“The Most Mundane and Human Holiday”


My relationship to New Year’s Day has changed as I’ve gotten older. It’s funny; you’d think that as a younger person I would have been more concerned with looking ahead, at all the untapped energy of those blank calendar pages. But maybe because they were so abundant I could take them for granted, I was always more interested in looking back, reflecting on the year just past. These days, with presumably more January firsts behind me than ahead, I really like the thought of the days ahead, the datebook with its spine uncracked (I’m as dependent on my Outlook calendar as anyone else, but for the minutiae of life I still lean heavily on an old-fashioned analog planner). All is possibility.

2014 was an A-1 banner year for me, and probably just for that reason I’m not even remotely interested in thinking about it anymore. The year was all about onward and upward, and that seems like a good (and necessary) trajectory to maintain. Today, though, is a fine spot to rest and catch my breath. No work, a little enforced downtime thanks to the tail end of a nasty cough, a clear and sunny day here on the East Coast. Life is good.

From poet Dana Gioia:

New Year’s

Let other mornings honor the miraculous.
Eternity has festivals enough.
This is the feast of our mortality,
The most mundane and human holiday.

On other days we misinterpret time,
Pretending that we live the present moment.
But can this blur, this smudgy in-between,
This tiny fissure where the future drips

Into the past, this flyspeck we call now
Be our true habitat? The present is
The leaky palm of water that we skim
From the swift, silent river slipping by.

The new year always brings us what we want
Simply by bringing us along—to see
A calendar with every day uncrossed,
A field of snow without a single footprint.

(From Interrogations at Noon, Graywolf Press, 2001)

(Image is “Skiing at Pollfoss, 1923,” by Kristian Berge.)


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