Sunday, December 28, 2008

I'm in Charge of Celebrations

In a recent email conversation with a friend, I was reminded of a kids' book: I'm in Charge of Celebrations written by Byrd Baylor, illustrated by Peter Parnall. I remember reading it to my 3rd graders when I was a teacher, and I got a copy for my son when I thought he was old enough to appreciate it. Thing is, much as kids seem to like this book, I think it resonates with me more.

The girl who narrates the story explains that people often ask her if she's lonely growing up in the desert of the American Southwest. She suspects they're talking about a sense of isolation in living with fewer humans and more cactus plants, rocks and coyotes, but she's surprised, nonetheless, by how unimaginative these question-askers are. How they don't realize she's the one in charge of creating her own celebrations, and that the holidays she's made are more memorable for being personally chosen and entwined with nature. (I'm extrapolating a bit here.)

Anyway, the last celebration she mentions is the one she created for the New Year--which, in her case, comes in the spring, not on January 1st. How it's not a day printed in ink on the calendar but one she waits for until "wildflowers cover the hills" and her "favorite cactus blooms." How she plans her celebration for a Saturday in April when the air feels just perfect, and how she then wanders along her most beloved trails and admires everything she encounters.

Despite decades of devotion to the act of making New Year's Resolutions (always the same ones, as I mentioned last year), my New Year's Day is really not in January. I celebrate the New Year on July 1st, and I have since I was sixteen. Maybe it's a function of living in the Midwest and having a perpetual case of brain/body freeze during winter, but I need to be in the sun, fully thawed and at least marginally active to be capable of celebrating the end of one cycle and the beginning of another. Of course, years of teaching added onto 2+ decades of traditional education have me entrenched in a school-calendar mindset where June finishes out a year and September means full emersion in a new one...so that plays a part too, I suppose.

In any case, though I fervently wish you all a Happy and Healthy 2009, I am not yet ready to take the plunge into a "new year" myself. At least not in any sense beyond the most literal one--the changing of the date numbers on my notes and checks. I'm still dealing with the half-finished plans of the year that began for me in the Summer of '08 and am nowhere close to completing those projects. Plus, after all the pressure of the holidays, I'd be afraid to add to the pre-2009 stress by trying to honestly take on anything more.

But what does this coming Wednesday night/Thursday morning mean to you? Is it your New Year? Do you make resolutions? Typically follow through with them? However much--or little--you celebrate, may it be wonderful for you :).


Caryn Caldwell said...

I so agree with you -- a new year shouldn't begin in the middle of winter, when the plants are still bare and dormant and the flowers and new baby animals haven't yet arrived. There's nothing new about January. The only advantage is that it's a good time to make resolutions for those of us who, ahem, kinda overate a little bit over the holiday season. Oh, and does that maybe tell you one of my resolutions? Though I never think of them that way.

Pam said...

Marilyn, I'm like you--I feel much more in the spirit of rebirth around September 1st than any other time of the year. But, my 2009 goal is the same as my 2008--get an agent and/or editor. (And lose weight, but I'd take the contract first!)

Happy 2009 everybody!!!

L.A. Mitchell said...

Hey M,
I like your fresh perspective on new cycles and resolutions. July sounds perfect to me, but for the high sweat level encountered down here. Not so fresh--trust me. I'll stick to January 1-stickler that I am for time:)

Marilyn Brant said...

Caryn and Pam~I always have some weight-loss/fitness goal in the New Year. EVERY SINGLE New Year. Actually, my resolution for '09 should be to work it so I WON'T have that same stupid goal in 2010. (But that, unfortunately, would require me to stop eating the double-chocolate cookies my mom made for Christmas... :)

L.A.~Ah, yes, climate plays its part, and I can see what you mean about the Texan summer heat creating a less than conducive atmosphere for new beginnings... I hope Jan. 1st brings you the perfect one. :)

Robin said...

Happy 1/2 Year, Marilyn! ;) I think because it's been ingrained in me for so long that January is the start of a new year, that I've never thought to think differently. (Guess I'm a slave to the calendar) Until now! You make great sense, has anyone ever told you that? It's much easier sticking to things when the weather is warm, the sun is shining, all the yummy fruits are in season. Hmm...not sure I'm ready to shift my mentality yet, but it's something to consider for sure! Maybe shaking things up like that is just want a person needs to make their dreams for a new year come true.

Nadine said...

You are so right.. January (especially in Canada!) is no time to be emracing a renewal. People sink to a deep low after the high of the holidays and unless they can afford a break to somewhere nice, they have nothing but depressing brown snow and sub-zero tempreratures to contend with.

And in the land of perpetual summer, the new year means even less since I don't have my family around to celebrate with (but at least I don't have yucky, depressing January to deal with) and there isn't even the smallest change in the environment, besides the influx of touruists! But I do like the act of taking stock and actively deciding to do better this time around(even if it doesn't last!).

In practical terms, the New Year over here is just an excuse for some binge drinking and a day spent being hung over... speaking of which, I should probably hit the liquor store before they close!

Happy New Year!

Marilyn Brant said...

Robin~Thank you! I like the term you coined and thinking of this night as the "Happy 1/2 Year" :).

Nadine~Much as I love Canada, I'm glad you're far away from this crazy northern winter (MORE snow today!) and enjoying the tropics. Have fun tonight--sounds like you're already planning on it!!

Best wishes to everyone who reads this for a joyous and safe New Year's celebration. Talk to you all in 2009!

Melina said...

You used to be a third grade teacher? I used to teach Kindergarten and first grade. Wish I'd had that book!

I know exactly what you mean about being on the academic calendar, and July 1st makes a lot of sense for a new year.

In any case, I hope you have a wonderful 2009!

Stay warm!

Pamala Knight said...

Everything you've said resonates with me too. I've tried to steer clear of the resolutions trap. I hope to live the kind of life I want and aspire to every day and while I'm all for deadlines, etc. for keeping on task, I like your theory on blossoming regardless of timeline to be much more palatable. Happy New Year my dear.

Marilyn Brant said...

Melina~you were a teacher, too?! I loved those early elementary aged kids--so cute, so creative...lots of energy (perhaps too much sometimes!)

Pamala~hope the start of your New Year has been wonderful so far--with or without resolutions :).