and the new year enters from stage right/house left and whispers to the middle of the old wooden stage. a slight and humbled bow to its foregoer, it beckons silence and quiet resolve.
we stand in ovation as we pine for its downbeat and new music, this new year’s promise. then we take our seats in the snow and turn our faces to it gently falling, flakes in slow motion, moments of fresh powder.
stillness commences and the hushed voice of what is to come lingers in the cold dark air around us. it is voiceless and indistinct; we lean in and listen for the timbre of the spirit of what will be.
and the snow whispers back to us, ever-fragile flakes, reminding us of its evanescence, of our impermanence, of the mystery of it all.
we rise and we walk into the woods, our feet crunching on the trail.
black-eyed peas. we are iso a recipe for black-eyed peas. we read that eating black-eyed peas on new year’s day brings general good luck and financial good fortune to the eater-of-the-peas.
we also read that we should eat pork – which might explain why my sweet momma often insisted on pork for new year’s day. apparently, the fact that pigs root forward suggests that the eater-of-the-pork will indeed move forward as well in the new year. we will stay away from chicken and turkey on new year’s day because chickens and turkeys scratch in the dirt and we have done enough dirt-scratching this year so would like to avoid that at all cost in 2021.
at midnight tonight – new year’s eve – we are going to open both doors to our house – the front and the back – to allow the old year – the mighty-roaring 2020 – to leave, exit, escape, make an exodus, get the heck out.
at midnight tonight – new year’s eve – we will have the stockpots ready and the big finnish wooden spoons. we’ll bang lids and pots together and drum on the metal as loud as we can. (i know it’s “loud-ly” but we are just going to be utterly loud!)
we are heeding any and all suggestions, any and all superstition, any and all custom so as not to impede 2020 and its mean-spirited-spirit to leave and also generously allow for a kinder 2021 to arrive. our list goes on…
yes. tonight we will usher out this year-of-years and, maybe like you, smooching with great expectation, we will greet the new year.
like a non-dangerous heat-seeking missile, babycat searches for the warm spots in the house. when the sun pours in the front windows, you will find him laying on the rug in the middle of the room. when the sun is higher in the sky and no longer checkers the rug, he will seek out the next. he can be found next to the radiator in the girl’s room, on the dog (read: cat) bed next to the radiator in the sunroom, on the bed waaaay up by the pillows, just above the radiator over the windows. he seeks comfort. he’s one smart cat. especially when he is tuckered out.
as this year-of-years comes to a close, it would seem that we are all tuckered out. yesterday we saw a wooden trivet for sale – beautifully crafted with cuts made by (i’m guessing) a jigsaw or scrollsaw. the very center featured the carved number 2020. from the center, there were what resembled fragile flower petals forming the rest of the trivet. each of those petals featured was carved intricately around one four-letter word: the one that starts with an f and ends with a k. yup. we should have purchased it. it seems fitting. sooo tuckered out.
we have only a few days left of this year. what shall we do with them? it has been my tradition, with calendar in hand, to review the year – at the end of the year – to see the rise and fall of breathing through all of it, the things we accomplished, the things that failed, the places we went, the times we shared with others. you know, the whole roller coaster ride.
this year i’m not sure if that would be fun, however. we are tuckered out.
this year we might just curl up next to the radiator and rest.
the dog hides in the bathroom when there is even the hint of a disagreement, an argument, any kind of underlying tension he senses in his sweet and highly intuitive body. he slowly rises from the old wood floor in the living room or the tiled floor of the sunroom or sprawled on top of the raft and tiptoes down the hall to lie down out of the fray, even if it’s a quiet fray. he can feel it – the tension – and it makes him feel angst.
this year. angst. how can any of us be without angst this year? it seems that things in the universe have spiraled out of control, things are afire and we drop-roll in anxiety. we succumb, in pain, to the extreme pressures this year has presented and sometimes we direct it at each other. ptsd is alive and well and will likely prevail past december 31, rolling its tentacles into the new year.
