Monday, December 24, 2012

Reflections on the Season


This article previously appeared on the PaperBackSwap Blog on 19 December, 2011

The last few months of each calendar year are positively riddled with holidays. It’s a time in which we find ourselves touching upon our own unique patterns of behaviors through which we hope to weather the darker, colder months of the year, as we also say goodbye to it and turn to welcome the coming of another.  These various traditions, both institutional and familial, all seem to possess, at their cores, a theme consistent with one another.  The universal aspects of the many holidays in which we participate spring forth from, and speak to, the very heart of our shared humanity.  It is in light of this perceived interconnectedness, this pervasive and perennial celebration not only of the passage of time, but of our truest inner spirits, that I approach the end of each passing year.

The holidays celebrated as autumn sets in are rooted in remembrance, of times past, as well as people who have passed.  The traditions we perform offer us some semblance of permanence in a world that is anything but.  Whether it’s the baking of a treasured family recipe handed down over several generations, or the passage of such traditions from one living generation to the next, the many feasts we enjoy are fraught with remembrance.  Whether or how we decorate for each passing holiday is often done in honor of the ways of the past.  Those of us who move on to forge new traditions have no less of an eye for reflection, investing now in similar nostalgia yet to be experienced.

We begin to take stock of the year as it enters its penultimate month, pondering how this year’s experiences compare to the summation of years that have preceded it.  In areas in which it may appear worse, we wax nostalgic, recalling with warmth and fondness days which we deem to have been better; in areas which have improved, we look proudly upon the distance traveled, the hardships successfully traversed and, with hearts abundant in hope, look excitedly to a future all but certain to begin once our ritualistic goodbyes to the past have been said to yet another year.

As the pace of time itself seems to quicken, these days of significance rush to meet us with fierce rapidity, we find ourselves clinging ever more desperately to our days, even as they nevertheless slip through our fingers as always.  In those moments, however, those all too brief, shimmering instances of clarity, we look at our lives, and hopefully each other, and see the innate value in even the least we behold.  Despite the winnowing of time, we experience small bursts of timelessness, of the Here, the Now, and the wonders that make life so worth living.

We approach the winter solstice with no small amount of eagerness.  On the day of that celestial event, as the Earth finally crosses the threshold of our shortest day, even without realizing it, we breath a collective sigh of relief.  Huddled together, in spirit if not in person, we await the moment at which the hours of daylight begin to grow again.  We forge ahead, across the whole of the northern hemisphere, thankful for having once more survived the darkest of months.  And, while the coldest months still lie before us, with that darkest day of the solstice behind us we raise collective cries of gratitude and joyousness, affecting our happiest and most generous personas for the festivities with which we bid farewell to the year.

As we reach what is to the West the bridge between the fading year and that yet to be realized, we continue our appreciation for the good things, and beloved peoples, in our lives.  And yet, at the doorway, we say our last goodbyes to all that has passed, and thusly unencumbered, turn hopefully and anxiously to face the impending year.  So it is that so many of us, peering into January from the precipice of December, sing out tearfully “Should old acquaintance be forgot…”  Ultimately, the year’s gloaming heralds the culmination and inevitable conclusion of another chapter in each of our lives.  Having spent months preparing for the darkness and cold, girding ourselves with warm thoughts and hearts, the focused and combined energies of our remembrances and regrets, our traditions and nostalgia, our hopes, dreams, triumphs, failures, gains, and losses, merge into a single feeling, one cathartic singularity, from which erupts the momentum that carries us through to the birth of another year, another chapter, and another trip around the sun on this curious blue island we all call home.

As the last few weeks of the year wind down, I am humbled and honored by the relationships I’ve had with those whom I have known, and look forward to those I will come to know in the future; I am grateful for the passage of time and all with which it has presented me over the years, and for everything it may yet hold in store for me; Smiling wide, I shake my fist at the cold, from the warmth of my heart; with eyes fixed on the future, I salute the year that has passed, and everyone who shares this purview. Wishing everyone the happiest of holidays, and the brightest of new years!