The Upside of 2016

2016 held some stellar moments for this writer. –

By Mary Anna Violi | @MaryAnnaVioli

As the winter sun sets on 2016, I would like to acknowledge that not everything went awry; stellar experiences surfaced, too. Casting an eye over the landscape brings noteworthy events to the forefront with the dawning of a New Year.

The publication of my second book in the Spirited Constellations trilogy: Spirited Constellations: Travels highlighted the year for me. The second edition of my first book, Spirited Constellations, was also published. The third book in the trilogy is also well underway, and could possibly be published near the end of 2017, if not sooner.

2016 also saw me completing the first book in a new series I’m writing. This book will be published in early 2017. Vastly different from the Spirited Constellations book, the series ignited my imagination further, for I like these characters as much as I do those in the Spirited Constellations trio.

At the Indiana University Bloomington 2016 Writers’ Conference in June, I embarked on a-here-to-with unknown kind of writing: the prose poem. Had anyone told me I would one day be writing poetry, I would have laughed uproariously! Yet I did it! Under the amazing prose poet Amelia Martens, I plucked up my courage and began work on my first ever prose poem! I even went out on a limb and did a public reading of the poem in Bloomington for the conference participants. Stretching my writing wings into the province of prose poetry proved an exhilarating experience.

Not wanting to stay too long at the fair, I finally decided to retire after 25+ years from my place of employment. I did this in order to enter the next phase of my professional life, one that includes much more writing. In talking with others who have retired or resigned from their positions, the common thread was, “I knew when it was time.” Time isn’t something readily available on anyone’s side, no matter what the Rolling Stones sang. My 2016 November birthday awakened in me a turning point. With little fanfare, without drama, with my two-week’s notice, with a heart full of anticipation ready to turn the page, and with a smile on my face, I walked away.

It was time. It was my time. It still is.

Ciao for now.

Leaping Through The Year

iStock_000018807068_Full It’s Leap Year! –

By Mary Anna Violi | @MaryAnnaVioli

I admit it: I never fully understood the concept of Leap Year. All that I ever gleaned from it was that every four years, another day got tacked on to February. The reason for minimal conceptual comprehension had more to do with my non-interest in padding out an astronomical explanation.

My lack of lunar gravitas will likely draw ire from those more attuned to the ways of calendars and lunar-sun movements. Fortunately, the online The National Geographic’s Brian Handwerk penned “The Surprising History Behind Leap Year”, February 26, 2016. A link to the full article follows this excerpt:

Ancient Timekeeping

Efforts to make nature’s schedule fit our own have been imperfect from the start. Some ancient calendars, dating to the Sumerians 5,000 years ago, simply divided the year into 12 months of 30 days each. Their 360-day year was nearly a week shorter than our annual journey around the sun.

The practice of adding extra days to the year is at least as old as these 360-day systems.

“When the Egyptians adopted this calendar they were aware that there was a problem, but they didn’t add any more days to the calendar,” says [John] Lowe [leader of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)’s Time & Frequency Division].

“They just added an extra five days of festivals, of partying, at the end of the year.”

What resonates with me is how the Egyptians handled the extra time element by tacking on five more days of festivals and partying in December. I think the Egyptians were on to something with that practice, which I personally would endorse reinstating. We could use more revelry at the end of any year.

An article in the British online version of The Telegraph addresses the history of women proposing on Leap Year, which may or may not date back to the fifth century. In this article, “Leap Year 2016:  Why does February have 29 days every four years?” by Rozina Sabur, Cameron Macphail, and Juliet Eysenck. The excerpt is part of the article included in the link below.

Why does the woman propose on a Leap Year?

[In England] Women either have to wear breeches or a scarlet petticoat to pop the question, according to tradition.

In Denmark, if a man turns down a proposal they must give the woman 12 pairs of gloves and in Finland the penalty is fabric for a skirt.

It is unclear to me why the man who turns down a woman’s proposal in Finland has to fork over “fabric for a skirt”. This raises questions in my mind: What if the woman wears dresses, and not skirts? What if the woman prefers pants or jeans to skirts? Who decided on skirt apparel for the fabric anyway? The British custom is perhaps less perplexing. Wearing pants places the woman in a trouser role, which happened in grand opera, as in Mozart’s and Handel’s. The donning of a “scarlet petticoat” resonates of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter, except that Hester Prynne had the wear the A [for Adulteress] emblazoned across her outer chest garment.

If a woman is plucky enough to propose, then who cares what she is, or isn’t wearing? Whomever one chooses to propose to for anything on this auspicious date, rest assured Leap Year will not return until 2020. I leave you with this somewhat cryptic observation.

Ciao for now.