Happy New Year!!!

Taiwan 2014 fireworks
Taiwan 2014 Fireworks

“I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes. Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You’re doing things you’ve never done before, and more importantly, you’re Doing Something.” ~ Neil Gaiman

Welcome to 2014. I wish all of you much health, happiness, and prosperity in the coming year. May this be the year that I finally begin to get it right . . .

Sydney Harbor Fireworks 2014
Sydney Harbor Fireworks 2014

“I have the opportunity, once more to right some wrongs, to pray for peace, to plant some trees, and sing more joyful songs.” ~ William Arthur Ward

May your ails be small, your happiness immense, and your hearts filled with love and hope.

Victoria Harbor Hong Kong 2014
Victoria Harbor Fireworks, Hong Kong, 2014

“Watch out for each other. Love everyone and forgive everyone, including yourself. Forgive your anger. Forgive your guilt. Your shame. Your sadness. Embrace and open up your love, your joy, your truth, and most especially your heart.” ~ Jim Henson

Had to add New York and London, of course, which weren’t available when I created this post:

nyc times square 2014
NYC Times Square 2014 Celebration
Big Ben 2014 fireworks
London’s Big Ben, 2014 Fireworks

“The object of a New Year is not that we should have a new year. It is that we should have a new soul and a new nose; new feet, a new backbone, new ears, and new eyes.” ~ G. K. Chesterton

And may we all find a little more wisdom, have a little more patience, and give a little more freely.

From my house to yours, Peace.

Kuala Lumpur, Layasia fireworks 2014
2014 Fireworks, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Music by Dan Fogelberg, “Same Auld Lang Syne”

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“Time moves in one direction, memory in another.” ~ William Gibson

Lawren Harris Houses Group XXXIII
“Houses, Group XXXIII”
by Lawren Harris

                   

“It’s much easier to not know things sometimes. Things change and friends leave. And life doesn’t stop for anybody.” ~ Stephen Chbosky, from The Perks of Being a Wallflower

Tuesday afternoon, New Year’s Eve. Partly cloudy and cold, 46 degrees.

So here we are, at the end of another year. How strange, how very, very strange. A part of me is still somewhere around 2005, and another part is in 1996. No particular reason. Those weren’t landmark years in any fashion, but still points in time, points in which I rested. But 2014?

Lawren Harris Little House oil on paperboard 1911
“Little House” (1911, oil on paperboard)
by Lawren Harris

That’s a very strange year, for some reason. I still have such vivid memories of the turning hour between 1999 and 2000, how we had to have one person stay at work to make sure the systems didn’t collapse at 12:01; I never thought they would, never held much stock in that whole end of days scenario. But that was fourteen years ago.

How very strange.

I spent New Year’s Eve of 1999 on a boat with friends and a person who wanted to be more than friends, and the entire situation was more than a bit surreal. I think that was the last end of the year celebration I attended. Corey and I have always preferred a quiet evening at home together rather than risking the roads and the drunks. But I’m fairly certain this is might be one of only two New Year’s Eve nights that I have been away from Corey.

How very strange.

“It’s a lot easier to say when something ended rather than when it began. Most of us can recognize the end from a mile away, but the beginning always slips up on us, lulling us into thinking what we’re living through is yet another moment, in yet another day.” ~ Steve Yarbrough, from Safe from the Neighbors

We are still in limbo as to when exactly Corey will be home. At first it was going to be on January 2, then January 5, then January 2 again, now? Maybe January 20? That’s if they decide to keep him on this particular ship a bit longer and then to throw him into some more training. I’m really hoping that it’s not this particular scenario, but something tells me that it will be. And after all, it’s not exactly as if he can say no, is it?

Lawren Harris Red House, Winter 1925
“Red House, Winter” (1925)
by Lawren Harris

First hitch with a new company, you do whatever you have to do to make it work. I understand that, but understanding and liking are miles apart. And I’m wondering if it’s going to work out that Corey never even sees this year’s Christmas tree. The other time he wasn’t home for Christmas day, he was home a few days later, which made it much easier. This?

Not so much.

So . . . here we are. Getting ready to count down the minutes until this year is over and next year begins.

I know. I cannot continue to remark on the strangeness for the entire blog, so I will make an honest attempt to stop.

