In anticipation of life’s improbable joys

Aaron J. Brown

Aaron J. Brown is an Iron Range blogger, author, radio producer and columnist for the Hibbing Daily Tribune.

The news wiled around the internet like whispers in the night. Did you hear about the comet? The brightest comet EVER? The one that will shine 15 times more brilliantly than the moon?

It was called Comet ISON and, like most comets, it had been around a lot longer than the likes of us. Comets are essentially dirty snowballs from space, something most of us in northern Minnesota can appreciate. In the abstract these comets carry the stuff that gave life to our planet, the baking soda of amino acids that made the dough of carbon and iron rise into biological life on Earth. Perhaps this is why people continue to live in places like this; ancient memory of the power of snow.

Comet ISON

Comet ISON before its ill-fated encounter with our sun.

Too bad this particular spaceball got fried by the sun. In order for the “brighter than the moon” business to play out, Comet ISON had to make a dangerous orbit inside the sun’s corona on Thanksgiving. Had it done so, Comet ISON would have emerged a glowing ball of wonder. But it didn’t. It went down like, well, a space snowball in a dense ball of burning gas.

So much of life is anticipation. You’re born and then you can’t wait to run around. You’re a kid and then you can’t wait to ride your bike over to your friend’s house. You’re riding bike one day and it occurs to you that all of this would be better with an engine, a seat, a stereo system and the girl from science class in the passenger seat. It goes on.

Last week TV weathermen regaled us with talk of the first big snow storm of the winter. This is an annual occurrence; the traditional overestimation of early snowfall. And while we always get snow, it takes a month for meteorologists and gas station gabbers alike to get their bearings on what always proves to be a long winter.

Still, we watched. We waited. Silent snowy contemplations of changed plans and possible cancellations filled our minds with the strange brew of worry and hope that make life up north possible. I can’t afford a snow day, I said. I could sure use a snow day, said my evil twin who lives in my brain.

Christmas approaches. This is not something you forget in a house with elementary school-aged children. Every day is reminder that a certain number of days remain between the unacceptable present and the glorious future (of presents).

Christmas Ball Decoration

Creative Commons / Nicky Fern

We have a Christmas decoration that must be adjusted daily to count down toward the holiday. There are three advent calendars for three boys, each of which dispenses a daily chocolate and the promise of the continued passage of time. Even the Angry Birds Seasons game opens a new winter-themed level each day of December, allowing the boys to actually fling their wildest desires forward into the calendar, crashing through brick, wood, snow and glass with a satisfying crash.

As we age we learn that Christmas comes anyway, and so does winter, and space debris that gives or takes life with its unrelenting execution of the laws of physics. You don’t have to wait anymore. It’s already happened. It’s a shame this causes so many of us to close our eyes to the wonder of anticipating what comes next. Because as much as we might not control the advance of time, or the events therein, we can see so much if we only open our eyes.

The moon is plenty bright all on its own, illuminated by the same sun that gobbled up Comet ISON. Some snow storms don’t cancel school, but do turn the landscape into a winter wonder. I think my favorite part of Christmas is the weeks before, when at night the Christmas tree lights shine on ornaments that read out the years of my life. I look forward, with anticipation, to the ones yet to live.

Aaron J. Brown is an author and college instructor from northern Minnesota’s Iron Range. He writes the blog and hosts the Great Northern Radio Show on Northern Community Radio. The next program will broadcast live from the Fosston Library Arts Center on Saturday, Dec. 14. This piece first appeared in the Sunday, Dec. 8, 2013 edition of the Hibbing Daily Tribune and was broadcast on a recent edition of “Between You and Me.”

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