“things will not be the same because we will not be the same,” 20 texted us, having stumbled across this quote. he captured, in his passing on of these words with no attribution, the truth of it. things will not be the same. and neither will we. we will not be the same. and neither will things.
so i guess the question is this – how do we all rise from the ashes of this year? how do we “live above the circumstances” as jonathan texted? how do we drag our tired bodies and minds and hearts into 2021 and have hope?
though, decades ago, i was granted a master’s degree in counseling and i try to incorporate the methods of communication i learned, i still fail miserably in the middle of spatting with d. i try to resist my and his laundry list of what-happened-last-times or i-remember-you-saids or i-remember-you-dids. it is to no avail. somehow we end up tiffing not-so-much only about now, but instead, about all the back-thens up to now. i don’t think we’re alone in this. and i suspect that this year has burdened us all with so much stress and insulated time together that it is inevitable. there has been so much; confusion and anger and grief and sadness wash over us all. we are all exhausted. we are forever changed.
but i hope we can also take away from this year that we survived it. broken wrists, pandemic fears, covid-lost jobs, a city stricken by violent social injustice, a country in chaos, chasms of relationship differences, isolation, suffering a firing, losing a community. we will not be the same. things will not be the same.
and yet, we are here…on the doorstep of 2021…in the tiny liminal space between the holidays, rapidly approaching the new year. the bootstraps call our names and, again, we bend, like rugged, ragged reeds in the wind, and tug them up. we try, once again, to remember that we have somehow gotten through 363 days – already. we are changed. things are changed. i heard myself saying to a dear friend, “yes. you are made of every single thing up to this very minute. but now you are here and your next step is in now, not in then, not in all that.” i need remember. we need be in now. in spite of and because of. looking forward, stepping forward. ever slowly, but doggedly forward. tripper would celebrate this phoenix-choice.
two wise women offer these words:
“the life you have led doesn’t need to be the only life you have.” (anna quindlen)
“tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” (mary oliver)
alike. and different.
things will not be the same, yes, because we will not be the same.
“we all travel the milky way together, trees and men.” (john muir)
the pandemic rages on, wreaking destruction; after 800 years, jupiter and saturn line up in the sky. and i cannot wrap my head around the absolute-insignificant-significance of each of us. in this moment, on this piece of earth, under this sky, we whirl through space and time, reaching out to grasp onto bits of life – merely air – and make a dent in the atmosphere where we stand.
2020 has been a year of whittling. it has whittled away at our safety. it has whittled away at our health. it has whittled away the physical companionship of our loved ones. it has whittled away relationships, through political divide, social justice mores, the pursuit of personal freedoms over community. it has whittled away trust, heaving it to the side as we watch, astonished, as untruths, gaslighting, even propaganda surround us both under the cloak of country and up close and personal. it has whittled away the security of our finances, our work suspended. it has whittled away at our shock gauge; each time thinking there has been enough and being surprised by yet more, the baseline of dismay ever-changing. it has whittled away the convergence of reality and logic and it has left confusion in its place; it has paralyzed us and it has frightened us. it has whittled away what we understand.
and yet, the trees stand steadfast. they continue to reach for the sun, arms held out to the light. they neither seek to understand as they grow nor question the storms that have battered them. they just are. their place in the milky way dents the atmosphere a tiny bit, just as ours does. we travel, in various rotational directions, hundreds of thousands miles per hour along with the trees. all of us, together.
“you are a child of the universe; no less than the trees and the stars, you have a right to be here. and whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.” (max ehrmann, “desiderata”)
there are days when it’s necessary. last saturday was one of them. we drove out to the bakery in lake geneva specifically for one thing: flourless chocolate cake. we bought two pieces and drove home with them nestled in their little box, excited about the prospect of having such a treat two days in a row. (we share desserts, so this purchase was not merely one day’s worth.) in the middle of everything, a little flourless chocolate cake will go a long way.
there are a few things that fall under this category these days: a few vices, a few salves. strong hot coffee in the morning in mugs that remind us of favorite places, long hikes, glasses of wine, happy lights, texts or pictures or calls from my children, big pots of pasta sauce, being snugged by the dog and the cat. every so often, flourless chocolate cake makes the cut. because it is not inexpensive, these days it is a rarity. but last saturday we decided we could skip a meal if it was necessary in order to share some decadence.