“You swallowed everything, like distance.
Like the sea, like time. ~ Pablo Neruda, from “A Song of Despair”

Anyway, I should know more about Corey’s schedule later today, and I’ll have le bébé by this evening, so my part plans are firm. How about yours?

I’m also hoping that Bailey’s stomach starts to feel better as she has been making the whole house stink. I’m pretty sure her stomach problems have arisen from trying to eat one of the puppy toys that I bought for the dogs’ Christmas. Tillie had loved a ball that Jake had (Jake being Corey’s parents’ dog), and I found one while shopping that I thought would be pretty dog-proof as far as chewing.

Not so much. I started to see little pink pieces of rubber around the house a few days ago. I finally found what was left of the ball and threw it in the garbage, but not before Bailey deposited several nasty leavings of her dinner around the house, one, unfortunately, on the bed.

Lawren Harris Houses, Winter, City Painting V 1920
“Winter, City Painting V” (1920, oil)
by Lawren Harris

Yep. Pretty gross. Anyway, she never seemed sick, except for the gas and occasional vomiting, as she was as playful as ever. I suppose I’ll just have to remember that not every dog has a Labrador’s constitution. I still remember reading about a Lab who ate locks, as in locks from lockers. When her owners finally found out, she had eaten about five of them and had to have an operation. Labs will eat anything . . .

By the way, when I chose the quote for this section, I honestly did not have that little story in mind.

“Everything has started in such sharp detail, each aspect pronounced and clear. Obviously, endings were different. Harder to see, full of shapes that could be one thing or another, with all the things that you were once so sure of suddenly not familiar, if they were even recognizable at all.” ~  Sarah Dessen, from The Moon and More

As I said, later this afternoon I will have Olivia, which is a very good thing, something to take my mind off everything else. She’s such a funny little person, already saying so many words, already expressing so many facets of a personality in flux. One of her presents from us this year was this wild-looking stuffed monkey, and she loves it. She makes monkey sounds, too.

One of her Baby Einstein books has lots of animals in it, and when I read it to her, I make all of the animal sounds, except for a ladybug. What kind of sound does a ladybug make?

When I think about anyone hurting her, it makes me crazy. It was the same with my children. The very idea that anyone might ever harm them filled me with such a blind rage. But they’re out there. Not just the pervs, the ones everyone fears, but the people who believe in beating a young child, beating a baby, as if inflicting pain will stop the crying, as if repeated strikes will somehow bend a child to conform.

Lawren Harris, Pine Tree and Red House, Winter, City Painting II 1924
“Pine Tree and Red House, Winter, City Painting II” (1924)
by Lawren Harris

That has always just blown my mind—those ignoramuses out their who believe that shaking a baby or beating a toddler is okay, is the way to handle a situation. Where does that mindset come from? I have a vague memory of the police being in the parents’ waiting room at the hospital where Caitlin was a patient, there to question some parents about how their child came to be hurt. I remember feeling that blind rage again—all of the parents who were there just begging for their childrens’ lives, and these two had thrown theirs away.

Sorry, really didn’t mean to go there. I’ll try to regroup.

“Everything comes to an end. A good bottle of wine, a summer’s day, a long-running sitcom, one’s life, and eventually our species. The question for many of us is not that everything will come to an end but when. And can we do anything vaguely useful until it does?” ~ Jasper Fforde, from The Woman Who Died a Lot

And now for something completely different . . . here’s a bit of history for you:

The earliest recorded festivities in honor of a new year’s arrival date back some 4,000 years to ancient Babylon. For the Babylonians, the first new moon following the vernal equinox—the day in late March with an equal amount of sunlight and darkness—heralded the start of a new year. They marked the occasion with a massive religious festival called Akitu (derived from the Sumerian word for barley, which was cut in the spring) that involved a different ritual on each of its 11 days.

