Thursday, January 1, 2015

A Roadrunner New Year's - Reflections

This morning, New Year's morning, a magnificent roadrunner visited us.  He didn't do much, just stood on top of the wooden fence at the far side of the old wooden deck, strode along it, then hopped down to the ground near the small bowls of water.  We were glad we'd poured boiling water on them earlier, when they were pretty well frozen from the cold night, to accommodate him.  The other birds had prudently gone elsewhere to make way for him.

Last night we had exactly the New Year's Eve we have long wanted: an incredibly quiet, peaceful one, the two of us enjoying a fire in the fireplace, a glass of wine, the moonlit night.  We sat on the couch, each with a book, with the cat wandering onto and off our laps.  The sound of the fire delighted us enough that it didn't occur to us to add music.  We talked sporadically.

It ain't that we haven't had fun with others.  We spent one New Year's Eve listening to jazz at Yoshi's in Oakland, and last year's in fun conversation and improvisational games at the home of good friends.  We spent one New Year's Eve in a small cottage across the river from Derry (when we still lived in Oakland, when our octogenarian friend still lived alone in Derry, and when there still was a river in the Mesilla Valley); and two years ago, when two close friends made a spur-of-the-moment New Year's Eve visit to us, the four of us talked and laughed so intensely we never did notice when the clock struck 12.  I've also experienced crazy-loud, blowout New Year's celebrations, more often in other countries than here, and enjoyed them.

But we had wanted to be alone one New Year's Eve.  And without diminishing the love we feel for friends and family, it was good.

At breakfast Dael asked whether I thought about New Year's as special.  I do.  As with most holidays, I don't make a big deal about it.  But I've often made resolutions, sometimes in writing.  Rarely kept 'em for very long.

New Year's feels like an opportunity for renewal, for refocusing or recalibrating my life.  Can't change the whole thing around.  (Nor would I want to, these days.)  As with a sailboat, the prevailing winds limit your choices.  But you can shift course a bit.

It's a time to reflect briefly, to relax and let yourself listen to the inner voices questioning how you've lived and offering a plateful of changes to choose among.  Too often we're too busy to listen.  The two slower weeks around Christmas and New Year's are a rare opportunity; and the two holidays inspire reflections on how rapidly time passes and about how we live, or ought to,   (The Pope's homily this New Year's stressed the passage of time, the briefness and fragility of our lives.)

It struck me this morning that New Year's should coincide more with spring, and the dramatic renewal  we see in nature.  But then I realized that in fact it arrives just ten days after the equinox, when the days reach their shortest and being to lengthen, at least in the northern hemisphere.  So it coincides pretty closely with the subtle start of the annual renewal we begin to perceive more clearly a few months later.  I'll take that.

All of us, as we live our lives and compromise with our consciences or our inner selves in order to succeed at work or protect a family, go a bit off course each year.  Few of us have the time or the will to reflect often enough or honestly enough on the gap between how we live and how we ought to live.  ("Ought to" according to those inner voices, or according to Buddha or Jesus Christ or Confucius or the Talmud or the Muses, or by whatever name we choose to call those gut feelings.)  New Year's is the world giving us a subtle prod in the ass with a walking stick, reminding us to take a moment.

Take a moment to contemplate who and how we've been during the past year.  Let those inner voices speak.  Listen also to the voices of our political opponents, our rivals at work, our critics, and above all our spouse and children.  Where we've disagreed, listen harder to hear what was in their hearts, but perhaps not in their words, and let it into our own heart.  Translate it into our own private language to see if it can teach us something.

I don't think about dramatic results.  I don't think about "results" at all.  I just explore, I guess. Replay some key tunes or scenes as if on some inner speakers or screen.  The way footballers watch game film.   We don't always know in the heat of battle whether we were right or what went wrong.  A second look is valuable.

Me, I recognize how blessed I am.  Blessed by good friends and good health; by the hummingbirds wintering over and the other delights of the high desert; by the opportunity, through a local newspaper column, to try to help our community chart its course; and above all by love.

Yet I recognize how I can and probably should change: as always, listen more to others and speak less.  Pull closer to my fair share at home.  Avoid getting so busy with community activities that I fail to take time to write fiction, and give voice to the fictional characters clamoring inside me.  Hike our beautiful mountains more.  Ride a bicycle.  Steer more accurately the difficult path (in the column) between aggressively speaking the truth as I see it and ensuring I don't unnecessarily drive folks away from reading it.

As I write that, Dael comes in.  The roadrunner is hanging around, still.  She's glad, but hopes he doesn't eat anybody.  I thank her for a great New Year's Eve and tell her I'm writing about it -- without all the details.  Quick laugh, quick kiss, and she goes back to whatever she's doing.  And I add, "Stay in this chair less and be outside more!" to my non-list of New Year's non-resolutions.

So I stop this babbling and I head outside to plant a mesquite tree.

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