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Tag: leap day

we all leap…


wrestling time seems to have preoccupied the human species since the dawn of, well, time. time itself ceaselessly flows. the heavens, though, mark it with sun and moon, light and shadow. we, scribblers that we are, we draw lines on pages, make them into little boxes, count them one by one. it’s a russian doll of time boxed. we have boxes in all sizes: millennia, century, year, month, day, and of late (in the scope of human history, that is) we have day-minders that make itty-bitty boxes, one for each hour or quarter hour, depending on your busyness. one box slips inside another. we now know at-a-glance just how booked our tomorrows will be.



all this time wrestling long ago left the mathematicians and sky gazers with a little bit of a problem. a leftover, in fact. or in second-grade subtraction lingo, a remainder. once wise folk like hipparchus, considered the greatest astronomer of antiquity, started squinting toward the sun, hauling out their rudimentary measuring sticks, they mapped some sense of the heavens. hipparchus, the fellow who gave us trigonometry (something you might or might not celebrate), is the one who first pinned time to the revolutions of the sun, to the dance of planet earth in tango with the biggest star. he’s the one who must have whooped, aha! when he calculated the time it takes for one spin around the sun. and here’s the rub: it takes 365 days and 6 hours to make the round-about. that pesky leftover is what brings us to tomorrow — february 29 (a date pulled from the special-reserve shelf).

if you’re going to put time in a box (or a whole calendar of boxes) what shall you do with that quarter of a day left behind? well, said the wise sky scribes of long ago, let us bundle those quarter days into a single package, one that rolls around every four years. (it gets even trickier for us, and for those ancient numbers dudes, once hipparchus pointed out the pesky little fact that their bundling left yet another remainder: every four years, there’s an extra 44 minutes, or three days every 400 years (as ever, it’s the leftovers that all but foil us). so, geniuses that they were, they once again did their math and this time reached for subtraction, deciding that those years divisible by 100 only get a leap day if they’re also divisible by 400. (meaning 1600, 2000, 2400 are leap years, but 1700, 1800, 1900 got gypped.) (and further proving that you can bend rules to do just about anything you so desire.)

so, basically, we should all bow down to long-ago hipparchus for this construct of the leap day. theoretically, it’s the mathematical solution to the boxing-up of time. but for us seekers of the deeper truths, it begs a russian doll of questions, all pivoting on one essential one: if you were handed a gift box of time, if hours were added to the measure of your life, how might you squeeze the holiest holiness from those ticking seconds, minutes, hours? how might you make it most count?

one of the mystical truths of time is that often we get our clearest vision of the gift when it’s taken away, or so threatened. have you ever held your breath waiting for results of a scan? have you paced the halls outside doors marked “surgery: do not enter,” waiting for word of what was found? have you watched the clock move glacially as you await the phone call that’s not coming? have you begged for one more yesterday, most emphatically with someone loved and lost?

what tumbles through our whole self is the begging sense that if only we could have one more day, a few more hours, we’d do this and this and this. say these words we’ve left unsaid. i heard joe biden, someone who knows volumes about loss, say not so long ago that the truth is that in the end cancer patients aren’t asking for years and years, their pleas boil down to “doc, can i make it till the baby comes?” “can i watch her walk down the aisle?” “maybe make it one more christmas?” it’s chiseled to the precipice of the humblest increments of time, of possibility counted out in minutes.

so what will we do with our so-called extra tomorrow? isn’t this our once-a-quatrain chance to practice sacramental time? to lift up each hour, to hold it to the holy light, infuse it with intentionality (that modern-day queazy term for “paying attention,” as ancient a sacred practice as ever there was).

imagine you are handed a basketful of time. as you unwrap each and every hour, each section of an hour, how will you choose to live it to its most abundant fullness?

that’s the question. contemplate your blessings…and, soon enough, it’ll be time to take the holy leap.


the question above–how will you make the very most of the gift of tomorrow, or today, for that matter–is the question i leave here on this morning’s table….

mapping the sun hipparchus(p.s. the image at the tippy-top here is the cover of william cunningham’s 1559 Cosmographicall Glasse, a compendium of engravings of the known principles (at the time) of cosmography, geography, navigation….among the details is his engraving of hipparchus scoping the sun…)


supersize-me day

golly gumdrops, is the word that just came to me. this is a day, by jove, for all-out indulgence.

it’s a day tacked on, for no reason i need worry about–sun, moon, aligning, something like that. a day that kneels down and bows to the great american–nay, western (we seem to have exported our greed)–hunger for more, more and, please, pretty please with sugar on top, more.

what’s this, you ask yourself, a day akin to all the shouting and exclaiming on all the rows and rows of cereal boxes, the paper cups at the gas station soda machine, heck even the tacos at taco bell. oh, and don’t forget the next-day installation rugs hawked night and day on cable TV. 33% more!!! buy 1-get 1 free!!!!! all this (arrow pointing from the midline to the tippy-top) extra! don’t forget the bonus pack!!

so it is with the 29th day of the lowly second month, the month so short you’d think napoleon was its patron saint. the month pre-shrunk to get it over in a hurry.

only, folks, i hate to break it to you, so i’ll do it softly (whisper here): this here hoopla day is all about a mere 3.5 percent bonus. i did the math.

yup, it’s true. barely a cost-of-living increase, this 29th of feb-ru-ary.

you take your ordinary february, you got 672 measly hours. you tack on 24 more every four years. wanna know the margin of indulgence? well, just divide the latter by the former, you got .0357142. (i don’t know what it is about numbers, but i just LOVE to roll around in ‘em. there is, isn’t there, something so exact about it all. stokes my number-crunchin’ heart, which for the most part dwells in the shadow of my wordy other half.)

so here we are. rollin’ like little bitty pigs in muddy puddle all for that string of unimpressive digits to the east of that there decimal point.

let us not, then, dilly dally. let’s get on with the fine art of making the most of every blessed bonus minute (there are 1,440 of those, my friends). let us wring each sweet drop from this fine day of leaping forward.

i for one leapt out of bed. i stoked the oven. fueled the birds. i know, i know, nothing extra-ordinary there. i let the boys sleep extra late. we’ll make up the difference come march, which has now been delayed not unlike the planes that can’t get to o’hare, what with all the snow that falls again.

i think soon i’ll peruse the aisles of my grocery store. buy every single thing that comes with more-more-more. if it’s bigger, it’s going in my cart. if it comes with two-for-one, i’ll take it. but only for today. tomorrow, it’s back to getting only what you pay for.

so go crazy, people. embrace the rare indulgence of a day.

it is not every year we get to do this, after all.

and then, just think: if really truly you were being given a whole fresh day to do the things you always longed to, what might unfold this holy blessed day?

funny thing is, i can’t think of much i don’t already do. i’d do it though with all my heart.

i would love my boys. be tender. i would, if not a snowy day, pick fresh berries from my garden. i might milk a cow. i’d paint a billboard, perhaps, tell the world something i think it needs to know. i’d find a little child who doesn’t know that he or she is loved, and bring that child home, surround him or her with what to us is not so revolutionary–a blanket, a cup of something warm, a lap to sit on, pages in a book to turn.

i might, if i got going, call everyone i know who’s sad or lonely. i would tell them why and how i love them. try to stoke the flame again, the one inside that someone’s aching heart.

but now a boy i love, a little one in cowboy pajamas, is at my side, just waking up. i’ve got buns, hot from the oven, all cinnamon and glaze.

and we are going to indulge on this blessed day of golly gumdrops.

what will you do this bonus day?