Supposedly, the first time the new year was celebrated on January 1st was “in Rome in 153 B.C. (In fact, the month of January did not even exist until around 700 B.C., when the second king of Rome, Numa Pontilius, added the months of January and February.)” But it was in 46 B.C.E. that Julius Caesar who made January 1st the official start of a new year with the introduction of the Julian calendar, which was solar based:

Lawren Harris Toronto Houses 1919
“Toronto Houses” (c1919, oil on beaverboard)
by Lawren Harris

Janus was the Roman god of doors and gates, and had two faces, one looking forward and one back.  Caesar felt that the month named after this god (“January”) would be the appropriate “door” to the year . . . In later years, Roman pagans observed the New Year by engaging in drunken orgies—a ritual they believed constituted a personal re-enacting of the chaotic world that existed before the cosmos was ordered by the gods.

During the Middle Ages, this practice was abolished because of its pagan roots and did not return until 1582, when the Gregorian calendar reform restored January 1 as new year’s day.

So how was that for a complete 180? Whiplash?

I hope you have a lovely safe evening, and best wishes for the coming year.

More later. Peace.

All images are by Canadian artist Lawren Harris (1885 – 1970), a key figure in the Group of Seven. I don’t know which I like better, his houses with the splashes of red, or his lakes, with various shades of blue.

Music by Gregory Alan Isakov, “That Moon Song”

                   

Moth; or how I came to be with you again

— I remember when I touched my
sleeping mother’s hair, it sparked in
my hands and I thought she was
inhuman, but I was young, and only
years later would I understand she
was under the spell of an erotic
dream — I remember a white door
emboldened with a laurel wreath
leading into a basement where we
retreated frequently in the tornado
season — I remember how day after
day would pass while nothing
happened and how without mercy
time would gather weight, accrete a
green patina on the locket I chipped
with a long fingernail — I remember
the swaying firs made a whanging of
rusted girders I thought would
collapse — I remember sitting at my
desk before my most precious
things, sheets of graph paper,
diagrams, folders, waterlogged and
moulded charts, and then
unannounced he would come to me,
moving my hand automatically
across these pages — I remember
the gathering darkness of a thousand
incidents I never witnessed, and yet
bird by bird they separated
themselves into moments of bright
singularity — I remember that I
possess no real memory of my
mother and only know at all she even
existed by evidence of my own pale
skin and the double-helix twisted
under it into an X — I remember
blurry light, rain on an awning, and
then being lifted and placed into a red
wagon — I remember when the
earth was for me, for the last time in
its history, still elastic as cartilage,
had not fully solidified into the
obstacle of the known, the terrible,
stubborn thing called fact — I
remember it was the hibiscus winter,
because she said so — I remember
writing these words, but only barely,
but one after another stone-like in
their materiality they are undeniable
— I remember remembering a
dream, under a low ceiling of
illuminated clouds swirling in a
tarantella, I rode weeping along the
boulevard of an empty city newly in
ruins where each crumbling
museum was my hidden and
sumptuous destitution — I
remember someone informed me he
had once hanged himself from his
swing set, then the memory infected
me, became my own — I remember
a small, A-frame house, and
watching the hawthorn wasting in an
emollient sea wind —  I remember a
white door —  I remember it was the
hibiscus winter — I remember
thinking I had been comatose a
thousand years, though this is surely
false, and in my uncorroborated
absence the whole fungible world in
a moment of chemical agony had
changed in irreversible ways — I
remember how everything tasted
dark —  I remember things I’ve never
felt — a seagull feather brushing my
lips, a turquoise shell, my shoulders
festooned with flowers — I
remember thinking what was in my
mind was put there by others, by
books I read, by objects I looked at
but did not own — I remember
wondering if other memories
remained in the twilight regions of my
mind where my failed loves were
soil, and if soon someone would
enlighten me to things I had done
and then, years later, I would
remember them as real — I
remember tender hands covered in
snow — I remember the city, the
flames immanent as flowers,  patient
to burst forth — I remember my
favourite word once was —

~ Thomas Heise

 

“Mysteriously, wonderfully, I bid farewell to what goes, I greet what comes; for what comes cannot be denied, and what goes cannot be detained.” ~ Chuang-Tzu

"Catterline in Winter" (1963, oil on hardboard)Joan Eardley
“Catterline in Winter” (1963, oil on hardboard)
by Joan Eardley

                   

“I drank coffee and read old books and waited for the year to end.” ~ Richard Brautigan, from Trout Fishing in America

Monday, late afternoon, New Year’s Eve. Cloudy and cold, 40’s.