soon it will be the solstice. the sun will seemingly stand still and the light of day will start to shift. we will, slowly but surely, start to welcome more light.
as this world, this country, our communities start to embrace the administering of a new vaccine to aid in the deterrent of the pandemic, we begin to see the beacon of light. it is farther off on the horizon, but it is rising.
as this country, our communities start to embrace the changing of this nation’s leadership, we begin to see the possibility of sanity returning to the chaos. we begin to see the promise of light. it is farther off on the horizon, but it is rising.
as our communities agree to distance and be safe, to work together in common goal, we begin to hope for a return of responsibility, of accountability, of respect, of kindness. we study the horizon, watching for light. it is farther off on the horizon, but we’re sure it must be rising.
as we stand and straighten up our 2020 bodies, aching but holding steadfast on our journeys, we begin to look for the paths of the future, paths of symbiosis, paths of goodness. we peer in the dark, catching glimpses of light, like fireflies in a summer backyard. it is farther off on the horizon, but the light is rising.
and we know this because flourless chocolate cake makes it so.
denver riggleman said it best, “what is going on?” the chaos abounding in the political arena is the stuff of wildly hysterical hyena-laughter, the stuff of destruction, the stuff of the danger of propagandizing that-which-is-not-true.
the politicians who have lined up behind the current president, the-one-who-lost-the-election, are merely minions being played, little people doing the dirty work of a man who is so immersed in himself he has ignored a sweeping pandemic killing thousands of americans-on-his-watch every single day. without fact, without conversation crossing the aisle, without second thought or conscience, these politicians are cowering to this president for what? a pat on the head? my dog is less needy than that.
as we move through this time, we see professionals who are doing their job with excellence reamed out and cast to the side. we see people who are speaking out against the management of this leadership who are dismissed. we see individuals spoken about with strategic words of malice, gaslighting insinuations of wrongdoing, meanspiritedness at play.
we are left – deliberately – with confusion. as people watching, we are served up narrative, a silver platter full of nothing, expected to go merrily along with it all, to join the crusade, to not ask questions. we watch Power and Control take over. we are appalled at the gall this leadership and his team have exhibited. we are expected to believe him because, well, he is who he is, they are who they are. you can’t see the pedestal but it’s there. his minions have joined him inside his sickness and we, as populace, have been made the stadium audience as this unnecessary wrestling match moves forward, as people are thrown to the mat, as due process is ignored and the foundation shudders.
each day we would walk to the edge of our pond and look for the two frogs hiding in the rocks or sunning in plants in which they blended.
we’ve had frogs in our pond before. and, at the time that ice starts to form on the top of our tiny waterhole, we have removed the filter and stored it away. we’re not sure where exactly the frogs go, but research shows us that they are intrepid creatures who will burrow underground or under the debris of a pond. some portions of a frog’s body will freeze during the winter, stored glucose preventing vital organs from freezing, the frog waking from its frozen slumber in the warming spring days. wow. research also shows that they need oxygen and the bubbler of the filter system will keep harmful gases from accumulating and, hopefully, will keep the pond from freezing over completely.
we decided that was worth a try.
we dug our pond in 2013 and have had the same equipment ever since. when a tree landed on the pond in the backyard a few years back, monster glue came to the rescue and, each year since, david has rube-goldberg-ed the pond’s fixings back together again to last for one more season.
with everything that 2020 has been, we felt like we really needed to give our frogs, the only houseguests we had all spring, summer and fall, a fighting chance. we decided to leave the filter on and the bubbler bubbling.
and now we cross our fingers.
because every little thing counts this year – a year fraught – – –
there seems no need to even finish that sentence. each of us has our own story of this year’s challenges and disappointments. each of us, hopefully, has at least one success, one victory, one moment of bliss.
but, admittedly, the sighs that have been the soundtrack of 2020 are plenty. we have all been inundated with them.
we are choosing also to remember the bubbling of the pond out the back window and the croaking of two sweet frogs who found their way into our little pond. and we are hoping to see them again, croaking and sunning, when the spring comes.
