When I left Reynolds House this morning it was still dark, and I wasn’t expecting the ice beneath my feet on the deck and stairs. It is pure reflexes when you are flailing for balance – a successful flail, in this case, and I kept my footing. Things are still pretty tender where I had my back surgery, apparently, although I forget that little wounded area most of the day, my recovery has been so remarkable. My mood wasn’t one so much of fear as exhilaration: gratitude for medical science, and for whatever quirks have made my resumption of normal life so good. I picked my way along the paving stones and down the school drive in the dark. It was cold – ice cold, clearly – and I was the only one out, although I could see that Andy Rodford, Director of Senior School, was already in his office.
It is almost the shortest day of the year, when the sun is lowest in the sky and now, a few hours later, the sun is just above the treetops over Victoria It is gleaming on the wet grass of the front field, gradually melting the white dusting of frost on the turf as it moves across the sky and the shadows move with it. On the phone this morning, our Director of Junior School, Nancy Richards, told me that they had just an amazing Primary Concert last night, a festive climax to the term. Earlier in the week, the Middle School regaled everyone in their Christmas Band Concert. But this morning things are quieter.
So far today I have had a few phone calls, and a conference call, and sent a few emails. A scan of my schedule revealed I could go out and buy a couple of presents. I also scanned some of the blogs I follow, quite random little darts from the outside world into this world of SMUS. For instance, I learned on the blog of Outside Magazine, that the bowline, a knot I have always trusted, is not so dependable in mountain-climbing situations. On the Harvard Business Review blog I discovered that what people regretted most about their careers could be instructive: one of the top five was that people wished they had made better use of their time in school. Somehow I don’t think I can use this lesson on our own SMUS students; they need lessons that are a bit more immediate. In the Analects blog from the Economist magazine, which comments weekly on events in China, the author pondered the cultural meaning of the clothing worn by this year’s Nobel Prize winner for literature, Mo Yan. Finally, again from Outside Magazine, I learned of the death at age 93 of mountaineer Maurice Herzog, the first man to climb to Annapurna, in Nepal, in 1950. At that time it was the highest ascent of any mountain on earth; Everest had not yet been conquered. He wrote a book about this climb, which is one of the classics of the genre. Three years ago, my wife, Joan, and I sat at the top of Poon Hill in the middle of the Annapurna Range, where we could view several of the highest mountains in the world. I wrote about it here, on my travel blog. I went to Amazon.com and downloaded his book to my Kindle, called simply Annapurna. I will read it over the holidays, indulging one of my favorite passions and pastimes.
I imagine nearly every reader of this blog will also be a reader of books during the holiday season. Enjoy your time, your families, your reading, and this season of light.