(c) DACS/Anne Morrison; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation
“Breaking Wave” (1960, oil on hardboard)
by Joan Eardley

In the past two days, I have attempted to write a post, only to be stymied after the first few sentences. I’m not really sure why, only that what I did write seemed forced and contrived, which made continuing seem pointless.

Part of me feels as if there is something simmering just beneath the surface, waiting to be voiced, but another part feels completely incapable of giving words to that feeling. Truly, I do not know which direction to take or even if there is a direction to be had, so I decided to find some suitable end-of-the-year quotes and just give it a go, see how it unfolds, as it were. I make no promises that any great revelations will ensue, or even that I will find a common thread among these disparate sentences.

I do know that the looming 2013 seems awkward and strange to me. Thirteen has never been a bad number for me. Corey and I were married on the 13th of May, and that particular thirteen has turned out to be one of the best days of my life. But the year 2013 makes me pause, and for the life of me, I could not tell you exactly why that is.

“For last year’s words belong to last year’s language
And next year’s words await another voice.” ~ T. S. Eliot, Four Quartets

I remember being suitably excited when 1999 rolled into 2000, even though the official start of the new millennium did not begin until 2001. But the coming of both of those years seemed momentous to me—so many changes in my life, so much going on, such excitement about what was ahead. I remember that Corey and I spend New Year’s Eve of 2001 in his brother’s hot tub in Ohio. We were surrounded by snow, and it was absolutely freezing outside, but the water was hot and comfortable, and it was a perfect way in which to greet the new year.

(c) Anne Morrison; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation
“Storm at Sea” (1960, oil on hardboard)
by Joan Eardley

But if you were to ask me what I did on New Year’s Eve of 2003 or 2005 or even 2008, I don’t know that I could tell you as we really aren’t big New Year’s Eve people. By that I mean that we do not go out. I am too afraid of all the drunk crazies on the roads, and we usually just watch a movie and go to sleep. It may sound boring, but it works for us.

I remember that my m-in-law used to go out on her porch at midnight and bang a pot, more to annoy her neighbors than anything else. I have sometimes gone to parties, but for most of my life, I have stayed in. What does that say about me? That I’m careful? Boring? Lazy? Who knows? But this year I am a bit hesitant about 2013 coming to pass. I don’t know if it’s that still, small voice inside of me that is trembling a bit, or if there is something worrying the edges of my brain, but something just doesn’t feel right.

Don’t you just hate it when you have those kinds of feelings (if you do), and you cannot ascertain as to why?

“Only, there is a haunting sense of the imminent cessation of being; the year, in turning, turns in on itself.” ~ Angela Carter, “The Erl-King”

I don’t really do resolutions, either, never have. I know myself only too well, and I try never to make promises that I know I can’t or won’t keep. All of those false promises about quitting this or that, losing weight, exercising more, giving more to charity, being less selfish, more generous . . .

Ya da ya da ya da . . .

Bollocks.

"Setting Sun over Fields" (1955-63, oil on canvas)by Joan Eardley
“Setting Sun over Fields” (1955-63, oil on canvas)
by Joan Eardley

No one does it. Not really, so why say that you will?

Perhaps we make these promises to ourselves because we really do believe that we can or will change in the coming year. Perhaps we think that if we say it, it makes it so, makes it more tangible, harder to ignore. But the truth is that if we don’t want to quit smoking (or drinking or eating chocolate or whatever), then we won’t. The desire has to exist else a thousand words written in stone will not make it real.

And so I make no promises, either to myself or the powers that be or anyone else, at least no coming year promises. I save my promises for important things, like things that I will do for my children or for Corey. I will tell myself that it’s in my best interest to go back on my chocolate fast as the few pounds that I have gained since Thanksgiving/cruise/Christmas dinner are beginning to add up, and I liked it better when I was on a healthier diet, but other than that? Nothing.

“All night we now hear the desperate downwardness.
All day we have watched the last icicle
Drip, drop by drop, as though from a wound—grow less and less.
Dark comes again.  Shut eyes, and think of a sacred cycle.” ~ Robert Penn Warren, from section 1 of “Downwardness” in “Seasons”

One tradition that I do miss is that of building a fire in the fireplace on New Year’s Eve. My ex and I used to do that each year, even that was the only fire we built for the year, but I honestly feel too guilty now when building a real wood fire. Pollution and all of that. But oh how I would dearly love to have a gas fireplace hookup. It’s one of the few luxuries that I want to install if and when we ever go into reno mode. A gas fireplace and a jetted tub—two things that I would so love to have, two things in which I find true comfort.

