I have been thinking a fair bit about Advent over the last few weeks.

I used to love Advent as a child. Now I find myself growing increasingly grumpy and cynical in anticipation of the Christmas season, muttering about commercialisation and consumerism and pointless consumption of too much food, drink and stuff.

Without small children around, Christmas loses a lot of its natural magic.

Plus Christmas Eve is the anniversary of my mum’s death, and I know that has shifted and changed my sense of anticipation or looking forward to this time of year, although not necessarily in a negative way (it was a day of exceptional cold, winter sunshine and extraordinary peacefulness that I’m still wonder-ing about)

I wanted to find a way of recreating or maybe creating anew some enjoyment and appreciation of this December period, rather than dwelling in grumpiness and muttering at the TV (enjoyable though that can be, in its own way). I thought about some of the things I used to enjoy about advent – all intrinsically wrapped up with memories of my mum.

One was Christmas baking – huge batches of mince pies made from scratch, right down to the making of the mincemeat some years.

One was the lighting of the advent candle, arguing about whose turn it was, and enjoyment of the simple ritual of counting the days down as we watched the flame.

The other was opening the windows of the advent calendar. There were no gifts inside, no presents, no sweeties, no chocolates. There was no ‘point’ to the opening, beyond the revelation of an image and a heightening of the sense of anticipation.

Remembering this got me thinking about the value of daily practice.

Simple things like writing, taking photos, blogging or keeping a journal can help you to notice the passing of a particular, numbered day.

It’s a way of shifting perspective, of opening window after window, image after image, that reflect an aspect, an angle of a bigger story even if the whole is never fully revealed, even if it is only ever hinted at in fragments, in pieces, one window at a time.

And it made me think about the windows I look through nowadays, and could make still more of:

Feet made for walking, eyes for seeing, heart for watching softly, camera to help me capture, trees to invite me to notice, over and over and over:

Avenue of Bare Bones

A veritable feast of noticing, a festival of wonder.

I think my advent practice for the next few weeks will be about noticing, and allowing myself to enjoy the gifts of the winter season, freely offered, in every street, in every park, on the line of every horizon.