I opened up my hand and the Infinite ran to the edges of space...  Catherine of Siena

Just a few days ago, the Chinese announced to the world, "Let the Monkey Business Begin!" According to Chinese tradition and astrology, February 8, 2016, marked the beginning of the lunar new year.  And, this year is the Year of the Monkey.  Nor is it just any monkey.  It's the Year of the Fire Monkey. 

OK, work with me on this: 

The Chinese Lunar New Year always happens on the second new moon after the Winter Solstice.  The Christian celebration of Easter always happens on the first Sunday after the first full moon after the Spring Equinox.  And Ash Wednesday always happens 40 days prior to Easter.  (You still there?) Which is to say, Easter, Ash Wednesday and Chinese New Year are all scheduled by the moon and the change of seasons.  Yet another reminder that we're all  - Western and Eastern cultures - together in this.

Traditionally, in The Year of the Monkey, anything can happen.  Some of the key words for this year are "irrepressible - erratic - unpredictable - adventurous - magical - quixotic." It's the year when anything can happen and the apple cart can get turned over in the most surprising ways.  It's the year which challenges you to stay calm and unruffled in the face of unexpected challenges and changes; and to remember that on the other side of chaos is always magic and transformation.

Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent - a time of introspection.  It is a reminder of death - that we are made of dust and to dust we shall return. Ash Wednesday is a celebration of endings.  Chinese New Year, a celebration of beginnings. And this year, the two celebrations are within 48 hours of each other.  As if to suggest that beginnings and endings in our lives are inextricably interconnected; that magic and transformation are always part of the story; and that no matter what, a little monkey business can't hurt.


Though not a fan of cold weather (he was, after all born in Florida), Howard loves fires and has spent a lot of time lately in front of fires.  Whether in a fire pit or fireplace, Howard is convinced that fires stir imagination and conversation.  Lots of rich ideas and deep connection happen in the presence of flames - even candle flames.  So, Howard's wish for you is that you spend some time this winter in front of a fire with a friend, lover or good book.