This New Year’s morning features fog and light rain, our unseasonable warmth continuing with little cold. This is good in that our heating has been less than dependable. We are due to receive a new heating system tomorrow and tomorrow is forecast to be the coldest day of the winter thus far. Should be interesting.
Out on the marsh a few overwintering ducks join the seagulls in puttering around in the open water. The absence of cold has meant an absence of ice, and the ducks have taken full advantage of that. Should the marsh freeze over the birds will move to the open, if less sheltered and food rich, waters near the shore of the harbor.
Starting dates for the new year are diverse across cultures and are somewhat arbitrary. In the northern hemisphere New Year’s Day is officially sanctioned as January first. By now the sun has moved perceptibly north and the days are noticeably longer; in this way the year is indeed young. The growing season, at our latitude, is a few months away, but plants are already responding to the increasing daylight, even as the cold usually deepens.
It would be just as logical to celebrate New Year’s in November, at the end of the harvest, or in April as the world awakens into flower, or at any number of other points in the calendar. There is no right time to begin the cycle of the year; yet we must begin it to give ourselves context in the great cycles of life.
This year we are reminded that the greeting of “Happy New Year!” seems an act of faith and optimism; the coming year holds much threat even as it offers possibility. Still, we do greet one another with these words of hope for what else are we to do. We need hope in order to live and to do the work of building a more equitable society, of creating a culture that honors the rich diversity of humankind and the natural world. It is a tough job!
Today, as the year turns anew, we acknowledge the challenges we face and the losses we must endure. We look forward to the return of the warmth even as we feel deep concern for the absence of the cold. We celebrate the diversity and complexity of the world, human and non, and fret at what appears to be an inability on the part of many of our species to see ourselves in context. We take pleasure in family, friends, and the non-humans with whom we share this small planet even as we acknowledge the tsunami of cataclysmic change.
Because of this, and in spite of it, today we open another chapter in our individual and collective lives. May this new year be kind to you and yours and may we arrive at its close knowing our culture’s collective heart has grown ten times as big and warm.