A new year

Advent began, overnight, with a magnificent snowfall upon Vallis Hortensis (my presumptuous Latin for “Parkdale”). It is the first substantial snowfall of the new Catholic year, and forms a blanket of apparent purity over a country and neighbourhood that was formerly Christian. The more distant objects, especially the recent suburban tower blocks, are deleted by the gentle whiteness, and even the Lake is invisible. All is made ready for another start.

I am reminded of a calendar, that some now deceased friend had given me, published by a now defunct typographical studio, half a century ago. The pages were filled with mediaeval depictions of the works of the seasons — but not the clichéd Très Riches Heures — with a single row of day-symbols across the bottom of each monthly sheet. This was decoratively punctuated with the kalends, nones, and ides for each month; and Dominical letters rather than numbers marked the other diurnal spaces. The reproductions were extraordinarily crisp, and I kept them untouched, except for the mottoes I scrawled in the several compositions that seemed to invite them. My calligraphic hand in those days seemed to complement the paintings, and I felt that, by these inscriptions, I was assimilated into each scene.

The pictures were details, not of the full paintings, but were very cleverly cropt, to suggest a beauty that was not narrowly mediaeval.

What I remember was the joy of it. The sight of the snow this morning brought it back, as if I were turning a page onto a new and splendid composition.

To the mediaeval mind, or the classical, the calendar is an immortal, unchanging thing; to the modern mind it requires constant revision and updating. We are perilously falling “out of date.” Good to be reminded of the ages before this was possible.