January 1, 2014

Happy New Year

Woodland Happy New Year
Welcome to 2014. A fresh new year is upon us. We have yet to stomp across its pristine surface with our muddy feet, or mar its perfection with our bad attitudes and lack of grace. What opportunities await? What adventures must surely soon ensue?

It is a bit exhilarating. A new year is like being given a blank piece of paper with nothing yet writ on it. It is traditional to treat the turning of the year—this arbitrarily delineated boundary between one cyclical number and the next—as a chance for a new beginning. The old year has ended.  Midnight, with its lighted ball, alcoholic haze, obligatory kiss, or snug bed, has struck and rendered 2013 moot and finished. 

Okay, it is not a completely arbitrary boundary. Someone who was busily trying to fit a calendar to existing cycles, prevailing mores, and the predominant religious structure chose this particular point in the year because of an older, more primitive pattern that much of the world still held to at that time. It is certainly no coincidence that the new year starts so soon after the winter solstice. Just as our Christmas was built on the foundation of Yuletide and Saturnalia, to name a couple of the pagan winter traditions, the idea of death and rebirth carries over to the turn of the year also. However, in different cultures and different times the year has changed over in fall or spring that I am immediately aware of, and perhaps in summer too for all I know. I am in no way trying to put myself forward as an authority in these matters. All of this is common knowledge if you do much reading.

Christmas cactus
 But we, or I anyway,  were talking about new beginnings. New Years Day is when we make Resolutions and, according to where we grew up and what our family traditions dictate, we eat specific foods that are supposed to bring good luck in the coming year. I am a southerner, so it is greens and black-eyed peas. I was a latecomer to greens having not cared for them as a child, and ignorant of the fact that there were other ways to prepare them besides boiling. I have grown to love many of them over the years though, and to tolerate the ones I do not love because they are so very nutritious. The collards that I will prepare this afternoon are not my favorite, but surprisingly (to me) I do like them. Swiss chard makes me swoon, as does spinach and any kind of cabbage. I am lukewarm when it comes to turnip greens though, and I try very hard to like kale more than I really do. In this household the black-eyed peas are practically a staple. I could serve them almost weekly and get no complaints. 

I do not know if there is magic involved in the consumption of symbolic foods or not, but why take a chance? There have been years when for one reason or another I have went without black-eyed peas. Since I have no idea how these years, with or without the magical legumes, would have panned out otherwise, there is no way to say. I like these foods though, and am a bit of a sucker for traditions that are pleasant and do no harm to anyone, so I will continue to eat greens and black-eyed peas on New Years Day.  So whether your tradition includes pork and sauerkraut, lentils, fish or buttered bread, enjoy and realize that the roots of these customs reside deep in our collective consciousness. When we indulge in these customs, we are building a bridge into the past.

Raven and castle-- Nevermore
Similarly, the custom of Resolutions is also built on older traditions and observances. While setting goals, if they are realistic, can be a wonderful thing, most of us exceed our grasp in declaring these intentions, and the disappointment of failure makes us even less likely to strive for these objectives in the future. Perhaps we are better off setting our sites a bit lower. Promising ourselves to be a little kinder and more compassionate is always a good start. 

However, some of us really do need a good kick-start, and the beginning of a new year is perhaps as good a time to make that attempt as any other. However, approach whatever you choose to change or accomplish realistically, and be ready to dust yourself off and either start over or readjust your goals, if necessary. Instead of just giving up when you do not immediately succeed, regroup, forgive yourself and resolve to keep trying. Usually, we start off with great enthusiasm, but quickly find that genuine change is very difficult. It requires our unwavering intent, and perhaps the blessings of All-That-Is. 

I certainly am in need of the aforementioned kick-start. I normally do not make resolutions, nor do I pay any inordinate attention to the New Year. It is usually just black-eyed peas and try to remember to write the correct number down when dating any document for the first couple of months. 2013 has not been a favorite year however, for too many reasons to list, and for many that are not really reasons but just a sense of dis-ease and general lassitude that has hung around for far too long now.  I ended 2013 in much worse physical shape than I began it—almost twenty pounds heavier, lacking energy and initiative and very unhappy with myself. Yes, I have long since known that I need to do something. I have even mentioned it before in this blog. But I have found myself completely unable to make any significant changes. Perhaps a new year and a few basic resolutions are what I need to get started. I am going to give it a try. I will let you know how this goes...

Rosemary for Remembrance
 I have been writing this blog for a year now, and I am no closer to knowing why, or where I am supposed to go with it, than when I started. I have not found my niche, and in fact I am not even sure I have one. I suppose I will keep muddling along, and I certainly will keep trying to be the person I know I truly am. All I have to do to be reminded is to look back to cycles I have already lived, and see that that person is still there. I have only to find the secret to spanning that gulf in this Eternal Now.

 Rosemary is traditionally, in folk lore and pagan belief, the herb of remembrance. Perhaps it is no accident that it grows wonderfully here. I have several large plants in the garden and hope to propagate some more. I filled my kitchen windowsill with rosemary this Christmas, and I think it will remain there for awhile to come. I keep having the feeling that remembering lost bits from my past is the key to my future. Memory is such a strange attribute. It ebbs and flows, can be sharp and hurtful or soft and comforting, and ultimately it is colored by our moods and even our needs. And sometimes it hides, disappears from immediate awareness, only to return, hopefully, when we need it.

Bee Free
 If this blog is about anything, it is about Spirit. It is about the Power that guides, pushes, prods, whispers, shouts and tricks us into doing what we need to at every point. I know that God lives inside us all, that the still, small voice in our hearts is always ready to guide us. I also know that the pressures and pains of life can drown it out, that it can not speak to you until you are ready and willing to listen. If I wish anything for this year to come, for 2014, it is for myself and for all of you to hear the voice of Spirit, and for all of us to find our true compass, the direction of our Hearts. An open heart is the Path to Freedom. 

Peace to you all in this new year—bee free.

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