Horizon at Sandy Point

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

new year or new day

Fireworks across the valley, fireworks across the road. To the left and to the right, they burst skyward and shower stars and colour against the dark. This must be what a battlefield sounds like. The dogs are cowering in the laundry; maybe the shushing and whirring of the washing machine or dryer will soothe their trembling terror. Funny how sudden noise and flashes of fiery light have been adopted to signify celebration.

Fireworks over Saddle Grove: a war zone at midnight!

In the Santa Cruz bush - oh, a generation ago - we marked the advent of the new year by waiting up for midnight. We might hear a ship's blast in the distance, but the incoming year was stealthy and silent, clothed in the black of night. The old rituals included a meal of rice and peas, for plenty. Eat an orange and save the pips, for money. Go to the crossroads and make a wish. And at midnight, my father would fire a single shot from his licensed firearm. Then we would kiss and wish each other a happy new year before turning in to bed. All the chores of the old year would have been cleared away. The rubbish put out; the dishes washed. New sheets in the beds, everything tidy and neat because as we started the year, so the days would run.

Of course, we wanted to follow the fashion of dancing madly wearing crazy paper hats and blowing whistles. But those were few and disappointing occasions. I remember one year sitting at a table lit by tiny tealights with people we didn't know - that party didn't seem to want to start, so we left. Another year's end/ beginning was spent looking into the darkness beyond my mother's house and wondering - with more than a little self-pity - whether I would be alone for the rest of the year. Over the years, the best times were "at home" with family and close friends. And yes, we would have a sumptuous or simple meal and then do the mad things, dance around and shout and laugh, and watch other people's fireworks.

There is joy in having a wild moment to cavort, knowing that you could be silly and falling down with those you trust. The joy is in the trust.

When we woke up to the new year, uppermost in our thoughts would be "as you begin, so you will finish the year." This took on a literal meaning - about travel, about attitude, about obligation. On the bad side, if you have a quarrel or an accident on this day, it might recur or follow you through the year. On the plus side, spending the day doing what you enjoyed, with those you love, would ensure time for those pursuits for another year. And if you were travelling on this day, chances are you would be doing that a lot in the year to come.

What is a new year but a new day? A day to be who you are, or to be closer to who you might become. Every day is not a new year, but each dawn is a new day. As my friend Tony Hall says, "Jouvay! Celebrate the dawn!" This day is all to live your life.

another new year - over 20 years ago

For myself, I come back to the blog: to writing something - however small - that makes me think about this existence. Hopefully, I could do this every day of 2014.

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