Welcome to Advent 2012! After some deliberation last night and some quick counting on my fingers, I realised that I had visited 23 countries since starting this blog. So for Advent this year, I'll be posting a photo each day from one of those countries - but without saying which country it is (YES! It's like a puzzle!) until December 24th when all will be revealed - along with a photo of one of the countries I hope to visit in 2013.
I don't think I've posted this before, but one of my favourite poems is about Advent, and about reacquainting ourselves with wonder - 'the newness that was in every stale thing,' which is something that, for me, Advent and travel have in common.
Advent, by Patrick Kavanagh
We have tested and tasted too much, lover-
Through a chink too wide there comes in no wonder.
But here in the Advent-darkened room
Where the dry black bread and the sugarless tea
Of penance will charm back the luxury
Of a child's soul, we'll return to Doom
The knowledge we stole but could not use.
And the newness that was in every stale thing
When we looked at it as children: the spirit-shocking
Wonder in a black slanting Ulster hill
Or the prophetic astonishment in the tedious talking
Of an old fool will awake for us and bring
You and me to the yard gate to watch the whins
And the bog-holes, cart-tracks, old stables where Time begins.
O after Christmas we'll have no need to go searching
For the difference that sets an old phrase burning-
We'll hear it in the whispered argument of a churning
Or in the streets where the village boys are lurching.
And we'll hear it among decent men too
Who barrow dung in gardens under trees,
Wherever life pours ordinary plenty.
Won't we be rich, my love and I, and
God we shall not ask for reason's payment,
The why of heart-breaking strangeness in dreeping hedges
Nor analyse God's breath in common statement.
We have thrown into the dust-bin the clay-minted wages
Of pleasure, knowledge and the conscious hour-
And Christ comes with a January flower.