(c) DACS/Anne Morrison; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation
“Snow” (1958, oil on board)
by Joan Eardley

Corey and I only used the fireplace during those two winters in which we did not have gas heat. Those were cold winters, and the fireplace did help, if only briefly.

Some people cannot abide the smell of woodsmoke, and I can understand that, but I am not one of them. One of the things that I loved about going camping in the mountains was building an outdoor fire from fallen branches and twigs. Sitting there in the evening with friends, talking about everything and nothing, watching the wood burn down to embers before zipping up in a sleeping bag.

Simpler times.

“I’ve never been very good at leaving things behind. I tried, but I have always left fragments of myself there too, like seeds awaiting their chance to grow.” ~ Joanne Harris

Anyway, 2012 is in its last hours, and the new year will be hear in less than eight hours. Corey and I will spend the evening with Olivia as Lex and Mike are going out. Eamonn is house sitting for his father, and Brett is with friends. So I think it will just be the three of us and the dogs, and that’s just fine with me.

(c) Anne Morrison; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation
“Sarah’s Cottage” (nd, oil on canvas)
by Joan Eardley

I will leave you with this, things I hope may happen in 2013, in the world and at home:

  • Congress will grow up and realize that being obstructionists serves no one well.
  • Automatic weapons will once again be banned.
  • Obama will become the president we all know he could be.
  • Honey Boo Boo, the Real Housewives of everywhere, Dance Moms, Toddlers and Tiaras, Bad Girls, and all of the rest will quietly fade into the background (okay, know this won’t happen, but I can wish).

 

"Harvest Time" (1960-61, oil on board)by Joan Eardley
“Harvest Time” (1960-61, oil on board)
by Joan Eardley

and also these wishes:

  • Brett will make his trip to New Zealand and from this experience be able to glean a little insight into what he wants out of life.
  • Eamonn will get a job as a merchant mariner and begin to enter the adult world.
  • Alexis will continue to try to work towards a more stable life.
  • Corey will get the job he really wants.
  • My dogs will remain healthy.
  • Our families will suffer no more losses.
  • I will actually do real work on my novel and poetry.

To all of you out there, may the coming year bring you health, happiness, and safety, and may you move one step closer to achieving your dreams and desires.

Peace.

“Lilac Wine,” Jeff Buckley version and mashup with Nina Simone, couldn’t decide:

                   

New Year Resolve

The time has come
To stop allowing the clutter
To clutter my mind
Like dirty snow,
Shove it off and find
Clear time, clear water.

Time for a change,
Let silence in like a cat
Who has sat at my door
Neither wild nor strange
Hoping for food from my store
And shivering on the mat.

Let silence in.
She will rarely speak or mew,
She will sleep on my bed
And all I have ever been
Either false or true
Will live again in my head.

For it is now or not
As old age silts the stream,
To shove away the clutter,
To untie every knot,
To take the time to dream,
To come back to still water.

~ Mary Sarton

“It is not by muscle, speed, or physical dexterity that great things are achieved, but by reflection, force of character, and judgment.” ~ Cicero

Male Cardinal in the Snow by synthman19872003

“Whatever you do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius and power and magic in it.” ~ Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Blue Jay in the Snow

I’m cold, tired, and my back hurts. What better time and frame of mind to hammer out some new year’s resolutions. Let’s get started then. I resolve to do the following in 2010 (in no particular order, just as they come to me):

