Wait, what? Fourth Sunday of Advent?
I was thinking today how weird it is that Advent seems to just speed by and Lent is so. freaking. long. I suppose it makes sense since
a) Lent is, as a matter of fact, actually longer than Advent
b) Lent involves penances and giving up things like Diet Coke and alcohol and internet time, and without those things, life just drags, right?
Also there’s the point that Advent is generally a lot busier that Lent, and we have waiting for us at the end of Advent an event that requires a lot more preparation for most of us than Easter, and who is ever ready and who doesn’t wish she had more time?
Not that I do much to get ready, anyway. A few weeks ago I was discussing the question of when the boys would go for their usual Christmas-New Year’s visit to their Florida relatives, and I remarked that since Christmas was on a Friday, they could probably, if they wanted to, go for part of that week instead of the normal time between Christmas and New Year’s.
“But,” I concluded, “that would mean you wouldn’t be here to get ready for Christmas, and I wouldn’t want that.”
“Yeah,” said my son, “and since we don’t do anything to get ready for Christmas until the week before, that would mean we’d miss it all!”
Okay, son. Advent. It’s a thing. Heard of it?
To tell the truth, though, my last-minute Christmas prep is less spiritual than just laziness and resistance to the inevitable hassle. After being a single parent for most of my parenting years, I am just tired of doing it all myself. With more help now, of course, since they are older, but still. It’s basically all on me and I’m ready to spend Christmas in Mallorca or something, thanks.
And no, we don’t have a tree yet. I am a little cocky this year, which will probably backfire on me. Last year I waited until the weekend before Christmas to get the tree, and…couldn’t find one. Overnight, it seemed, all the lots had disappeared, and none of the stores had any. I thought we were going to have to go artificial until we wandered into Home Depot and found loads of trees. I’m thinking the same thing will happen this year, so it probably won’t. We’ll see tomorrow. Or Saturday. At the latest, I promise.
Speaking of preparation you still have time to order a great 365-day devotional for a Catholic woman friend or relation:
I’ll finish up with a bunch of photos. Given that I have one in (high) school now, our opportunities for jaunts have diminished a bit, but with the weather being so gorgeous lately, I was determined not to stay inside. So we didn’t.
One day we did a bit of local history study. We learned about the (very) nearby park, Avondale Park, which in the early part of the 20th century was quite the destination. A spring and pond attracted many visitors, a collection of wild animals was the beginning of the Birmingham Zoo, and for a time there was a model chicken farm. There was a less-than-minor, ambiguous Civil War skirmish on the hill. The resident elephant, Miss Fancy – who has a surprisingly long article about her on the BirmghamWiki site, was also known to escape at times, wandering the neighborhood, including, we gathered from the reports, near where our house is.
(Miss Fancy is the symbol for one of our local breweries, just down Spring Street from the park – Avondale Brewing Company)
So even though we live nearby and knew bits and pieces of the history, on that afternoon we did some more organized study and then took to the hills – Michael is over there all the time anyway, but it was a good thing to walk about, look for relics of past times and talk about what it must have been like.
And as with any history, we find good times and bad. For it is no surprise to learn that African-Americans were not allowed in this lovely spot. Not permitted to set foot in it. In 1914, a group from the 16th Street Baptist Church succeeded in convincing the powers-that-be to allow one day on which African-Americans would be allowed. One day. It was all set and agreed upon. Until the local civic association protested, and the day was cancelled.
Yes, the good old days.
Another day we took a quick trip up to Hanceville and Cullman, not to go to the Shrine or Ave Maria Grotto this time, but to two small museums. The first is an art museum on the campus of a community college – it exists mostly to hold the collection of the benefactor, but they do hold special exhibits, and I wanted to catch this one before it ended – an exhibit of Japanese woodblock prints. Some familiar images, but lovely to see in person – the colors were gorgeous, although horribly reproduced here. Sorry.
To learn more about 36 Views of Mount Fuji go here. I am particularly taken with Red Fuji – the image on the lower left – and can see why it and similar images was such an influence on early 20th century artists. The colors and the flat affect are actually mesmerizing.
Then we dashed up to Cullman where we took a, er, quick tour through the small Cullman County Museum, which had a lot of artifacts which were, in and of themselves, well-presented, but did not present the history of the area in any sort of coherent manner and neglected to tell the story in which I was most interested, which is the German founding of the place- which is doubly weird since the museum is housed in a replica of the German founder’s house.
Located just outside the museum is a brass statue of Col. Cullmann, who is credited with recruiting more than 10,000 German immigrants to come to this country.
Born in the Bavarian region of Germany, Cullmann traveled to America in the late 1860s to escape the revolutions sweeping across Europe. He first settled in the Philadelphia area and then moved to Cincinnati with the goal of one day setting up his own German colony in America, which he eventually did in Cullman. On his travels, he met former Alabama Gov. Robert Patton who suggested that he settle in North Alabama. Cullmann was convinced the location was right for his colony, finding that the geography of the Tennessee Valley reminded him of his native Rhine Valley.
“After traveling around the country and arriving in North Alabama the impression was made upon my mind that if this country was filled up with good farmers, it would be the garden spot of America. I found here all that I had been looking for, all that I regarded as necessary to make good homes: there was here combined these things to an extent not equaled by any other place I had seen.” – Col. John G. Cullmann, 1877
In April of 1872, Cullmann and five German families, 10 people in all, left Cincinnati to make the trip to Alabama. By the next year he had recruited 125 families to join the fledgling colony. Land sold for only $1.25 an acre, so each family could afford a small farm of their own. Homes and businesses soon sprang up in the new town center. Cullmann built his own house on a half-block lot at the corner of First Avenue and Third Street Southeast. A hotel was built next to his house at First Avenue and Fourth Street Southeast. Together the two structures made for a very impressive first view of the town when visitors arrived at the nearby train depot.
Nor is there any special mention of St. Bernard Abbey, which has been there – a Catholic monastery in the Deep-ish South – since the 19th century nor of Ave Maria Grotto, which is undoubtedly the county’s biggest tourist draw.
But no weirder than the fact that Cullman County is still a dry county and although the city is wet, that is only a recent development, and so up until a very few years ago, Cullman’s Oktoberfest was actually dry. No beer.
Oh, and then another day, we returned to Red Mountan Park, which also has a lot of interesting history. It’s a new park, and a wonderful achievement – developed (and still being developed) on a mountain that was a prime source of iron ore up until the last mine closed in 1962.
This time we went to see goats.
They’ve been brought in to cull vegetation, particularly kudzu and privet, I’m guessing.
Tracking back a week to December 8..we couldn’t make our usual noon Mass at the cathedral, so I wanted to go to a morning Mass that wasn’t at the crack of dawn and wasn’t a school Mass either. Not fond of school Masses echoing with the sounds of labored yet totally awesome praise songs not being sung by bored kids. So we went Maronite.
Which is always nice.
For more Quick Takes, visit This Ain’t the Lyceum!