if you look at the leaves on our front lawn in this photograph, you will see splotches of green. this is the path that some incredibly audacious person took walking from the sidewalk to our front brick wall in order to steal our two biden/harris election signs. yes. STEAL.
that morning – the saturday that joe biden was declared the new president-elect and kamala harris was declared the new vice-president-elect – someone had the gall to walk into our yard and take the sign out of the middle of the yard. then that person continued walking – right up to our old brick wall – and took our other sign.
now, i have never had election signs in my yard before. ever. but this year was different and, in addition to a couple other social justice signs, i was proud to have “biden/harris” gracing our home. i was looking forward to rolling one of them up for our special box, a remembrance of this turbulent time.
opening the miniblinds and letting the sun in the front windows i immediately saw that the signs were gone.
what was this person thinking?
did he/she think that they could prevent the inevitable? did he/she think that taking our signs would mean that the election results would shift? did he/she think that stealing from someone else’s property would be ok, acceptable, appropriate? that stealing candidate signs is not petty and immature? is that what this current president has taught them? that their angry opinion and their inflated sense of ego and importance would give them permission to steal? that their bullying would actually change anything? that their malfeasance would warp voting results that have everything to do with actually saving the soul of this nation, of democracy? that stealing signs would stop any new-day-for-america change of this nation toward equality and hope, a trajectory so needed for so long? that they don’t think crybaby tantrums and an obvious desire for retribution undermine the (supposed) value set they proclaim? did it occur to this person that we might have a security camera on the front yard? did it occur to them it is a misdemeanor? did they think that their whiny, pouting, coddled leader himself, all the way from his time-out corner in the white house, would pay their legal fines?
it is apparent that we were not the only target of this infantile and illegal behavior. many other biden/harris signs were gone from yards we had smiled at while passing and the bigger wooden signs that had been erected were pushed over. yes, now there is a display of puerile behavior. to have followed this/these person(s) around our neighborhood, triumphantly snatching signage out of the ground, would be to witness the asinine.
maybe the next time they steal something from someone they’ll smile and wave. candid cameras can be ruthless these days.
oh. and by the way, stealing our signs did not change the results. your guy lost.
“one thing i can’t comprehend is how hungry people are to consume lies.”
while i’d love to say that this – “how hungry people are to consume lies” – is merely disconcerting, it wouldn’t begin to express how shocking this is. people in this country are, seemingly, not just hungry to consume lies. they are ravenous to consume lies.
i suppose we shouldn’t be surprised. it is the basis upon which the national enquirer and other such tabloids are sold in vast quantity. it is the in-line-at-the-grocery-store appeal of juicy gossip, falsehoods, lies and machinations of true stories. people soak it up. having no desire to see doctored photos or absurd stories i have never once purchased any of these.
the last four years, especially, have proven, time and again, that this country is full of sponges. in my mind’s eye, devotees to the current president sit at the ready, next to a scummy pond, thirsty. the wind blows a slight breeze across the surface and the green water ripples. the populace alerts to the movement of pond scum and, like chore boys fresh out of the package, suck up the mindless babble, the intentional lies, the aggrandizing rhetoric, the dangerous narrative. never does it occur to them to fact-check, for the pond scum has clearly clogged the arteries to their brains and they are too lazy to question what they are hearing. instead, they jump-jump-jump on the dyin’-to-be-lyin’-also bandwagon and ramp it up, full steam ahead. and the rest of us stand back and are astonished, yet again, over and over, at their hook-line-and-sinker devotion to something so nasty and self-serving.
it comes as no surprise then, most especially since the current president has advertised his malintent for months now, that these people-of-the-populace have gathered onto the fraudulent-election-wagon. they have soaked up the scummy messaging and have made it their own; conscience, nonetheless truth, has not entered the equation. their unmasked fervor is making them each big fish in little ponds; their words are reverberating in minds lacking of questions, devoid of analysis.
what is gained by the re-telling of lies? what is the endgame of this fantasy, this dive into psychosis? what is the point of this mean-spirited, predatory piranha of the truth?
perhaps it is of solace to them that their pond scum, a living organism, is good fertilizer and can be used to add important nutrients into, say, compost.