It's neither superstition nor ritual that forces me to acknowledge and celebrate New Years each year. It is a blind optimism concerning the mechanics of the universe that washes over me in warm, rolling waves.
I consider New Years Day, much like a birthday, a station point in life. It’s a dog-eared page in a journal that we thumb back to annually, re-read certain lines, and discover a new & different meaning each time. It is an opportunity to recognize that we have completed yet another revolution around the Sun, and that one more revolution has begun anew.
2007 came to an end beneath a tapestry of stars so glittering and expansive that it brought to mind the night skies of childhood, the imaginings of an immense swathe of black paper pricked with holes, filtering in some light from beyond.
The campfire glowed, and we huddled around it, laughing and pouring champagne, toasting the sky and each other again and again. Shooting stars leave strands of wishes in their wake. I walk a short distance from camp, into the Texas night, and a chill creeps into my bones as I squat to pee. I pour myself onto the cracked earth under cover of night, exhale a wisp of warm breath, and wonder at the vital exchanges taking place at both ends of my body.
It is no wonder why the transcendentalists were all moved by nature. In this place, we are all vulnerable to the elements, life is unpredictable, and more visceral than indoors. I am infinitely more alive out here.
Around the fire, or within the enormous yurt, there are embraces, confessions, laughter. And it dawns on me, “These people love and respect me.” No matter how many times I fail myself, or refuse to believe I have succeeded, I have earned the respect of the people I love. 2008 is the year I will earn my own respect.
I will earn my degree this year, 5 long, stressful years in the making. In a couple of weeks I will be in Asia, examining the sites of disasters on the shores of several nations. And then, on some distant shore, I will carve my name into my profession...
2008 is full of promises. In spite of personal uncertainty, some things are certain:
There will be more deaths, as there always are. Some will govern well, and others poorly. Scandals and environmental catastrophes will rock the airwaves. Small kindnesses will go unreported, and people will continue to be people everywhere, screwing and fighting, hoping and waiting, loving and hating.
More noteworthy, our little planet will continue to make its way around the sun, celestial bodies will wink conspiratorially at one another, and cycles will continue to unfold, wreaking havoc on humanity simply by doing as their nature compels.
Like the transcendentalists before me, I will reach out to the world in 2008, lay myself bare like an exposed nerve, and let myself be guided by the precious vulnerability I find in discomfort and danger. That, and wait to see what is written when we return to this station on the eve of 2009.