makes me think that perhaps more people than we know are using the blogging world, instead, as an opportunity for positive self reflection and a chance to look toward a more hopeful future. As the authors of We Feel Fine say, “At its core, We Feel Fine is an artwork authored by everyone. … We hope it makes the world seem a little smaller, and we hope it helps people see beauty in the everyday ups and downs of life.”

Weather: Hazy and 30 degrees


Hannah: 5 out of 10 on the “can’t get out of bed” to “jumping for joy” scale. Tired.

Anna: is in Vienna, hopefully eating chocolate cake.

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A quick post from the Acela Express to say that I am on my way home from the launch party for The Emotional Calendar, the book by Dr. John Sharp that inspired this blog. (Yes, this is a shamelessly promotional post). The event was held at the Harvard Club and it was fun to stand under the elk heads and nineteenth century prints among all those well-dressed people and pretend to be a part of the New York literary scene. It was also fun, and unusual, to attend a party that was primarily about a book.

It always astonishes me that I can write blog posts from the train. It’s a beautiful afternoon and we are passing a salt marsh at the edge of a tidal river. A raptor is circling overhead and there is smoke rising from a power plant or factory at the edge of the bay. It is lovely to pass by the sea.

Someone recently wrote in an e-mail that “there is something grounded and site-specific about the things that end up floating unmoored out in the sea of the blogospheres and digitospheres.” I like to think of my blog posts as words unmoored in a digital sea. But right now, riding on a train and feeling a bit unmoored (literally) myself, I like to think that there are things holding these words in place. One of those things, I think, is the hardcover book that I held for the first time last night.

I love writing a blog and I love talking about the future of the internet but each time I move towards the digital world, books call me back. Publishing may be dead, but my romance with books is far from over.

Weather: sunny and cool but on the train it’s totally climate controlled!


Hannah: 6 out of 10 on the “jumping for joy” to “can’t get out of bed” scale. A bit tired.

Anna: Out of sight, out of mind. She’s still in Europe!

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My favorite author, Jorge Luis Borges, writes that time is cyclical in nature: as we walk through the streets of the town where we were born, we relive the times that we have walked there before.

“Of course,” writes Borges about these moments, “they are repeated imprecisely; there are differences of emphasis, temperature, light and general physiological condition.” Each moment is similar, we tend to think, but no two moments are the same. Borges suggests otherwise. He argues that the number of possible iterations is not infinite – we can imagine two identical moments, in which all variables are precisely the same. “Is not one single repeated term sufficient to break down and confuse the series of time?” Borges asks. “Do not the fervent readers who surrender themselves to Shakespeare become, literally, Shakespeare?”

So, on New Year’s Eve: how many of us gather together to open a bottle of champagne, to dance, or cheer, or bring in the new year with a kiss? On New Year’s Eve I like to think of all the years before. I like to identify the differences of emphasis, the varying locations, and contexts, and moods. But I also like to think, a la Borges, that maybe my new year is not so unique. Maybe somewhere in the present, or somewhere in the past, this moment has occurred before. It makes the world seem somehow smaller and more beautiful.

This year I didn’t have a watch and so I would have missed midnight altogether, if a neighbor hadn’t shot a cannon at precisely 12 am.  Well, dear readers: did any of you have the same new year as me? Where were you on new year’s eve?

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