  1. Write more—more frequently, more regularly, more faithfully, and with more purpose.
  2. Read more, well, just because it’s something that I love, and it relaxes me.
  3. Try to get along better with eldest son even though his personality is so much like my ex-husband that sometimes the lines blur.
  4. Get back into a regular exercise program. This is one that I’ve been wanting to do for a long time, but let’s face it: I don’t exercise at home. It’s just not a conducive environment. I need to get back to the gym, a place where I will be shamed into working harder.
  5. Do more with my photography, as in, not just take pictures and leave them on the memory card for months. I love Photoshop, so I should use it more.
  6. In conjunction with Number 5, I would love to get a photo printer, but that’s at te bottom of the priority list.
  7. Get that new Logitech mouse that I’ve been eye-balling for two years. The price has to have come down by now.
  8. Work on our credit score; of course, this one is dependent upon Corey starting a new job and no major problems occurring, but both of us want to accomplish something with this.
  9. Paint my bedroom. No. Still hasn’t been done.
  10. Be a better friend and stay in touch on a more regular basis with everyone who has moved away.
  11. Work on finding a literary agent by the end of 2010. That gives me a year.
  12. Pay back Corey’s parents the money they have loaned us. Must do this.
  13. Try to be more patient with my mother. This is a hard one.
  14. Find the perfect squooshy leather purse so that maybe one day I can purchase it.
  15. Plant flowers in the spring. This used to be so important to me. I need to get back to it.
  16. Go to the Virginia foothills and Skyline Drive. It’s been too many years since we’ve done this, and it doesn’t involve spending a lot of money.
  17. Get a pedicure or two or three. Sweet indulgences are a necessary part of life.
  18. Give up chocolate. Okay, so maybe decrease my chocolate intake. I was able to do this once before, so I have no excuses.
  19. Help to support Corey in his goal to register for college classes. The irony is that if we’d known he be out of work this long, he could have registered a long time ago and already be finished with at least a year of school. Bitter irony.
  20. Female Cardinal in the Snow by Dovey
  21. Get a bird feeder to hang in the back yard where the dogs cannot get to it. I miss my backyard birding.
  22. Be more patient overall. I have gotten more patient and less bitchy in recent years, but I still would like to make fewer assumptions and be less prone to getting upset.
  23. Take my vitamins. No-brainer.
  24. Play the piano more. I am so out of the habit, and this, too, relaxes me. 
  25. Try to get on a regular sleep schedule, you know, like normal people.
  26. Declutter. This is a big one as it means that I have to let go of some things, which I don’t like to do, but the decluttering must be done.
  27. Smile more. I’m not a person who smiles a lot, and it’s not because I’m unhappy or angry, I just don’t smile, so maybe I should make a concerted effort to try more, as long as I don’t end up looking like some kind of idiot.
  28. Give back more. Our trials and tribulations have been heavy, but so many others are facing the same and worse. Giving back is the right thing to do.
  29. Go on a retreat. I promised Brett that we would do that this past summer, but then we didn’t have a vehicle or any cash. This year, for certain.
  30. Read more poetry by new writers. I’ve let myself get behind, and there are so many great poets out there just churning out work that needs to be read and shared.
  31. Finally, continue to work on letting go of things from the past. I’m getting much better at this, but I still need to work on it.

“Tenderness and kindness are not signs of weakness and despair but manifestations of strength and resolution” ~ Kahlil Gibran

Cedar Waxwing on Icy Branch by johngomes

Admittedly, none of my resolutions are earth-shattering. That’s the whole point. I wanted to create a list of things that are absolutely possible to do within the next year. Nothing on my list involves spending a lot of money; more things involve dedicating time. I have nothing but time, and I need to get back to doing productive things with my time.

Notice that I didn’t put the big one on there about losing weight. I’ve decided that if I start taking better care of myself, stop eating so much chocolate, and get back into exercising, then the weight thing should balance itself. More of that attempt to be realistic.

I wish you luck with whatever resolutions you have made, whether or not you share them. May the coming year be filled with good opportunities, moments of insight and grace, and abundant love and happiness.

More later. Peace

I really wanted to feature Coldplay’s “The Scientist,” but had a hell of a time finding just the right video. I settled on this one with scenes from the movie Wicker Park (which I haven’t seen yet) as it seems to fit the song better than any of the other ones:

 

 

                                                                                                                                       

XVII from Pablo Neruda’s Still Another Day

The days aren’t discarded or collected, they are bees
that burned with sweetness or maddened
the sting: the struggle continues,
the journeys go and come between honey and pain.
No, the net of years doesn’t unweave: there is no net.
They don’t fall drop by drop from a river: there is no river.
Sleep doesn’t divide life into halves,
or action, or silence, or honor:
life is like a stone, a single motion,
a lonesome bonfire reflected on the leaves,
an arrow, only one, slow or swift, a metal
that climbs or descends burning in your bones.

