The New Year

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“The old year dies and we face the new year as though it were an entity, new as a newborn babe. A new calendar with twelve leaves, one for each month. Something in us, some need for the specific, the orderly, the mathematical exactitude, calls for such demarcation. Yet any year, regardless of arbitrary time, is like a circle; you can start at any point upon it and, following the circle, you come back to that point. Our year, our circle, happens to be a cycle of the seasons, planting, growing, reaping, resting; and thus it is a part of the earth, the soil and the flowing waters as well as of the stars by which it is gauged…. And year’s end is neither an end nor a beginning but a going on, with all the wisdom that experience can instill in us.” ~Hal Borland (1900–1978), “The Tomorrows,” 1952 December 30th

I always have a visceral response the first time I write the date of a new year, as it answers the ‘call for a demarcation’.  I know that it’s all a circle, the inevitable cycle of Nature, but it seems like there is the opportunity to do it better–‘a going on, with all the wisdom that experience can instill in us.’  Awake after a ten hour sleep, I welcome the fresh new page this morning.  We were up at 3:00 a.m. yesterday, the final day of 2019, to drive Joy and her family, and their giant bags holding six months of clothes and supplies, for life in Finland.  As I write early this morning, they are still in the air.  After an entire Christmas holiday with no snow, no change in the weather each day, the roads were horrific in the dark, freezing rain yesterday.  Ice covered the highway, obscuring the white and yellow lines, and with nary a streetlight for the first half an hour, it was a slow and treacherous caravan.  We arrived in time, nonetheless, and oh how my heart ached as we hugged them goodbye and watched them wheel all that luggage through the sliding glass doors.  Don drove their car back, and I followed him in mine, on the sad trek home in the dark, icy morning.  Fletcher was still sleeping, but he hit the road at 9 a.m. for the seven hour drive to Billings, to celebrate New Years with his old friends.  I had been glued to the road reports across the state from the time we returned from the airport, and things had improved for his journey.  I look forward to his return this week-end, yet another goodbye at the airport Monday, when he flies back to college.

With Don off skiing, the house was empty yesterday, and filled with dreadful loneliness, mixed in with mourning for the decades of my life, now long gone.   I took down the tree and all the Christmas decorations.  It reminded me of how I always re-decorated the girls’ bedrooms the second they were off to college, scrubbing them clean, like I did my old iPad, which I gave Duncan to take to Finland.  It’s as if I need to make a clearing for something new to arrive, whatever that may be.  By nightfall, I was exhausted, depleted, with red and puffy eyes, revealing a day of tears.  All the girls had touched base by then, including a family photo Joy sent from LAX, as they boarded Finnair.  Goodbye and farewell 2019.

On this very first day of a new year, a new decade, NOAA writes in their forecast:  “Messy winter weather of snow, freezing drizzle, rain and icy roads.”  I do love the word “messy”–thinking that is a great way to describe this business of living and loving and moving on.  But, I’m ready for a change–a good old-fashioned snowstorm of light and fluffy snow, which creates soft and gentle mounds, and covers us over in quiet stillness.   Or, one of those cold snaps, on a clear blue-sky day, where you can see ice crystals in the air.  In Winter–Notes from Montana, Rick Bass describes such a day as “crystals which collide in the breeze and make a faint tinkling sound, like chimes, like glass clinking, a magical sound.”    You never know–it’s a new year, a new chance.


By Jackie Kay

Remember, the time of year
when the future appears
like a blank sheet of paper
a clean calendar, a new chance.
On thick white snow
You vow fresh footprints
then watch them go
with the wind’s hearty gust.
Fill your glass. Here’s tae us. Promises
made to be broken, made to last.

1 thought on “The New Year

  1. jcoakleyuccsedu

    I could feel this one. Being alone often brings out special thoughts. Being lonely is to be unknown as you know yourself. But that’s different than existential loneliness that puts you in touch with the world around you. My guess is that your thoughts came from the latter.


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