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Jenny Lemma

Stories by Jenny

Column - July’s attitude one of mismatched hospitality

July’s backpack is cranky and inadequate. It appears to contain half of what is needed — a variety of half-finished projects and a ridiculous amount of very large problems. This month’s philosophy sits like a package of hot dogs next to an unmatched number of buns. It is just all wrong.

Column: Graduation-month backpack filled with possibilities

Mortarboards and summer job applications, first and last months’ rent deposits, swimsuits, sunglasses and road trip plans fill June’s backpack. Trepidation, exhilaration and feelings of completion cushion these vital signs of graduation.

Column - April’s mini library provides wisdom for personal growth

April is not really the calm before the storm, I mutter, as I throw the heavy backpack on the mossy rock during my hike. It is the proverbial (or literal) beginning of the downpour.

Column - Wonders never cease — you just need to know where to look

March’s backpack is full of awe. Fantastic, spectacular wonder. The third month’s philosophy holds a simple lesson in the exploration of astonishment, a revisiting of the adoration of amazement. It is a reminder that what we so often consider mundane, is, in fact, truly fantastic.

Column: February’s backpack arrives just in time

This month we arrive late, disheveled, sweaty and stressed as we prepare to open the philosopher’s backpack. Climbing to the jetty where the pack awaits, we hear a faint, methodic ticking. Ripping open the zipper with harried fingers, we find a clock, a sundial and a watch. “We don’t have time for these shenanigans!” we yell. “We are busy, you know!” we shout to the canyon space surrounding our rock, “Just tell me what I need to know and let’s get on with this month’s wisdom!”

Column: January a time to feast

There is a delicious scent in the air as we sit down to open January’s container of insight. Feelings of security and sated contentment overwhelm us. Nostalgic, poignant, emotional and powerful, this month’s vessel holds wisdom from the kitchen. It is an edible cultural identity, nourishment for both mind and body. January’s philosophy is one of food, of course.

November’s grateful acceptance of imperfections

November’s backpack holds an invitation to a table celebrating gratitude and courage, some wise words from a former president and a whole lot of what Dr. Brené Brown would define as vulnerability.

Column: October’s thoughtful respect

Two years ago this month, we first opened the Philosopher’s Backpack. As we hit through the cycle, we arrive where we began: postseason baseball. This October’s backpack holds a Rudyard Kipling poem, a Red Sox baseball hat and — dare this Boston fan admit? — a pinstriped jersey with the Captain’s number 2 on the back.

Philosophy of Abigail Adams illustrates August’s remembrance

Opening August’s backpack is fairly difficult because, well, we seem to have misplaced it. We retrace our steps, trying to recall what we were doing before we lost it. Nevertheless, for a panicked moment or two, we cannot remember where we put it. When we do recover it, the relief of finding it is obscured by the realization of its curious contents.

Rules of morality freeing, not limiting

July’s backpack contains the right stuff. As with so many philosophical discussions, the right stuff is a perplexing load to haul. If the pack is carried one way, it is burdensome; when it is worn another way, liberating. This month’s philosophy is anything but trendy. It is not fashionable, but the right stuff rarely is.

Column: Courage is tie that binds June's many elements

June is a sneaky month of transition. It is the month wherein we celebrate a slew of graduations, enlistments and marriages. Paradoxically, it is also the month we take vacations, celebrate Father’s Day and look forward to warmer weather. We simultaneously celebrate profound rites of passage and look forward to benign distractions of non-commitments, of whimsy, of pleasurable summer pursuits.

Column: May’s backpack filled with ‘one-caring,’ ‘primordial’ love of mothers

We don’t open this month’s backpack on a vista, in a peaceful setting or during a moment of sweet contemplation. This month’s backpack is found in the trenches. It is inaugurated in schools and reinforced in hospital wings. It is ripped open and then gently passed from one soul to another in mourning.

April’s backpack puts capitulation on the run

April’s attitude is cheeky, defiant and contagious. It is like an unruly hairstyle that won’t fit neatly under a hat. It’s surprisingly substantive, however, despite its love-at-first-sight optimistic brashness and its throw-caution-to-the-wind spirit. Its depth takes us off guard.

March’s messy, stinky backpack reminds us of what’s truly real

March’s backpack was left outside by accident, so it is pretty damp, fairly muddy and kind of stinky. Opening it hesitantly, we are a bit apprehensive about its contents knowing the papers are rain-damaged and most likely ruined.

Stepping outside one’s comfort zone is worth the risk

Chained from childhood to one another in a darkened space with a fire lit behind us, casting shadows on the wall, the cave becomes our representation of reality — albeit a false one.

Humor a timeless paradox that defines the human condition

As we prepare to open January’s backpack with the hopes of finding some contemplative, stoic musings inside, it slips from our hands and falls down a cliff.

December shows us what we value

December’s experienced backpack sits on top of a pile of junk mail, circulars and printable coupon offers for discounts on a host of stuff.

Column: Dignified, respectful November illustrates concept of ‘self’

November is misty, cool and enigmatic. It is charming, but not charismatic like December. It is resourceful, but not unpredictable like October. Determinedly placed between these two months, November is its own entity. It declines persuasion by cultural trends, but assuredly recognizes the influence of surrounding customs. It is dignified and respectful, but by no means is it dull or boring.

October’s backpack revels in baseball’s cycles, continuity and harmony

The content of October’s backpack is nothing new.

An unsharpened pencil represents September’s possibility

Possibility might not have a definitive scent or color attributed to it, but September’s philosophy proposes that unsharpened, No. 2 Ticonderoga pencils best represent it.

Possibilities of the unknown offer solace in grief

It is still summer, and we are trying to slow down the calendar to make the languid, lazy days of sunshine and bare feet remain a little longer. In this last month of the warmest season, we cling mercilessly to the idea that we don’t have to go back to real life quite yet. Not quite yet. The heaviness of August’s backpack, then, is particularly confusing. The backpack is exhaustingly heavy, and it is painful to carry its soggy load.

Tease photo

Persistent thread of questions can lead to deeper growth

In the middle of July’s stifling, scorching heat, it would be a welcome relief to find a cold drink tucked inside the philosopher’s backpack. Perhaps we might find a practical umbrella to provide much-needed shade.

June's tender strength

June’s backpack is wiggly and slightly heavier than usual, with sunflower seeds falling out of every opening. It holds sturdy bases, an antsy Bugs Bunny, a well-oiled, much-loved mitt, a ridiculous amount of the unknown and a little philosophy from John Rawls.