Ann Woody of Lookout Mountain remembers a radio show some years ago in which psychologist Dr. Joyce Brothers discussed how more jaws are wired shut during the Christmas season than any other time.
"We're battered by sights and sounds," she said. "It can be a difficult time. I had never thought about that."
Woody, instead, prefers the observance of Advent, a season before Christmas in many Western Christian churches.
"We have been sending out Advent cards instead of Christmas cards for years," she said. "It's a time to watch and wait. It's a time of looking forward to, and in preparation for, the Nativity."
With those thoughts in mind, Woody recently published "Advent Watch and Christmas in England," a 32-page paperback book of poems, drawings, photographs and memories.
The poems about the season are hers and were written over the years. They aren't even necessarily religious, she said. She also contributed the drawings in the book. The photographs were taken by her, her husband and her daughter.
"Whatever it leaves you with is yours," she said of the individual verses, which center on subjects as disparate as bird feeders, leaves and angels. "You take your own journey. You come up with the beginning of thoughts of your own."
The memories in the small book relate to Advent 1983, which Woody and her husband, John, spent in England, where their daughter, now Rowan Brown, was finishing a semester in college.
"We had a wonderful time," she said. "It was so peaceful. The pace of life was slow. The public sounds and sights were so minimal [that] you could enjoy where you were in cathedrals and in the country."
The Woodys even spent Christmas Eve at Westminister Abbey, where "we had a bird's eye view of everything," she said.
But while their experience was peaceful, she said there were reminders everywhere of a bombing at Harrods department store by the Provisional Irish Republican Army just the week before that killed six people.
"You think about the world," Woody said, perhaps referring to the tribulation Jesus said in the book of John that we would always experience, "not just in the past, as it is now, as it is always. There is an unevenness we can experience."
The trip didn't radically change her life, she said, but it did alter her thinking.
"It's hard not to be crazy at Christmastime," said Woody, a member of St. Paul's Episcopal Church. "I can't say it's a lot slower for us than it was. I still enjoy getting gifts out early. I enjoy the time thinking about Christmas coming. But it's different for us now. I've always loved Christmas. I think I just have more of a full appreciation of the season now.
"I enjoy sharing the joy of Advent with others," she said.
The book ($7.95) is available at Twiggs on Lookout Mountain, Wild Hare Books on Signal Mountain and the Grace Episcopal Book & Gift Shoppe in Brainerd.
Clint Cooper is the faith editor and a staff writer for the Times Free Press Life section. He also has been an assistant sports editor and Metro staff writer for the newspaper. Prior to the merger between the Chattanooga Free Press and Chattanooga Times in 1999, he was sports news editor for the Chattanooga Free Press, where he was in charge of the day-to-day content of the section and the section’s design. Before becoming sports ...