Winter newsletter

Hello, friends, and happy February! Yesterday was Imbolc, the Irish holiday that celebrates the mid-way point between the winter solstice and the spring equinox, the time in Ireland when signs of the coming spring begin to be seen. This is the time that the ewes would be pregnant, which means that they could be milked again, which was important since by that time winter food stores would be dwindling. Some plants began budding around then, too, and the angle of the sun strengthened its rays even as temperatures remained cold awhile yet. This is true in Boston, too — snow in February will melt faster than snow in January given the same temperatures. And meteorologist Dave Epstein said on Twitter that this is the time indoor plants begin growing more, too, so this is the time to begin to give them a little plant food.

By my own calculations the midpoint of winter is technically tomorrow. I posted my annual wintering milestone calendar on my Patreon this year (but free for everyone). (Also, subtle reminder that I have a Patreon.) Tomorrow, February 3rd, Boston will return to 5 pm sunsets for the first time since early November. I can feel the difference in the evenings, especially on days that I help out in my friend’s carpool, dropping the kids off at home in the daylight instead of the dark. Sunsets are moving, too, dropping into the sixes for the first time in some time. In fact, I’m writing this in my office at 6:30 am, watching the cloudy sky slowly brighten from black to grey over a white landscape, heaped with piles of snow from last weekend’s storm. A few birds are already singing, morning prayers mixed with more prosaic thoughts about where to find the good seeds and berries.

***

I have some fun things to tell you about in this newsletter. I started 2022 with a big to-do list for my writing plans, along with the workshop I’ve been developing, and other related projects. A bunch of stuff is going on behind the scenes that I can’t tell you about yet, but one thing that I’m excited about is my new Instagram Live series, the Finding Your Voice Author Chats, in which I get to interview some of my favorite established and emerging writers about the craft of writing, and talk about their books and other projects. Last year I kicked off the series with a talk with my good friend Matt Bays about his book Leather and Lace (if you have Instagram you can watch that here). And last week I was so excited and honored to chat with the amazing author and educator, Deidra Riggs about how she came to book writing through the blogging heyday of the aughts and tens, and her current work helping individuals and groups understand and improve their cultural competency. We had a great conversation, which you can watch here.

For February I’m very excited to announce TWO superb authors lined up for the author chats. Krispin Mayfield and Teresa Kim Pecinovsky, have books coming out this month, and I get to interview both of them on Instagram Live! Mark your calendars for Wednesday, February 16th at noon EST for Krispin, and two days later, Friday, February 18th at 7 pm EST for Teresa. Krispin Mayfield is a therapist and theologian, and has written a book about how attachment theory can help us understand our relationship with God. And Teresa Kim Pecinovsky is an ordained minister and hospital chaplain who has written a wonderful children’s book called Mother God, exploring images of God inspired by feminine images from the Bible. 

I’ll be sharing more on social media about both of these wonderful authors and their books. And I hope to see some of you at the Instagram lives!

***

In January I also got to go on the Faith and Justice Network’s podcast with D.L. Mayfield, where we talked about struggling to find some kind of routine during the pandemic and micro-dosing on spiritual practices. I really love the Faith and Justice Network’s vision of “pursuing a more beautiful, expansive, and liberating vision of Christian faith in the world,” and I’m particularly excited about the involvement of awesome folks like D.L. Mayfield, Kristin Du Mez, and Lisa Sharon Harper.  You can listen to my episode here, or wherever you get your podcasts.

Not only was that my first podcast appearance of the year, it was kind of the kickoff of me promoting my new book, Blessings for the Long Night, which comes out in April! Blessings for the Long Night: Poems and Meditations to Help You through Depression is a companion book to my first book, The Long Night. But where The Long Night was short essays about a time of deep depression I experienced, and writers, teachers, and coping mechanisms that kept me afloat, Blessings for the Long Night is even shorter meditations and poems about depression, using the framework of the seasons, autumn, winter, and spring to talk about the beginning, middle, and end of a depressive episode. I also dig deeper into the meaning of the phrase from The Long Night’s cover: “You are not alone, and this will not last forever.” Here’s one of my favorite poems from Blessings:

Invocation

This poem is a prayer for you
my mind shapes these words
for you, my fingers find the keys
clicking them harder than is strictly
      necessary.

This book is a prayer for you
this paper, or this screen, contains secrets
only you can read.

This stanza is a prayer for you
this line lingers near your bedside
this one makes the sign of a cross
this one lights a candle
this one cries out the ache
      in my heart for you

Dear friend, reader, fellow sufferer
if you have forgotten how to pray
I will remind you:

Touch your own soft palm
to your own warm face

There. You have turned your body
into a prayer.

Blessings for the Long Night comes out on April 22nd, and is available for preorder NOW.

But wait! If you live in or near Boston, you might want to hold off preordering because I’m going to have my first ever real-life, in-person launch party at Reservoir Church in Cambridge, Massachusetts! We don’t have the exact date nailed down yet, but it will most likely be mid-to-late April, and will (we think) be a ticketed event with a copy of Blessings included in the ticket price. Reservoir has a gorgeous space, and we are planning some fun multimedia and multi-artist elements for the launch, so I hope some of you can come! I’ll have more info on all of that soon.

And, lastly, a little teaser for something coming up…

ooh…what could this be??

That’s all for now! Thanks so much for reading!

Jessica

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