“Dum spiro, spero” (Latin, ‘While I breathe, I hope’)

“Snow at Montmartre,” by Hippolyte-Camille Delpy (1869, oil on canvas)

“By three methods we may learn wisdom: First, by reflection, which is noblest; Second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third by experience, which is the bitterest.” ~ Confucius

Well, the clock is ticking down (not that clocks tick any more), and the end of 2009 is upon us. I have so many things going on in my head, so many thoughts about this past year that it’s hard to know exactly where to begin, so I thought that I would begin with the following quote by Frederick Buechner as it seems so appropriate:

“The time is ripe for looking back over the day, the week, the year, and trying to figure out where we have come from and where we are going to, for sifting through the things we have done and the things we have left undone for a clue to who we are and who, for better or worse, we are becoming. But again and again we avoid the long thoughts. We cling to the present out of wariness of the past. And why not, after all? We get confused. We need such escape as we can find. But there is a deeper need yet, I think, and that is the need—not all the time, surely, but from time to time—to enter that still room within us all where the past lives on as a part of the present, where the dead are alive again, where we are most alive ourselves to turnings and to where our journeys have brought us. The name of the room is Remember—the room where with patience, with charity, with quietness of heart, we remember consciously to remember the lives we have lived.”

I imagine that many of you out there are thinking about this past year and the new year that is only hours away. For our family, 2009 has been a year of extremes. The things that have happened have all been intense and for the most part, not positive. I lost a favorite uncle and an aunt who had been like a grandmother to me. Corey spent another year without being able to find a job, but not for lack of trying. Eamonn graduated from high school and seemed to become even more distant emotionally. Brett had a very rough year in the beginning, but it has seemed to get better for him. Alexis, too, has had a hard year, and I’m not sure exactly what changes she needs to make so that she can find some happiness.

"Rooftops Under Snow," Gustave Caillebotte (1878, oil on canvas)

Our financial situation is no better, and after Corey’s unemployment ran out in September, things got much worse. We are still renegotiating the mortgage, and don’t know when to expect any word, especially since they have lost the paperwork twice. I am on my third appeal to the Social Security administration regarding my disability.

My other mother-in-law, Yvonne, seems to be getting much worse with her Parkinson’s disease, and my other father-in-law was admitted to ICU two days ago with pneumonia. My mother took a tumble down the stairs right before Christmas, but she seems to be doing better. Watching those you love age before your eyes is more painful that I ever could have anticipated.

Friends have fallen by the wayside. I don’t hear much from Jammi, and Rebecca has a new man in her life, so I haven’t heard from her in ages. Mari is still living in Massachusetts, and I don’t know when I’ll be able to see her again. My friend Sarah has been going through terrible times with her own family. I don’t remember the last time I actually spoke with Kathleen.

Tillie had a couple of seizures, a new development. Alfie escaped from the yard and was picked up by Animal Control. As a result, he had to spend the night in doggie jail, but we were glad that he was safe. Shakes developed some kind of skin rash that makes him chew at himself all of the time, but otherwise, he is still fat and happy.

Corey’s truck died this past summer, and we know that it needs a new transmission. The Trooper died on the side of a mountain on the way to Ohio in July. We still don’t have the gas turned back on, and our credit rating is completely in the toilet.

“And if you ask me whether I regret starting out
my voice rises like flocks of finches at dawn
and blows across the deep blue sky.” ~ from St. Nadie In Winter by Terrance Keenan

"Morning Light," Walter Elmer Schofield (1922, oil on canvas)

Of course, it hasn’t all been bad. Corey’s parents really came through for us this past year. They supplied us with a Ford Windstar van and paid for repairs. They have sent us money for gas and supplied us with food from Angel Food Ministries. Corey’s brothers rescued us when the Trooper broke down in Maryland, drove six hours one-way to get us, and then drove us back to Lima with the Trooper in tow. Their generosity has been overwhelming and one of the few bright spots in an otherwise abysmal year.

Kindness has come from unexpected places, as well. Sarah’s church donated some gift cards and a bit of cash, which came at a moment when we really needed it. My mother helped out as much as she was able.

