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 :).
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