Alexis did manage to find a job after being out of work for quite a while. Eamonn did manage to graduate even after missing way too many days of school and was accepted to the local community college. Brett did survive his junior of high school even though his mental state was precarious. Corey and I celebrated our eighth wedding anniversary. In other words, we all had our personal victories, some smaller than others, others more significant.

But probably one of the best sources of support has been from the readers of my blog, who write me constantly, support me, and help me to keep things in perspective.

So it wasn’t all doom and gloom. In fact, far from it. Sometimes, it takes putting things down on paper (screens) to be able to weigh the past more accurately, assess issues more clearly.

“For last year’s words belong to last year’s language and next year’s words await another voice.” ~ T. S. Eliot

So that leaves 2010. Wow. It’s weird just typing that number. I remember in 1999 being completely overwhelmed at the thought of a new century, a new millenium. I never thought that the end of the world was going to come or even that my computer was going to explode. But 2000 seemed like such a milestone.

"Winter Twilight Along Central Park," Paul Cornoyer (1900, oil on canvas)

I rang in that new year on a friend’s boat, docked in the harbor of downtown Norfolk. There was a whole group of us who were celebrating together, and I had a great time because I parked my car in the garage, left it, and slept on the boat. We watched the fireworks, which were more amazing than any I had ever seen, and I went to sleep wondering what 2000 would bring.

Well, 2000 brought me Corey at a time when I was looking for no one. It brought me a change in jobs, also something for which I was not looking but should have been seeking. It was a year of many, many changes, and the past decade has brought more changes than I can possibly list.

Honestly, though, I have a good feeling about 2010. I’m not sure why, and if you pressed me, I couldn’t substantiate it with anything more than a feeling in my gut. I mean, our luck has been so bad for so long that we must be due for a change. If Karma works in the way in which it is supposed to, then our family should be about to move into a new, more peaceful, less tumultuous period. At least that’s what I’m hoping.

I feel re-energized about my writing. Eamonn is about to begin college. Brett is entering the second half of his senior year. Alexis, well, I don’t know what changes are in store for her, but I hope that they are good. And Corey? Well, his new job was supposed to start at the beginning of the new year, but his last conversation with the man from Van Brothers was a bit more vague, as in sometime in February. But we’re not giving up hope.

“What seems to us as bitter trials are often blessings in disguise.” ~ Oscar Wilde Hope.

"Garden Under Snow," Paul Gauguin (1879, oil on canvas)

Hope—that small word that carries within it so much weight. Hope helps to bring the soldier through the battle. Hope wends its way through the heart looking for love. Hope is the wisp of smoke that eludes the individual keeping watch over a loved one who is gravely ill. Hope is the reflection of the stars in the night sky when everything seems without light. Hope is the sound of the wind and the rain, the birds and the ocean, affirming that life does indeed go on beyond the realm of our lives. Hope is the northern star that guides us when the path is unclear, and the anchor for our ships when we feel adrift at sea.

It would be so easy to give up, to say no more. It would be a relief not to fight against the machinations of the bureaucracies that threaten to overpower us. It would be less taxing to just sit back and say whatever, do your worst. And I admit that there have been times when these options have floated through my mind. But I do not succumb. I have a good man who loves me, cherishes me, respects me. I have three tremendously talented, intelligent children who are just beginning to find their way in the world. I have a roof over my head and food in the fridge. And I have the love and support of family and friends who never let me forget just how much they care.

Whatever 2010 decides to throw my way, I will face it, whether or not I am ready, whether or not I feel able, whether or not I feel beaten down. I have no choice because hope does not abandon the individual, rather, the individual who abandons hope gives in to hope’s fouler relative—despair. And my friends, I refuse to give in to despair.

May you stay safe on this New Year’s Eve. Remember to be smart out there because not everyone else will be. My very best to you and yours for a happy, healthy, prosperous New Year.

More later. Peace.

From “Still I Rise,” by Maya Angelou

. . . Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.

Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops.
Weakened by my soulful cries.

Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don’t you take it awful hard
‘Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines
Diggin’ in my own back yard.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.

“Same Old Lang Syne,” by the late, greatly underrated Dan Fogelberg . . .